Virginia Theological Seminary Receives Three Grants from Lilly Endowment Inc. to Fund Innovative Initiatives


Media Contact: Curtis Prather 
Tel: 703-461-1782 

ALEXANDRIA, VA – Lilly Endowment Inc. has awarded Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS) three grants totaling $2.75 million. The grants will support two new initiatives, Baptized for Life: An Episcopal Discipleship Initiative, and Thriving in Ministry Initiative, and continuation of Deep Calls to Deep: A Program for Preaching Renewal.

"We appreciate the confidence Lilly Endowment  is placing in our work," said the Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D., dean and president of VTS. "We are looking forward to the opportunity to continue to help clergy improve their preaching, to work with clergy as they renew their calling to pastoral ministry, and to provide resources and ministry opportunity for those baptized."

VTS received a five-year, $1.5 million grant to implement Baptized for Life: An Episcopal Discipleship Initiative, a project of the Center for the Ministry of Teaching (CMT) at VTS. Under the direction of Lisa Kimball, Ph.D., Associate Dean of Lifelong Learning, Baptized for Life will support congregations as they equip individuals of all ages to live into their baptismal vocations with confidence, truly believing that they are loved and made new in Jesus Christ. Kimball and her team believe a commitment to the basics, to active engagement with scripture and worship will shape lives of meaning and purpose while (re)vitalizing congregations.

“It is our working assumption that practices of Christian discipleship are necessary for vocational discernment, and that the Episcopal Church has rich, underutilized resources in the Bible, the Book of Common Prayer, and our sacramental tradition to change lives, congregations, and communities,” says Dr. Kimball.

VTS received a $1 million grant for the Thriving in Ministry Initiative.  Under the direction of the Rev. David T. Gortner, Ph.D., Associate Dean of Church and Community Engagement, Thriving in Ministry intends to help priests navigate professional and personal challenges that emerge at key moments and in varied settings along the arc of their ministerial careers. Through a process of focused mentoring and facilitated peer reflection, priests will expand and deepen their range of ministry and leadership skills. Gortner and his team are preparing high-quality programs that help mentors and peer facilitators guide priests across the country in expanding their repertoire in order to thrive personally in ministry and to help their congregations to flourish.

"This initiative will strengthen within participating clergy an increased capacity to learn from their context, as well as resiliency, assertiveness, vulnerable honesty, ability to nurture and develop lay leaders, and success in drawing congregations into more purposeful and sustained missional engagement with their surrounding communities," said Gortner. "It will also shape a new generation of mentors and group facilitators, thus building a new culture of focused intentionality in continuing clergy development."
In addition to Thriving in Ministry Initiative and Baptized for Life, VTS received a $250,000 grant to continue Deep Calls to Deep: A Program for Preaching Renewal. Founded in 2015 with the help of a Lilly Endowment grant, Deep Calls to Deep is for Episcopal preachers who have been out of seminary for at least five years and who long for the space and structure to nurture their love for preaching.

"Three grants from Lilly Endowment represent an opportunity for the Seminary," Markham added. "This is exciting. We are looking forward to doing this work for the kingdom."


Founded in 1823 as a beacon of hope in a country new and finding its way, Virginia Theological Seminary is the flagship Seminary of the Episcopal Church. One of our first benefactors was Francis Scott Key whose poem provides the text for our national anthem. In the 194 years since being established, VTS has led the way in forming leaders of the Episcopal Church, including: the Most Rev. John E. Hines (VTS 1933, D.D. 1946), former presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church; the Rt. Rev. John T. Walker (VTS 1954, D.D. 1978), the first African-American bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington; and theologian, author and lay preacher Ms. Verna J. Dozier (VTS D.D. 1978). Serving the worldwide Anglican Communion, Virginia Theological Seminary educates approximately 25% of those being ordained who received residential theological education. Visit us online at
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