By Vicki Brown, Office of Interpretation, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry
Proposals for solar electrification of a rural theological school and training teams of pastors to mobilize people for mission work to improve their communities were among the 74 applications for grants from the $5 million fund for theological education in Africa, Europe, and the Philippines.
Applications came from theological institutions, Boards of Ordained Ministry, Bible colleges and pastors’ schools, said the Rev. Rena Yocom, the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry’s assistant general secretary for Clergy Formation and Theological Education.
“I think we’re off to a great start,” Yocom said. “I think we are seeing some proposals for innovative projects that are looking at sustainability, such as solar electrification.” She added that other proposals included developing online classes, particularly in the Philippines, where travel is so difficult.
“We in the United States may take online education for granted, but it is innovative in many parts of Africa and the Philippines,” Yocom said.
The Commission on Central Conference Theological Education, elected by the Council of Bishops to oversee the use of the fund, will review the grant requests and make awards at a Feb. 20-22 meeting in Atlanta, Ga. The commission estimates it will be able to disburse grants totaling $1 million a year from the fund for the next four years.
Once the grants are disbursed, the commission requires progress updates in six months and again in a year.
Yocom said other applications included purchasing e-readers, improving libraries, and developing contextual materials for use in training and study. For instance, she said one proposal is for developing a class for pastors on Christianity and polygamy in a culture that still accepts polygamy as a way of life.
Amounts requested range from $6,000 to $263,000.
The fund was approved by the 2012 General Conference. Half of the funds, or about $500,000 a year, will be distributed to grant applicants based on the number of episcopal areas in a Central Conference. However, these grants are not guaranteed and will go to the best proposals. Regional screening committees will review the proposals and make recommendations to the commission of which proposals show need, feasibility, and possibility for the future, and should be accepted if funds allow. The regional committees are composed of one representative from each episcopal area in that central conference.
The commission agreed that 25 percent of the funds (about $250,000 a year) would be distributed based on the number of churches and active clergy. The delegates from Europe asked that their portion of this 25 percent be distributed to the other Central Conferences because they believe the needs are greater in Africa and the Philippines.
The remaining $250,000 a year will be available for proposals that go beyond a conference. Examples would be proposals by language groups, production of contextual materials, or new and innovative proposals that might affect more than one region.
While General Conference approved the fund at $5 million, the money comes from the World Service Apportionment Fund. That fund is expected to pay out at 85 percent, which would mean the actual dollars would be reduced to $4.2 million, or about $1 million a year for each year of the 2013-2016 quadrennium.