Traditioned Innovation Awards honor work that holds together past and future

Leadership Education at Duke Divinity grants Traditioned Innovation Awards to initiatives that engage in experiments to transform communities by living out the convictions of an ancient faith in the current challenging circumstances.

“Traditioned innovation” is a way of thinking developed by theologian L. Gregory Jones that holds the past and future in tension, not in opposition, and is crucial to the growth and vitality of Christian institutions. The awardees inspire Christian leaders to consider our convictions and daily activities so that we may more abundantly bear witness to the reign of God. They do that by:

  • embodying one or more Christian practices in their pattern of work;
  • cultivating an economic imagination for sponsors, participants and observers;
  • nurturing the conditions for friendships that move beyond transactional relationships to ones of mutual appreciation, learning and growth;
  • rooting their work in building and sustaining community; and
  • reaching a point when they are beginning to see the fruit of their work.

The 2019 winners are Boston Faith and Justice Network in Boston, Massachusetts; Canaan Community Church of Chicago, Illinois, alongside its network partner Parish Collective of Seattle, Washington; The Center in Baltimore, Maryland; FaithAction International House in Greensboro, North Carolina; and San Antonio Mennonite Church in San Antonio, Texas. Each will receive $10,000 and be featured in Faith & Leadership.

A panel of judges collects nominations and recommends award recipients.

“The Traditioned Innovation Award recognizes and affirms the faithful and innovative work of an outstanding Christian initiative,” said Victoria White, Leadership Education’s managing director of grants. “This year the award focuses on catalytic organizations that are effective in their own community while also nurturing ministries in other communities. Their work creates a broad impact because they are committed to nurturing future ministry leaders and creating interconnected networks.”

2019 Award Winners

Image courtesy of Boston Faith and Justice Network

Boston Faith and Justice Network in Boston, Massachusetts

The Boston Faith and Justice Network works to equip Christians for economic discipleship and cultivates congregational capacity and unity between mainline and evangelical Christians. Their primary work is helping move Christians from personal religious commitment to transformative action against poverty and oppression. Their work includes informing churches about economic injustice and connecting leaders and congregants with local nonprofits that are direct service providers. Their Lazarus at the Gate study strengthens small group ministries in local churches and often increases congregational generosity, and their Micah six:eight service learning program leads participants through an intensive serving experience that challenges them to explore deeply the concepts of generosity and justice in their own lives.

How does the Boston Faith and Justice Network exemplify traditioned innovation?

Boston Faith and Justice Network creates opportunities for individuals and congregations to align values and mission with their economics and actions. They foster community across socio-economic divides by curating conversations around economic and personal values that mirror kingdom values.

Image courtesy of Canaan Community Church

Canaan Community Church of Chicago, Illinois, with its network partner Parish Collective of Seattle, Washington

Canaan Community Church exemplifies the commitment to neighborhood that is emblematic of Parish Collective’s work. When looking for ways to love God and love their neighbors, these organizations first look at the “where” of their surroundings rather than “who” or “what.” They believe that God is already present and working in the neighborhood, and God’s people are responsible for being present and partnering with the existing good work. This causes local churches, not-for-profits, resident associations, politicians, educators and other stakeholders to work together for the corporate flourishing of their place.

How do Canaan Community Church and Parish Collective exemplify traditioned innovation?

This partnership is centered on the belief that neighborhoods must rely on interwoven relationships, grassroots innovation and collective thinking to see true transformation happen in the world. Both Canaan and Parish Collective believe that God has called the church to change the world one neighborhood at a time.

Photo courtesy of The Center

The Center in Baltimore, Maryland

The Center, an initiative of the Presbytery of Baltimore, aims to inspire and equip individuals and congregations to engage boldly in their neighborhoods. They envision a world of thriving congregations and just communities where the first call in a crisis would be to the local church; where congregations are deeply rooted in and connected to their communities; and where strong church leaders listen to their neighbors and organize with the community to act on what they both care about most. They do this by hosting groups for local neighborhood-focused mission experiences and by coming alongside congregations to help them launch, expand or deepen their engagement in the community right outside their doors.

How does The Center exemplify traditioned innovation?

The Center serves as a hub for individuals, churches and communities to learn a new way of thinking about and engaging in mission, while getting involved in neighborhoods and communities where Christ’s love and justice are already at work.

Photo courtesy of FaithAction International House

FaithAction International House in Greensboro, North Carolina

FaithAction International House serves and advocates alongside thousands of new immigrants while educating and connecting North Carolina's diverse communities across lines of culture and faith, turning strangers into neighbors. Each year, FaithAction serves more than 3,000 newcomers from more than 60 nations, providing help with food, housing, healthcare, legal services and more. They are most well-known for their Faith ID card program, which provides reliable identification to immigrants, refugees, the homeless, elderly individuals, those recently returning from jail and others. This innovative community ID program involves partnerships with dozens of law enforcement, health centers, schools and faith communities to build greater understanding, trust and cooperation in communities throughout North Carolina and the nation.

How does FaithAction International House exemplify traditioned innovation?

FaithAction International House recognizes the shared values of many faith and moral traditions around dignity, hospitality and justice. They offer dignity and hope to all who come to their door each day and help diverse individuals and congregations put their faith into action by providing opportunities to directly serve, love and protect their newest neighbors.

Photo courtesy of San Antonio Mennonite Church

San Antonio Mennonite Church in San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio Mennonite Church is a traditional congregation shaped by the realities of immigration taking place along the southern border of our country. While involved with immigration response for several years as an active and leading partner with San Antonio’s Interfaith Welcome Coalition (IWC), when I.C.E. dropped 500 asylum seekers from South Texas detention centers at their doorstep five years ago the church radically rallied to care for these families. The church helps families learn to address their own trauma as well as equipping them to help others when and if they return to their countries of origin.

How does San Antonio Mennonite Church exemplify traditioned innovation?

San Antonio Mennonite Church offers holistic and individualized trauma-informed care while empowering refugees to care for one another and their families. They are bridging cultural divides and equipping leaders to cultivate strength and resilience within their communities and beyond.

For more information about the Traditioned Innovation Award, please contact us at

Past Traditioned Innovation Award Winners

Read stories about how past winners are creatively addressing challenges and renewing their institutions.

Questions We Answer

We know that you grapple with many difficult questions as a Christian leader. We want to help. Complex concerns about ministry can’t be fully addressed here, of course, but we provide a starting point for engaging the deep issues.

Learn More »