New Support for Theological Education

12/11/2015

From United Methodist Communications Office of Public Information

Charlotte, North Carolina – With membership of The United Methodist Church outside the U.S. at 5.5 million-plus and growing, there is an increasing need for theologically educated clergy. Now there is an established fund to support that need long-term.

Inaugural donations have been given to a new Endowment Fund for Theological Education in Central Conferences. This fund establishes sustainable, long-term support for theological education, similar to the Central Conference Pension Initiative for retired clergy. The new endowment fund is dedicated to education for clergy in the seven Central Conferences outside of the U.S. In partnership with the Commission on Central Conference Theological Education Fund, the endowment will add support to the $5 million disbursement given at the 2012 General Conference for the 2013-2016 quadrennium, a disbursement that fund advocates hope will be renewed in 2016.

“The endowment will ensure funding that is consistent with the great educational need we have in the Central Conferences. It will continue for generations of future clergy. We hope to raise $25 million from supporters across the world. It has been encouraging that the very first gifts have been pledged from Europe and the Philippines, then from the U.S. I am sure the first will soon arrive from Africa,” said Bishop Patrick Streiff of the Central and Southern Europe Episcopal Area, who chairs the endowment fund.

The endowment will focus on strengthening theological education in the Wesleyan tradition in several key ways:

  • Theological education of local pastors and candidates for ordained ministry
  • Continuing theological education of clergy
  • Scholarships for undergraduate and postgraduate theological studies
  • Development of infrastructure such as literature, resource materials and networking among institutions
  • Promotion of new promising avenues in theological education

Clergy that have received support from the Central Conference Theological Education Fund are already creating change in their communities.

In Murombedzi, Zimbabwe, Pastor Taurai Emmanuel Maforo has led the church in community cleanup efforts and has seen his congregation grow. The community has noticed. Councillor of the area, Kizito Chamunorwa, said, “The United Methodist Church has shown us the light and brought hope.”

In Siberia, Maina Sashina is likely the first of her indigenous ethnic group, the Udmurt people, ever to graduate from any Protestant seminary. Her theological education has enabled her to reach out to her people with the word of God, forming a ministry that tells the faith story in familiar ways.

The Council of Bishops established the endowment fund in November 2014. In the past year, a feasibility study has been completed with encouraging results, and the fund’s board has been established to bring the planning stages of the effort into fruition. The board’s makeup focuses on the diversity of the Central Conferences, with members from Africa, Asia, Europe and the U.S.

The board is searching for major donors to join the effort to support the international church’s growth. For further information about contributing to the fund, contact its volunteer Executive Director, Minnis Ridenour (ridem@vt.edu). Funds from the endowment will be disbursed via the Commission on Central Conference Theological Education Fund.