Wartburg Theological Seminary (WTS) is delighted to announce that we have been awarded a $725,000 grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help theological schools strengthen and sustain their capacities to educate and support pastoral leaders for Christian churches.
The grant, which will fund the further development of the Journey Together program, is being funded through Lilly Endowment’s Pathways for Tomorrow Initiative. It is a three-phase initiative designed to help theological schools across the United States and Canada as they prioritize and respond to the most pressing challenges they face as they prepare pastoral leaders for Christian congregations both now and into the future.
This grant will move the Journey Together program from the launch phase to a sustainable program with a broader reach and develop innovative programming to train and support Latinx partner congregations, their leaders, and synods through LSPS. We remain deeply grateful to Lilly Endowment for providing funding for WTS to make progress on our goals.
WTS is one of 84 theological schools that are receiving a total of more than $82 million in grants through the second phase of the Pathways initiative. Together, the schools represent evangelical, mainline Protestant, nondenominational, Pentecostal, Roman Catholic and Black church and historic peace church traditions (e.g., Church of the Brethren, Mennonite, Quakers). Many schools also serve students and pastors from Black, Latino, Korean American, Chinese American and recent immigrant Christian communities.
With this grant WTS is ready and eager to build on our strong foundation and expand our work even more broadly to best serve the church and the world. The number of leaders prepared to serve underrepresented communities—particularly those that are Spanish-speaking—is woefully inadequate. We plan to continue to increase the number of Latinx leaders we are forming, and also expand the program to include formation and education for other immigrant communities. However, the needs of the church go beyond developing more Spanish (and Spanglish) -speaking pastors. There is also a great need for Anglo pastors and deacons who are equipped to lead their congregations in the work of accompaniment with Latinx and other immigrant communities. To that end, WTS is embarking on the transformation of the mission of its Lutheran Seminary Program of the Southwest (LSPS), currently based in Austin, TX.
This program has a proven track record of success, both in forming Latinx leaders and also in providing Anglo pastors with strong cross-cultural ministry formation. We are hiring a new program director and entering into a time of creative visioning for the program, such that we can build on its past strengths and redirect its assets to better serve the rapidly developing needs of the church and its ministries to and with a growing Latinx population.
WTS will use the $725,000 grant to (a) move the Journey Together program from the launch phase to a sustainable program with a broader reach, and (b) develop innovative programming to train and support Latinx partner congregations, their leaders, and synods through LSPS. We know that in a changing demographic context, creative educational delivery and strong partnerships are necessary for forming leaders. In collaboration with select synods in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), along with other partners, we plan to implement creative and formative educational delivery in the following ways:
First, we will fully actualize the Journey Together program that forms leaders in a new way, giving particular attention to the critical need for the formation of Latinx leaders. As noted above, this additional funding will enable WTS to expand this innovation in the next few years, with hopes to expand this program to serve additional immigrant and refugee communities. This grant will give us the ability to engage this project fully with the resources needed to accomplish this work with excellence.
Second, through the redevelopment of the mission and programming of LSPS, we will develop new educational models and outreach that can build our capacities to support current pastoral leaders and their congregations to accompany Latinx leaders and their communities, as well as additional immigrant communities.