The Louisville Grawemeyer Award honors highly significant contributions to religious and spiritual understanding. By “religion” we mean, to paraphrase a classic definition by William James, the feelings, acts and experiences of humans insofar as they apprehend themselves to stand in relation to whatever they consider the divine. The purpose of the Award is to honor and publicize annually creative and constructive insights into the relationship between human beings and the divine, and ways in which this relationship may inspire or empower human beings to attain wholeness, integrity or meaning, either individually or in community.
This award is granted by both the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and the University of Louisville to those who have presented ideas with the potential to bring about change in the world through religion.
The Grawemeyer Award in Religion is accompanied by a prize of $100,000, which is presented in full during the awards ceremony.
Any work (book, address, essay, etc.) presented or published in 2015 or subsequently will be eligible for consideration for the 2021 award. Nominations are invited from religious organizations, appropriate academic associations, religious leaders and scholars, presidents of universities or schools of religion, publishers and editors of scholarly journals. Self-nominations will not be accepted or considered. There will be no discrimination based on religious affiliation or belief or lack thereof. The Award Committee encourages submissions from a wide variety of intellectual and/or religious perspectives. Previous winners are not eligible for subsequent awards.
Charles Grawemeyer was an active Presbyterian and a man who took the study of religious ideas seriously. In fact, he took university religion courses during his retirement, making his inclusion of an award for religion only natural.
Dr. John Mulder, former president of the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, recounted the day in 1984 when Grawemeyer invited him to lunch, and simply said: “John, you know the music award won’t be the only one. I’d like to create a prize in education, world order and religion. I want the seminary to be part of the religion award.”
The Grawemeyer Foundation, the University of Louisville and the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary promptly began to shape the prize. Natural hurdles arose, and many questions surfaced. “What is an award in religion about?” “Is it simply Christian faith, or does it include other traditions from peoples around the world?” Even more contentious: “Should the work be more ‘popular’ and less ‘academic’?” “Should it be inspirational or should it promote questioning or honor revisionary proposals?”
These and other issues were resolved and guidelines were set, including a provision that the selection committee would include at least one person of non-Christian faith and someone from outside North America or with extensive experience outside North America.
The first award was presented in 1990 to E.P. Sanders for his provocative book, Jesus and Judaism, a painstaking look at Jesus’ relationship with his Jewish contemporaries.
The Nomination Process
The Grawemeyer Award in Religion honors highly significant contributions to religious and spiritual understanding. By “religion” we mean, to paraphrase a classic definition by William James, the feelings, acts and experiences of humans insofar as they apprehend themselves to stand in relation to whatever they consider the divine. The purpose of the Award is to honor and publicize annually creative and constructive insights into the relationship between human beings and the divine, and ways in which this relationship may inspire or empower human beings to attain wholeness, integrity or meaning, either individually or in community.
Any work (book, address, essay, etc.) presented or published in 2015 or subsequently will be eligible for consideration. Nominations are invited from religious organizations, appropriate academic associations, religious leaders and scholars, presidents of universities or schools of religion, publishers and editors of scholarly journals. Self-nominations will not be accepted. There will be no discrimination based on religious affiliation or belief or lack thereof. The Award Committee encourages submissions from a wide variety of intellectual and/or religious perspectives. Previous winners are not eligible for subsequent awards. The Award will not be awarded posthumously.
Criteria For Judging Nominations
The Award competition, which is open to persons of all religious traditions and world views, will consider a wide variety of concerns and issues. Such issues may include but are not limited to:
The experience of divine or ultimate reality,
Meaning and purpose of human existence,
Authority and freedom in religious understanding,
Pluralism and religious truth,
Evil, suffering, and death,
Compassion, joy and hope,
Religion and science,
Divine involvement in human history,
Practices of faith and spirituality.
Preference will be given to ideas:
which by their clarity and power assist people better to understand the relationship between divine reality and human spiritual striving;
which lead to a recognition and understanding of religious experience;
which foster greater understanding and cooperation among adherents of diverse religious traditions and views;
which stimulate new insights into the relationship between religious awareness and other forms of human knowledge;
which reflect significant breakthroughs in our understanding of divine-human relationships, particularly in the context of the postmodern world.
Each person or group nominating an idea for consideration must submit one (1) copy of each of the following in typed or printed form:
A supporting statement of between 500-750 words in English setting out the central idea of the work and specifically relating the idea to the criteria for the award.
The work as published or printed (in the case of a speech, the written text or transcript) including all standard bibliographic and copyright citations.
Individuals and groups (non-publishers) submitting nominations are requested to supply one (1) copy of the work.
Publishers submitting nominations are requested to supply the required total of six (6) copies of the work.
Nominations must be received by January 15, 2020. All submissions become the property of the Louisville Grawemeyer Award Committee. In the event that no idea is considered adequately meritorious in a given year, no award will be made.
The Review Process
A joint Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and University of Louisville faculty review committee will consider all nominations and advance a select number for further consideration. Three judges of international reputation will select three finalists. Recommendation of a winner from among the finalists will be made by a winner selection committee consisting of laypersons and administrators. The recommended Grawemeyer Award winner is subject to approval by the Trustees of the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and the University of Louisville Board of Trustees.
The winner of the 2021 award will be announced after December 1, 2020. The winner will be expected to come to Louisville during the following spring to make a formal presentation based on the winning idea and to receive the Award. The trip to Louisville is mandatory and failure to fulfill this requirement will result in forfeiture of the Award and the associated cash prize.
Nominee agrees and accepts that, consistent with the intent of H. Charles Grawemeyer, the Award will not be given posthumously. The Nominee must be living in order to receive the Award and must participate in the Award festivities referenced above in order to receive the Award and the associated cash prize. If the nominated Work was created by multiple persons, one or more of whom is deceased, only the living nominees are eligible to receive the Award and the associated cash prize.
The payment will cease upon the death of the recipient. Winning the Award does not create any property rights in the cash prize for the recipient’s heirs or estate. In the event that the Award is given to multiple recipients (such as co-authors), there is only one cash prize associated with the Award and said cash prize will be divided evenly amongst the recipients. If a co-recipient dies before payment of said cash prize is made, the remaining amount will be divided evenly between the still-living co-recipients
Nominee shall participate, as appropriate, and cooperate in the production of any documentary film or other public relations or publicity matters related to the Competition, including the execution of any necessary releases and/or authorizations.
Nominee hereby grants permanent permission for the University of Louisville and the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary Board of Trustees to use the title and excerpts from the Work and any media depicting their receipt and acceptance of the Award for library and archival purposes, and for the purpose of promoting the Grawemeyer Awards and their affiliation with the University of Louisville and the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. The term “media” is understood to include, but not be limited to, audio and visual images and/or recordings of any format which depict the Recipient’s visit to the campuses of the University of Louisville and the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, the Awards presentation itself and any comments made by the Recipient as part of the campus visits and the Awards festivities.
All physical materials submitted become the property of the University of Louisville and Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.
Nominations and requests for further information may be submitted electronically, by mail, or via facsimile, and should be sent to:
Dr. Tyler Mayfield, Faculty Director The Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Religion Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary
1044 Alta Vista Road
Louisville, Kentucky 40205-1798
2019 – Robert P. Jones
White Protestantism has dominated U.S. politics and culture for much of the nation’s history, but demographic change and an exodus from churches by the young are bringing the era to a close.
That prediction comes from Robert P. Jones, founder and chief executive officer of Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), who has won the 2019 Grawemeyer Award in Religion for his book, “The End of White Christian America.” Simon & Schuster published the work in 2016.
In The Cross and the Lynching Tree (Orbis Books, 2011), renowned theologian James H. Cone passionately conjoins the provocative images of the first-century cross and the twentieth-century lynching tree. The book earned Cone the 2018 Grawemeyer Award in Religion.
Renowned social ethicist Gary Dorrien describes the early history of the Black Social Gospel from its nineteenth-century founding to its close association in the twentieth century with W. E. B. Du Bois. He offers a new perspective on modern Christianity and the civil rights era.
Luke Timothy Johnson, a biblical scholar and senior fellow at Emory University, won the $100,000 prize for the ideas set forth in his 2009 book, “Among the Gentiles: Greco-Roman Religion and Christianity.”
Eboo Patel, founder and executive director of Interfaith Youth Core, won the prize for his 2007 autobiography, Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation.
The United States must own up to past sins such as slavery and taking land away from Native Americans before it can be a truly great nation, says the winner of the 2009 Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Religion.
Analysis of creed advocating solidarity wins religion award
A religious scholar who explained how one of Christianity’s earliest creeds still applies to contemporary life has earned the 2020 Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Religion.
Stephen J. Patterson, a professor of religious and ethical studies at Willamette University, won the award for ideas he set forth in “The Forgotten Creed: Christianity’s Original Struggle against Bigotry, Racism and Sexism.” Oxford University Press published the book in 2018.
In his work, Patterson explores the significance of a baptismal creed adapted in a letter by the apostle Paul to the Galatians in the New Testament (3:26 and 28): “For you are all children of God in the Spirit; there is no Jew or Greek; there is no slave or free; there is no male and female, for you are all one in the Spirit.”
Christ’s first followers were dealing with race, class and gender issues, slavery and conflicts between Greeks and Jews in an environment not too far removed from the one we live in today, he says.
“History reminds us again and again that it has always been easier to believe in miracles, in virgin births and atoning deaths, in resurrected bodies and heavenly journeys home,” Patterson says, “than something so simple and basic as human solidarity.”
Patterson has written nine books and more than 75 articles related to the origins of Christianity. He also lectures on the hidden histories of early Christianity and has appeared in several documentaries.
“Patterson’s well-written book proposes a fascinating way to think about those earliest followers of Jesus and their radical notions of human solidarity,” said Tyler Mayfield, award director.
The University of Louisville and Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary jointly give the religion prize.
2018 Religion Recipient James H. Cone was not able to travel to Louisville to present his winning idea. JoAnne Marie Terrell presented the spring 2018 lecture on his behalf. To see a video of Terrell’s lecture, click here.