Wake Forest University School of Divinity Reinvents Theological Education with Million Dollar Grant


Wake Forest University received a $ 1 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help Wake Forest University School of Divinity establish new certificate and diploma programs in theological education.

The project is funded by Lilly Endowment’s Pathways for Tomorrow initiative. It is a three-phase initiative designed to help theological schools in the United States and Canada set priorities and address the most pressing challenges they face as they prepare pastoral leaders for Christian congregations, both now and in the future.

The Wake Forest University School of Divinity’s project proposal, “Plans for a Future and a Hope”: Shaping Agents of Justice, Reconciliation, and Compassion, and Architects of Equity, Hope, and Healing, aims to create future educational pathways for religious and other professionals in a variety of fields who could benefit from increased awareness of the impact of religious and community commitments on public concerns such as health equity. One area of ​​focus is health care.

“This award will help us explore and implement certificate and diploma programs at the intersections of ‘faith, health equity and inclusive leadership,’ said Jonathan Lee Walton, Dean. “It’s one thing to train religious professionals who know how to pray with families, but we also understand the importance of training religious leaders who are aware of the social determinants of good health.

The school plans to expand its current curriculum on diet, health and ecological wellness and explore additional areas to train religious and health professionals to meet the overlapping needs of society. with faith and health. Supporters for the project include Faith Health NC, Charlotte School of Professional Studies, and Atrium Health.

“The landscape of higher education is changing,” says Jill Crainshaw. “Students are looking for flexible and affordable options that allow them to progress toward their goals in a time frame that best suits their lives. Cumulative degrees that lead to graduate degrees offer a way to meet this need while providing a quality educational experience.

Wake Forest University School of Divinity is one of 84 theological schools receiving a total of more than $ 82 million in grants under the second phase of the Pathways initiative.

“Theological schools have long played a central role in preparing pastoral leaders for churches,” said Christopher L. Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “Today these schools are in a period of rapid and profound change. Through the Pathways initiative, theological schools will take deliberate steps to address the challenges they have identified in the way that makes most sense to them. We believe their efforts are essential to ensure that Christian congregations continue to have a constant flow of pastoral leaders who are well prepared to lead the churches of tomorrow.

Lilly Endowment launched the Pathways initiative in January 2021 because of her long-standing interest in supporting efforts to improve and maintain the vitality of Christian congregations by strengthening the leadership capacities of pastors and lay congregation leaders.

“Today more than ever, our world needs thoughtful, sober and knowledgeable religious professionals to respond to the injustices and trauma in our society,” says Dean Walton. “We are delighted to be part of this extraordinary initiative to reinvent theological education. Lilly Endowment Inc.’s commitment to training future generations of women and men to serve the church is unmatched.


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