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 Richeys 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.
Emory University, Copyright 2002