History of the academy
Writing in the Christian Century, Dr. Granger Westberg, a Lutheran minster and professor, proposed the formation of an organization to assist clergy as they enhance their professional skills. Dr. Granger envisioned an association modeled after the Academy of General Practice in the medical field. The Academy of Parish Clergy required members to undertake, supervise, and reflect upon ministry in the context of a commitment to continuing competence and skill development.
In 1968, The Lilly Endowment awarded a grant to fund an initial colloquium of about fifteen clergy and professional development leaders to consider the proposal. After a planning meeting in Houston, the Academy of Parish Clergy, Inc. organized. It incorporated in the State of Indiana on May 15, 1968, as a not-for-profit corporation.
Substantial assistance from the Lilly Endowment, the Bush Foundation, and the Minister’s Life and Casualty Union allowed the Academy to hire full-time staff, who instituted a vigorous recruitment program, established offices, and created cutting edge resources such as the Guide for Continuing Growth, the Standards of Competence, and an academic journal. The Academy also began meeting annually.
The Academy grew to national stature, with representative clergy from nearly every state. Members were interfaith (Christians and Jews) and interdenominational (forty different bodies). They chartered five local colleague groups and chapters, with the first one organized in Ohio.
In the Annual Convocation of 1988, new By-laws were adopted which gave a new look to the Academy. One of the major changes required that members would be expected to conform to the Standards of Competence and to a new Code of Ethics. In 1989, the Academy created Educational Pathways to provide options for professional growth. An Academy Dean guided interested members through these Pathways.
Since 1980, the Academy presents and annual Book of the Year Award to the author of the best book written on a subject relevant to leadership in parish ministry. This prestigious award is appreciated both by the authors and the publishers who offer their books for consideration. The Academy also awards the top Reference Book of the Year, and compile a list of the Top Ten Books for Parish Ministry.
Since 1992, the Academy presents a Parish Pastor of the Year citation to a faith leader who regarded by hes or her peers as outstanding in every aspect of ministry. This is an open award, which only occasionally goes to a member of the Academy. Many recipients have become loyal members of the Academy.
The Academy also hosts a writing contest for Ministers who are in their first call. The First Call Writing Contest encourages ministers to write on a prescribed topic. The winner(s) receive an all-expense-paid opportunity to attend the Annual Conference and present her or his winning essay. Tee winner also receives a free year of membership.
Annual Conferences have been held since 1968 in different locales. These annual meetings have become the heartbeat of the Academy. In addition to the learning opportunities provided, members share in worship, mutual support, and fellowship with one another, the invited speakers, workshop leaders, authors, and on-site personnel.