Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry has just received two unique grants from Lilly Endowment Inc., the philanthropic foundation in the United States that contributes more funding to religious education than any other foundation in the nation. Both grants received will significantly impact the future of faith-based leadership in the Pacific Northwest. The first grant awarded $500,000 for the school to create a five-year initiative dedicated to the development of emerging pastors’ leadership skills. The project is inspired by the legacy of 20th century faith-based leaders in the United States who played critical local and national leadership roles in some of the major social movements reshaping the nation--such as abolition, the creation of child labor laws, women’s rights, health care, and civil rights. This five-year grant will help promising young pastors to learn how such leadership beyond the walls of the church building can happen in this particular century. Dr. Mark Markuly, dean of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, comments: “The profound contribution religious leaders have made in humanizing our society and culture through U.S. history, and the leadership they brought to the nation’s most significant social movements, has seemingly been forgotten over the past four decades. This grant from Lilly Inc. recognizes the need our troubled world has for young pastors to reclaim this role of service to the faith community and world, as a critical dimension of Christianity and many other religious traditions.”A second grant, additionally issued by Lilly Endowment Inc., will fund a $250,000, three-year initiative to respond to the economic challenges of student debt that faith-based leaders face. Seminary student debt has become an increasing problem in the past 20 years as educational costs have increased and the salaries of young religious leaders in congregations has remained stagnant or even diminished. Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry will address new models for funding seminary education, while drawing on the economic wisdom a large number of business professionals. Students will be provided with specialized training in financial literacy and management, thanks to a partnership with Seattle University’s Albers School of Business--one of the most highly ranked business schools in the United States.“A skilled pastor or religious leader makes unbelievable contributions to people and society at large,” Markuly said, “and carries burdens and challenges most people would never realize. For these students to carry a large education debt burden on their shoulders on top of their other responsibilities does not make sense. Everyone involved in religious life has known this for many years, but we have been stymied on how to respond to the challenge. Over the past 10 years, our school has awarded more than $6 million in scholarship to ministry students, but this still is not enough to address an intractable problem. This second grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. allows the school to work with religious denominations and students to figure out new ways to give people the preparation they need to serve the church and the world as a pastor or religious leader, but without an unmanageable debt.”
About Lilly Endowment Inc.Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family — J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons J.K. Jr. and Eli —through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly & Company. The Endowment exists to support the causes of religion, education and community development. Lilly Endowment’s religion grantmaking is designed to deepen and enrich the religious lives of American Christians. It does this largely through initiatives to enhance and sustain the quality of ministry in American congregations and parishes. More information can be found at www.lillyendowment.org.
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