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Apportioned Funds - Ministerial Education Fund News

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Ministerial Education Fund Critical Piece of Support for Seminarians

By Vicki Brown*

The Ministerial Education Fund is the church’s affirmation that all United Methodists share the responsibility for education of our clergy. The fund, along with the annual conference and the seminarian’s local congregation, forms a circle of support for those on the path to ordained ministry.

More than $682 million has been raised to support the work of the MEF since it was created by General Conference in 1968, according to the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry’s records.

“The MEF is the primary means through which United Methodists in the U.S. can provide theological education in the Wesleyan tradition for those who have been called to ordained ministry,” said the Rev. Gwen Purushotham, associate general secretary of GBHEM’s Division of Ordained Minsistry. “Those elders and deacons will be sent out to preach, to teach, to connect the church and the world, to minister to persons in combat, to be present with the dying, to reach out to prisoners, to provide pastoral care for those in crisis.”

And, Purushotham added, the fund subsidizes the costs of those who are training to be licensed as local pastors through the Course of Study at UM seminaries and regional sites.

Each annual conference keeps 25 percent of the total it collects for the conference Board of Ordained Ministry to use toward the support of ministerial education, while 75 percent is remitted to GBHEM for support of ministerial education. GBHEM distributes three-fourths of that amount to the 13 United Methodist theological schools. The seminaries must use the funds for UM seminarian scholarships, faculty and staff salaries, and benefits for those who prepare UM students for ordained ministry or service as local pastors. Purushotham added that when the fund was created, the seminaries and the church agreed the seminaries would not seek funding directly from annual conferences and that all annual conference support for the seminaries would come through the MEF apportionment.

Jan Love, dean of Candler School of Theology at Emory University, says the MEF is absolutely essential to Candler, one of the 13 UM seminaries.

“We use it to support scholarships for United Methodist students and to offer the United Methodist courses that are required for ordination,” Love said, adding that because of the MEF, UM students at Candler can get a reduced tuition and sometimes full tuition scholarships.

“It’s a wonderful partnership between The United Methodist Church and the seminaries to make sure the church gets extraordinary leaders. We’re dedicated to that. We are definitely growing leaders for the UMC and are proud about it. We are really dedicated to that mission,” Love said. “We see it as an essential part of our identity as an official United Methodist seminary.”

Unfortunately, Love said the MEF has not kept pace with the need. She said it’s now about 9 percent of Candler’s budget, but a crucial 9 percent.

Love said that during a time of great transition in The United Methodist Church, leadership is required to ensure that congregations are really vital and equipped to serve the gospel in their place and their time to the best of their ability and that forming leaders for that purpose is the business Candler is in.

“We need church support to do that. . . . And we want to make sure in close conversation with the church and with congregations that we’re serving their needs the best we can. And so we are delighted about the partnership and look forward to deepening it,” Love said.

For most seminaries, MEF support represents between 12 percent and 20 percent of their annual budget -- a big piece of keeping tuition and other costs lower for UM seminarians.

“The value of UM seminaries to the church goes far beyond the clergy they educate, since they provide continuing education, programs for lay education, and resources and research that are used by faculty at non-United Methodist schools,” Purushotham said.

Although the MEF is not distributed to seminaries outside the U.S., GBHEM’s Division of Ordained Ministry allocated funding for theological education in the Central Conferences in the 2009-12 quadrennium. And some UM seminaries in the U.S. work with Central Conferences and autonomous Methodist churches to strengthen theological education throughout the connection. The seminaries are assisting with developing distance education, Course of Study programs, and supporting institutions.

*Brown is associate editor and writer, Office of Interpretation, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

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The Ministerial Education Fund
General Board of Higher Education and Ministry
The United Methodist Church
PO Box 340007
Nashville, TN 37203-0007

615-340-7389 office
615-340-7048 fax