Candler School of Theology at Emory University is building new routes to ministry with the help of a nearly $1 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc.

The $998,886 grant is part of Lilly Endowment’s Pathways for Tomorrow Initiative, which seeks to help theological schools in the U.S. and Canada broaden educational opportunities that form pastoral leaders for Christian churches. The grant to Emory University will enable Candler to develop new certificate programs and entry points to theological education to make it more accessible, affordable, and relevant.

“The generosity of Lilly Endowment has made possible strategic developments for educating lay and pastoral leadership that will help many different kinds of congregations thrive,” says Jan Love, Mary Lee Hardin Willard Dean of Candler and professor of Christianity and world politics. “We are so very grateful for Lilly Endowment’s support, because we want to widen access to the high-caliber theological education Candler offers.”

This latest grant is the second “Pathways” grant Emory has received to support Candler’s efforts. The first, a $50,000 planning grant, underwrote research that helped Candler to convene groups from church populations that have not been a large part of Candler’s traditional applicant pool to learn of their needs and possibilities for partnership. The consultations included more than 60 ecclesial leaders from diverse communities in Atlanta, the region, and the nation. Some were representative of rapidly growing racial, ethnic, and cultural groups in the South, while others represented important Christian movements beyond Candler’s established partnerships with Baptist, Episcopal, and Catholic communities, and denominations within the Methodist family.

Honoring the Wesleyan value of ecumenical openness, these intentional listening sessions in phase 1 shaped the solutions that Candler is now developing in phase 2, including online certificate programs in pastoral leadership with courses in Spanish, English and Korean and summer seminars that will bring together scholars and pastors from different denominations, countries, and racial and ethnic groups to study the global Charismatic/Pentecostal movement.

Together, the solutions form a robust continuum of opportunities for theological education for a wide group of students that traditional programs often do not suit: those from denominations or pastoral roles that do not require a three-year master of divinity degree for ordination; those seeking instruction in languages other than English; and those who are part-time or dual career ministers. All of Candler’s new “pathways” to ministry are interlocking, so students have maximum flexibility, including options to further their education in degree programs Candler offers.

Love notes that Candler has long understood itself as a “big tent,” educating clergy for the whole church. The Pathways work continues that commitment in a contextually relevant way.

“Leaders who influenced the development of these new offerings at Candler represent so many different groups: African American, African immigrant, Korean American, Asian American, Hispanic, and Latinx—as well as denominations including the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Lutherans, Pentecostal and charismatic traditions,” she explains.

“At every step along the way, we intend to stay in close conversation with leaders of our partner communities. Our hope is not just for excellent educational outcomes for individual graduates, but for the deep renewal of whole communities through exceptional pastoral leadership and just, enduring partnerships between these groups and Candler.”