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We believe that religious institutions and networks are essential to maintaining the vitality and effectiveness of the diverse multitude of congregations in the United States.  Institutions like theological schools and denominational agencies that provide resources for congregations, along with the networks in which they participate, are critical for assisting congregations in addressing important challenges and carrying forward their ministries. Institutions and networks also help congregations understand and celebrate the deep wisdom and history in their own religious traditions.

We support projects that seek responses to the following kinds of questions:  How can theological schools, colleges and universities, denominational judicatories and other church-related institutions help strengthen pastors and prepare a new generation of Christian leaders for the increasingly diverse contexts in which they may serve? How can these kinds of organizations collaborate more effectively with each other and with congregations to enhance and sustain the mission of Christian churches and parishes? How can various Christian institutions like church-related pension boards and regional judicatories address the economic challenges facing seminarians, pastors and congregations?

Related Initiatives

Pathways for Tomorrow Initiative, a three-phase initiative launched in 2021, is designed to help theological schools strengthen their ability to prepare pastoral leaders for Christian churches into the future. The Endowment is making available $87.5 million in grants to help institutions accredited through the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) in the United States and Canada to enhance their effectiveness and long-term sustainability by addressing key challenges and taking advantage of promising opportunities. Among the key challenges the schools have identified in their proposals are the following; preparing students to serve in diverse ministry settings; making theological education more accessible and affordable, especially for students from underserved communities; strengthening relationships with congregations; and establishing partnerships with other seminaries as well as colleges, denominational agencies and other organizations. LEARN MORE

The Gift of Black Theological Education and Black Church Collaborative  supports historically Black theological schools as they work together to build leadership and organizational capacities tailored to their own theological traditions, contexts, locations, congregational constituencies and sizes. This effort grew out of the earlier Initiative to Strengthen Fundraising in Historic Black Theological Schools. Recognizing the relationship between institutional advancement and overall leadership and governance, many schools also engaged in board development activities to strengthen their governance structures and practices. LEARN MORE

Related Grants

The Association of Theological Schools (ATS) plays a critical role in providing leadership education and support to theological schools through programs that enhance the skills and broaden the knowledge of faculty, deans, presidents and other administrators. LEARN MORE

Forum for Theological Exploration (FTE) is a leadership incubator that provides a forum through which talented, purposeful students and young adults explore their calling to make a difference in the world through Christian communities. FTE produces resources, hosts events, supports networks, and provides grants and fellowships to cultivate a new generation of pastors and leaders who will serve Christian communities in many settings. FTE also provides doctoral fellowships for students of color in the theological disciplines to prepare them to serve as theological educators in seminaries and at colleges and universities. LEARN MORE

Hispanic Theological Initiative (HTI) is committed to increasing the presence of Latinx PhD candidates for leadership in higher education, the church and the world. Its Hispanic Doctoral Fellowship Program provides financial support to students during one of the most critical phases of their doctoral studies. HTI is the only mentoring and support program in the United States for Latinx students who are pursuing doctoral degrees in theological disciplines. LEARN MORE

In Trust Center for Theological Schools helps leaders at a wide variety of seminaries and other theological schools connect with essential resources that can strengthen the vitality of their institutional missions. In Trust helps schools focus on the improvements they can make to enhance the quality of theological education for ministry through conferences and webinars, resource consulting and online resource guides.  LEARN MORE

Leadership Education at Duke Divinity (LE@DD) seeks to strengthen the capacities for excellence in leadership and management of Christian institutions (especially seminaries, denominational judicatories and agencies, and key independent religious organizations) connected to many different traditions and serving in a variety of settings that play pivotal roles in supporting and enabling U.S. congregations and pastors to flourish in their ministries. Through a cluster of programs, LE@DD provides educational services and intellectual resources and facilitates networks of institutions that cultivate a coherent vision of Christian institutional leadership. LEARN MORE

Association for Hispanic Theological Education (AETH) is a network of pastors, theological educators and other leaders who work together to promote and strengthen the quality of theological education for leaders of Hispanic Christian communities. The Endowment supports the organization’s core services to Hispanic pastors, congregations and pastors-in-training. LEARN MORE

Lilly Fellows Program in Humanities and the Arts is based at Valparaiso University and seeks to strengthen the quality and religious character of church-related institutions of higher learning in the 21st century. Through the Lilly Graduate Fellows Program, talented younger scholars of religion are identified, mentored and supported in the early stages of graduate studies as they prepare to become the next generation of leaders.  LEARN MORE

Louisville Institute is based at Louisville Seminary and is dedicated to supporting those who lead and study North American religious institutions. The fundamental mission of the Institute is to enrich the religious life of North American Christians. Through a variety of programs for pastors and religious scholars, the Institute provides grants for study and research. LEARN MORE

Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education (NetVUE) is a nationwide network of more than 270 private colleges and universities formed to enrich the intellectual and theological exploration of vocation among undergraduate students. It seeks to expand collaboration among the schools to strengthen programs for students, faculty, staff and administrators. NetVUE, which grew out of the Endowment’s Programs for the Theological Exploration of Vocation at 88 church-related colleges and universities, is administered by the Council of Independent Colleges. LEARN MORE

Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion is based at Wabash College and is dedicated to enhancing the quality of teaching theology and religion in higher education. Activities include conferences, workshops, grants, consultants and the peer-reviewed journal, among other resources. LEARN MORE

Related Projects

Theological Education Between the Times is a project based at Candler School of Theology at Emory University that gathers diverse groups of theological educators to think in critical ways about the meaning and purposes of theological education today. The project has produced a successful book series that is used to help increasing numbers of leaders and organizations grapple creatively with the future of theological education. LEARN MORE

Traditioned-Innovation Project is an effort to develop an intellectual and theological framework to support Christian leaders who are seeking to help their organizations develop and embrace new innovative practices and organizational forms while sustaining a deep fidelity to their theological traditions and their past. Based at Duke Divinity School, the project brings together Christian writers and leaders to develop resources that support innovative ministries. LEARN MORE