Palm Beach Atlantic University has received a grant of $1 million from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help establish culturally-competent graduate theological education on the campus of Florida Memorial University, a historically-Black university in Miami-Dade County.
The effort is 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.
“We’re deeply grateful to the Lilly Endowment for its continued, generous commitment to this innovative initiative championed by our School of Ministry,” said PBA President Dr. Debra A. Schwinn. “We look forward to building on our relationship with Florida Memorial University to expand the accessibility of high-quality ministry education to unique populations in South Florida.”
Palm Beach Atlantic will provide the Master of Divinity component of a Bachelor of Arts-to-Master of Divinity program on FMU’s campus. PBA offers the only university-based Association of Theological Schools-accredited M.Div. in the region. PBA intends to replicate its School of Ministry’s 3+2 program, which combines three years of undergraduate study with two years of M.Div. study in a model that reduces time and money needed for pastoral education. In addition, PBA will offer generous, targeted scholarships and continue to develop a low-cost management structure to keep tuition affordable.
The Palm Beach Atlantic program on FMU’s campus will train African American pastors and aspiring pastors where they are, with faculty who look like them in a program based in their context. A full-time project director and associate director who have extensive experience in theological education and who reflect the context of African American church life will lead the program. PBA and FMU expect both institutions to grow in collaboration.
Pastors, trustees, community members, faculty and administrators have described an “extraordinary reception and hunger for this program,” said FMU President Dr. Jaffus Hardrick.
“Pastoring is core to our call,” Hardrick said. “The context-first vision you propose will move our region from being exceptionally underserved toward becoming a model for the future in a sustainable way that looks a generation ahead.”
PBA is committed to hiring excellent faculty who represent the students and who are capable of creating contextually-appropriate curriculum and instruction.
“Many students in PBA’s new Ph.D. program come from the Black church tradition, and with this additional training, may become wonderful faculty in the future,” said PBA Provost Dr. E. Randolph Richards.
Palm Beach Atlantic University is one of 84 theological schools that are receiving a total of more than $82 million in grants through the second phase of the Pathways initiative. Together, the schools represent evangelical, mainline Protestant, nondenominational, Pentecostal, Roman Catholic and Black church and historic peace church traditions (e.g., Church of the Brethren, Mennonite, Quakers). Many schools also serve students and pastors from Black, Latino, Korean American, Chinese American and recent immigrant Christian communities.
“Theological schools have long played a pivotal role in preparing pastoral leaders for churches,” said Christopher L. Coble, the 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 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.
About Lilly Endowment Inc.
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 and maintains a special commitment to its founders’ hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana. The primary aim of its grant making in religion, which is national in scope, focuses on strengthening the leadership and vitality of Christian congregations in the United States. The Endowment also seeks to foster public understanding about religion and lift up in fair, accurate and balanced ways the contributions that people of all faiths and religious communities make to our greater civic well-being.