Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota received a $500,000-plus grant to set up the Gustavus Academy for Faith, Science, and Ethics.

Funded as part of the Lilly Endowment’s High School Youth Theology Institutes initiative, the weeklong summer program seeks to encourage youth to explore theological traditions, ask questions about the moral dimensions of contemporary issues, and examine how their faith calls them to lives of service.

The Gustavus Academy will introduce high school youth to alliances between scientists and religious leaders who are addressing a global issues such as climate change and food security. Beginning in June 2016, the academy will include worship, science labs, and interaction with leading scientists and theologians.

Organizers say that by focusing on science and religion, the academy will provide a unique opportunity for young people to “explore ethical issues, to reflect on their own sense of calling and to strengthen their leadership capacities in church and society.”

Gustavus Adolphus College is one of 82 schools participating in the initiative. The institutions are located in 29 states and the District of Columbia. Although some schools are independent, many reflect the religious heritage of their founding traditions. These traditions 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 Coble, vice president for religion at the Lilly 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.”

Marcia Bunge, Gustavus religion professor and Bernhardson Distinguished Chair of Lutheran Studies, was the lead grant writer on the project and said that the school was deeply grateful for the grant and that the initiative addresses the world’s needs and honors the spiritual lives and contributions of young people.

“The Gustavus Academy will help to dispel a common misconception among young people that the church is anti-science and will encourage them to explore how they might use their diverse gifts and talents to contribute to the common good,” she said.

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