Grants Showcase Faculty Scholarship and Innovation

April 6, 2023

A year and a half ago, Emory University launched 2O36, the most ambitious capital campaign in the school’s history. With the title as a nod to the university’s upcoming bicentennial, the multi-year fundraising campaign focuses on a key part of Emory’s mission—applying knowledge in service to humanity. This focus dovetails beautifully with Candler’s mission of educating faithful and creative leaders for the church’s ministries throughout the world.

Among Candler’s campaign priorities is continuing to recruit and retain eminent faculty at the top of their fields. Across time, the Candler faculty has fostered an environment unique in theological education—one that values scholarship, teaching and serving the church in equal measure. They lead their fields in scholarly productivity, mentor students to maximize their gifts, and develop innovative programs that helps communities and churches thrive.

One of the most visible markers of a faculty’s excellence is the grant funding they garner to support their research and implement programs that share knowledge with a broad audience. Since the 2O36 campaign began in October 2021, numerous Candler faculty members have earned prestigious grants to support their ongoing scholarship and the programmatic endeavors they lead.

Here is a look at grants Candler faculty have received since the start of the campaign:

  • Sarah Bogue, associate professor in the practice of the history of Christianity and senior director of digital learning, led a project in fall 2022 called “Cultivating Creative Assessment Models in Community,” which was funded by a grant from the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion. The project brought together a faculty cohort to focuson topics related to barriers between faculty and students, which can be amplified by traditional models of assessment.
  • Assistant Professor in the Practice of Old Testament and Director of The Candler Foundry Ryan Bonfiglio is the principal investigator for a Thriving Congregations grant of $991,221 from Lilly Endowment Inc. to establish an initiative to support congregations in implementing new approaches to theological exploration, community engagement, and collaborative leadership. The grant has enabled Candler to further develop partnerships with churches in and beyond Atlanta to foster congregational vitality and address the cultural trends that challenge it, especially through the expansion of Courses in the Community and TheoEd Talks, two programs of The Candler Foundry.
  • Ryan Bonfiglio and Postdoctoral Fellow Elizabeth Arnold developed “Foundations in Faith and Leadership,” an online certificate program offering micro-credentials in topics related to ministry effectiveness. The program, which is offered through The Candler Foundry, received a $225,000 grant from Trinity Church Wall Street to support its launch and implementation.
  • Emory University received a grant through Lilly Endowment Inc.’s Young Adult Initiative that will enable Candler to launch The BRIDGE (Building Religious Inclusion, Diversity, and Generational Equity) Young Adult Ministry Innovation Hub, spearheaded by Professor in the Practice of Youth Education and Peacebuilding Elizabeth Corrie and Associate Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling Gregory C. Ellison II.
  • Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Religion and Culture Marla F. Frederick was awarded one of five faculty grants from Emory University’s Office of the Provost to support her research and the development of a digital archive that chronicles the stories of historically Black college and university (HBCU) builders and graduates. The archive will include 10- to 14-minute documentary shorts that explore the significance of an HBCU education to participants. Learn more.
  • Associate Professor of American Religious History Alison Collis Greene was awarded a Sabbatical Research Grant from the Louisville Institute to support her upcoming book project, Backwater: Religion, Community, and Justice in a Jim Crow Swamp. In it, Greene offers a narrative history of religion and environment in a rural eastern North Carolina community. Learn more.
  • W. and Ruth Brooks Professor of World Christianity Jehu J. Hanciles received a Louisville Institute Project Grant for Researchers for his project “African Immigrants and Transformations in American Christianity.” Hanciles is examining the impact of post-1960s immigration on the American religious landscape, particularly the ongoing contributions of African Christian immigrants. Learn more.
  • Assistant Professor of Hebrew Bible Joel B. Kemp was awarded a Sabbatical Research Grant from the Louisville Institute to support his upcoming book project. Titled Blackness in 3D: Biblical Race, American Law, and Contemporary Crises, Kemp’s book expands the ongoing conversation among scholars about the ways churches have played an important role in constructing America’s racial caste systems. Learn more.
  • Joel M. LeMon, the Dr. Donald Allen Harp, Jr. Distinguished Associate Professor of Biblical Studies, along with Tel Aviv University Professor Dalit Rom-Shiloni, were awarded a grant from Emory University’s Halle Institute for Global Research for their project “Conceptualizing Nature in Eastern Mediterranean Cultures of the 2nd-1st Millenia BCE: The Use of Textual and Pictorial Evidence.” LeMon, along with Assistant Professor in the Practice of Old Testament Ryan Bonfiglio and students from Emory’s Graduate Division of Religion, will collaborate with Rom-Shiloni and other Israeli and European scholars to address whether there is a conception of “nature” in the Hebrew Bible and the ancient Near East, and if so, how its contours can be established.
  • Associate Professor of Systematic Theology Joy McDougall was awarded a grant from the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion for her project “Teaching at the Intersection: Feminist, Womanist, Latina, Asian and Indigenous Theological Pedagogy,” which explores how pedagogy in theology classrooms can enhance efforts to address diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives at seminaries.
  • Professor of Hebrew Bible Roger S. Nam received a Sabbatical Grant for Researchers from the Louisville Institute for his project and upcoming book The Economics of Diaspora (Oxford University Press). Nam’s project seeks to utilize diasporic theory to apply to readings of three different text clusters that represent different components of the Judean diaspora, which will equip today’s congregations to better welcome the sojourner. Learn more.
  • Assistant Professor of Catholic Studies Susan B. Reynolds received a Teacher-Scholar Grant from the Calvin Institute for Christian Worship for her project studying public, lay-led Way of the Cross (Via Crucis) rituals that engage contemporary social injustices in light of the cross and exploring how communities on the margins of church and society use public ritual to practice theological agency. Learn more.
  • Susan Reynolds also received a Project Grant for Researchers from the Louisville Institute for her project, “Ways of the Cross: Passion and Protest as Public Theology.” Drawing on fieldwork, interviews, and archival research in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Brownsville, Texas, and beyond, Reynolds will examine passion protests staged by churches and other Christian communities in response to five contemporary social wounds: gun violence, structural racism and anti-Black violence, homophobia, injustice toward migrants, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more.
  • Associate Dean of Worship and Spiritual Formation and Associate Professor in the Practice of Worship Khalia J. Williams was awarded a Teacher-Scholar Grant from the Calvin Institute for Christian Worship for her project exploring the theological significance of liturgical dance in Christian worship. Learn more.
  • Lilly Endowment Inc. has also recently awarded a $1.25 million grant through its Nurturing Children Through Worship Initiative to establish “The Sacred Arts Collective,” a program developed by Khalia Williams. The goal is to engage congregations in the Atlanta area to help them imagine how to nurture and grow the faith of children ages 5-12 through integration of the arts in worship.
  • Since October of 2021, Emory has received two “Pathways for Tomorrow” grants from Lilly Endowment Inc. to enable Candler to develop a set of initiatives that creates a rich, interconnected continuum of offerings for the education of pastoral leaders. These two most recent Pathways grants build on the work begun with the initial Pathways grant; in all, these grants total more than $6 million. Professor of Church History Jonathan Strom was the principal investigator for the first grant, and Associate Dean of Faculty and Charles Howard Candler Professor of Divinity Ted A. Smith and Associate Dean of La Mesa Academy for Theological Studies and Professor in the Practice of Leadership Joanne Solis-Walker are the principal investigators for the second and third grants. Read more about the Pathways grants.

This impressive compilation illustrates how Candler faculty are recognized as leaders in their academic disciplines and leaders in theological education writ large as they shape scholarship and share knowledge in service of humanity.

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