Trinity Church Wall Street Awards $500,000 to Iona Collaborative at Seminary of the Southwest for Equity Project

Iona Collaborative at Seminary of the Southwest
Posted Sep 28, 2022

The Iona Collaborative at Seminary of the Southwest announces an award of $500,000 through Trinity Church Wall Street Philanthropies to fund The Equity Project: Improving Access to Continuing Education for Bi-vocational Leaders. The Equity Project seeks to close the access gap to leadership education and networks of leadership development for locally formed and bi-vocational leaders of Spanish- and English-speaking congregations.

The Director of the Iona Collaborative, The Rev. Dr. Nandra Perry shared: “Closing the theological education access gap will contribute to the continued vitality of The Episcopal Church by equipping its bi-vocationally led churches, the fastest growing sector of churches, with leaders who are prepared to see and seize the opportunities associated with times of rapid social change, rather than serving merely as sacramental and administrative placeholders.”

“All of us at Seminary of the Southwest are grateful for the continued investment from Trinity Wall Church Street in the innovative programs the Iona Collaborative consistently brings to The Episcopal Church,” said the Very Rev. Cynthia Briggs Kittredge, Dean and President of Seminary of the Southwest. “This grant will help further the leadership development of clergy that are critical to the health of The Episcopal Church. Southwest is proud to engage in this work and work further in our mission of forming leaders for service, vocation, and healing.”

The project has four goals for the five-year term of the grant which include:

  1. To offer a career-long arc of leadership development training and curriculum for every order of ministry
  2. To expand affordable Iona Collaborative partnership options for dioceses
  3. To establish a national, career-spanning network for bi-vocational and locally formed leaders
  4. To create a Spanish-language leadership curriculum in Asset-Based Community Development

Bi-vocationality has become the emergent model of ministry in The Episcopal Church. According to an article from Faith and Leadership published in 2017, 48% of Episcopal churches were served by bi-vocational, part-time, or non-stipendiary clergy or by lay leaders. This reality necessitates new models of theological education that make high-quality formation accessible and affordable, not only to candidates for ordination, but also to lay leaders and congregations.

“This grant enables us to grow into a long-range vision that makes praxis-based continuing education broadly accessible for leaders who are serving the Church in a variety of contexts and in every order,” The Rev. Dr. Nandra Perry shared. “They deserve the very best preparation the Church has to offer and our goal is to create curricula and learning communities that rise to that standard.”

In coming years, the Iona Collaborative at Seminary of the Southwest foresees increasing numbers of bi-vocational churches in The Episcopal Church, demanding corresponding resources to support their vitality. This program folds into the 2025 strategic plan and vision for expanding the mission of the Iona Collaborative at Seminary of the Southwest to meet small congregation’s leadership needs. This mission includes curricula to support career-long education in leadership development for locally formed clergy and laity. It also includes the expansion of including bi-vocationally led congregations and Spanish-language leaders of every order. The Iona Collaborative is embracing this broader commitment to career-long formation for all orders of ministry as the best strategy for supporting bi-vocational ministry and small church congregational vitality over the long term.

About the Iona Collaborative at Seminary of the Southwest: 

Formed in 2012 as the Iona Initiative, the founding vision of this program was to resource diocesan schools for ministry. Seminary of the Southwest faculty helped create a three-year, graduate-level, non-degree curriculum of video-based teaching, suitable for training clergy and lay congregational leaders. In 2017, the Seminary’s Iona Center assumed leadership of the Initiative, expanded its digitized curriculum, and changed its name to the Iona Collaborative to emphasize the consultative nature of the relationship between seminary and diocesan partners. The Iona Collaborativebelieves spiritual formation is for everyone. Resourcing over 30 U.S. dioceses and global partners in Latin America and Africa, the Iona Collaborative is a learning community of educators committed to helping local leaders and small congregations thrive. They are proud to extend the Seminary of the Southwest’s mission to be a seminary for the whole Church, forming disciples of every order who are committed to their communities, grounded in the Anglican tradition, and prepared to lead a changing Church into a changing world.