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Lilly Endowment Awards Renewal Grant to Seminary to Help Pastors Lead Financially Strong Congregations

Lilly Endowment Inc. A Private Philanthrophic Foundation

The Lilly Endowment Inc. has awarded Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary a $489,750 renewal grant for its progressive and far-reaching program, “Leading Vibrant Congregations: A Collaboration of Faith and Finance.” The renewal grant, the second renewal grant Garrett-Evangelical has received for this program, is part of Lilly Endowment’s “National Initiative to Address Economic Challenges Facing Pastoral Leaders.”

Established in 2016, the “Leading Vibrant Congregations” program has helped pastors obtain the education and business skills they need to be financially literate and to address the economic challenges facing congregations today. Specifically, over 160 clergy and lay leaders have participated in the seminary’s online course, “Financial Leadership for Churches.” Additionally, over 30 faith leaders participated in a one-day seminar focused on change management, and 22 Black and Latinx doctor of ministry students received 50% tuition and fees scholarships to Garrett-Evangelical.

“This new grant enables us to continue the important initiatives that were started in our doctor of ministry and continuing education program,” said Dr. Brent Waters, director of the program and the Jerre and Mary Joy Stead Professor of Christian Social Ethics. “In conjunction with an interdisciplinary research colloquium being conducted, these initiatives are making some important contributions to enhancing the financial literacy of church leaders. We are grateful both for the Lilly Endowment’s generosity and trust in our ability to take on this work.”

Beyond supporting the programs current initiatives, this renewal grant will also provide financial incentives and opportunities for clergy, congregations, students, and alumni who participate in the online and in-person programs.

“We know that the tools these resources offer are even more critical to the pastors and congregations most impacted by the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and racial and social inequities,” said Rev. Dr. Javier A. Viera, president of Garrett-Evangelical. “It is our sincere hope that such financial incentives will not only encourage more participation in these vital programs, but that they will have a direct impact on those who need it most and on the communities they serve.”

In addition to the program’s offerings and incentives, the grant will financially support congregations and the pastoral leaders serving them by covering the annual cost of Field Education stipends for over 30 students. Having a Field Education student at no cost to the congregation will provide clergy with assistance and support that they would otherwise be unable to afford, while providing students the opportunity to discern, test, and refine their call to ministry. Field Education sites and partnerships in marginalized and under-resourced communities will be given priority.

To learn more about the “Leading Vibrant Congregations” program at Garrett-Evangelical, go to Garrett.edu/FaithAndFinance.

Lilly Endowment Inc. 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. Although the gifts of stock remain a 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 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 in fair, accurate, and balanced ways the contributions that people of all faiths and religious communities make to our greater civic well-being.

Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, a graduate school of theology related to The United Methodist Church, was founded in 1853. Located on the campus of Northwestern University, the seminary serves more than 450 students from various denominations and cultural backgrounds, fostering an atmosphere of ecumenical interaction. Garrett-Evangelical creates bold leaders through master of divinity, master of arts, master of theological studies, doctor of philosophy, and doctor of ministry degrees. Its 4,500 living alumni serve church and society around the world.