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Release date:
June 5, 2001
Contact: Elaine Justice, Assistant Director, 404-727-0643, or

Emory's Youth Theology Institute Cultivates Next Leaders For Church

As the nation's mainline churches strive to deal with the presumed shortage of young clergy entering the nation's pulpits, 63 rising high school seniors from 20 states and abroad will take up residence at Emory's Candler School of Theology June 30-July 28 for the ninth annual Youth Theology Initiative's (YTI) summer institute. The four-week living-learning program aims to cultivate a cadre of what organizers call "public theologians" as the next leaders for the church and society.

The initiative at Emory, begun in 1993 and supported with funds from the Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment, is the first of what has blossomed into at least two dozen spin-off theological programs for teens at universities and seminaries across the United States and Canada. While designed for the same age group, the programs have different formats and emphases: Some are intended to recruit young people for parish ministry; others, such as Emory's YTI, encourage a more general lifelong love of theology.

The YTI students, or scholars, as they are called, live in an Emory residence hall and choose from one of five classes, such as "Exploring the Question of Evil," "Faith and Justice in the Face of Violence," or "Whose Earth is it Anyway?" They also gather as a community to do service projects and discuss topics such as science and religion, thinking ethically, prayer practices, and world faiths and religious traditions. The program is free for participants.

Teachers for the institute include Candler faculty, visiting theologians, Ph.D. students in Emory's top-rated Graduate Division of Religion, and high-profile guest speakers, such as Indigo Girl Emily Saliers, who will discuss her work as a songwriter on issues of justice.

"My own vision is that YTI is much more than a summer academy," says Mark Monk Winstanley, YTI director. "Our goal is to develop a center for research and education that examines how youth think theologically. We hope to serve as a resource for educators, churches and those who work with youth on a variety of levels."

Earlier this year, organizers of YTI received a $160,000 grant from Lilly to fund a two-year study of the program's long-term impact. Winstanley and fellow researchers intend to "discover whether their work with youth has ignited their moral imagination, leading them to contribute toward the common good."

The YTI experience already is being used to develop materials and strategies to train youth ministers, whose ranks also are in short supply in many mainline denominations, says Winstanley. In partnership with the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church, YTI is launching a Youth Ministry Institute this fall for youth ministers and lay leaders in North Georgia. Winstanley's hope is that the nine-month-long program will serve as a model and resource for youth minister education across the country.

Youth Theological Initiative
Summer Academy 2001 Scholars

Name, City, State, Religious Affiliation
Daniel Anderson, Lithonia, Ga., Church of God In Christ
Ellen Banakis, Palatine, Ill., Lutheran
Fay Barnes, St. Louis, Mo., Christian
Ryan Baugh, Decatur, Ga., Episcopal
Lesley Black, Lexington, Ky., United Methodist
Gregory Boyce, Plantation, Fla., Lutheran
Kathleen Britton, Miami, Fla., Catholic
Alison Brock, Durham, N.C., Baptist
Christina Cerkervich, Mobile, Ala., None
Linnet Charles, Decatur, Ga., Christian-Baptist
Adam Clay, Columbus, Miss., Episcopal
Meredith Coleman-Tobias, Brooklyn, N.Y., Baptist
Sarah Cordes, Dekalb, Ill., Evangelical Covenant
Anne Cotton, Grand Haven, Mich., Non-Denominational
Christopher Cunningham, Roswell, Ga., United Methodist
Jay Draeger, Signal Mountain, Tenn., Lutheran
Libby Ehrig, Nevada, Iowa, United Methodist
Mamie Emerson, Cartersville, Ga., Baptist
Gary Ryan Evans, Martinez, Ga., Catholic
Peter Fichthorn, Nokesville, Va., Presbyterian
Sarah Froehbrodt, Atlanta, Ga., Disciples of Christ
Jamie Gianoutsos, Amarillo, Texas, Interdenominational
Colleen Gillispie, Knoxville, Tenn., United Methodist
Stephanie Granger, West Springfield, Mass., United Church of Christ
Shannon Gray, Canton, Ohio, Christian Methodist Episcopal
Stephen Gusukuma, Brownwood, Texas, Baptist
Kelly Gutting, Marietta, Ga., United Methodist
Stephanie Hall, Gadson, Ala., Episcopal
Hazel Hamann, Miami, Fla., Catholic
William Healy, Statesboro, Ga., Roman Catholic
Anne Heyward, St. Louis, Mo., Christian
Cynthia Ivy, Lakeland, Tenn., African Methodist Episcopal
Joshua Jackson, Dothan, Ala., United Methodist
Jean Johnson, Danielsville, Ga., Baptist
Willa Rose Johnson, Stockbridge, Ga., Baptist
Leah Lackey, Atlanta, Ga., Protestant
Jee Lee, Waynesville, Mo., Presbyterian
Brenda Loyd, Waycross, Ga., United Methodist
Naomi MacMeekin, Wiltshire, England, United Reformed Church
Brandi McCarn, Lexington, N.C., United Church of Christ
Christy McCuen, Greenville, S.C., None
Trevor McLaren, Laurel, Md., Non-Denominational Christian
Joshua Miles, Jacksonville, Fla., Non-Denominational
Kaletta Moody, Lithonia, Ga., Non-Denominational
Emily Oswald, Richmond, Va., Mennonite
Eric Parker, Watkinsville, Ga., United Methodist
Tamara Reid, Waycross, Ga., Baptist
Lisa Richardson, North Royalton, Ohio, Lutheran
Stephen Slota, Pittsburgh, Pa., Catholic & Presbyterian
Shenika Smith, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, Pentecostal
Rachell Stegall, Charlotte, N.C., Episcopal
Nathan Stueve, Norwalk, Iowa, United Methodist
Claire Tabak, Miami, Fla., Roman Catholic
Brandon Tonge, Stone Mountain, Ga., African Methodist Episcopal
Camellia Townsend, Nashville, Tenn., Church of God in Christ
Ariane Tulloch, Weston, Fla., United Methodist
Juan Vila, Miami, Fla., Catholic
Courtney Ware, Riverdale, Ga., United Methodist
Kennyetta Watkins, Fairburn, Ga., African Methodist Episcopal
Andrea Williams, Charlotte, N.C., Primitive Baptist
Rachel Williams, Dadeville, Ala., Baptist
Chana Winger, Roseville, Calif., Episcopal
Dawn Wolf, Shellville, Ga., United Methodist

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