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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Support for those studying for Ordained Ministry

Kevin Martin, Dean of the Cathedral in Dallas, Texas and I have been working on a plan to generate support from our National Church for those studying for Ordained Ministry.

As some of you may know, The Episcopal Church is the only mainline Church that does not give support to seminarians from on the National level. Everyone seems to lament this and the amount of debt that now faces our graduates.

We are urging Deputies to take one of the following two forms (or your own) to your convention before GC 09 for passage. The more dioceses that do this, the more weight this will carry with the budget building process of the national church.

Thanks for your consideration. Help us create some momentum for this long over-due issue.

FORM I: Support for those Studying for Ordained Ministry

Resolved, that the Episcopal Diocese of _______________at its Convention
meeting on ___________________________ requests that the 2009 General Convention urge that the Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance provide funding to the Society for the Increase of the Ministry for the next triennium which matches the current work of SIM in the amount of $100,000 in year one, $150,000 in year two, and $200,000 in year three..


Resolved, that the General Convention request SIM to report annual to theExecutive Council this work and its effectiveness in meeting these demands.

Resolved, that Executive Council provide a full report to General Convention 2012.


Supporting Information

The mounting costs of theological education are placing an ever increasing financial burden upon those offering themselves for ordination.

SIM (Society for the Increase of the Ministry) reported in the autumn issue of their newsletter, The Call, that of the 42% of the class of 2008 reporting having debt, they estimate that they will graduate with an average MINIMUM indebtedness of $62,000.

By their own figures reported to SIM, their debt payments and debt service will come to about $12,000 per year against a medium income of $45,500 (26%).

SIM also reports that enrollments at our official seminaries continue to decrease. They report that the number of students in Master of Divinity Degree programs at Episcopal Seminaries has decreased 25% over the last three academic years.

The Episcopal Church has never provided, on a national level, for such preparation. SIM does provide such support and has developed systems of accountability for providing such support to those in need.

(or)


Form II: Support for those Studying for Ordained Ministry


Whereas, the mounting costs of theological education are placing an ever increasing financial burden upon those offering themselves for ordination,

And whereas, the Episcopal Church has never provided, on a national level, for such preparation,

And whereas, the Society of the Increase of the Ministry does provide such support and has developed systems of accountability for providing such
support to those in need,

Therefore, be it resolved that the Episcopal Diocese of _______________at its Convention meeting on ___________________________ requests that the 2009 General
Convention urge that the Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance provide funding to the Society for the Increase of the Ministry for the next triennium which matches the current work of SIM in the amount of $100,000 in year one, $150,000 in year two, and $200,000 in year three..

Furthermore, that the General Convention request the society to report annual to
the Executive Council this work and its effectiveness in meeting these demands and that Executive Council provide a full report to General Convention 2012.

Supporting Documentation


SIM (Society for the Increase of the Ministry) reported in the autumn issue of their newsletter, The Call, that of the 42% of the class of 2008 reporting having debt, they estimate that they will graduate with an average MINIMUM indebtedness of $62,000.

By their own figures reported to SIM, their debt payments and debt service will come to about $12,000 per year against a medium income of $45,500 (26%).

SIM also reports that enrollments at our official seminaries continue to decrease. They report that the number of students in Master of Divinity Degree programs at Episcopal Seminaries has decreased 25% over the last three academic years.

7 comments:

Bateau Master said...

The sentiment is right, but the cash may not be available with the pressures of higher costs and the reality of budget shortfalls.

It needs its own line item and separate funding source, i.e. a patron.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Gee, let me guess - in a former life you were a loan officer at a bank. (The old joke is that they're first response is always 'no'.)

SIM has been a patron. This resolution is asking for a separate line item in the budget which would match SIM's giving, doubling the amount available in scholarships.

It is also asking the institutional church to take some responsibility for the high cost of the demands it places on the servants it ordains.

The cash will be available if the folks at PB&F see that it is a priority for dioceses.

Compared to other things in the budget $100,000 is not a very large amount. It's the church matching funds to double the impact of its dollar.

That's probably the best deal the church has gotten in a very long time.

John Bassett said...

I agree that the cost of a seminary education is now completely out of line with reasonably expected clerical salaries. It is a problem.

But I think that we need to rethink the whole system more than prop it up for a few more years with subsidies. First, the church as a whole is in desperate need of theological education. The laity are starved for it, and judging from what I hear on Sundays, continuing theological education for clergy seems pretty poor. Second, our clergy need to be trained more in typical placements than they have been. Going to GTS and doing some field work at Heavenly Rest does not really prepare someone for going back to a congregation of 75 in Montana.

I am not sure what a new system of theological education would look like, but I think that the mission of the church would be better served by moving away from quasi-monastic environments and bringing both theology and pastoral training into the real life parishes.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

You are, of course, correct, John. The deans of the Episcopal Seminaries are now meeting regularly to address these very issues. In the meantime (and, these times are very mean), let's support our seminarians in the educational process we're now in.

Lindy said...

I am just not willing to pay for the kind of clergy I've been getting.

Let's let people contribute to the expenses of the priests who they feel merit a little help. I am all for that. I've even done that and would do it again.

But, I wouldn't want to contribute to some yokel going down to the ETSS to get ordained so that they can spend the rest of their lives oppressing the laity and making sure that theological education never, ever, in a million years reaches the parish. Just not willing to pay for that.

Those of you who are good and competent and hardworking priests really should do something about the rest of them. Let's see some kind of accountability... I mean, geez... priest is about the only job I can think of that doesn't require regular relicensing or at least some minimal demonstration of competency once in awhile. There's just got to be a way to get rid or the rif-raff in the clerical order. And I think you have to do that first because people are not willing to pony up for more of same.

John Bassett said...

Wow, Lindy! And I thought I was anti-clerical!

I agree. There are a lot of losers in Holy Orders, and it would be nice of they could just go somewhere else. In the 19th century, we sent them to Africa and Asia. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but now I am not so sure.... At least the Episcopal Church, unlike the Roman Catholic Church, does not promise a job to these people - for life. It could be worse.

We need to think of why these folks are at seminary. I believe that most people go to "into the Church" because they want to go into their faith. Most parishes offer very few options for people to seriously look at the foundations of their faith and to seriously consider what that means for their lives. So when someone feels a hunger to do this, just about the only way to do it seems to be to go off to seminary.

So what happens next? The candidate announces that he or she has a "vocation" and then marches off to meet the Commission on Ministry. What do they say? "No, we've consulted the Urim and the Thummin and, no, you don't." Unless they have evidence that the individual is a pedophile, at best they send the person away for a couple of years or so unlike like the importunate widow they just get their way.

I am convinced that if we could provide people with real theological education and real opportunities for ministry in the parish then we would not only have fewer people wanting to go to seminary, but the discernment process could focus on whether or not the person can actually do pastoral care. Plus, if they could complete most of the coursework they need while still working in the regular jobs, we could reduce the time away to perhaps one year and cut the debt by about two thirds.

Frair John said...

When I was in seminary one of the things I n oticed was a reticence on the part of many of my classmates to want to study in many classes since "we're never going to use this (stuff) anyway. Laity don't care about this. Let's br REAL!"
At taht point I thought about just how silly we all can be. The laity want theology in sermons and crave real thrological education. Most of them have been TOLD that they don't care aboutt heology by well meaning clergy and so think that they don't care, but in reality they want to connect.
The simple fact that the majority of our adaults get most, if not all, of their christian formation right after the Gospel and before the Creed on Sundays is not only testement to the lack of opportunities, but also makes the state of much Anglican preaching here in the USA a scandel.
I think Seminaries are good ideas, the thought that we'd get better Priests in "real life" situations would just be a perpetuation of the current mess we have. What we need to do, however, is try and get our Seminaries to take their jobs as training Pastoral theologians more seriously.