ULS Receives Over $3 Million in Grants That Will Impact African American Congregations, Asian Theological Education and Aging Adult Communities

January 8, 2024


Contact: Linda Fiore (lfiore@uls.edu)

United Lutheran Seminary (ULS) has received three grants over the past several months totaling more than $3 million.

The first grant for $1.1 million from Lilly Endowment Inc.’s Thriving Congregations Initiative will support “From Surviving to Thriving: Healing African American Churches Create Spiritual and Congregational Resilience in A Post-Pandemic Context.” A collaboration between the Urban Theological Institute at United Lutheran Seminary (UTI), The Oikos Institute for Social Impact (Oikos), Crossing Capital Group, and the Center for Clergy & Congregational Wellness (CCCW), the grant project entitled “Fishing Differently Initiative,” will further the mission of Black churches for the sake of the Gospel over the next three years. Cohorts of leaders from predominately African American congregations will participate in developing learning models that assist congregations in facilitating individual and collective psychospiritual growth, while learning to strategically respond to the disorienting effects of gentrification, disproportionate unemployment and changing local demographics.

A second grant for $1.8 million from Lilly Endowment, Inc. will further support the Asian Theological Institute (ATI) at ULS, which was founded in 2007 and formerly known as the Asian Theological Summer Institute. This renewal grant will enable the expansion and renaming of the Institute while sustaining the flagship summer program, which includes renowned Asian theologians and scholars serving as faculty members mentoring PhD/THD students of Asian heritage each year on the ULS Philadelphia campus. This grant will also enable ATI to offer workshops on teaching and learning, research and professional development grants to younger scholars, and online courses in Asian Christianity, theology, history, and postcolonial studies. ATI will also engage in networking efforts among theological schools in Asia and North America and promote faculty exchange and new scholarly publications.

The third grant for $250,000 from the Lutheran Foundation for Long Term Living (LFLTL) will assist ULS in implementing the project “Aging Grace-Fully: Author Lecture Series” through the Foundation’s Community Benefit Initiative. The aim of the initiative is to encourage programming that enhances the lives of people in a variety of societal settings, especially ministries that celebrate the contributions of aging adults in society. This program, which will feature eight authors presenting lectures on various aspects of aging adulthood, will be implemented under the auspices of the Kindling Faith Continuing Education Initiative at ULS. Kindling Faith expands upon previous programs and events through ongoing collaborative efforts with a thinktank group consisting of alumni and friends of the Seminary, who contribute ideas on program development and best practices. Kindling Faith programs and events are offered throughout the year online and in person on both the Gettysburg and Philadelphia campuses.

“The mission of ULS is further strengthened by these new and ongoing collaborations,” said Rev. Dr. R. Guy Erwin, president of the Seminary. “The Urban Theological Institute has accompanied the ministry of Black congregations in Philadelphia for more than forty years. Our Asian Theological Institute has brought renowned scholars and groups of promising PhD/THD students to campus for the past 15 years. The newest initiative with the Lutheran Foundation for Long Term Living will not only engage the broader aging adult community, but better prepare our students to work with people of all ages as they enter chaplaincies and church relations roles in retirement communities.”

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. For more information: lillyendowment.org