Palmer Receives $1,250,000 Lilly Endowment Compelling Preaching Initiative Award

St. Davids, PA: Eastern University has received a grant of $1,250,000 from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help Palmer Theological Seminary establish the project, “Compelling Preaching for the 21st Century: Whole Gospel. Whole World. Whole Persons.”

This project is being funded through Lilly Endowment’s Compelling Preaching Initiative. The primary aim of this initiative is to cultivate and to strengthen practices of today’s Christian preachers to share the good news of the gospel in more engaging and effective ways, prompting people to know and love God, and inspiring their daily lived Christian faith.

“Palmer is grateful to Lilly Endowment for this continued investment,” said Rev. Dr. Kimberlee A. Johnson, Dean of Palmer Seminary and College. “This support demonstrates a missional
alignment with Lilly Endowment over the course of its rich history: upholding tradition while pursuing innovation, nurturing the human spirit, and working toward the flourishing of all creation.”

Palmer Theological Seminary understands the challenge for today’s preachers and hearers given the pressing issues of a post-pandemic world, of ever-increasing awareness of societal injustice and discord, and of the accelerating reformation of the United States Church. This project aims to cultivate healthy and prepared preachers to share the gospel in compelling ways inspiring personal and global transformation. The primary area of funding will support the new Kerygma Initiative in three key areas: exploring, learning, and equipping. Kerygma is a Greek word meaning proclamation; today it encompasses the full scope of sharing the good News in word and life.

The first key area of the Kerygma Initiative focuses on exploring the best ways in which to share the joy and justice of the gospel with today’s diversity of hearers and circumstances in ways that connect with life and heart, heal, build authentic relationships, and honor the gospel. It explores through communal conversations with preachers and hearers, multi-disciplinary expertise from practitioners in communications, psychology, technology, etc. and creating cohort opportunities for active preachers.

Learning from and honoring our traditions and using those learnings to animate innovation is the second key area of the Kerygma Initiative. Studying the models of globally recognized prophetic voices such as Dr. Tony Campolo, alumnus and former faculty, will help to create new models of preaching for today’s audience needs, for the metaverse era, and for the gospel’s voice in the public square. Learnings and new models will be shared through publications, cohort learning opportunities for all educational levels, and through global offerings such as a multi- day ecumenical preaching conference.

The third key area focuses on the cultivation and equipping of healthy, whole preachers—novice and seasoned–for the 21 st century. This will be accomplished through curriculum renewal, increased experiential learning, life-long learning opportunities, and the expansion of soul care and peer companionship currently offered through Palmer’s innovative Center for Alumni Care and Seminary Engagement (CARES). CARES ministers to seminary alumni understanding that doing life and ministry together is necessary for the flourishing of all. CARES is excited to soon launch the “Flourishing Leader Project,” which will expand its work to all leaders in the Church. CARES was established in 2021 through Lilly Endowment’s initiative, Pathways for Tomorrow.

“The seminary has a nearly 100-year history of being present with communities and being a leading voice for human flourishing, from its founding as an alternative option for graduate level theological education that acknowledged women in ministry and a concern for social justice, to its commitment to offering access to theological education in innovative ways to vulnerable and seeking populations, and to its emphasis on the spiritual health and wholeness of those Christian leaders it equips,” shares Rev. Christen Blore, Alumni Chaplain and Director of CARES.  “Palmer’s very character is one of meeting the needs of the Church and her leaders of the time. This resource gift from the Lilly Endowment allows us to continue animating our mission more nimbly and sustainably.”

Palmer is one of 81 eligible public charity organizations in the United States receiving a total of $95 million in grants through Lilly Endowment’s Compelling Preaching Initiative. These organizations include theological schools, colleges and universities, church resourcing organizations, publishing houses, national and regional denominational organizations, and church-related camps and retreat centers.

“At many points in history, Christian preachers have needed to adapt their preaching practices to engage new generations of hearers more effectively,” shares Christopher L. Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “They have taken the gospel message into fields and homes, and used print, radio, television, and other new technologies and media to expand the reach of their ministries. Many religious leaders believe that churches may now be at another inflection point when preachers may again need to adapt to changing communication practices and forms of media to ensure that the gospel message is accessible for all audiences.”

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 grantmaking in religion, which is national in scope, focuses on strengthening the leadership and vitality of Christian congregations in the United States.

About Palmer Theological Seminary

Palmer Theological Seminary at Eastern University is a Christian seminary offering a wide array of master’s, doctoral, online, and certificate programs. Palmer’s main campus is located in St. Davids, PA.  As one of the most diverse seminaries in North America with a creative, caring, and experienced faculty, Palmer equips students to bring “the whole gospel, to the whole world, through whole persons.” For more information visit or contact Rev. Dr. Kimberlee A. Johnson, Dean: