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Iliff Receives Lilly Grant to Improve Economic Well-Being of Future Ministers

January 10, 2014


Contact: Greta Gloven
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303-765-3109 (office)


(DENVER) – The Iliff School of Theology (Iliff) has received a $249,982 grant as part of Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment Inc.’s Theological School Initiative to Address Economic Issues Facing Future Ministers. It is one of 67 schools across the country to receive this funding.

Personal financial pressures are severely limiting the ability of seminary graduates to accept calls to Christian ministry and undermining the effectiveness of too many pastoral leaders. To help address this issue, Lilly Endowment created the Theological School Initiative to Address Economic Issues Facing Future Ministers. The initiative’s aim is to encourage theological schools to examine and strengthen their financial and educational practices to improve the economic well-being of future pastors. All theological schools fully accredited by the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada were invited to submit grant proposals.

With the grant from Lilly Endowment, Iliff plans to create the Spiritually-Integrated Financial Resiliency (SIFR) Initiative as an innovative way to address the complex causes and effects of student debt on future clergy and the institutions they serve. The SIFR Initiative leverages Iliff’s Authentic Engagement™ (AE) Program, developed as a pioneering partnership with business leaders. Grounded in Iliff’s pedagogy of theological reflexivity, the AE process transforms organizations through values clarification, inclusive relationships, and cultivation of shared mission. The SIFR Initiative will support AE seminars focused on theologically developing shared financial values for Iliff’s faculty, staff, and trustees, denominational partners, and student and alumni participants.

“We recognize how important it is to prepare and partner with students in an economically-complex world. At Iliff, student debt is of particular concern because our mission is grounded in social justice, and we care deeply about the debilitating effects of debt on our students,” said Rev. Dr. Thomas V. Wolfe, president and chief executive officer. “We are grateful for the Lilly Endowment’s efforts to target student debt as a key issue facing theological education today. The information from the results of this national initiative will positively impact the lives of future pastors, their congregations, and denominations for many years.”

“Pastors are indispensable spiritual leaders and guides, and the quality of pastoral leadership is critical to the health and vitality of congregations,” said Christopher L. Coble, vice president for religion at the Endowment.

“Theological schools play a critical role in preparing pastors and are uniquely positioned to address some of the economic challenges they face,” Coble added. “The Endowment hopes that these grants will support broad efforts to improve the financial circumstances facing pastoral leaders so that pastors can serve their congregations more joyfully and effectively.”


About Iliff School of Theology

The Iliff School of Theology is a graduate theological school related to the United Methodist Church, serving more than 38 different faith traditions. Founded in 1892, the school provides several degree programs, including a Joint Ph.D. Program with the University of Denver.

About Lilly Endowment Inc

Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family – J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons J.K. Jr. and Eli – through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly & Company. The Endowment exists to support the causes of religion, education and community development. Lilly Endowment’s religion grantmaking is designed to deepen and enrich the religious lives of American Christians. It does this largely through initiatives to enhance and sustain the quality of ministry in American congregations and parishes. More information can be found at

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