Innovative Preaching and Eco-Justice Initiative

A Program Funded by the Lilly Compelling Preaching Initiative

Fostering the Growth & Vitality of Christian Congregations

Union Theological Seminary has received a grant of $1.25 million from the Lilly Endowment Inc. to help establish an Innovative Preaching and Eco-Justice Initiative.

Working through the Center for Earth Ethics and engaging distinguished Union faculty, the Innovative Preaching and Eco-Justice Initiative will take on the ecological crisis — a core issue urgently confronting Christian communities in North America and around the world.

Many American churches already are involved in initiatives related to the climate crisis, but bringing climate issues into the proclamatory work of the church remains a challenge. Ministers and lay persons engaged in work around climate issues need to bring climate to “the pulpit” with creativity, enthusiasm and insight. This new initiative will fill the gap between desire and effectiveness by giving pastors and churches access to cutting-edge, ecologically informed examples of proclamation. Even more, it aims to stir imaginations and to extend the form and substance of climate justice proclamation.

UTS is one of 81 organizations receiving grants through a competitive round of the Lilly Endowment’s Compelling Preaching Initiative. Reflecting the diversity of Christianity in the United States, the organizations are affiliated with mainline Protestant, Evangelical, Catholic, Orthodox, Anabaptist and Pentecostal faith communities. Many of the organizations are rooted in the Black Church and in Hispanic and Asian American Christian traditions.

Lilly Endowment launched the Compelling Preaching Initiative in 2022 because of its interest in supporting projects that help to nurture the religious lives of individuals and families and foster the growth and vitality of Christian congregations in the United States.  

Core Faculty

The educational program will blend unique preaching approaches from Union faculty: two professors of homiletics and liturgy — Rev. Dr. Timothy Adkins-Jones and Rev. Dr. Cláudio Carvalhaes — along with eco-justice advocate and educator, Professor Karenna Gore.

Timothy Adkins-Jones

Rev. Dr. Timothy Adkins-Jones  is assistant professor of homiletics at Union Theological Seminary and pastor of the historic Bethany Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey. 

Karenna Gore

Karenna Gore is the founder and executive director of the Center for Earth Ethics and visiting professor of practice of earth ethics at Union Theological Seminary.

Cláudio Carvalhaes

Rev. Dr. Cláudio Carvalhaes is professor of worship at Union Theological Seminary. He is an ordained teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

Core Components

The program is designed to appeal to seminarians who are beginning their careers as well as current pastors and ministers already working in congregations and communities. These four components help pastors gain deeper understanding about what makes preaching compelling, engage practices and developing skills, and explore collaboratively with other pastors how their preaching might cultivate greater commitment to the church’s shared work of proclamation.

Foundational Online Learning

High quality, foundational online earth ethics, ritual and homiletics courses. These courses will provide the general education needed to bridge the gaps among science, theology, and preaching that presently exists.

Fellows Immersive & Eco-Justice Conference

A Fellows Immersive and Eco-Justice Conference with preachers, climate experts, and policymakers. It will engage and empower people who want to take the next step and directly engage the broader community.

Community Engagement Project

Community engagement projects that Fellows can implement in their home communities. These projects will be shared and vetted by cohorts of Fellows who will also receive mentoring from the core leadership team.

Eco-Justice Preaching Network

A network of eco-justice preachers. Union will provide a network of resources, best practices, and other materials to support eco-justice pastors gain deeper understanding about what makes preaching compelling, effective, and transformational.

Learn More

Please complete this form to request more information about the Innovative Preaching & Eco-Justice Initiative and to receive program updates.