Lilly Endowment Inc. Awards $1.25 Million Grant, “Compelling Preaching for a Climate-Changed World”

Lexington Theological Seminary, The BTS Center, and Creation Justice Ministries partner to equip preachers with training, resources, support networks, and research for addressing the urgency of the climate crisis and other environmental issues.

We celebrate that Lexington Theological Seminary (LTS) has received a $1.25 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. for their project, “Compelling Preaching for a Climate-Changed World.” LTS will partner with The BTS Center and Creation Justice Ministries on the initiative that aims to equip preachers with training, resources, support networks, and research for addressing the urgency of the climate crisis and other environmental issues.

The effort is being funded through Lilly Endowment’s Compelling Preaching Initiative. The aim of the initiative is to foster and support preaching that better inspires, encourages, and guides people to come to know and love God and to live out their Christian faith more fully.

The Compelling Preaching for a Climate-Changed World initiative builds on a pilot project in 2022-23 called the EcoPreacher Cohort which engaged more than 100 participants in a year-long program of monthly gatherings equipping preachers for spiritual leadership during this time of climate and environmental crisis. The grant will allow for building and expanding this program over the next five years through sermon coaching groups, peer networks, workshops and webinars, and an online digital resource hub with text studies, preaching helps, and model sermons.  The project will also include a research component studying clergy and congregations to better understand how preachers are responding to the challenges of a climate-changed world and how the skills and resources provided by the program can be utilized throughout the church.

Program Coordinator, Leah D. Schade, Associate Professor of Preaching and Worship at Lexington, notes, “Christian communities must claim our role in addressing the climate and environmental crisis, and preaching plays a critical part in this effort. This grant will allow us to inspire more robust engagement with preachers and congregations to effectively reach and benefit increasingly diverse audiences both within and beyond congregations.” 

Lexington Theological Seminary is one of 142 organizations that are receiving grants through the Compelling Preaching Initiative. Reflecting the diversity of Christianity in the United States, the organizations are affiliated with mainline Protestant, evangelical, Catholic, Orthodox Christian and Pentecostal faith communities. Many of the organizations are rooted in Black church, Hispanic and Asian Christian traditions.

Allen Ewing-Merrill, Executive Director of The BTS Center, explains, “Preachers need to be equipped with skills, peer support, and resources to address the challenges and opportunities of our time. Our purpose in this project is not just to help clergy preach about climate change well; rather, our purpose is to help preachers preach well in a climate-changed world.”

Avery Davis Lamb, Co-Executive Director of Creation Justice Ministries, notes, “One of the most urgent features of our changing world is the accelerating reality of climate change, manifested ever more concretely in the form of extreme weather events, biodiversity loss, warming temperatures, and rapidly rising levels of climate anxiety, especially among younger generations, all of which disproportionately impacts vulnerable and historically marginalized communities.  So, our program is designed to be scalable and sustainably supported by a network of denominational, organizational, and theological education partners.”

Lexington Theological Seminary President Charisse Gillett adds, “As churches face a critical inflection point, we are excited to support this innovative program grounded in the belief that God is inviting Christian leaders to claim a renewed sense of vocation. Thanks to the Lilly Endowment, we will be able to equip and encourage faith leaders and congregations to step into the realities of an evolving church and a changing world with curiosity and faith; to ask big questions about what it means to be the church in a climate-changed world; and to embrace the call to preach the gospel in ways that nurture spiritual and ecological imagination.”

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.

About Lexington Theological Seminary

Lexington Theological Seminary is an accredited graduate theological institution of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Consistent with the Disciples’ historic commitment to Christian unity, the Seminary is intentionally ecumenical with students, faculty, staff and trustees of various denominations. The mission of Lexington Theological Seminary is to prepare faithful leaders for the church of Jesus Christ and, thus, to strengthen the church’s participation in God’s mission for the world.

The BTS Center logo with colorful globe and blue solid backingAbout The BTS Center

With roots more than 200 years deep, The BTS Center is a 501(c)(3) private operating foundation in Portland, Maine, building on the legacy of the former Bangor Theological Seminary. With a mission to catalyze spiritual imagination with enduring wisdom for transformative faith leadership, The BTS Center offers programs of spiritual and vocational formation that aim to cultivate and nurture spiritual leadership for a climate-changed world.

About Creation Justice Ministries

Creation Justice Ministries is a fiscally-sponsored project of Disciples Home Missions of the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ. With ecumenical roots in the National Council of Churches, CJM’s mission is to educate, equip and mobilize communions and denominations, congregations, and individuals to protect, restore, and rightly share God's creation.