Professor Linda Mercadante of Methodist Theological School in Ohio has been named a Henry Luce III Fellow in Theology. The program will provide funding during her upcoming sabbatical as she continues research regarding people who consider themselves spiritual but not religious.
The Luce Fellows program is funded by the Henry Luce Foundation and administered by the Association of Theological Schools, the accrediting agency for more than 250 graduate theological institutions in the U.S. and Canada. Mercadante is one of six recipients for 2010-11, joining scholars from Harvard University Divinity School, Princeton Theological Seminary, Candler School of Theology at Emory University, the University of Chicago Divinity School and Wesley Theological Seminary.
Mercadante also has been chosen as an American Academy of Religion/Luce Foundation Summer Seminar Fellow. She will be a presenter at the 2011 Summer Seminars in Theology of Religious Pluralism and Comparative Theology in Chicago.
"Linda has contributed a good deal of research and insight to the intersection of religion and culture," said MTSO President Jay Rundell. "I'm happy to see that the Luce Foundation recognizes the value of her current project. It's important that religious communities take seriously those who have little institutional commitment but still are seeking a spiritual existence."
Mercadante, who holds the B. Robert Straker Chair of Historical Theology at MTSO, has studied and spoken extensively on the spiritual but not religious. The project chosen for the Luce Fellowship is titled "Unfettered Belief, Untethered Practice: Thinking Theologically About 'Spiritual but not Religious.'" Her published books include "Bloomfield Avenue: A Jewish-Catholic Jersey Girl's Spiritual Journey."
"There's a burgeoning interest in spirituality," Mercadante said. "It's especially large in the Millennial Generation—people 18 to 29 years old. One study found that more than a third of Millennials rate becoming more spiritual or close to God as their top life goal. We need to recognize that and understand it better."
"Even though the people in the spiritual but not religious movement say belief doesn't matter, I'm finding they have developing beliefs," she said. "Christians have to take that seriously, see what we can learn from them and see what we can bring to the conversation."
Mercadante invites those who consider themselves spiritual but not religious to contact her and contribute to her research. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Located in Greater Columbus on U.S. Route 23, Methodist Theological School in Ohio is an ecumenical school, preparing transformational leaders for service to the church and the world. MTSO offers master's degrees in divinity, counseling ministries, theological studies and Christian education, as well as a Doctor of Ministry degree. For more information, visit www.mtso.edu.
Danny Russell, director of communication