University awarded grant from Lilly Endowment Inc.

The University of Indianapolis was awarded a grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to support the continuation of the Student Leadership Academy for high school students. The grant provides five years of sustainability funding for the initiative, which will cover lodging, meals and advertising for the summer camp and support for student projects at their home churches.

For ten years, the Student Leadership Academy at the University of Indianapolis has provided vocational exploration programs for United Methodist high school students by utilizing the vocational curriculum of theological exploration that is used by the Lantz Center in weekend retreat format.

The Student Leadership Academy is part of Lilly Endowment’s High School Youth Theology Institutes initiative, a national effort to help colleges and theological schools develop and strengthen programs that encourage high school students to explore God’s call in their lives.

The week-long summer institute at the University of Indianapolis is designed to engage students in vocational discernment as well as theological exploration of mission and ethics. Each summer the academy focuses on a distinct theological theme that also addresses social issues within our culture. According to Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Gibbs, University Chaplain and Director of the Lantz Center for Christian Vocations & Formation, the program began in 2011 as a way to strengthen relationships between the University and the Indiana United Methodist Church.

The Student Leadership Academy seeks to inspire youth as they begin to explore their future education and career path. “SLA seeks to help students in their vocational discernment process,” said Dr. David Boyd, associate director of the Lantz Center. “Students learn about themselves, and about the opportunities to work around them. Our desire is that SLA will successfully launch them on the lifelong process of vocational discernment.”

Dr. Boyd went on to say that many students who attend SLA apply and eventually attend UIndy. “These students become leaders on our campus, and within Ecumenical and Interfaith Programs,” he said. According to Rev. Dr. Gibbs, a large percentage of Religion majors at the University have been either participants in the program or their youth directors who returned to finish a degree.

Mya Taylor ‘23 (religion and psychology) is one of the many students who attended the Student Leadership Academy who now calls UIndy home. “SLA helped me discover my passions and link them to the needs of the world. At SLA, I discovered I have a purpose,” she said. “Student Leadership Academy will always hold a special place in my heart and I am forever grateful for all the opportunities it provided and the lessons I learned during my time as a participant.”

While the University motto “Education for Service” isn’t expressly religious, it goes hand-in-hand with the goal of the Student Leadership Academy. “We desire to see students educated so that they are able to serve the world — education is a part of their vocational journey,” said Dr. Boyd. “At SLA, we launch students on that journey to help them consider what God is calling them to do in this world that uses their gifts to serve others.”

Ecumenical and Interfaith Programs welcomes new staff, receives grant

The Office of Ecumenical and Interfaith Programs welcomed two new staff members this fall: Rev. Arionne Williams and Rev. Corey Howard. These new personnel will enable the work of the chaplaincy at UIndy to focus on campus ministry and interfaith programming.

Rev. Williams

Rev. Williams

Rev. Arionne Williams serves as the new Associate Chaplain and will direct Interfaith Programming as well as serve in Christian ministry with students. She has a long ministry with youth and in women’s empowerment. She has already begun to develop meaningful relationships with UIndy students. A commissioning service for Rev. Williams will be held on November 4 at noon.

Rev. Howard

Rev. Howard

The EIP office also received a $580,000 grant to expand and develop programs in the theological vocation exploration for high school students. The grant will give UIndy students opportunities in leadership development in the programs as well as introduce high school students to the ministry at UIndy. As a result of the grant, Rev. Corey Howard joined the University to serve as Assistant Director of the Lantz Center. His primary responsibilities are with these grant-funded programs and he will also have time committed to ministry with UIndy students.

Grant to grow high school theology programs

Student Leadership Academy wins major support from Lilly Endowment

A $580,000 grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to the University of Indianapolis will enable the major expansion of a partnership with the Indiana Conference of The United Methodist Church to help high school students explore potential careers and volunteer opportunities in church ministry and other faith-based settings.

The grant is part of the Endowment’s High School Youth Theology Institutes initiative, which encourages 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.



“This is an opportunity to increase our investment in the youth and help them from an early age to consider ministry and service as a calling in their lives,” said the Rev. Jeremiah Gibbs, chaplain and assistant professor at UIndy and director of its Lantz Center for Christian Vocations. “We show them how their skills and interests can be applied to the real issues people face in the world.”

The Lantz Center’s Student Leadership Academy offers two programs that will benefit from the new funding:

  • An annual fall retreat for United Methodist youth, now in its sixth year, will grow from 90 to 250 students and add second- and third-year programming for returning participants, including certification as lay servants in the church. Participants are nominated by UMC pastors throughout the state for an intensive weekend of discussion on theology, vocation and leadership.
  • A new two-week summer institute, to be launched in 2017, is open to all Christian denominations and aimed at students specifically considering full-time careers as ordained clergy, lay ministers, lay professional staff or missionaries. Approximately 40 participants will be selected through a competitive application process for an experience that includes lectures, discussions, practical applications and service opportunities.

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Departing chaplain honored for service



The Rev. Dr. Lang Brownlee is stepping away from his role as a chaplain at UIndy, but not without some recognition for his 15 years of service.

Brownlee, who will continue to teach courses in the Department of Philosophy & Religion, received UIndy’s Jerry Israel Interfaith Service Award last week at a reception to mark his change in roles. The award recognizes faculty and staff who have helped develop an interfaith community at the university in which people of diverse backgrounds can share their respective faith traditions. Brownlee has been a key leader of initiatives including UIndy’s annual Interfaith Peace Service and an annual service trip to improve housing for impoverished residents of Appalachia.

But that’s not all: On Friday, at the 2016 Indiana Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, Brownlee received the statewide Francis Asbury Award, which recognizes contributions to the church’s higher education and campus ministries.

Professor portrayed on Chicago stage

UIndy Theatre alumna has key role in fact-based plane crash drama

Professor Greg Clapper and UIndy alumna Brenda Barrie

Dr. Greg Clapper and alumna Brenda Barrie

Dr. Greg Clapper had the unusual experience recently of seeing an unforgettable episode from his life recreated on stage.

United Flight 232, the new production from Chicago’s House Theatre company, tells the story of a 1989 airliner crash in Sioux City, Iowa, where Clapper, an ordained minister, tended to the victims and rescuers (read more here). He wrote a book about the experience, which also has been recounted in other books and dramatic productions.

The UIndy Religion professor was impressed by the play – as was a critic from the Chicago Tribune – and enjoyed meeting Rudy Galvan, the actor whose character is based on him. He also discovered, remarkably, that the central role of the chief flight attendant is played by 2002 UIndy graduate Brenda Barrie, considered a rising star on the Windy City’s theater scene.

The production continues through May 1 at the Chopin Theatre on Division Street. More details are here, and the director mentions here how Clapper’s insights on the tragedy informed the project.

Tuesday lectures to feature noted theologian



Author and scholar Kevin Vanhoozer will explore the concept of “theatrical theology” in two presentations Tuesday at UIndy, sponsored by the Showers Lectures in the Christian Religion series.

Dr. Vanhoozer, Research Professor of Systematic Theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Illinois, will speak at 4 and 7:30 p.m. in McCleary Chapel, second floor of Schwitzer Student Center. Admission is free, and L/P credit is available for students.

His theme, “Theatrical Theology: Performing the Drama of Doctrine,” is distilled from two of his acclaimed books: The Drama of Doctrine: A Canonical-Linguistic Approach to Christian Theology, which won the Christianity Today 2006 Book Award for best book in theology, and Faith Speaking Understanding: Performing the Drama of Doctrine, which won the same award in 2015.

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Students choose service for Spring Break

The team pauses for a photo.

The UIndy team pauses for a photo.

Last week, while many college students were kicking back on a distant beach or the nearest couch, a group of UIndy volunteers spent their Spring Break repairing homes for impoverished residents of eastern Tennessee.

This was the 33rd consecutive year in which UIndy students provided manpower through Appalachia Service Project, a nonprofit ministry based in Johnson City, Tenn. And it was the 15th annual trip for the Rev. Dr. Lang Brownlee of the Office of Ecumenical & Interfaith Programs, who was accompanied by students Drew DeakRobbie HadleyStephanie JonesBarbie KimmelGrant Miller and Brian Snyder.

Jones, a sophomore Religion major, recalled helping an elderly client named Reba.

Reba, with Barbie Kimmel

Reba, with Barbie Kimmel

“We dug a trench around her house to keep water from her foundation, and we also started building a smaller back porch as a second exit to her home,” Jones said.

“She was telling stories of her old house, and she could not believe we were all there to help her out. One thing that she said stood out to me when she first walked up and greeted us: She said that we would be blessed for helping her, and she was right. We all learned a lot about service and being a team that week.”

Professor honored for military chaplain service

Clapper awardsBrigadier General Jeffrey Hauser of the Indiana National Guard (left) awards the military’s Legion of Merit and Joint Service Commendation medals to UIndy Professor Gregory Clapper in a ceremony at the Guard’s Stout Field in Indianapolis.

Dr. Gregory Clapper’s service to the U.S. Armed Forces was recognized recently when he was awarded the prestigious Legion of Merit decoration and the Joint Service Commendation Medal.

A full-time professor in the Department of Philosophy & Religion, Clapper also served 24 years as a military chaplain before retiring from that role. He received the Legion of Merit – which ranks just below the Silver Star and above the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star and the Distinguished Flying Cross – to commemorate his service as the National Guard Chaplain Liaison between the National Guard and the U.S. Africa Command, resulting in the first-ever Chaplain State Partnership for Peace program. The program fostered cooperation between eight African countries and eight U.S. states to build closer ties between the United States and several key allies.

The Joint Service Commendation Medal was awarded by the U.S. Africa Command to recognize Clapper’s work in creating courses to help professionalize African Military Chaplain Services. These courses, offered to Protestant, Roman Catholic and Muslim chaplains in Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria, included a basic ethics curriculum and seminars in pastoral counseling, operational stress first aid, suicide prevention and the grief process.

Anti-violence activist pastor to speak Tuesday



The Rev. Charles R. Harrison, president of the Indianapolis Ten Point Coalition and a leading voice against violent crime in the city, will speak Tuesday night at UIndy.

His talk, “From Violence to Community: The Ten Point Coalition Against Racial Violence,” will begin at 8 p.m. in Schwitzer Student Center’s McCleary Chapel. The appearance is sponsored by the Office of Ecumenical & Interfaith Programs and organized by sophomore Hannah Jones, the current student chapel steward for Devotion and Justice.

“When we had our event planning meeting for this semester, we decided that racial violence was a topic that really needed to be addressed this year,” said Jones, who worked with Co-Chaplain Lang Brownlee on the event. “Rev. Harrison will be speaking about what racial violence is, why it is an issue, and what we can do to help prevent it.”

The Ten Point Coalition works to reduce homicide and other violent crime in the city through direct engagement and promoting education and employment opportunities. Harrison, senior pastor of Barnes United Methodist Church, was among the group’s founders in 1999 and has become an increasingly prominent public figure in Indianapolis amid concerns about rising homicide rates. Earlier this year, he considered an independent candidacy for mayor and had drawn significant public support before opting not to join the race.

A native of Jeffersonsville, Harrison has served in the ministry for three decades. He holds degrees from Indiana University and Methodist Theological School.

Holocaust survivor Eva Kor to speak Nov. 3

Founder of CANDLES museum continues work for human rights

Eva Mozes Kor, the Auschwitz survivor who became an internationally known advocate for forgiveness, will share her story Nov. 3 at the University of Indianapolis.



The presentation, “Remembering the Holocaust,” will begin at 7 p.m. in Schwitzer Student Center’s UIndy Hall and will conclude with a Q&A session and book signing. The event is UIndy’s annual Interfaith Lecture, presented by the Office of Ecumenical & Interfaith Programs and the University Series. Admission is free, but advanced registration is recommended; click here to register.

Born Jewish in a small Romanian village, Kor and her family were sent to the notorious Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland, where her parents and two older sisters perished. She and her twin sister, Miriam, were subjects of Josef Mengele’s medical experiments and among the few who survived to be liberated by Soviet troops. She immigrated to Israel, where she attained the rank of sergeant major in the Israeli Army Engineering Corps and met American tourist and fellow survivor, Michael Kor. The two married in 1960 and moved to the United States, settling in Terre Haute.

In 1984, Kor and her sister founded Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors, or CANDLES, an effort to reunite and build connections among surviving Mengele twins around the world. In 1995, Kor founded the CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center, which was firebombed and destroyed in 2003 only to reopen two years later with significant local and national support to continue educating thousands of visitors.

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