Comings and Goings is a blog written by Theology, Formation, and Evangelism Director Charles B. "Chip" Hardwick as he travels throughout the church. God is on the move out and about in the world, working to redeem all things in Jesus Christ. As we join this mission, by the power of the Spirit we see God on the move. This blog contains glimpses of how Chip finds this to be true in his comings and goings.
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The 220th General Assembly (which met in Pittsburgh in 2012) set up a Special Committee to Fund Theological Institutions (SCFTI). I have been pleased to be a part of this work, along with five seminary presidents, my colleague Lee Hinson-Hasty (the coordinator of the Office of Theological Education within the Presbyterian Mission Agency), a couple additional members of the Committee on Theological Education, and a few at-large members. It is a power-packed team! We met last week for the second time, at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, VA.
One reason that the SCFTI was formed was because the current method by which the denomination gives financial support to our seminaries (as a whole) has been decreasing significantly every year. This method, the Theological Education Fund, asks congregations, through their sessions or mission committees, to give money which is then distributed to the seminaries based on a number of factors. The fund peaked at almost $3 million in 2001 but in 2012 only brought in $1.3 million. As a result, each seminary received about 60% less than they did ten years ago.
I worked with some other members of the team and the Mission Agency’s research services to survey churches who have increased their giving over the last five years, and churches who have decreased their giving over the last five years. We expected there to be some significant differences between the two groups, but the survey found that the two groups were very similar to each other. As the head of research services put it, the smoking gun is that there is no smoking gun.
This makes our work as the SCFTI more difficult than it would have been with different results. I continue to wonder what levers we can pull to encourage congregations to support the Theological Education Fund, and, by doing so, supporting the future teaching elders of the PCUSA.
What do you think? What would make you more likely to give to an effort to support all of the PCUSA seminaries? What would make you less likely? Feel free to add a comment to this blog, or to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks in advance for your feedback.