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Emmanuel will use Lilly Endowment grant to support church leaders

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MILLIGAN UNIVERSITY (Dec. 1, 2021) — Lilly Endowment Inc. has awarded Milligan University a $999,230 grant to support a bold and comprehensive review and redesign of its academic programs at Emmanuel Christian Seminary at Milligan to best prepare pastoral leaders for the Christian Churches/Churches of Christ and the church at large.

“This grant will support our efforts to pursue our mission more effectively as we seek to better serve our primary church constituency of the Stone-Campbell movement,” said Dr. Bill Greer, president of Milligan University.

The project is funded through Lilly Endowment’s Pathways for Tomorrow Initiative. It is a three-phase initiative designed to help theological schools across the United States and Canada as they prioritize and respond to the most pressing challenges they face as they prepare pastoral leaders for Christian congregations both now and into the future.

Earlier this year, Emmanuel was awarded a $50,000 grant through Phase I of the initiative to undertake an extensive self-study research project, which provided the basis for the larger Phase II proposal.

Central to the Phase II grant will be the launch of a hybrid Master of Divinity program, building on the success of Emmanuel’s well-established Master of Arts in Christian Ministries degree. Using a combination of asynchronous online and synchronous intensive classes, this new program will expand the seminary’s remote course options, enabling students not in full-time residence to complete an M.Div.

Additionally, the grant will fund two pilot programs that integrate theological education with “real-world” experience in ministry. One of these, the “Ministry Fellows Program,” will pair students with local churches, where they can serve in a variety of ministerial capacities during the time they are enrolled in seminary. The other, a “Bi-Vocational Ministry Program,” will offer students an integrated experience of theological education and on-the-job training in a skill that equips them to work as bi-vocational ministers when they leave seminary. Both programs will be critical for strengthening Emmanuel’s service to the local church.

The grant also will help to redesign the Doctor of Ministry degree program and strengthen recruitment connections with churches, parachurch organizations, non-profits, and other ministry contexts.

“These initiatives will be transformative for positioning us to serve the church and the world more effectively and sustainably for years to come,” said Greer. “The input from our alumni and partner churches underscores the vital need for future Christian leaders to possess the kind of depth, knowledge, and skill that a seminary education can offer. This grant will position us to continue to prepare those leaders.”

Emmanuel Christian Seminary at Milligan is one of 84 theological schools that are receiving a total of more than $82 million in grants through the second phase of the Pathways initiative. Together, the schools represent evangelical, mainline Protestant, nondenominational, Pentecostal, Roman Catholic, and Black church and historic peace church traditions (e.g., Church of the Brethren, Mennonite, Quakers). Many schools also serve students and pastors from Black, Latino, Korean American, Chinese American, and recent immigrant Christian communities.

“Theological schools have long played a pivotal role in preparing pastoral leaders for churches,” said Christopher L. Coble, the Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “Today, these schools find themselves 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 ways that make the most sense to them.  We believe that their efforts are critical to ensuring that Christian congregations continue to have a steady stream of pastoral leaders who are well-prepared to lead the churches of tomorrow.” Lilly Endowment launched the Pathways initiative in January 2021 because of its longstanding interest in supporting efforts to enhance and sustain the vitality of Christian congregations by strengthening the leadership capacities of pastors and congregational lay leaders.


About Lilly Endowment Inc.

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.

MILLIGAN UNIVERSITY is a Christian liberal arts university in Northeast Tennessee whose vision is to change lives and shape culture through a commitment to servant leadership. The university offers more than 100 majors, minors, pre-professional degrees and concentrations in a variety of fields, along with graduate and adult degree completion programs.  To learn more about Milligan University, visit or call 800-262-8337.

Posted by Chase McGlamery on December 1, 2021.