ATLANTA — The Fund for Theological Education (FTE) has announced that it will provide $1.5 million for the 2010-2011 academic year to theological students across the U.S. and Canada who aspire to be pastoral leaders and professors.  

The FTE Fellowships support talented students who are preparing for pastoral ministry and doctoral students from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups who plan to teach religion, theology or biblical studies.

“Despite economic uncertainty and the multiple challenges of pursuing a theological education, we hear from hundreds of gifted young people who long to pursue the call to ministry and teaching,” said FTE President Trace Haythorn. “They need and deserve our support. And at this pivotal moment of change within and among all Christian denominations, the church needs the intellect and passion they offer to sustain quality leadership across generations.”    

FTE Ministry Fellowships are available for undergraduates who are exploring ministry, students with congregational support who are entering Master of Divinity (M.Div.) programs at accredited theological schools, recent participants in faith-based volunteer service organizations who are enrolling in M. Div. programs, and second-year seminary students who demonstrate exceptional gifts for pastoral leadership.

FTE Doctoral Fellowships provide financial stipends and networking support to African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic and Native American students who demonstrate high academic performance, gifts for leadership and a commitment to teach in North American theological schools.   

Eligibility requirements, nomination materials and applications are available at the Fund for Theological Education's Web site.

Enrollment in M.Div. programs that prepare students for professional ministry have been flat or declining over the past two years and interest in congregational ministry among current seminary students has also diminished, statistics show.

In addition, one-third of North American theological schools do not have a scholar of color on their faculties, even as they serve increasingly diverse students and communities.

“As a nonprofit, ecumenical advocate for excellence and diversity in pastoral ministry and theological scholarship,” Haythorn said, “FTE seeks to reverse these trends by supporting qualified candidates for both professions.”

Information for this story furnished by Lelia King of the Fund for Theological Education.