The purpose of an endowment fund is to financially sustain the mission and work of a charitable organization. The principal of an endowment is kept intact and only the annual earnings, typically income and a portion of the capital growth, are used to fund current needs. Our organization has established its endowment so that we can continue to carry on our important work in the years to come. You can make a significant contribution to further our mission…and it’s easier than you might think.


Bishop Joe Pennel (pictured, far left) attended the first program of the Fox Endowment at VUMAC. Louise and Russell Fox (pictured front row, third and fourth from the left, respectively) established the endowment to help clergy and laity better understand the relationship between science and Christian faith.

When the Virginia United Methodist Assembly Center (VUMAC) closed its doors in May of 2016, the fate of a unique, beloved, but little-known endowed program was uncertain. But, that program—the Blackstone Seminar for Science, Theology, Ethics, & Ministry—has found new life in Bishop Lewis’ ministry vision for the Virginia Annual Conference “to be disciples of Jesus Christ who are lifelong learners, who influence others to serve.”  On January 20, 2018 the endowed program will find new expression as the Bishop’s

In 2000, Dr. Russell and Mrs. Louise Fox established an endowment that would provide for an annual gathering of clergy and laity for dialogue about the most profound relationships of science and Christian faith. During World War II, Russell’s work on uranium isotope separation became part of the Manhattan Project. That experience shaped Russell’s conviction that the church needed to understand developments in science and technology in order to bear witness to Christ in a world profoundly influenced by those developments. Louise had a lifelong love of VUMAC, rooted in the early years of her life when she knew it as Blackstone College. Together they shared a commitment to Christian education and lifelong learning. Said Rex Wolf, then administrator of VUMAC, “Each has a genuine interest in helping laity and clergy better understand the relationship between science and religion.”

Over the next 16 years, the Blackstone Seminar featured many world-renowned scientists, engineers, ethicists, and theologians as clergy and laity from the Virginia Conference and beyond gathered to discuss a wide range of topics at the interface of science and Christian faith. The last Blackstone Seminar was held at VUMAC in April 2016 and featured keynote speakers David Schulte and Jerald Johnson for “Sea Level Rise: The Impact on the Churches and Communities of Virginia.”

In June 2017, just as longtime participants of the Blackstone Seminar were beginning conversations with the Virginia United Methodist Foundation about the future of the Fox endowment, Bishop Lewis articulated her ministry vision for the Virginia Annual Conference.

The Fox endowment for a program on science and faith is as rare today as it was 17 years ago. And now, Bishop Lewis will use that endowment to do what has never been done before in the United Methodist Church—host a Bishop’s Convocation on Faith, Science, & Ministry.


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