Episcopal Church Foundation receives grant from Lilly Endowment Inc.

[Episcopal Church Foundation press release] The Episcopal Church Foundation (ECF) has received a three-year grant as part of Lilly Endowment Inc.’s National Initiative to Address Economic Challenges Facing Pastoral Leaders. The initiative supports a variety of religious organizations across the nation as they address the financial and economic struggles that can impair the ability of pastors to lead congregations effectively.

The Endowment is giving $28 million in grants through this initiative. The grants are part of the Endowment’s commitment to supporting the pastoral leadership development of clergy serving in congregations across the United States.

The grant will support ECF’s initiative entitled “From Economic Challenges to Transformational Opportunities.” It will allow ECF to take a holistic approach in addressing the financial pressures clergy face and help congregations meet the urgent need for capable fiscal leadership by pastors and lay leaders.

“This grant will create an opportunity for ECF to help The Episcopal Church think and talk about finances in new ways. We trust that this initiative will advance our ability to move from a theology of scarcity to one of abundance, and address the urgent economic challenges of a changing Church in a spirit-filled way,” said Donald V. Romanik, president of ECF.

The program is based on the fundamental premise that times of transition in the arc of ministry provide opportunities for clergy and congregations to address personal and organizational financial challenges and incorporate best practices that mitigate barriers to effective ministry. ECF will explore several avenues through this initiative. They include: personal financial planning for clergy; workshops and webinars on parish finance and administration; boot camps for newer clergy and lay leaders; and a pilot program to help priests address their specific economic challenges in partnership with select dioceses. In addition, the program will address the unique needs of part-time clergy and Spanish-speaking/bilingual congregations.

ECF will be collaborating with various individuals and groups to successfully implement this initiative. Partners include: the Church Pension Group (CPG), a provider of pension and related health benefits to eligible clergy and lay employees of The Episcopal Church; Virginia Theological Seminary and several pilot dioceses.

“We are so pleased that this grant will enhance our networks and collaborations throughout the wider Church,” said Richard Clements, chairman of ECF’s board of directors. “Together with the support from our donors and benefactors, this grant provides new ways for ECF to fulfill our mission.”

Founded in 1949, the Episcopal Church Foundation is an independent, lay-led organization that helps Episcopal communities of faith engage in visioning and planning, develop leadership, and raise financial resources for ministry.

The Episcopal Church Foundation is one of 27 organizations taking part in the initiative, which represents a variety of Christian traditions, including Baptist, Roman Catholic, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Church of God (Anderson), Episcopal, Independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ, Lutheran, Mennonite, Methodist, Presbyterian, Reformed and Wesleyan churches, as well as non-denominational, and historic African-American Christian communities. They include denominational pension and benefits boards; local and regional denomination judicatories, such as synods and dioceses; and denominational foundations.

Each program is customized to the needs of pastoral leaders in each religious tradition, but the programs have much in common as they:

  • provide incentives for clergy to take part in personal finance education
  • offer low-or no-cost financial planning and counseling
  • match contributions for pastors and congregations that enroll in pension savings programs
  • help pastors create emergency funds
  • develop strategies that help young pastors pay down or eliminate educational debt
  • create new scholarships so that seminarians borrow less while in school

“Pastors, especially those just beginning in ministry, accept low salaries as part of their commitment to God and to church. Many enter ministry with significant debt from their undergraduate and seminary years and often have little financial resiliency when financial emergencies arise,” said Dr. Christopher L. Coble, vice president for religion at the Endowment. “These organizations understand the importance of the financial wellbeing of pastors and the implications for the congregations they serve.”

An additional grant to the Indianapolis Center for Congregations will establish a coordination program for the initiative that will help the Endowment track success. It will bring together leaders of the diverse programs to foster mutual learning and support and help build a network of organizations committed to supporting the financial wellbeing of pastors and their congregations.

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 grant making 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.

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