Skip to content

Fuller’s David C. Wang Receives $260,000 Grant for Research on Spirituality and Culture

Fuller Seminary is pleased to announce a $260,000 planning grant from Templeton Religious Trust to fund research by David C. Wang, Fuller Seminary’s Cliff and Joyce Penner Chair for the Formation of Emotionally Healthy Leaders. The Templeton grant will fund broad based global and ecumenical research on the topics of spiritual formation and leadership.

“The Templeton grant will allow Dr. Wang to delve deeper into the impact of theological education on the human and spiritual formation of Christian leaders, and to explore these questions from a global and ecumenical perspective,” said Fuller President Dr. David Emmanuel Goatley. “We are grateful to Templeton Religious Trust for the opportunity to contribute to a more robust understanding of character, virtue, and spiritual maturity that can enrich us all.”

Wang’s research will pose the following questions: What is the impact of a seminary education (or religious education as a whole) on the human and spiritual formation of Christian leaders who will one day contribute to the shaping and flourishing of global communities? To date, the answer to this question remains largely unknown—not only from an empirical standpoint, but also from a global and ecumenical standpoint as well.

As theological education continues to evolve, two pressing issues remain inadequately addressed: how can formal and non-formal theological education contribute to the human and spiritual maturity that authentic religious leadership requires, and how can one assess this growth?

These issues lead to another, which concerns the limitations to which North American understandings and embodiments of character, virtue, and spiritual maturity can be generalized to Christian communities and cultural contexts outside North America.  We believe that a more robust global, ecumenical, and multicultural understanding of character, virtue, and spiritual maturity would enrich us all, including those of us residing in North America.

Over the past six years, Wang, has assembled an interdisciplinary group of theologians, social scientists, spiritual directors, and senior seminary leadership (representing 40+ seminaries, the Association of Theological Schools, the World Council of Churches, the Center for World Catholicism, the Pan-African Catholic Theology and Pastoral Network, the Pentecostal World Fellowship, the Asia Theological Association, the Seminary Formation Council, and the World Evangelical Alliance) to conduct both empirical and theological research on spiritual formation. This team is now poised to engage new frontiers in the intersection of faith, science, and human flourishing.

Namely, from a global, ecumenical, and science-integrated viewpoint, this global team will be laying the groundwork to explore the following questions: How does one define spiritual maturity?  How is spiritual maturity (in its conceptual understanding and/or real-life embodiment) influenced by individual and contextual differences such as age/life stage, gender, local culture, etc.? What observable markers might suggest that an individual possesses authentic character and spiritual maturity as opposed to an inauthentic expression of these qualities in which the individual tries to look mature but is not? And finally, how can these character and spiritual dispositions be cultivated across diverse contexts among diverse peoples?

The Templeton grant will fund Wang’s research on these and other questions related to global spirituality, culture, and leadership.