Wesley Theological Seminary received a $5 million five-year grant to strengthen its programs for non-degree students, the Lilly Endowment Inc. announced Wednesday.
The grants are aimed to help the schools “launch large-scale collaborative programs to better prepare and support pastoral leaders for Christian congregations” by partnering with other institutions, the Indianapolis-based charity said.
“Many theological schools believe that their paths to the future depend on their abilities to form strategic partnerships with other schools and church agencies,” Christopher L. Coble, the endowment’s vice president for religion, said in a statement. “These grants will help seminaries develop innovative and collaborative approaches to theological education that we believe will strengthen their efforts to prepare and support excellent leaders for Christian communities into the future.”
Wesley will partner with the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, to “develop non degree certificate programs that can bring theological education to individuals who either don’t have the time to sort of step away to get a seminary degree,” the Rev. F. Douglas Powe Jr., director of the seminary’s Lewis Center for Church Leadership, said in a telephone interview.
“This opportunity allows us to offer individuals a chance to say, ‘hey, we understand you’re not going to come and become a seminary student and devote your life to this,’” he added.
Mr. Powe said he is also excited about the opportunity of using the grant money “to connect with underserved communities.”
“It may be that individuals in some of those communities aren’t thinking about sort of formal theological education immediately,” he said. “Something like a non-degree offering [would be] a way then to help them to maybe one day again … think about a more formal degree.”