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.

Prize Amount
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 2010 or subsequently will be eligible for consideration for the 2017 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.

How to Enter

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.

Nomination Process
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 completed nomination form.
  • The work as published or printed (in the case of a speech, the written text or transcript) including all standard bibliographic and copyright citations. Publishers submitting nominations are requested to supply the required total of six (6) copies of the work.
  • In the case of submissions in a language other than English, a substantial abstract in English should also be included.
  • 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.

Nominations must be received by December 1. 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 faculty review committee appointed by the presidents of the University of Louisville and Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary will consider all nominations and advance a select number for further consideration. Three judges of international reputation chosen by the university and the seminary will select three finalists. Recommendation of a winner from among the finalists will be made by the Louisville Grawemeyer Committee to the Boards of the seminary and the university for final action.
Awardee Requirements
The winner of the Award will be announced after December 1st. 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.
For More Information
Retrieve the Nomination Form
Nominations and requests for Nomination Forms or further information should be sent to:

Shannon Craigo-Snell
The Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Religion
Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary
1044 Alta Vista Road
Louisville, Kentucky 40205-1798
Phone: 1-800-264-1839, Ext. 427
Fax: 502-894-2286

Previous Winners

2008 – Margaret Farley

“Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics”

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2007 – Timothy Tyson

“Blood Done Sign My Name”

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2005 – George M. Marsden

“Jonathan Edwards: A Life”

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2004 – Jonathan Sacks

“The Dignity of Difference: How to Avoid the Clash of Civilizations”

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2003 – Mark Juergensmeyer

“Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence”

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2002 – Miroslav Volf

“Exclusion & Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation”

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2001 – James L. Kugel

“The Bible As It Was”

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2000 – Jürgen Moltmann

“The Coming of God: Christian Eschatology”

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1998 – Charles Marsh

“God’s Long Summer”

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1997 – Larry L. Rasmussen

“Earth Community, Earth Ethics”

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1995 – Diana L. Eck

“Encountering God: A Spiritual Journey from Bozeman to Banaras”

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1994 – Stephen L. Carter

“The Culture of Disbelief: How American Law and Politics Trivialize Religious Devotion”

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1993 – Elizabeth A. Johnson

“She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse”

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1992 – Ralph Harper

“On Presence: Variations and Reflections”

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1991 – John Harwood Hick

“An Interpretation of Religion: Human Responses to the Transcendent”

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1990 – E.P. Sanders

“Jesus and Judaism”

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2015 Recipient

Willie James Jennings

Why has Christianity, a religion based on love, failed in its attempts to heal racial division?

The Rev. Dr. Willie James Jennings, associate professor of theology and black church studies at Duke Divinity School, has earned the 2015 Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Religion for tackling that question in his book, “The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race.”

Jennings explains in the work how Christianity contributed to segregation and racism in America beginning in colonial times. He names broken relationships between people and land and rifts between Christianity and Judaism as key factors, arguing that a renewal of Christian imagination must take place to heal those divides.

“His book contains brilliant flashes of insight into Christianity and racial oppression,” said Shannon Craigo-Snell, a Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary professor who directs the award. “He also sheds light on how Christianity has the potential to foster more just and respectful relations between religious and racial groups.” Read more…

Video Interviews with Past Recipients

How Christianity has Contributed to Segregation and Racism in America
2015 Religion Recipient Willie James Jennings

How God Becomes Real for People
2014 Religion Recipient Tanya Luhrmann

Why a Growing Number of Muslim Women in the U.S. are Wearing Veils
2013 Religion Recipient Leila Ahmed

The Relationship between Black Politics and Religion
2012 Religion Recipient Barbara D. Savage

Recognizing the Ways Different Faiths are Alike
2011 Religion Recipient Luke Timothy Johnson

Interfaith Cooperation rather than the Bombs of Religious Destruction
2010 Religion Recipient Eboo Patel

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