Scholarships help future ELCA leaders say "yes" to the call for ministry

10/9/2013 12:00:00 AM

     ITASCA, Ill. (ELCA) -- As part of its commitment to supporting
seminary students preparing for ministry, the Evangelical Lutheran Church
in America (ELCA) -- through ELCA Fund for Leaders -- has awarded
scholarships to 21 students attending the eight ELCA seminaries for the
2013-2014 academic year.
     “What this means is that we are helping our future leaders start
their ministerial careers with healthier financial realities that allow
for creativity, generosity and spirit-led discernment,” said Rachel Wind,
director for ELCA Fund for Leaders -- an ELCA initiative to build an
endowed scholarship resource to provide tuition assistance for qualified
candidates studying at ELCA seminaries.
     Wind made her comments at an Oct. 4 banquet to honor 16 first-year
seminarians who received full-tuition scholarships through ELCA Fund for
Leaders, and five seminarians who received mission developer scholarships
through the Mission Investment Fund, the ELCA’s financial ministry.
     “It always is an amazing evening,” said ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark
S. Hanson of the annual banquet attended by the ELCA Conference of
Bishops, synod vice presidents, seminary presidents, churchwide
ministries’ leaders, donors and supporters. The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton,
who was installed Oct. 5 as ELCA presiding bishop, also attended the
banquet. She assumes the post Nov. 1.
     Hanson reflected on Luke 10, when Jesus sent out his disciples. “And
tonight we have 21 who said, ‘OK,’” he said.
     Students receiving full-tuition scholarships are:
+ Kelsey Fitting, Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg,
Gettysburg, Pa.
+ Kathryn Jacob, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago
+ Joshua Kestner, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn.
+ William Layton, Wartburg Theological Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa
+ Michael Lengel, Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg
+ Chelsea Marsh, Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, Columbia, S.C.
+ Alyssa Mazzei, Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary
+ Jennifer Michael, Wartburg Theological Seminary
+ Trena Montgomery, The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia
+ Jessica Obrecht, Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, Ohio
+ Julie Patten, Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, Berkeley, Calif.
+ Joel Rothe, Trinity Lutheran Seminary
+ Erika Spaet, Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary
+ Elise Tweten, Luther Seminary
+ Rebecca Wicker, The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia
+ Matthew Zemanick, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago
     Students receiving mission developer scholarships are:
+ Erin Armstrong, Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary
+ Nathaniel Bothwell, Wartburg Theological Seminary
+ Mytch Dorvilier, Wartburg Theological Seminary
+ Raymond Kolison, The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia
+ Dan Nelson, Luther Seminary
     ELCA Fund for Leaders continues to grow with new scholarships being
created every year, said Christina Jackson-Skelton, executive director
for Mission Advancement, ELCA churchwide ministries.
     Among donors present at the banquet, Jackson-Skelton thanked Omer G.
Voss Jr., Kenneth and Sandra Falkinham, and Jonathan Strandjord,
who “have given generously of your treasure and are responsible for the
strong foundation this fund is built upon.”
     She also recognized David and Barbara Swartling, who have
established a scholarship fund to support qualified female candidates
from ELCA Regions 1 or 2. Swartling has served as ELCA secretary for the
past six years.
     Jackson-Skelton also acknowledged two new synodical endowments
created since 2012 at the ELCA Northeastern Pennsylvania Synod and ELCA
Virginia Synod. “Thank you for creating an environment in your synods
that is conducive to gifts like these,” she said. “Your partnership in
lifting up the ELCA Fund for Leaders makes all the difference.”
     This academic year, the ELCA Fund for Leaders as a whole will
support 224 students studying at all eight ELCA seminaries, distributing
around $1.4 million. Some 107 students are receiving full, half or
partial tuition scholarships from the general ELCA Fund for Leaders, and
122 students are receiving scholarships of varying amounts from 41 ELCA
synod partners.
     In 2012, seminarians who received ELCA Fund for Leaders scholarships
totaling $20,000 or more carried a median educational debt of around
$17,000 at graduation, compared to $34,500 for those not receiving ELCA
Fund for Leaders scholarships.
      ELCA Fund for Leaders began in 2000 with the intention of helping
to support seminary students complete their studies without taking on a
sizeable debt load that has become the norm.
     “This debt was disturbing because the average salary of a pastor was
nowhere near the amount necessary to responsibly pay off these debts
while maintaining healthy financial well-being,” Wind said.
     The long-term goal of the endowed fund is to one day support every
qualified candidate attending an ELCA seminary.
     “With these scholarships this church is making a commitment to you,
saying that we believe you will do great things in your lives of
ministry, and we are excited to watch how the spirit moves in your
vocations,” Wind said.
     “You are the visionaries, poised to make the vision of Christ’s
abiding love plain for the world,” she said. “We can hardly wait to see
what the future holds.”
     Information about the ELCA Fund for Leaders is available at
About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:

The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United
States, with about 4 million members in nearly 10,000 congregations cross
the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of “God's
work. Our hands,” the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through
faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world.
The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer,
Martin Luther.

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