The School of Theology. Sewanee: The University of the South

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The School of Theology Receives Lilly Endowment Grant

The School of Theology has received a $249,996 grant as part of Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment Inc.’s Theological School Initiative to Address Economic Issues Facing Future Ministers. It is one of 67 theological schools across the country to receive funding.

Lilly Endowment created the Theological School Initiative to Address Economic Issues Facing Future Ministers to address the issue of how financial pressures are limiting the ability of seminary graduates to accept calls to Christian ministry and are undermining the effectiveness of many pastoral leaders. The initiative’s aim is to encourage theological schools to examine and strengthen their financial and educational practices to improve the economic wellbeing of future pastors.

All theological schools fully accredited by the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada were invited to submit grant proposals.

The School of Theology will use its funding in three stages to identify and support future seminarians.

  •     Conduct a thorough review of current financial aid assets and policies.
  •     Engage Episcopalians and diocesan leaders to identify, support, and raise funds for qualified candidates for ministry through two new programs:
    •         Project Shoulder Tap — a recruitment and merit aid program involving diocesan leadership created in partnership with the Society for the Increase in Ministry and the Mercer Fund;
    •         Living in the Green — a discernment program utilizing the resources of VocationCARE and working with dioceses and congregations.
  •     Create a new model of sustainable living/learning with a residential community for 12 seminarians, each funded with a full scholarship including living expenses, that will not only allow them to graduate debt-free, but will provide a rich environment for formation.

The Rt. Rev. J. Neil Alexander, dean of The School of Theology, stated, “We need to shift our discernment and call processes from self-nomination to recruitment. With the receipt of this grant and the formation of these new programs, we will work with Episcopal dioceses and congregants to identify postulants and support their education through a generous financial aid platform.”

“Pastors are indispensable spiritual leaders and guides, and the quality of pastoral leadership is critical to the health and vitality of congregations,” said Christopher L. Coble, vice president for religion at the Endowment. "Theological schools play a critical role in preparing pastors and are uniquely positioned to address some of the economic challenges they face. The Endowment hopes that these grants will support broad efforts to improve the financial circumstances facing pastoral leaders so that pastors can serve their congregations more joyfully and effectively.”