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Whitworth awarded nearly $1.5 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc.

January 2, 2018
Whitworth University’s Office of Church Engagement (OCE) is pleased to announce it has been awarded a $1,499,897 grant from Lilly Endowment Inc.

Lilly Endowment, based in Indianapolis, is one of the nation’s largest private philanthropic foundations. Founded in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family, it supports the causes of religion, education and community development.

Funding through Lilly Endowment’s Called to Lives of Meaning and Purpose Initiative will allow the OCE to develop and deepen its role as a hub of spiritual renewal and ministry in the Pacific Northwest. The OCE, working in a time of challenging cultural circumstances, seeks to rediscover the unique character of the Christian message through identity, community, witness and service.

The grant will make possible the OCE’s continued support of numerous partner churches throughout the region. Churches selected for participation in this program will implement learning communities of pastors and key lay leaders, both as individual congregations and as groups of churches that share common challenges and see common opportunities for service. The OCE will guide these groups through a discernment, design and implementation process as they plan new ministry programs to address today’s cultural challenges through service to their communities. The grant will also provide opportunities for theological education through the Whitworth Academy of Discipleship, laying the foundation for vocational reflection and action.

“It is an honor to receive this grant from Lilly Endowment, which has made grants to Whitworth for many years and has enabled us to launch several initiatives,” says Jerry Sittser, professor of theology and senior fellow in the OCE. “It is a vote of confidence and a gift of grace from God. We in the Office of Church Engagement see both need and opportunity to continue to strengthen Whitworth’s partnership with local and regional churches. Colleges and universities have been drifting from the church for years. We are committed to reversing that trend. We have already established a positive trajectory. This grant will help us continue on this course for years to come. We could not be more grateful and excited.”

The OCE serves as a valued resource for a network of 40 churches and parachurch organizations in the Pacific Northwest and along the West Coast. Formed originally with a grant from Lilly Endowment, the OCE coordinates multiple activities, including the Academy of Discipleship, The Preaching and Teaching the Bible Academy for pastors, the Whitworth Institute of Ministry and a Summer Ministry Internship program.

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private, liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian church. The university, which has an enrollment of nearly 3,000 students, offers more than 100 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.


Terry McGonigal, director of church engagement, (509) 777-4547 or

Trisha Coder, media relations manager, (509) 777-4703 or