Lilly Endowment Funds Project on Digital Platforms and Pastoral Leadership

July 22, 2020

Gregory C. Ellison IIEmory University’s Candler School of Theology has received a $50,000 grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to support a new project exploring how digital platforms can strengthen pastoral leadership in times of uncertainty—including the current coronavirus pandemic and a world affected by race and difference.

The project will be led by Gregory C. Ellison II, Associate Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling at Candler.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, countless people have turned to faith leaders for psychological solace, spiritual wisdom, and pastoral care,” Ellison says. “In light of the world’s changes and the palpable anxiety around and within us, questions facing communities of faith emerge.”

The project, “Fearing Less and Seeking Anchors: Interactive Digital Platforms to Enhance Pastoral Leadership in Uncertain Times,” will address these issues, including faith leaders’ ability to confront the fears of their congregations while also addressing their own; the essential skills needed to effectively support congregations; the theological resources required to deepen the leadership acumen of decision-makers; and the tools needed for faith leaders to proclaim hard truths that dismantle prejudice and support marginalized individuals and overlooked communities.

Ellison plans to convene an ecumenical think tank to discern the essential skills, theological sources, and characteristics for effective pastoral leadership in a world impacted by COVID-19. Building on his work as founder of Fearless Dialogues, a nonprofit organization that creates unique spaces for unlikely partners to have hard, heartfelt conversations on taboo subjects, Ellison plans to test and scale the Fearless Dialogues Digital Platform to help pastors create innovative ministries to confront fear. The third pillar of the project will test a theologically grounded leadership training model meant to actively help faith leaders serve with less fear.