Lilly Endowment Inc. has awarded the Divinity School at the University of Chicago $500,000 for the next three years to support a program that will bring together faculty, ministers, and the Divinity School’s Master of Divinity (M.Div.) and Ph.D. students who are preparing to teach in theological education to address the unexamined, but widely-held assumption that preparation for ministry and preparation for theological education reflects quite different aims and purposes.
The monies will support a coordinated program of conferences, symposia, seminars, teaching opportunities, and a range of engagements with churches and their leadership.
W. Clark Gilpin, the Margaret E. Burton Professor of the History of Christianity and Theology in the Divinity School, stressed the importance of the Endowment award: “The focused intensity of graduate study presents few ‘ready made’ opportunities to step back and ask ‘Why is this profession important to me, and how do I understand its governing purposes?’”
Of the programs supported by this grant, Cynthia Gano Lindner, Director of Ministry Studies and Clinical Faculty for Preaching and Pastoral Care in the Divinity School, observed, “will make intentional and visible what many of us already enjoy, and value most highly about the community of discourse at the Divinity School. At Chicago, M.Div. and Ph.D.students alike benefit from an educational context in which it is possible to have extended conversations about our commitments and our work with professors and with pastors, with persons who aspire to careers in the academy and persons who are preparing for leadership in religious communities. Our scholarship and our leadership are the richer when they are seasoned by this energizing dialogue; this grant from Lilly Endowment will make those conversations more intentional, more accessible, and more influential in our students' vocational development, and in our life together as an institution.”
As Gilpin pointed out, “deliberating overarching professional purposes at an early stage in one’s career not only makes for more effective teachers and religious leaders but also begins to clarify the wider civic accountability of these two classical professions.”
The Endowment is an Indianapolis-based, private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 to support the causes of religion, education and community development. The Endowment has long had an interest in the role and purpose of religion in American life and strives to create opportunities across the country to learn more about the subject through research, to encourage the development of a new generation of ministers, nurture practicing ministers, and build healthy and vibrant congregations.