December 16, 2021

Two Adventist Theological Schools in the U.S. Receive Grants

Lilly Endowment will support initiatives at Andrews University and Oakwood University.

By Adventist Review Staff

Two Seventh-day Adventist theological schools in the United States recently announced that they have received substantial grants to develop pastoral resources and support ministerial training. 

In a December 13 release, Andrews University (AU), located in Berrien Springs, Michigan, announced the receipt of a five-year grant of US$997,444 from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary (SDATS) strengthen the ability of pastors to serve effectively in urban settings. 

Oakwood University, a historically Black Adventist school in Huntsville, Alabama, recently announced that Lilly Endowment Inc. awarded a grant of US$993,759. The funds will help the university’s school of theology establish its plan called “Diversity, Health, and Social Justice in Community-Based Ministry: Oakwood University’s Strategy for Cultivating 21st Century Pastoral Leaders.”

Andrews University Grant

“I am delighted that the university has been awarded this competitive Lilly Endowment grant,” AU president Andrea Luxton said. “This generous support will enable the Seminary to significantly deepen the opportunities available to seminary students to engage in innovative ministry in urban environments.”

The funds will be used to establish an urban ministry concentration with a strong focus on community development; an urban Clinical Pastoral Education program, in collaboration with Kettering Health; a fully off-campus Master of Divinity cohort for students preparing for urban ministry through the equipping of classrooms for in-person/remote delivery; and an open-access database of Black and Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) theological scholarship.

Jiří Moskala, SDATS dean, said that he is excited that the Seminary is the recipient of “the highly competitive Pathways for Tomorrow grant, which will advance the pastoral preparedness to minister in the urban setting in the North American Division. I especially rejoice over the future establishment of the Clinical Pastoral Educational program with practical field-based mentoring and training. New, great opportunities of the untrodden path lie ahead of us.”

Oakwood University Grant

R. Clifford Jones, dean for the School of Theology at OU, and Gilbert Ojwang, chair of the Department of Religion, expressed gratitude when notified of the award during the Thanksgiving holiday in late November. The proposal was developed by a faculty team in the School of Theology, with Finbar Benjamin, associate professor of Practical Theology and director of graduate programs, serving as the lead proposal developer and principal investigator.

The narrative of the grant notes, “Reflecting cultural and systemic shifts in 21st-century society, Christianity in North America continues to undergo profound and rapid changes that point towards both a necessity and an opportunity to reimagine how we serve congregations and communities.”

OU president Leslie N. Pollard, himself a faculty member in the school, sent his congratulations to the School of Theology and the proposal development team for their collaborative efforts to better train pastoral leaders by advancing goals in diversity, health, and social justice. “COVID-19 has exposed the glaring inequities faced by communities of color,” he said. “The Pathways to Tomorrow initiative will develop within our graduates the capacities to ‘do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly’ in communities crying out for justice.”

OU provost James Mbyirukira notes that this curriculum-building initiative positions the school to further advance its offerings of graduate programs.

About Lilly Endowment Grants

Lilly Endowment made the grant through its Pathways for Tomorrow Initiative. It is a three-phase initiative designed to help theological schools across the United States and Canada as they prioritize and respond to the most pressing challenges they face as they prepare pastoral and lay leaders for local congregations. 

The Seventh-day Adventist seminaries are two of 84 theological schools that will benefit from a total of more than US$82 million in grants through the second phase of the Pathways for Tomorrow Initiative. Together, the schools represent evangelical, mainline Protestant, nondenominational, Pentecostal, Roman Catholic, and Black church and historic peace church traditions (e.g., Church of the Brethren, Mennonite, Quakers). Many schools also serve students and pastors from Black, Latino, Korean American, Chinese American, and recent immigrant Christian communities.

“Theological schools have long played a pivotal role in preparing pastoral leaders for churches,” Christopher L. Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion, said. “Today, these schools find themselves in a period of rapid and profound change. Through the Pathways for Tomorrow Initiative, theological schools will take deliberate steps to address the challenges they have identified in ways that make the most sense to them. We believe that their efforts are critical to ensuring that Christian congregations continue to have a steady stream of pastoral leaders who are well prepared to lead the churches of tomorrow.”

Lilly Endowment launched the Pathways for Tomorrow Initiative in January 2021 because of its longstanding interest in supporting efforts to enhance and sustain the vitality of Christian congregations by strengthening the leadership capacities of pastors and congregational lay leaders.

The organization is an Indianapolis-based 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. According to the Endowment’s website, although the gifts of stock remain a financial base of the Endowment, it is a separate entity from the company, with its own governing board, staff, and location. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education, and religion. It maintains a special commitment to its founders’ hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana.

The primary aim of its grantmaking in religion, which is national in scope, focuses on strengthening the leadership and vitality of Christian congregations in the United States. The Endowment also seeks to foster public understanding about religion and lift up the contributions that people of all faiths and religious communities make to the country’s greater civic well-being.

With information from Andrews University and Oakwood University.