Lilly Endowment Continues to Back Contemplative/Emerging Movement

The Lilly Endowment will be awarding about 120 grants of approximately $45,000 each in their 2008 National Clergy Renewal Program. Senior vice president of religion at the Endowment says this award offers a time of renewal for pastors and other clergy members to “explore the roots of their religious traditions, write poetry, [and] practice contemplative prayer.” 1 This Lighthouse Trails report will show that the Lilly Endowment has been a conduit for helping to finance and propagate contemplative spirituality and the emerging church for many years.

While the National Clergy Renewal Program is “open to all Christian congregations,” most of the 132 recipients from the 2007 awards are from denominations that strongly promote contemplative spirituality. There were 18 denominations represented; these include: Episcopal, PCUSA, ELCA, United Methodist, UCC (United Congregational Church), American Baptist, Evangelical Covenant, Disciples of Christ, RCA (Reformed Church of America), Roman Catholic Church. Of this group, there were over 110 grants awarded (totaling nearly 5 million dollars). The remaining twenty or so grants were divided among a handful of other denominations including: Mennonite churches (a growing proponent for contemplative through North America), Southern Baptist, and Evangelical Presbyterian. The 2006 denominational make-up of award recipients was very similar. 2

Lilly has a long history of financially aiding those with the contemplative/emerging message. In the late 1990s, Lilly awarded a grant to Youth Ministry & Spirituality Project (a partnership between Youth Specialties and San Francisco Theological Seminary – both strong proponents for contemplative spirituality). Then in 2001 the Endowment, presented the organization with a larger grant, that of $691,000 (see Faith Undone for more on this, p. 36).

In addition, Lilly funded Project on Congregations of Intentional Practice, an emerging-type project with Diane Butler Bass.3

New Age sympathizer Parker Palmer (friend and inspiration to emerging leader, Len Sweet) also enjoyed the benefits of Lilly Endowment grants. 4

Indirectly, contemplative/emerging church advocate Rick Warren has also benefited from Lilly. In an article by Kjos Ministries 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…. [An] article, “Golden Gate Seminary Receives $300,000 Lilly Endowment Grant” tells us that the funds would provide “hardware, software, renovations and training needed to fully integrate up-to-date technology” with the seminary’s training program.

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.5

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.” 6

According to an article by emergent Tony Jones, in a more recent grant called Faithful Practices , Jones reaped benefits from Lilly as well.7 (p. 8)

One Christian researcher further notes Lilly’s emphasis on assisting the contemplative/emerging movement:

Lilly funded Alan Roxburgh (mentor to Brian McLaren). Lilly also gave $15,000 to the Eastern Mennonite Seminary to build a labyrinth. Meanwhile, another Mennonite seminary (MBBS) puts on a contemplative course, also sponsored by Lilly, called Ministry Quest. And what do these Lilly projects all have in common? Spiritual formation and contemplative spirituality…. [I]n 2001, Goshen College was among the first 20 colleges to receive a five-year grant [from Lilly Endowment]. The Goshen grant is called the CALL project, which sponsored a Brian McLaren visit to the college. 8

There are many other similar grants issued by Lilly, such as the 2007 Fund For Theological Education (FTE). 9 While proponents say the emerging church succeeds because it is a move of God and that contemplative spirituality is a way to become closer to God, financial assistance by Lilly and other organizations and corporations (such as Rupert Murdoch, Josey-Bass, Leadership Network) may have a lot more to do with the real success of these movements. And given the un-biblical nature of these belief systems, that certainly does seem to be the case.

Shaping the Minds of the Youth by Roger Oakland

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