A new scholarship for students enrolled in United Methodist seminaries, known as the Excellence in Clergy Leadership Scholarship, has been created to help entering United Methodist clergy avoid excessive educational loan debt, minimize financial stress and build financial acumen. It's funded in part by a grant from the Lilly Endowment.
Wespath Benefits and Investments (formerly the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits), the UMC General Board of Higher Education and Ministry and the National Association of United Methodist Foundations collaborated on a proposal and were awarded a $1 million grant from the Lilly Endowment’s National Initiative to Address Economic Challenges Facing Pastoral Leaders. The proposal included implementing half of the grant as a "loan avoidance" scholarship for United Methodist seminarians pursuing elder or deacon ordination.
In addition to the Lilly grant, the scholarship is funded by matching contributions from GBHEM, the 13 United Methodist seminaries/schools of theology, and participating United Methodist annual conferences or foundations, which include the Western Pennsylvania Conference. The matching contributions offer selected applicants an opportunity to receive scholarship award amounts ranging from $2,500 to $12,500. Seminary students are encouraged to apply for the scholarship even if their annual conference is not participating because other donor funds may be available.
To be eligible for the Excellence in Clergy Leadership Scholarship, applicants must be enrolled full-time as a Master of Divinity student at one of the 13 United Methodist seminaries/schools of theology, and be pursuing certified candidacy or a certified candidate for ministry (elder or deacon) in The United Methodist Church.
“The work we do in the Office of Loans and Scholarships is much more than financial dealings with students. We are committed to providing students with the resources they need to gain an education and become difference makers in our church and in the world,” said Allyson Collinsworth, executive director of the Office of Loans and Scholarships. “With the announcement of this new scholarship, we reaffirm our commitment to educational access and ministry excellence for our future clergy leaders.”