John R. Wimmer, 63, program director in religion at Lilly Endowment, Inc., died on June 24, 2020, after he courageously fought a battle against a rare form of prostate cancer, and exceeded his life expectancy by almost two years. John received his cure when God brought him to heaven, and welcomed him with loving arms.
At his core, Wimmer was a man with a deep faith in God. He was a loving husband to his wife, Jan, and a devoted father to their son, David. He was a caring brother, uncle, pastor, and friend. He was a scholar, a professor, a pastor, an author, an inspirational public speaker, and a mentor. From his deep faith in God, all else flowed. John was genuine and honest, strong and gentle, generous and kind. John listened, he cared, and above all, he was a servant of God.
Wimmer joined the Lilly Endowment staff in 2002, and in his role as program officer in the religion division, Wimmer was responsible for nearly $550,000 million in grants that supported religious institutions across the wide spectrum of Christian traditions. These grants strategically helped congregations and pastors, denominations, and theological schools, as well as church-related agencies and other religious non-profits strengthen their capacities to serve their communities and the world. Two large initiatives he directed (Sustaining Pastoral Excellence and Addressing Economic Challenges Facing Pastor Leaders) involved at least 30,000 parishes, or approximately one-tenth of all congregations nationwide.
Prior to joining the Endowment staff, Wimmer served as founding director of the Endowment-funded Indianapolis Center for Congregations. The Center for Congregations now has five regional locations in Indiana and provides consulting services, educational programs, and grants to nearly 4,000 Indiana congregations each year.
A graduate of University of Indianapolis, Duke University Divinity School (M. Div.), and University of Chicago (Ph.D.), Wimmer was a professor at the University of Indianapolis and taught courses in religion (1989 -1996). He also served as Special Assistant to the President at the University of Indianapolis, where he helped to develop a comprehensive campus restructuring plan, launch the school for adult learning, and co-ordinate programming for the Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center.
An ordained minister in the United Methodist Church for 40 years, Wimmer was pastor of churches in North Carolina, as well as churches in West Lafayette (IN), Lafayette (IN), and Lebanon (IN). John was known for his inspiring sermons, his sense of humor, his ability to communicate profound truths clearly, and his genuine personal care for the members of his congregations.
Author of three books and numerous articles, Wimmer was an acclaimed authority on the changing religious landscape in America. In his most recent book, Blessed Endurance, Wimmer testified to an enduring trust in God despite profound experiences of suffering. In 2018, he was awarded the Medallion of Merit by the Texas Methodist Foundation for his contributions to congregational life and leadership.
Wimmer is survived by his wife of 42 years, Janilee (Jan) S. Blaising, and their beloved son, David M. Blaising-Wimmer (Zionsville, IN); his sisters Ann (Randy) Tilton (Ocoee, FL) and Carol (David) VanHoose (Waco, TX); his brother-in-law, Stephen (Terri) Blaising (Indianapolis, IN), and sister-in-law, Anne (Todd) Bidelman (Lutz, FL), and his 8 nieces and nephews: Ryan and Stephen Tilton, Michael VanHoose, Megan and Nick Blaising, and Taylor, Erica, and Charlie Bidelman, as well as his father-in-the-faith, Adolf Hansen. John’s daughter, Kathryn (Katie) E. Blaising-Wimmer, preceded him to Heaven (also on June 24th), as did his loving parents, John and Dorothy Wimmer, and his loving father-in-law and mother-in-law, Rev. Mark and Nona Blaising.
A service in celebration of John’s life will be held at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church on Thursday, July 2nd, at 11:00 a.m. (100 W. 86th Street, Indianapolis, IN 46260), led by pastor and friend, Rev. Rob Fuquay. St. Luke’s is taking precautionary measures to ensure a socially distant, safe environment. Please enter through Door 1 (main entry). Masks are required (also available, if needed), and hand sanitizer will be provided upon entry. Seating will be limited to 250 people, and doors will open with social distancing at 10:30 a.m. For those wanting to view online, the service will be live-streamed at www.stlukesumc.com/special-events.
Friends of John are establishing a scholarship in his honor – the “John Wimmer Endowed Scholarship” – at the University of Indianapolis (1400 E. Hanna Ave., Indianapolis, IN 46227). Checks may be made out to the University of Indianapolis, with the designation for the scholarship on the memo line.
Funeral arrangements have been entrusted to Randall & Roberts Funeral Home (Noblesville, IN), and condolences may be made online at www.randallroberts.com.
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