GBHEM Board Approves MEF Distribution Change, Plan for Africa Theological Education

November 13, 2010

By Vicki Brown*

A plan for distributing $2 million to support theological education in Africa and a new formula for allocating church dollars to the 13 United Methodist theological schools were approved by board members of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry during their fall meeting.

The Board, meeting in Nashville Oct. 7-9, also approved a $40.4 million budget for 2011, and heard of the retirement of General Secretary Jerome King Del Pino, effective Oct. 15, 2010. John Lesesne, treasurer and chief financial officer, was named interim general secretary.

Board President Bishop Marcus Matthews said the search for a new general secretary is already underway, with the goal of presenting a candidate at the March 2011 Board meeting.

Plan Approved for Theological Education in Africa

The 2008 General Conference passed a petition to support theological education in Africa. GBHEM, the General Board of Global Ministries, and United Methodist Communications agreed to provide $2 million and coordinate the Africa Educational Initiative.

In consultation with the 12 bishops of Africa, each episcopal area in Africa will receive $100,000 for financial assistance, scholarships, and logistical support for theological education. The plan also provides for additional funds for infrastructure and sustainability.

“Our implementation plan provides scholarship assistance for clergy coming to the U.S. for theological education and for ministerial training within the annual conferences (of Africa); for the creation of theological education centers for all of Africa and continuing education locally,” Stephanie Deckard said in reporting the plan to the Board on behalf of the Executive Committee.

She said the plan also calls for the development of resources in the three major languages of the continent; and for the development of professional and institutional associations for theological educators on the Africa continent.

“We believe all these to be critical steps in establishment of a community of elders for coming generations of the connection in Africa,” she said.

New Formula for Distributing MEF Dollars

Under a new formula for distributing funds from the Ministerial Education Fund, one of seven apportioned funds of the UMC, United Methodist schools of theology that educate more students for United Methodist ministry will get more money from the church.

“The overall goal of the change is to target funds to schools that are educating United Methodist students for ordination for ministry. That is what the General Conference was asking us to do,” said the Rev. David Bard, a Board member and member of the University Senate’s Commission on Theological Education.

Changes in the formula for distributing MEF dollars to the 13 United Methodist seminaries were proposed by the University Senate’s Commission on Theological Education in response to a change made in 2008 The Book of Discipline by General Conference.

For most United Methodist seminaries, the Ministerial Education Fund disbursement accounts for 12 percent to 20 percent of their annual budget under the current formula. In 2009, $14.3 million was distributed to the 13 UM schools of theology. Twenty-five percent of the money collected for the fund stays with participating annual conferences to support continuing education for pastors and clergy recruitment and to provide financial aid for students in the annual conference.

The change affects the funds that are disbursed to the 13 United Methodist seminaries to assist candidates for ordained ministry through scholarships and faculty salaries. That money will be distributed as follows:

  • Under the new formula, basic support to seminaries – a portion divided equally among the 13 – will drop from 35 percent to 25 percent.
  • Forty percent of the funds will be divided based on the number of United Methodist students attending each seminary who are registered with GBHEM as admitted to candidacy for ordained ministry in the UMC.
  • The biggest change is that 25 percent of the money will be divided based on the number of UM graduates from each of the 13 seminaries received into full membership in an annual conference, based on a three-year average. The old formula called for just 5 percent of the money to be divided based on that factor.
  • Five percent of the money will be divided based on ethnic, racial, and gender inclusiveness of faculty, senior administrators, and United Methodist students.
  • Five percent will be used for initiative grants to address issues identified by the Division of Ordained Ministry, in consultation with the Association of United Methodist Theological Schools, such as: spiritual formation, continuing education, programs in provisional membership with annual conferences, technology, and/or global partnership with Central Conferences.
Bishop Calls for “Fishing the Deep Waters”

In his sermon during the Board’s worship service Thursday, Bishop James Swanson cautioned against sticking with what is familiar and known.

“Fishing in familiar waters, you can do it without thinking,” Swanson said, referring to Jesus telling his disciples to venture out into the deep waters. “Jesus wanted the fishermen to know that fishing was not an end unto itself, but a means to an end. Jesus expects results.”

“There is abundance in deep waters. I believe God is calling us to launch out into deep waters,” Swanson said. “We can go back to our places and we can have some fun, or we can get busy trying to figure out how to help this church have the leaders we need for the next generation.”

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

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