Resolved, the House of _______ concurring, That the 79th General Convention direct the Executive Council to establish a committee of Executive Council with membership appointed by the Presiding Officers consisting of no fewer than ten (10) nor more than twenty (20) representatives. The committee shall include, but not be limited to, representatives from local diocesan clergy formation programs, representatives from seminaries (particularly persons involved in tuition assistance programs), fund development professionals within The Episcopal Church, and representatives from organizations (such as the Society for the Increase of Ministry and United Thank Offering) that provide funds to assist persons in advanced theological education. The committee shall be made up of bishops, priests, deacons, and laity. It shall develop and implement a plan to provide need-based central scholarship funding to individuals pursuing theological education who are preparing to serve as priests or deacons in non-stipendiary positions or in bi-vocational ministries in small congregations. This plan shall work to expand the funding available to aspiring priests and deacons who are engaged in theological education other than full-time seminary education. In addition to considering other funding sources, the committee shall examine the possible use of donor-directed endowment funds held in trust by the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society [DFMS] as a partial means to fulfill this mandate; and be it further
Resolved, That the 79th General Convention request the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance to consider a budget allocation for the implementation of this resolution.
There is little scholarship funding available to persons pursuing theological education other than in seminary M.Div. programs.
If a person seeking ordination intends to serve in a non-stipendiary position or in a bi-vocational ministry in a small congregation, a substantial impediment to pursuing this goal is the cost of obtaining the necessary education. Even the reduced cost of theological education in a non-residential setting or in a diocesan program can present a significant barrier to many potential clergy. Some for whom a costlier program might be most appropriate are prevented from pursuing that program because of financial constraints.
Moreover, funding theological education of any kind puts financial strain on many smaller dioceses. The Task Force perceives that creating a need-based, central scholarship fund is a justice issue. The fund would significantly level the playing field and enable access to a wider variety of educational resources by those who most need them.
The findings of the Task Force indicate that in the future, an increasing number of ordained ministers in The Episcopal Church will be non-stipendiary or bi-vocational. The data also shows that small congregations will depend more heavily on these clergy. To meet the need of small congregations for clergy and to avoid burdening these clergy with substantial debt, new strategies to provide funding for their theological education are needed.
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