New Rule for Schools: More Clergy, More Funds

3/28/2011

United Methodist schools of theology that educate more students for ordained ministry in the denomination will get more church funding in 2012 under a new formula for distributing money from the Ministerial Education Fund.

The Directors of The United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry had approved the changes last fall, but tweaked the formula at the spring 2011 meeting to include money for full-time United Methodist faculty and senior administrators at the seminaries. That change came in response to concerns from some of the schools of theology.

“We want to reward the United Methodist seminaries that educate more United Methodist students for ministry in the church,” said the Rev. Sharon Rubey, an executive with the board’s Division of Ordained Ministry. “The new revised proposal maintains that intent, but there was some concern from the schools of theology that the incentive for hiring United Methodist faculty had been eliminated and the directors agreed to restore money for that purpose.”

The changes approved last fall mean that 65 percent of the fund will be divided based on the number of United Methodist students who are enrolled in candidacy for ordination and the number of graduates who are ordained after completing seminary. The new formula will go into effect in 2012.

According to the Board’s 2009 Seminaries Report, the number of ordained elders and deacons graduating from United Methodist seminaries ranged from almost 60 at one school to single digits at others. Ten annual (regional) conferences provided no data for that report.

In 2010, $14.6 million was distributed to the 13 United Methodist schools of theology. For most United Methodist seminaries, the Ministerial Education Fund disbursement accounts for 12 to 20 percent of their annual budgets under the current formula.

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. Last week, the higher education agency’s board of directors agreed that 3.5 percent of the funds should be divided based on the percentage of United Methodist full-time faculty and senior administrators at the schools of theology. That money will come from the 10 percent of the funds originally divided to support ethnic and gender inclusiveness of faculty, senior administrators and United Methodist students, and special-initiative grants.

The revised formula distributes the money as follows:

  • Basic support to seminaries — a portion divided equally among the 13 — will drop from 35 percent to 25 percent.
  • Forty percent will be divided based on the number of United Methodist students attending each seminary who are admitted to candidacy for ordained ministry in the denomination.
  • Twenty-five percent of the money will be divided based on the number of United Methodist 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.
  • 3.5 percent of the money will be divided based on ethnic, racial and gender inclusiveness of faculty, senior administrators and United Methodist students. That dropped from 5 percent in the formula approved last October.
  • Three percent will be used for initiative grants to address issues such as spiritual formation, continuing education, technology, and global partnership with Central (non-U.S.) Conferences. Earlier, that had been 5 percent.
  • 3.5 percent will be divided among the 13 United Methodist schools of theology based on the percentage of full-time United Methodist faculty and senior administrators. If a school of theology had no United Methodist faculty, that school would not get any of the 3.5 percent. The old formula provided funds for that purpose, but those funds had been removed in October.

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

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