November 29, 2022


MTSO and WomanPreach! Inc. receive $1 million Lilly Endowment grant

Lilly Endowment Inc. has awarded Methodist Theological School in Ohio a grant of $1 million to support compelling preaching through a partnership with WomanPreach! Inc. The grant period extends from Nov. 1, 2022, to Dec. 31, 2027.

WomanPreach! Inc. was founded 12 years ago by MTSO Dean and Vice President for Academic Affairs Rev. Valerie Bridgeman, Ph.D., who serves as the organization’s CEO. It is a moveable feast that provides practical training and nurturing community spaces that empower preachers across the country.

“Our programming began as a way to train women,” Bridgeman said. “WomanPreach! Inc. has since grown to include programming for people of all genders and speakers who serve as community organizers and in various other vocational spaces where faith-based, justice-centered proclamation is necessary.”

WomanPreach! Inc. is being funded through Lilly Endowment’s Compelling Preaching Initiative. MTSO is one of 32 organizations receiving funding in an invitational round of grants for the initiative, which is designed to help foster and support preaching that better inspires, encourages and guides people to come to know and love God and to live out their faith more fully.

“After researching the meaning and impact of compelling preaching, WomanPreach! Inc. is pleased to be partnering with MTSO,” Bridgeman said.

The Lilly Endowment grant will strengthen the infrastructure, delivery and implementation of established WomanPreach! programs and initiatives, with evolution in digital tools and communication. Among them:

  • The biennial Jarena Lee Preaching Academy, a week-long intensive academy hosted at MTSO, empowers and equips women of the African Diaspora to speak in their own prophetic voices, whether from the pulpit or other public arenas. The next Academy will be in 2024, with the application process opening in January 2023.
  • Chloe’s Circle is designed to gather women from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, focusing on issues of disparity and injustice that affect us all to sharpen preaching and speaking skills that reflect a commitment to justice based in God’s call through Jesus.
  • Sophie’s Table: A Conversation Among Siblings amplifies voices of people of marginalized genders, women and children, dealing radically with the perpetuation of patriarchy, misogyny and heterosexism in the church. Persons of all genders are welcome.
  • Women’s Work challenges and inspires participants to approach the biblical text differently, with a focus on overlooked passages and biblical characters.
  • Digital conversations are free opportunities for participants to listen to the wisdom and perspectives of world-renowned theologians, historians, biblical scholars, preachers, activists, and pastors.

“We at MTSO understand what it means to prepare life-long learners for ministry in the pulpit, in the community, and in the world, using whatever platforms and gifts they encounter in their journey,” said MTSO President Jay Rundell. “Woman Preach! Inc. is a natural and well-aligned partner. We are grateful to Lilly Endowment Inc. for helping us to grow in this vital work.”

Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly, Sr. and his sons Eli and J.K. Jr. through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. Although the gifts of stock remain a financial bedrock of the Endowment, it is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education and religion and maintains a special commitment to its founders’ hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana. The primary aim of its grantmaking in religion, which is national in scope, focuses on strengthening the leadership and vitality of Christian congregations in the United States. The Endowment also seeks to foster public understanding about religion and lift up in fair, accurate and balanced ways the contributions that people of all faiths and religious communities make to our greater civic well-being.

Methodist Theological School in Ohio provides theological education and leadership in pursuit of a just, sustainable and generative world. In addition to the Master of Divinity degree, the school offers master’s degrees in practical theology, social justice and theological studies, along with a Doctor of Ministry degree.


Danny Russell, communications director, 740-362-3322