Landrum Bolling and Wil Cooper were not misguided in their efforts to start a Quaker seminary over forty-five years ago. This Case for Support documents the history, the challenges, and the aspirations of Earlham School of Religion.

As the 21st century begins, the Religious Society of Friends faces a crisis of leadership and identity. Each requires a steady influence of dedicated persons committed to vital ministry among Friends. The School longs for a Quaker future that is even more vibrant than Friends’ past is memorable. Simultaneously, the long held values of Friends—listening spirituality, commitments to peace, equality, integrity, and simplicity—have volumes to contribute to a 21st century context in which societies struggle to achieve meaning and stability. ESR is well positioned to be an interpreter of these values for the broader public.

The priorities named in this Case for Support address important needs as the School tends the vine. These priorities support ESR’s mission in four ways:

  • They elevate principles important to Quaker ministry and solidify their permanent place in the curriculum, ensuring that Friends distinctives bear fruit in practical ministry formats.
  • They relieve pressure on the operating budget by endowing those facets of the program that define the Quaker distinctives of the program.
  • They allow development of future initiatives that keep ESR at the forefront of theological education as they serve their constituents.
  • They assist the School’s efforts to keep theological education affordable for persons called to ministry.

In addition to the naming development priorities, this Case for Support also outlines a new approach to fundraising for the School. It shifts from a purely staff-driven initiative to one more engaged with the School’s closest advocates. It chooses not to embrace the traditional capital campaign model, opting instead for a major gift strategy that approaches philanthropy as part of one’s spiritual practice, and matches the interests and values of the donor with the School’s greatest needs. Together, donor and institution respond faithfully to the leading of the Spirit as each stewards the resources with which they have been entrusted.

Successfully addressing the initiatives described in this document will play a pivotal role in ESR’s future ability to fulfill its mission. The Religious Society of Friends needed, and needs, a dedicated partner to assist in the process of preparing persons for ministry in the manner of Friends. After almost five decades of service, the School has an admirable track record as demonstrated by the fruits of ministry observed among its alumni/ae. Looking back, we see an admirable history; with a glance forward, we survey a grand challenge. Much work remains to be done, for vines that spring forth from planted seeds must be tended if they are to bear much fruit.