GS 2010 art 91

GS 2010 Article 91 – Overture of Regional Synod East re: Needy Students Fund

1.         Material

Overture from Regional Synod East 2009 dealing with the funding of needy theological students (8.4.b).

2.         Observations

  • 2.1       Regional Synod East 2009, having adopted with amendments an overture from Classis Ontario West, overtures Synod BurlingtonEbenezer 2010 to: “To establish a Synod-appointed church for funding of theological students, ad CO Article 20.”
  • Ground: Current funds/committees have several inherent deficiencies:
    • [1.] Students have been getting a new home church by moving to a University close to the Theological College in preparation for entry into Theological College. The classis of the new home church now becomes responsible for funding.
    • [2.]           More students are married and have families than in the past making it more costly for the supporting Classis.
    • [3.]           Regions blessed with many needy students pay the full cost (Press Release Classis MB, Sept. 12/08). Regions with no needy students have equal access to calling these students to become their Minister of the Word once they become available for call, even though they have not contributed financially.
    • [4.]       Students are treated differently financially depending on which Classis they come from as some Classes are more generous than others. Occasionally deacons have had to step in to cover the difference.
    • [5.]          Some Classes administer their fund better than others. Those that are administered poorly take a long time to send their students the necessary funds. Deacons have had to step in to help out in the interim.
    • [6.]          Depending on where students are from, they often arrive in Hamilton without a real sense of the cost of living there. Because they are hesitant to ask for money, they under-estimate how much they need to live in Hamilton. As a result, they often spend their first year living in some financial difficulty.
  • To deal with these deficiencies, Classis Ontario West proposes to establish a Synod-appointed church under the following rubric:
    • [1.]          For the sake of transparency, theological students in need shall submit a budget to the council which submitted the attestation to the Theological College. Responsibility for the short-fall rests first of all with that local church. Further needs shall be directed to the Synod-appointed church via that local church.
    • [2.]          Synod would appoint a church in the vicinity of the Theological College as Deputy Church for Students for the Ministry. The Deputy Church will adjust financial support if necessary.
    • [3.]          The Deputy Church would report to each church of the federation once per year and assess each church as per number of communicant members in the current Yearbook.
    • [4.]          The Deputy Church will report to each General Synod on its activities with regards to theological students.
  • 2.2       In describing the history of how needy students have been assisted in our federation, the overture points out that in the early years (1950s) there was only one fund among all the churches. Later, as the federation grew, for various practical reasons the one fund was “divided in a Western Canada and Eastern Canada Regional Fund each with their own treasurer and Deputy Church.”
  • 2.3       The overture also states that “Besides the student or student’s family no one should know better than the church they attend as to the  student’s financial needs. The student can present his financial income and needs to his Council and Council can approve/ recommend an income supplement from the Needy Student Fund.”
  • 2.4 Regional Synod East adopted the overture of Classis Ontario West, “in principle, subjectto the following amendment and recommendations:
    • a. Amendment
      • The overture of Regional Synod East is “To request Synod to appoint a church or committee for the funding of theological students, ad CO Article 20.”
    • b. Recommendations:
      • [1.]          Synod give full and equal consideration to the appointment of either a church or committee, and in case of the appointment of a church, to consider whether such a church needs to be in the vicinity of the Theological College.
      • [2.]          Recognizing the importance of the ongoing place and role of the local church, that is, the church which issued the attestation to the Theological College, that Synod establish a mandate for a synodically appointed church or committee by which local churches would interact with and communicate with such church or committee, as the case may be; and
      • [3.]          Synod allow for the appointed church or committee, as the case may be, to assess the churches in the federation as reasonably required.”
  • 2.5       Synod Smithers appointed a committee (Acts, Article 78, Recommendation 4.11.1) with a mandate to look after the funding of the Pastoral Training Program (PTP). This committee was actually the church at Guelph (Acts, Article 159) which in turn appointed a committee to do this work under the supervision of the consistory (Report from the Pastoral Training Program Funding Committee to Synod Burlington, p. 273).

3.         Considerations

  • 3.1       Article 20 of the Church Order states, “The churches shall endeavour that there be students of theology, extending financial aid to those who are in need of it.” It would be beneficial for each local church to nurture and generally support suitable students of theology in their midst. Presently, the financial aspect of that support is handled collectively by the churches in each classis. However, the Church Order does not specify any particular method of financial support and therefore different options are possible.
  • 3.2       It is a fact that certain classes deal regularly with requests for needy students and other classes only rarely. While it is an honour to support those who aspire to be labourers in the Lord’s harvest, it is financially inequitable when some churches pay significantly more for a benefit which accrues to all the churches in common. Appointing a committee to set up a fund administered on behalf of and supported by all the churches in the federation would eliminate this inequity.
  • 3.3         With so many different classes existing across the federation of churches it is inevitable that the various classical funds for assisting needy students of theology will be administered in different ways. Such a situation is quite vulnerable to give rise to the inequitable treatment of students. Appointing one committee to deal with all such students throughout the federation would help avoid this.
  • 3.4       When students of theology encounter a financial need, it is highly desirable to address that need in an efficient and timely manner. Having a student interact with a committee that is in close proximity to the Theological College would allow for this to occur more easily.
  • 3.5       A committee in close proximity to the College would better be able to identify the living expenses for students of theology who are enrolled there and consequently live in that area, than a committee based further away.
  • 3.6       A fund established by and supported by all the churches to assist needy students of theology would be the manner in which each local congregation addresses such needs. Therefore it is inconsistent to, as Classis Ontario West proposes, insist that the “responsibility for short-fall rests first of all with that local church.” Each local church would be contributing to one central fund. Therefore all requests for help on the part of eligible students should, from the start, be directed to a synod-appointed committee. The Committee would be free to contact the home church of the student should it desire verification or further information. The historical origins of the Canadian Reformed Churches demonstrates that there is precedent for establishing one general fund among all the churches. After a time when this task was divided among the churches according to classical districts, it appears to be wise to return to the original model for all the reasons listed above.
  • 3.7       On the model of the PTP, which appears to be working well, it would be best to appoint a local church in the area of Theological College to serve as this Committee for Needy Students of Theology. This church would then be free, at its discretion, to appoint a committee (which would be under the supervision of the consistory with the deacons) to administer this fund.

4.         Recommendation

That Synod decide to appoint a church in proximity to the Theological College as Committee for Needy Students of Theology to look after extending financial aid to those students of theology who are in need of it.

To mandate this church:

  • 4.1       To advise each classis in the federation of its existence and synodical mandate and to seek their cooperation in setting up and maintaining one general fund.
  • 4.2       To request each classis to share with the Committee the mandate they as classis currently have for their fund for needy students of theology.
  • 4.3       To solicit additional input from each classis toward the particulars of their Committee’s own internal guidelines and then to develop such guidelines for the support of theological students in need.
  • 4.4       To request each classis to consider sending their existing funds (currently set aside for needy students) to the Committee to be pooled together into one general fund.
  • 4.5       To assess the churches annually as per number of communicant members in the current Yearbook based on the anticipated funding required for the year ahead.
  • 4.6       To report annually to each church of the federation on its activities and to report triennially to each general synod on the same.

A motion to delete the line “Such a situation is quite vulnerable to give rise to the inequitable treatment of students” in section 3.3 was defeated.

The proposal as a whole was then