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January 14, 2002

Lilly grant funds grad education

By Elaine Justice


The Candler School of Theology has been awarded a $172,453 grant by the Lilly Endowment Inc. to conduct studies on improving and expanding graduate education in religious practices.

The grant will help Candler, one of 13 seminaries of the United Methodist Church, do what it does best, according to Dean Russell Richey. “It will open the door for us to look both at the needs of congregations for effective leaders in the practices of their religious traditions, and at the ways we can train those who will teach future generations of religious leaders,” he said.

The need for this kind of movement in theological education was underscored last spring, when the Auburn Center for the Study of Theological Education published a study concluding that faculty vacancies in the practical areas of the curriculum are hard to fill. In addition, more than half the current faculty in these practical fields will reach age 67 within five years. Meanwhile, many schools of theology and church bodies are clamoring for increased instruction in the practices of ministry.

In Richey’s view, the Lilly grant represents promise. “Theological education stands at an extraordinary moment of opportunity,” he said, citing the recent surge of interest in rituals and practices of religious communities. “It opens the door for fresh conversations about a new vision of graduate education in practical theology.”

Under the grant, Candler will collaborate with the Graduate Division of Religion (GDR) in consulting with a variety of groups across the country. Through conferences, interviews and other forms of research, the school will gather data from leaders of religious communities, denominational policy makers, theological faculties, directors of graduate programs in religious studies and others.

These efforts will focus on ways that graduate education might be improved and expanded for those who are preparing to be leaders in religious practices.

Research questions to be pursued during the yearlong grant period include:

• How great is the need for scholars, teachers and leaders in the fields of preaching, worship, pastoral care, religious education and similar practices of religious leadership and ministry?

• What resources currently exist at Emory for excellence in preparing doctoral students in these fields?

• Is it necessary and possible for Candler to shape a new approach to graduate education in religious practices?

• Are there clear understandings of religious practices and their relationships to faith communities?

The grant is intended to be the first phase of a larger project, Richey said. He envisions the second phase as a five-year effort that would implement new forms of graduate education in religious practices. That second phase, according to Richey, would involve creative collaboration between Candler and the GDR.


Back to Emory Report January 14, 2002

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