September 16, 2022
Contact: Judith Cebula
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Lilly Endowment Makes Grants to Support Innovative Theological School Collaborations


INDIANAPOLIS – Lilly Endowment Inc. has approved grants to help 16 theological schools in the United States and Canada launch large-scale collaborative programs to better prepare and support pastoral leaders for Christian congregations.

These grants represent the third and final phase of the Endowment’s Pathways for Tomorrow Initiative, which is supporting theological schools as they strengthen their abilities to prepare ordained and lay pastoral leaders now and into the future.

The five-year grants, which range from $4,999,720 to $7,950,555, will help the theological schools work with other theological schools, colleges and universities, congregations, church agencies, denominations and other religious organizations. The programs will enable collaborating schools and organizations to reach, educate and support more effectively both aspiring and current pastoral leaders. See the grants list here.

The theological schools will use their grants to:

  • Create or expand digital learning platforms to make courses and educational resources more affordable and accessible to students from diverse Christian communities.
  • Share faculty and curricula among several theological schools to enable students to benefit from the academic strengths of each school.
  • Coordinate denomination-wide strategic efforts to identify and recruit students for pastoral ministry and to support them as they study in seminary and move into their first pastorates.
  • Develop collaborations among schools that serve students from racially and ethnically distinct Christian communities.
  • Launch programs that better equip current and future pastoral leaders to lead congregational ministries that reach out to and serve increasingly diverse communities.
  • Develop shared administrative services to improve efficiencies and reduce the costs of theological education.
  • Launch a national collaborative strategy to identify and prepare Latino pastoral leaders to serve Catholic communities.
  • Provide expanded options for students from different socioeconomic and cultural contexts to advance their theological educations through certificate, bachelors, masters and doctoral degree programs.

“Theological schools play an essential role in ensuring that Christian congregations have a steady stream of well-prepared leaders to guide their ministries,” said Christopher L. Coble, the Endowment’s vice president for religion. “Many theological schools believe that their paths to the future depend on their abilities to form strategic partnerships with other schools and church agencies. These grants will help seminaries develop innovative and collaborative approaches to theological education that we believe will strengthen their efforts to prepare and support excellent leaders for Christian communities into the future.”

Launched in 2021, the Pathways for Tomorrow Initiative has provided grants to theological schools through three phases.  In the first phase of the initiative, 219 schools received assessment and planning grants of up to $50,000 to identify, prioritize and design programs to address their most pressing challenges and promising opportunities. In a competitive second phase, 105 theological schools received grants ranging from $500,000 to $1 million to implement their programs. The third phase of the initiative was also competitive.

Across all three phases, the Endowment is funding efforts at schools that represent the broad diversity of Christianity. The theological schools are affiliated with evangelical, mainline Protestant, nondenominational, Pentecostal, Orthodox, Catholic, Black church, Latino, Asian-American and historic peace church traditions (e.g., Church of the Brethren, Mennonite, Quaker). Schools participating in the Pathways initiative include several Historically Black Theological Institutions, theological schools serving Korean American, Chinese American, and Latino Christians (including Spanish-language seminaries in Puerto Rico) and a theological school in Canada whose primary mission is to prepare pastoral leaders to serve indigenous communities.

Additionally, the Endowment has made grants to the Association of Theological Schools and the In Trust Center for Theological Schools to develop and administer a program to help the participating school share insights and resources with each other for mutual learning.

About Lilly Endowment
Lilly Endowment Inc. is a private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly Sr. and his sons Eli and J.K. Jr. through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. While those gifts remain the financial bedrock of the Endowment, the Endowment is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education and religion and maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana. The principal aim of the Endowment’s religion grantmaking is to deepen and enrich the lives of American Christians, primarily by seeking out and supporting efforts that enhance the vitality of congregations and strengthen the pastoral and lay leadership of Christian communities. The Endowment also seeks to improve public understanding of diverse religious traditions by supporting fair and accurate portrayals of the role religion plays in the United States and across the globe.