OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – Oklahoma Christian University (OC) has received a $175,000 grant to establish a theology academy as part of Lilly Endowment Inc.’s High School Youth Theology Institutes initiative.
Named “Restore: Theology Academy at Oklahoma Christian University,” the program will provide high school students with mentors who will guide learning and connect students with scriptural and theological resources as they contemplate social, historical, and cultural concerns.
Through classroom and field experiences, students will learn to examine moral and ethical dimensions of life and explore how their lives can positively affect the church and society.
Charles Rix, interim dean of OC’s College of Biblical Studies, will lead Restore along with program director Ben Langford, who also serves as director of OC’s Center for Global Missions. Doug Peters, associate professor of Bible and the Baugh Chair of Preaching, and theological librarian Chris Rosser were integral to the Lilly Endowment process and will help plan and execute academy initiatives.
“We want to develop young leaders by helping them imagine and discern their future vocations as active participants in God’s story,” Rix said. “God calls us to be good stewards of this world he has created. We want students to confront injustice, inequality and exclusion so they can help bring restoration and reconciliation to the church and the world.”
Restore will function in a three-year cycle: “Restoring Humanity,” which will empower students as young leaders to confront injustice in the world; “Restoring Believers,” which will empower students to be unifying agents in the Christian community; and “Restoring Creation,” which will challenge students to contemplate divine and human creativity and empower to live lives of faithful stewardship.
Oklahoma Christian will model this program after its highly successful Honors Summer Academy, which attracts more than 100 students to the OC campus for experiential academic programming each year.
“We hope to transform each student’s heart so they pursue love for God and love for others,” Rix said.
Professors in OC’s Graduate School of Theology and College of Biblical Studies and other faculty and staff members will serve as teachers and mentors in the academy. The Lilly Endowment funding will help OC hire a program coordinator to help run the academy and raise funds for long-term support.
OC is one of 82 schools participating in the initiative. The schools are located in 29 states and the District of Columbia.
“These colleges and universities are well-positioned to reach out to high school students in this way,” said 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.”
OC has partnered with nine ministry, service, and educational groups to help launch and support Restore. These organizations include the Academy of Classical Christian Studies, CenterPeace, Feed the Children, Healing Hands International, Kibo Group, Refuge OKC, the Stone-Campbell Dialogue, the Ulster Project, The Way Community Ministries, and World Convention.
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 and Company. The Endowment exists to support the causes of religion, education and community development. Lilly Endowment’s religion grantmaking 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.
Oklahoma Christian is ranked as one of the best universities in the western United States by The Princeton Review and U.S. News and World Report. A recent study rated Oklahoma Christian as one of the best higher education values in Oklahoma, citing the university’s low net price combined with OC graduates’ high starting salaries.
OC offers undergraduate programs in more than 80 fields of study, an undergraduate Honors Program, and graduate programs in accountancy, business administration, computer science, engineering, Christian ministry, divinity, and theological studies.