Centers and Institutes

G-ETS Receives $1.25 Million in Grant

Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary has received a grant of $1.25 million from Lilly Endowment Inc. to support their Center for Ecological Regeneration’s development of a Midwest Bioregional Hub to strengthen congregational efforts to address ecological justice and healing in their local communities.  

The project is being funded through Lilly Endowment’s Thriving Congregations Initiative. The aim of the initiative is to encourage the flourishing of congregations by helping them deepen their relationships with God, enhance their connections with each other, and contribute to the vitality of their communities and the world.

“Garrett has entered a period of significant innovation and creative response to the critical challenges facing the world and the church,” said Javier Viera, president and professor of education and leadership. “Lilly Endowment is and has been an important and generative thought-partner in this unfolding work. We are grateful for its generosity, which fuels many of the initiatives we are advancing for the thriving of the church and the healing of the world, and this initiative addressing religious communities’ responses to the global climate crisis is one important example. Helping Christian communities understand the biblical, theological, and spiritual dimensions of our relationship with the earth, and working with them to address that crisis in their local communities, is a calling and a strategic priority for us at Garrett.”

“This is a tremendous opportunity for us to extend the missional impact of the Center in response to one the most pressing moral and spiritual issues of our time,” said the initiative’s director, Timothy Eberhart. “We’re committed to partnering with congregations in seeking to better understand the realities, causes, and implications of climate change and environmental degradation, especially in relation to those who are most negatively impacted in our local communities.” Eberhart currently serves as the Robert and Marilyn Degler McClean associate professor of ecological theology and practice at Garrett, as well as the director of the seminary’s Center for Ecological Regeneration.

The initiative will support congregations as they deepen their knowledge of and ability to draw on the theological, spiritual, and ecclesial resources of their traditions in response to these environmental challenges. One hopeful outcome will be for congregations “to discern, plan, and enact a set of Christian practices informed by ecological design thinking and aimed at the regeneration of both congregational and ecological thriving,” Eberhart said.

During a five-year period, the Center’s Midwest Bioregional Hub will first design a learning process in relation to existing and new curricular offerings, finalize partnerships with organizations who are missionally aligned with Garrett, and identify twelve racially and ethnically diverse participating congregations across the Midwest. Along the way, the Hub will guide teams from each of the twelve congregations through a structured process of education, formation, and activation; and, finally, celebrate, document, and learn from the implementation of the regenerative congregational projects, while revising the learning process for the next round of congregational cohorts.

“Christian communities that proclaim a God who called creation ‘good’ have a responsibility to mobilize and engage in civic leadership in response to the climate crisis and the many systems of violence bound up in it,” said Jen Harvey, Garrett’s vice president for academic affairs and academic dean and professor of Christian ethics. “The Thriving Congregations Initiative will play a vital role in enabling that knowledge to manifest as action, connection, resource-building and collective momentum, connecting Garrett to both church and world in deeply meaningful ways.”

In 2019, Lilly Endowment launched the Thriving Congregations Initiative and made grants to 115 organizations from a wide variety of Christian traditions and diverse communities that support congregational vitality. In November 2023, the Endowment approved another competitive round of 105 grants to organizations across the United States. The grants will further support organizations as they work directly with congregations and help them gain clarity about their values and missions, explore, and understand better the communities in which they serve, and draw upon their theological traditions as they adapt ministries to meet changing needs.

Reflecting a wide variety of Christian traditions, the organizations awarded this grant represent mainline Protestant, evangelical, Catholic, Orthodox, peace church and Pentecostal faith communities. Several organizations serve congregations in Black, Hispanic and Asian-American traditions. Recipients include congregations, theological schools, faith-affiliated colleges and universities, church resourcing organizations, denominational judicatories, parachurch organizations and other church networks.

The Center for Ecological Regeneration launched in 2022 and is one of seven centers and institutes at Garrett. The Center exists to spread regenerative eco-theological understandings, earth-based religious practices, and cooperative solidarities for the just healing of wounded socio-ecological relationships in the Midwest bioregion and beyond.


About Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary

Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary is a progressive, spiritually centered, servant seminary that seeks to form courageous leaders in the way of Jesus to cultivate communities of justice, compassion, and hope. Several master’s degree programs as well as doctoral studies are offered at the seminary, which is also home to seven major centers that host conferences and other academic programs. Located on the campus of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, since 1853, Garrett serves the church and the world by equipping its students to proclaim the liberative good news of the gospel, to foster deep spirituality in the lives of others, to serve with cultural competence and commitment to racial equity, and to lead transformative change for the well-being of all persons and creation.

About Lilly Endowment Inc.

Lilly Endowment Inc. is a private 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, it 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. A principal aim of the Endowment’s religion grantmaking is to deepen and enrich the lives of Christians in the United States, 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.