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Our faculty—comprised of intelligent, energetic, and accessible professionals with a national presence in the church—reflect their deep love and care for the Seminary community every day as they accompany students on their journeys of discovery.

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Professor Phil Helsel preaches on December 1


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Professor Eric Wall preaches on November 17


Professor Asante Todd preaches on November 3


Faculty in the News

New Grant for Small Town & Rural Congregations Project

Austin Seminary has received a grant of $999,453 from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help establish Houses of Hope, a new program designed to serve small town and rural congregations. 

Austin Seminary has received a grant of $999,453 from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help establish Houses of Hope, a new program designed to serve small town and rural congregations. 

The program is funded through Lilly Endowment’s Thriving Congregations Initiative. The aim of the national initiative is to strengthen Christian congregations so they can help people deepen their relationships with God, build strong relationships with each other and contribute to the flourishing of local communities and the world.

Lilly Endowment is making nearly $93 million in grants through the initiative. The grants will support organizations as they work directly with congregations and help them gain clarity about their values and missions, explore and understand better the communities in which they serve, and draw upon their theological traditions as they adapt ministries to meet changing needs. 

"The mission of Houses of Hope explicitly includes service to the church in ways beyond theological degrees," says Melissa Wiginton, vice president for Education Beyond the Walls at Austin Seminary. "The congregations our program address are places where hope is often at a low ebb but where the potential for congregations to influence transformation toward hope is significant. We will focus on Christian practices of forgiveness and gratitude that open to and nourish hope. A digital Houses of Hope Learning Center will serve congregations across the country, while Houses of Hope Learning Cohorts will deeply engage congregations in Oklahoma and Texas."

Austin Seminary is one of 92 organizations taking part in the initiative. They represent and serve churches in a broad spectrum of Christian traditions, including Anabaptist, Baptist, Episcopal, evangelical, Lutheran, Methodist, Mennonite, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Reformed, Restoration, Roman Catholic and Orthodox, as well as congregations that describe themselves as nondenominational. Several organizations serve congregations in Black, Hispanic and Asian-American traditions.

“In the midst of a rapidly changing world, Christian congregations are grappling with how they can best carry forward their ministries,” said Christopher Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “These grants will help congregations assess their ministries and draw on practices in their theological traditions to address new challenges and better nurture the spiritual vitality of the people they serve.”

Lilly Endowment launched the Thriving Congregations Initiative in 2019 as part of its commitment to support efforts that enhance the vitality of Christian congregations.

About Lilly Endowment Inc.
Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons Eli and J.K. Jr. through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly & 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 exists to support the causes of religion, education and community development. The Endowment funds significant programs throughout the United States, especially in the field of religion. However, it maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis and home state, Indiana. The principal aim of the Endowment’s grantmaking in religion is to deepen and enrich the lives of Christians in the United States, primarily by seeking out and supporting efforts that enhance the vitality of congregations and strengthen their pastoral and lay leadership.


New grants to promote social justice research

Dr. Gregory Cuéllar, associate professor of Old Testament, is the author of a successful grant application to The Wabash Center of Crawfordsville, Indiana. He and his working group—composed of tenured Latinx faculty in theological education—learned in May that their Race Critical Consciousness grant proposal, "Expanding the Latinx Vision of Borderlands at ATS Member Schools," earned $85,000 to fund their research. The impetus for the research arose from a concern that little is being offered at the Association of Theological Schools (ATS)-member schools to expand students’ vision of the U.S. southern borderlands. Says Cuéllar, "This pedagogical and epistemological gap can inadvertently perpetuate abiding racial prejudices against the many Latinx people who migrate through or who are settled in the U.S. borderlands."

The Texas Methodist Foundation awarded a $100,000 grant to Austin Seminary alumnus Steve Miller (MDiv/MSSW’15) through his non-profit, United States Christian Leadership Organization, to support work on a book encouraging the church to be more involved in biblically based social justice and advocacy. Dr. Carolyn Helsel, associate professor of homiletics, is collaborating with Miller on the book, and they have already begun research. "I have been steeped in reading the Minor Prophets, among other books, and interviewing people" says Miller, "We have been given twenty-four months to write the book and are two months in.”