$1 Million Lilly Endowment Grant to Create a National Training Program for Black Church Leaders

January 3, 2022

Grant comes as Hartford International University Launches the Howard Thurman Center

Hartford International University for Religion and Peace (HIU), formerly Hartford Seminary, is set to transform its Black Ministries Program into a national initiative, preparing a new generation of pastors for the Black Church. Expanding the two-year certificate course to a wider audience is made possible by a $1 million grant to Hartford Seminary from Lilly Endowment Inc.

The grant comes as HIU announces the launch of the Howard Thurman Center for Justice and Transformational Ministry to bolster Black church leaders as they confront racial, social and economic injustice in their communities.

An outgrowth of HIU’s Black Ministries Program, a model for training urban church leaders founded in 1982, the Howard Thurman Center will launch this month.

“I can’t overstate just how important this grant is,” said HIU President Joel N. Lohr. “It is a boon, or in New Testament language, a ‘kairos’ moment. Not only does it set us on a solid path to grow HIU’s Black Ministries Program and our new Center, but it confirms the incredible work and talent of BMP Director, Bishop Dr. Benjamin Watts, and it celebrates our BMP graduates, who are making such a difference in our world. What a blessing!”

Hartford Seminary was one of 84 theological schools in the U.S. and Canada that received grants made through the second phase of Lilly Endowment’s Pathways for Tomorrow Initiative. Lilly Endowment launched the three-phase initiative in January 2021 to help theological schools prioritize and respond to the most pressing challenges they face in preparing pastoral leaders for Christian congregations.

The Howard Thurman Center, a $2 million initiative, recognizes the enduring legacy of Howard Thurman, the famed 20th century mystic, prophet, poet, philosopher, activist and theologian. The HTC will be guided by Thurman’s insistence on social justice and responsibility within a spiritual framework.

Benjamin K. Watts Profile Image

Bishop Dr. Watts will direct the Howard Thurman Center as he continues directing the Black Ministries Program and serving as Faculty Associate in Religion and Community Life. “The Center will embody a head and heart approach that enriches the spirit while developing theological expertise in the service of both the church and community,” Bishop Dr. Watts said.

The Lilly grant will enable HTC’s Black Ministries Program to:

  • expand into a national training program for pastors and ministers. The two-year hybrid certificate course combines in-person intensives with online instruction.  .
  • establish a Pastoral and Academic Resource Center to help students with research, writing, and presentation skills and to support their church ministries with resources on the administration, finances, programming, and leadership of the urban church.
  • bring a Black Church scholar to Hartford International University whose joint roles will include teaching and working in the Black Ministries Program.
  • ensure that no student is excluded because of inability to pay.

The formal launch of the Howard Thurman Center will take place on Jan. 11 at 7 p.m. through an exciting webinar program that is open to the public. Speakers include Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum ’00, international expert on race and racism and author of Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria, and Rev. Dr. Walter Fluker, editor of The Howard Thurman Papers, with words from Ambassador Andrew Young HIU ’55, civil rights icon and former ambassador to the United Nations. Register at this link.