Philander Smith College Awarded $599,000 Grant

Philander Smith College has received a grant of $599,519 to establish the Philander Forward Theological Institute. It is part of Lilly Endowment Inc.’s High School Youth Theology Institutes initiative, which seeks to encourage young people to explore theological traditions, ask questions about the moral dimensions of contemporary issues and examine how their faith calls them to lives of service.

The Philander Forward Theological Institute, which is open to all high school students, will offer a spectrum of activities and experiences designed to shape and contribute to the spiritual growth and development of high school students, encouraging them to explore how theological and religious traditions and cultural competence inform and shape their life decisions in a changing world. Beginning in summer of 2017, this new institute will engage four programmatic pillars : Summer Institute, Wilderness Experience, Summit Experience, andFaith/Share to help students gain an understanding of scripture and application of scripture in the context of  current challenged faced by our contemporary society.

“The Philander Forward Theological Institute is a continuance of our institution’s commitment to academic excellence, social justice, and service,” says college President Roderick Smothers, Sr.  “As part of our Forward movement, we want to increase our depth and level of institutional service to our students and the community. This grant, and the formation of the Theological Institute for youth will help us in achieving that goal. “

Philander Smith College is one of 92 schools participating in the initiative.  The schools are located in 30 states and the District of Columbia. Although some schools are independent, many reflect the religious heritage of their founding traditions. These traditions include Baptist, Brethren, Lutheran, Mennonite, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Reformed churches, as well as Roman Catholic, non-denominational, Pentecostal and historic African-American Christian communities.

“These colleges and universities are well-positioned to reach out to high school students in this way,” said Dr. Christopher L. Coble, vice president for religion at the Endowment. “They have outstanding faculty in theology and religion who know how to help young people explore the wisdom of religious traditions and apply these insights to contemporary challenges.”

The Endowment is giving $50 million in grants to help a select group of private four-year colleges and universities around the nation to create the institutes. The grants are part of the Endowment’s commitment to identify and cultivate a cadre of theologically minded youth who will become leaders in church and society. 

An additional grant to the Forum for Theological Exploration will establish a program that will bring together leaders of the high school youth theology institutes to foster mutual learning and support.