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Theology, Work, and Economics Project Receives Significant Support

by University Relations

The Kern Family Foundation awarded APU a $250,000 grant funding the Theology, Work, and Economics (TOWE) project. Previously funded by smaller grants, the project began two years ago to explore the relationship between Christian faith, work, and the economy and to provide universities and churches with resources to encourage and equip Christians to live out their faith at work. The project, which originated with Paul Shrier, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Practical Theology and TOWE project director, involves nine other APU professors serving on the steering committee as well as additional professors, alumni, and graduate students participating in the project’s research. Previous research encompassed focus groups and interviews with 24 working Christians, including a major movie producer, teachers, entrepreneurs, child therapists, and a police officer, to create a video-based, six-week small-group curriculum titled Christians in the Workplace.

The Kern grant, which helped develop two colloquia and an interdisciplinary retreat, supports the next step in the research project—studying Christian professors’ and church leaders’ attitudes regarding the relationships between faith, work, and the economy. Part of the grant will fund the production of a feature-length documentary that includes interviews with various Christian professionals. Ralph Winter, producer of four X-Men movies, Planet of the Apes, Mighty Joe Young, and many other films, will produce the 88-minute documentary, aimed at 18–35-year-olds.

“Through this project, we hope to gain an understanding of how people’s Christian faith influences their views on their work and on the economy as a whole, including questions of what it means to be a Christian employer, employee, or entrepreneur, and how the current unemployment rate, shift to part-time jobs, and other factors in the economy impact our beliefs,” said Shrier.

“This grant represents a great opportunity to partner with the Kern Foundation in balancing these concerns for Christians today,” said Don Thorsen, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Theology and Ethics, professor in the Graduate School of Theology, and faculty member involved with the project. “We hope the grant will help the Graduate School of Theology become more integrated and holistic in its preparation of men and women for clergical and lay positions of leadership in churches. We already think the university does an excellent job in preparing ministers, and the Kern grant will only help us improve our training.”

Goals include establishing a Center for Theology, Work, and Economics as well as developing a master’s degree program for church leaders. To learn more about TOWE, visit www.christiansintheworkplace.com.

Originally published in the Summer '12 issue of APU Life. Download the full issue (PDF).