Memphis Theological Seminary has received a grant of $1,000,000 from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help establish the House of Black Church Studies at MTS.

“We are profoundly grateful for the trust that Lilly Endowment has placed in us with this grant. We are overjoyed to receive their support to equip leaders for the Christian Church,” said MTS President Jody Hill. “With the addition of the House of Black Church Studies, Memphis Theological Seminary can now celebrate that we have houses of study dedicated to equipping leaders in our student body’s three largest congregational settings: the African American Church; the Cumberland Presbyterian Church; and the Methodist Church.”

The House of Black Church Studies will enhance Memphis Theological Seminary’s capacity to carry forward its efforts to prepare and support pastors and congregational lay ministers primarily of the African-American Baptist and Pentecostal traditions to serve their local congregations.

The project 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.

Dr. Karren Todd, Program Director for the House of Black Church Studies.

Dr. Karren Todd, Program Director for the House of Black Church Studies at MTS, says, “As an alum of MTS, I am excited to be a part of this new and necessary work for the Black Church. Our mission is to ensure an ongoing commitment to enrich the work and witness of Memphis Theological Seminary as a theological and spiritual resource for the Black Church Context.  I am committed to the mission and I look forward to the work and the impact of the MTS House of Black Church Studies.”

Lilly Endowment launched the Pathways initiative in January 2021 because of its longstanding interest in supporting efforts to enhance and sustain the vitality of Christian congregations by strengthening the leadership capacities of pastors and congregational lay leaders.

“Theological schools have long played a pivotal role in preparing pastoral leaders for churches,” said Christopher L. Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “Today, these schools find themselves in a period of rapid and profound change.  Through the Pathways Initiative, theological schools will take deliberate steps to address the challenges they have identified in ways that make the most sense to them.  We believe that their efforts are critical to ensuring that Christian congregations continue to have a steady stream of pastoral leaders who are well-prepared to lead the churches of tomorrow.”

Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic 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. Although the gifts of stock remain a 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.  The primary aim of its grantmaking in religion, which is national in scope, focuses on strengthening the leadership and vitality of Christian congregations in the United States.