Question to the Editor: What’s Up with Lilly Endowment – Funding Pastoral Sabbaticals with a Contemplative Agenda

To Lighthouse Trails:

Eli Lilly, a major pharmaceutical company, in conjunction with Christian Theological Seminary (a liberal seminary in Indianapolis, IN) is funding pastoral sabbaticals.  It appears it is just a part of a national program.

Seems highly suspect to me.  I wouldn’t be looking twice except that I know a local  pastor applying for the grant. I find it very disturbing, but not necessarily surprising considering this church was already “purpose driven” several years back.

M. ___________



Dear M._______,

In 2007, Lighthouse Trails became aware of the Lilly Endowment grants that were being given to congregations and their pastors (the pastors then allowed to go on sabbaticals that had contemplative/emerging overtones). Since then, Lilly Endowment has turned over the administration of the Clergy Renewal Program to Christian Theological Seminary in Indiana (incidentally one of the schools on the Lighthouse Trails contemplative college list) but is still giving the grants. And today, just as was the case back in 2007, the Clergy Renewal Program has contemplative/emerging leanings. That’s actually an understatement. A look around the Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Programs website will show ample evidence of these propensities. We are reposting below our 2007 article as you may find it helpful as it includes further documentation. Once again, another instance where Christian pastors have compromised the calling to walk in the truth of God’s Word and rather participate in a mystical paradigm shift.

In 2012, the Lilly Endowment gave 6.5 million dollars to clergy members through the National Clergy Renewal Program. According to one report:

One hundred and forty-seven congregations will receive up to $50,000 to enable their pastor to take a three- to four-month sabbatical to gain fresh perspective and renewed energy for the ministry.

And according to the Lilly Endowment document that lists the winners of the 2012 grants, pastors will:

. . .  seek to regain spiritual vitality through the ancient Christian practice of walking as pilgrims in several countries—the path of Jesus in Israel, the path of the Exodus, some or all of the 500-mile Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James) in Spain, the missionary journeys of the Apostle Paul in Greece, Turkey and Italy—and making retreats in Benedictine monasteries, walking the labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral, and living in sacred space on the Isle of Iona and other Celtic spiritual destinations.

Winners represent various denominations including Southern Baptist, Independent, Presbyterian, Reformed, Episcopal, United Methodist, Lutheran, Nazarene, Evangelical Free, and Mennonite. (Resource page that is provided by the Clergy Renewal Project – filled with many contemplative/emergent resources).

Below is the article we wrote in 2007. Still relevant today because Lilly continues to pour money into pastors lives to help them become more contemplative and more emergent. It is also still a relevant article because the Christian figures who participated in trying to thwart and diminish their critics (e.g. Lighthouse Trails) never recanted what they were doing and supporting.

“Emerging Church – A Move of God or a Well-Funded Enterprise?” – from 2007

The name keeps popping up – Lilly Endowment . Huge amounts of money being given in the form of grants to proponents of the emerging church. As Roger Oakland documents in his book, Faith Undone, Lilly gave $691,000 to the Youth Ministry & Spirituality Project (Mark Yaconelli) in 2001. Lilly had funded the beginning of that project in 1997 as well. Lilly also funded Project on Congregations of Intentional Practice, another emerging-type project with Diane Butler Bass . 1 New Age sympathizer Parker Palmer (friend and inspiration to emerging leader, Len Sweet) also enjoyed the benefits of Lilly Endowment grants.2

In an article titled “Social Change and Communitarian Systems,” it explains:

The Lilly Endowment “a private foundation…that supports community development, education and religion,” has also helped fund the [Peter] Drucker Foundation. But more recently, it has shown its support for Baptist leadership and pastoral training. Strangely enough, the two — Drucker’s communitarian vision for the “social sector” and seminary training in community-building — fit together….

This grant [$300,000] makes all the more sense in light of a new partnership between Golden Gate Seminary and Saddleback Church. The Baptist seminary will build a new branch on the Saddleback campus to train church leaders to use the digital data tracking technology needed to meet and monitor community needs around the world.3

In 1999, the now emerging/contemplative-promoting Bethel Seminary received $1.5 million from Lilly Endowment in a project created to identify “the next generation of Christian leaders.”4 Now, according to an article by emergent Tony Jones, in a more recent grant called Faithful Practices, Jones reaped benefits from Lilly.5 [Jones article no longer online.]

And the money just keeps coming in. While many think that the emerging church must be a move of God because of its success and popularity, big funding could have a lot to do with it.

Some of the participants of the Faithful Practices project include Brian McLaren, Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt, and Karen Ward. All four are part of the emergent church and the shift toward the new spirituality that rejects biblical Christianity. Pagitt and Jones are the editors of the new release, An Emergent Manifesto of Hope; McLaren and Ward are contributing writers for the book. That book is reviewed in Emergent Manifesto: Emerging Church Coming Out of the Closet and also in Faith Undone. The Manifesto clearly shows the pantheistic/universalist/New Age element of the emerging church. But while the message of the emerging church is anything but biblical, with a little financial help from its friends, it doesn’t look like the emerging church is going to disappear anytime soon.

Lately, some emergent leaders have been posting articles on the Internet, complaining about their critics. Erwin McManus wrote a recent article titled, “Emerging Angle” where he referred to critics’ analyses as “violent attacks” and likens them to war violence. Dan Kimball, in a recent blog posting, calls emerging critics “little barking poodles” (showing a photo of a growling poodle with sharp fangs).6 And it is no secret that Rick Warren has done everything from accuse Lighthouse Trails of breaking into Saddleback’s server (telling us Federal agents are investigating us)7 to calling fundamentalist Christians a big enemy of the 21st century and likening them to Islamic terrorists.

What is ironic is that most of the “critics” of the emerging church are small, obscure ministries that have virtually no extra funding and operate on their mere love for the truth and the Gospel message. What’s more, emerging leaders outnumber their critics, have the support of mass media (both Christian and secular), and are published by the biggest Christian (and secular) publishing companies.

But in spite of the contrast between emergents (and their funding and support) and Bible-believing critics (and their lack of funding and support), critics have become a sore spot to emerging leaders to the point where they refer to us as “barking poodles,” enemies of society, and violent. Is it possible God is using the foolish things of the world to confound the wise? Is it possible that things are not always as they seem?

The critics of the emerging church are no great thing – we could be gone tomorrow, but that does not matter because what is a great thing is the God who has sent His Son as an atonement for sin (something often rejected by the emerging church), and offers salvation freely to those who receive Christ by faith through His grace. That is a great thing, and that is worth defending … and it is a message that can never be snuffed out. No amount of funding can destroy God’s truth.

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.

 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written,

 How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:9-17)

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