The Office of Financial Aid for Studies announced today a new program designed to forgive loans made to seminary graduates who are serving in part-time or temporary pastoral positions in Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregations of 150 members or less.
This program was developed by the General Assembly Mission Council to incentivize service to hard-to-call churches, provide relief to pastors burdened with educational debt, and to complement the Board of Pensions' Seminary Debt Assistance program, seeking especially to serve applicants who are not eligible for that program.
“In the changing landscape of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), about half of our over 10,000 PC(USA) congregations have 100 or fewer members,” said the Rev. Dr. Marcia Clark Myers, director of the Office of Vocation, which includes the work of Financial Aid for Studies. “As today’s seminary graduates answer God’s call to serve in small towns, inner city neighborhoods, and a host of diverse settings, a tentmaking ministry may be their model of choice. This new program will provide financial assistance for those who offer themselves for such part-time service, taking bold risks to begin new bridge-building ministries through which they will lead congregations and serve their communities in some other employment.”
Eligible applicants will be graduates of an ATS-accredited seminary with educational debt who are serving a PC(USA) congregation in a part-time or temporary called position. The applicant will be eligible for a $3,000-$5,000 forgivable loan to be applied to their educational debt. The loan will be forgiven upon completion of an 18-month period of service. The loan is renewable with a maximum lifetime benefit of $15,000.
TSL/Loan Forgiveness will provide up to forty (40) $5,000 awards in 2011. Awardees will be selected in late July.
“There are real people in the Presbyterian Church who served as the inspiration for a loan forgiveness program,” said Laura Bryan, associate for Financial Aid for Studies. “Every day I work with people who are committed to calls that don’t come with the benefit of permanent or full-time employment. Every day I am awed by people serving where the need could not have been met without a willingness on the pastor's part to be creative about finding ways to meet his or her obligations. It is that kind of ingenuity and faithfulness that inspires us and that we hope to model through this program.”
Bryan said that although this program is made possible primarily through the use of donor restricted funds, the available funding also comes as a result of “the hundreds of students who benefited from and repaid Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) student and parent loans, making PC(USA) educational loan programs a self-supporting and renewable resource.”
For a complete list of eligibility criteria or to download an application, due June 15, 2011, visit the Financial Aid for Studies website.