The 13 United Methodist theological schools have increased scholarship support for their students by nearly 10 percent to keep students on campus despite the recession – even as the seminaries have faced dwindling endowments and decreasing funds from the church.
For the 2009-2010 academic year, the theological schools awarded nearly $27.9 million in scholarships, a 9.8 percent increase from the $25.4 million awarded in 2008-2009, according to figures compiled by the Association of United Methodist Theological Schools.
Dean Maxine Clarke Beach of The Theological School at Drew University said that means the 13 UM institutions are giving more in scholarships than they receive from the Ministerial Education Fund. The MEF is the church-wide apportionment fund that provides educational support for United Methodist ordained elders and deacons and assists theological schools and clergy recruitment. Twenty-five percent of the apportionment is retained in the annual conference for professional development, continuing education of clergy, and clergy recruitment.
The Rev. Mary Ann Moman, associate general secretary of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry’s Division of Ordained Ministry, said the seminaries are critical in the development of principled Christian leaders for the church and the world – one of the Four Areas of Focus the General Conference affirmed for The United Methodist Church in 2008.
Moman said the MEF plays an important role in supporting the ability of seminaries to provide affordable theological education. Of the MEF funds that come to GBHEM for disbursement, 83.6 percent go directly to the 13 UM schools of theology. In 2008, $14.6 million was distributed to the seminaries. Through June 30, 2009, the numbers are down: $4.6 million has been sent to the 13 schools of theology, compared to $5.1 million for the same period in 2008.
“Both GBHEM and seminary staff understand that these are tough economic times for everyone in The United Methodist Church, but the MEF is an important investment in the future of the church,” Moman said. “If we are going to attract the best leaders our churches can get, we need to be sure that those who feel God’s call can answer it, no matter what their personal financial situation is.
Myron F. McCoy, president of Saint Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, Mo., said faculty and staff are determined not to cut scholarship support.
“In my school’s particular case, that meant an overall reduction in staff and some scaling back of salaries,” McCoy said. The value of the endowment dipped, but the scholarship awards were about the same.
In addition to educating pastors, the support of the MEF helps seminaries provide resources and literature that pastors and United Methodist laity read and use to develop sermons and spiritual practices.
To learn more about the Ministerial Education Fund, visit www.umcgiving.org/mef and www.gbhem.org. To learn more about the 13 United Methodist theological schools, visit www.gbhem.org/education/seminaries.
Vicki Brown serves as associate editor and writer, Office of Interpretation, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry in Nashville, Tenn.
Dr. F. Douglas Powe Jr., assistant professor of Evangelism at Saint Paul, visits with students during class.
“We need to be sure that those who feel God’s call can answer it, no matter what their personal financial situation is.”
– Mary Ann Moman
Nora Jones, a Saint Paul student, plays London Bridge with children during an immersion experience in Haiti.