The three-year old Gustavus Academy for Faith, Science and Ethics will be extended for another five years on the St. Paul, Minnesota campus of Gustavus Adolphus College thanks to a $294,730 grant from the Lilly Endowment.
This summer program for high school students has given youth a venue to discuss important theological questions related to faith, science and service, including this summer’s focus on climate change that culminated in a letter the students sent to the ELCA Conference of Bishops asking that a social message be authorized on the issue.
The new grant from the Lilly Endowment is an extension of an initial grant made in 2015 that helped establish the Gustavus Academy for Faith, Science, and Ethics. Founded in 1937, Lilly Endowment Inc. is a private philanthropic foundation based in Indianapolis. The endowment supports projects related to community development, education, and religion.
“I think students are longing to have the opportunity to have these conversations,” said Academy director and Chaplain of the College Rev. Siri Erickson in a press statement. “High school students can become really good theologians if you empower them with basic theological frameworks, mentors and role models, and the space to ask questions and explore ideas without feeling pressured to arrive at the same answers as their peers or pastors.”
Fellows in past summer programs have come from multiple states and Canadian provinces, according to Gustavus. Most belong to ELCA congregations, with other denominations represented as well. A primary aim of the week-long summer program is to prepare leaders within the church who can cultivate new relationships between science and faith. The curriculum is intended to help student fellows speak more confidently about their values, faith commitments, and ethical concerns.
Students read a range of biblical and theological texts. The program allows for interaction with visiting theologians and scientists who lead the Academy’s daily sessions. Gustavus students also serve as mentors and past Academy participants return as senior fellows. These college and high school students are trained for their leadership roles in the weeks leading up to the summer intensive. A number of Gustavus students who served as mentors have started or are planning to study in seminary.
The theme of the 2020 Gustavus Academy for Faith, Science, and Ethics is the ethics of cancer and its treatment, corresponding with the subject of next year’s Nobel Conference.