George Fox University receives $462K grant to establish ‘theology camps’ for youth

Funds are part of $44.5 million Lilly Endowment in grants given to select group of 82 schools nationwide

NEWBERG, Oregon (Dec. 9, 2015) – George Fox University has received a grant of $462,000 to establish “George Fox University Callings,” 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.

Beginning in the summer of 2017, George Fox’s College of Christian Studies, in partnership with Portland Seminary, will establish a weeklong “theology camp” for high school rising juniors and seniors. The four primary principals of the grant – Roger Nam, Leah Payne, Steve Sherwood and Trisha Welstad – will partner with local churches and denominations to create a unique experience for the campers, who will be housed in dorms on the school’s Newberg, Oregon, campus.

Plans include theological workshops by George Fox professors, an all-day formational retreat in the Columbia Gorge, a service visit to downtown Portland, and a day-long reunion in the fall to help students process the impact of the learned theology on their daily lives.

theology camp lilly grant team

“George Fox has been very effective at integrating theology into undergraduate education, not just those called into vocational ministry, but also for business people, medical health professionals, lawyers and teachers,” said Roger Nam, associate professor of biblical studies at the seminary. “‘George Fox University Callings’ looks forward to developing similar theological conversations with high school juniors and seniors.”

George Fox is one of 82 schools, located in 29 states and the District of Columbia, participating in the initiative. Although some schools are independent, many reflect the religious heritage of their founding traditions, which 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 $44.5 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.

Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family – J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons J.K. Jr. and Eli – through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly & Company. The Endowment exists to support the causes of religion, education and community development. Lilly Endowment’s religion grant-making is designed to deepen and enrich the religious lives of American Christians. It does this largely through initiatives to enhance and sustain the quality of ministry in American congregations and parishes.

George Fox University is ranked by Forbes among the top Christian universities in the country and is a Christian college classified by U.S. News & World Report as a first-tier regional university. More than 3,900 students attend classes on the university’s campus in Newberg, Oregon, and at teaching centers in Portland, Salem and Redmond, Oregon. George Fox offers bachelor’s degrees in more than 40 majors, degree-completion programs for working adults, six seminary degrees, and 13 master’s and doctoral degrees.


Roger Nam
Associate Professor of Biblical Studies
George Fox Evangelical Seminary