GS 2013 art 90

GS 2013 Article 90 – Committee for Needy Students Fund (CNSF)

Committee 3 presented its second draft. After a minor change, this was the result:

1.         Material:

  • 1.1.      Report from the Committee for Needy Students Fund (8.2.11.a)
  • 1.2.      CNSF Supplementary Report re: audit of its financial statements (8.2.11.b)
  • 1.3.      Letters from the churches at Abbotsford (, London (, Coaldale (, Winnipeg-Grace (, Aldergrove (, Abbotsford (, Burlington-Fellowship (, Carman-West (, Cloverdale (, Burlington-Ebenezer (, Edmonton-Providence (, Fergus-North (, Glanbrook (, Hamilton-Cornerstone (, Hamilton-Providence (, Lincoln (, London (, Smithers (, Smithville (, Spring Creek (, Willoughby Heights (, Winnipeg-Redeemer (, Calgary (, Edmonton-Immanuel (, Owen Sound (, Langley ( and Winnipeg-Redeemer (8.5.10)

2.         Observations:

  • 2.1.      The Committee reports:
    • 2.1.1.   The Council at Grassie appointed a Committee consisting of four members of the congregation and one Council member as liaison to administer the fund.
    • 2.1.2.   The Committee opened an account and by the end of the 2010-2011 academic year, all the classes had transferred their funds to Grassie for the central fund.
    • 2.1.3.   The Committee reports that some of the classes had made commitments to some students and wanted to ensure that those commitments would be honored. The Committee agreed to do that.
    • 2.1.4.   Support Guidelines and a Financial Assistance Application Spreadsheet were developed by the Committee.
    • 2.1.5.   Some of the classical Committees shared their concern with the central Committee that “we would be too lenient in giving out the money since it was funded through a central assessment.” The Committee has put measures in place to ensure that this does not happen.
    • 2.1.6.   The Committee has submitted audited financial statements for the period from October 2010-December 2011.
  • 2.2.      Abbotsford, Hamilton-Providence and Langley suggest that government guidelines for student grants and loans can be used for supporting needy students because they are standardized and consider students in varying circumstances.
  • 2.3.      Abbotsford and Langley suggest that a minister should be appointed to the committee.
  • 2.4.      Burlington-Fellowship, Carman-West, Cloverdale, Edmonton-Providence, Glanbrook, Hamilton-Cornerstone, Hamilton-Providence, Lincoln, London, Smithers, Smithville, Spring Creek, Winnipeg-Grace, Edmonton-Immanuel, Coaldale, Winnipeg-Redeemer and Aldergrove all insist that the fund should not be a ‘loan’ program and so there should be no repayments. Many of them argue that such a repayment program places an undue burden on churches that call candidates especially because they are often smaller churches. Willoughby Heights requests that the requirement to repay loans be justified.
  • 2.5.      Burlington-Fellowship, Smithville and Winnipeg-Redeemer all request that support for needy students become the responsibility of classes again.
  • 2.6.      Cloverdale urges synod to consider the circumstances of those who are assisted by the fund during the course of their study but do not enter the ministry. Fergus-North and Abbotsford suggest that students who do not enter the ministry in the Canadian Reformed Churches or a sister church should be required to repay all moneys.
  • 2.7.      Cloverdale also challenges the proposed recalculation schedule. They ask why someone who receives $1,700 per month would pay back the same amount as someone who receives $3,900 per month. Glanbrook and London both argue that setting a common threshold for repayments is unfair as students may have different needs depending on their family situation.
  • 2.8.      Burlington-Ebenezer asks that the guidelines for repayment be clarified.
  • 2.9.      Edmonton-Providence, Glanbrook, London, Smithers, Smithville, Spring Creek, Calgary, Edmonton-Immanuel and Owen Sound suggest that the requirement to repay student loans may become an obstacle to men desiring to go to seminary.
  • 2.10.    Edmonton-Immanuel requests that churches be assessed every year and that – instead of skipping years – the committee should build a good reserve so that no repayment is necessary.
  • 2.11.    Several churches argue that the existing procedures of holding students accountable are already sufficient and that there is no evidence that this new repayment requirement is necessary for enhancing this sense of accountability.

3.         Considerations:

  • 3.1.      Synod agrees with the committee that good stewardship is important.
  • 3.2.      There is an overwhelming consensus in the churches that a loan program is not the best way to achieve our goal of promoting stewardship. Lincoln captures this concern well when it writes, “[The ministry] is an office, not a job. It is a service, not a career or a profession. We are concerned, most of all, that the rationale put forward by the committee for this requirement reflects a misunderstanding of the uniqueness of the work of the ministry. Theological students are not studying with an eye to financial return on their investment, but are investing their lives in the life and well-being of the churches. Their tuition and other costs should be seen in that light.” The guidelines should be re-written in this spirit.
  • 3.3.      There may be circumstances when a student should be required to make repayment (e.g. withdrawal, dismissal). Since circumstances could vary in such situations, a nuanced approach is necessary which allows the Committee discretion in those cases. Normally, no repayment will be required of anyone who enters the ministry in the Canadian Reformed Churches or a sister church.
  • 3.4.      Three churches have expressed the desire to revert the funding of needy theological students back to classis, while a significant number of other churches have indicated a desire that the system be fine-tuned. Since the centralized fund was only introduced three years ago, it would be premature to discontinue it already.
  • 3.5.      Normally it would be good for the churches to be assessed a moderate amount for budgeting purposes every year rather than widely varying amounts.
  • 3.6.      It could be helpful if the committee would consider the government guidelines for student grants and loans as some of the churches suggest.
  • 3.7.      It is not necessary for a minister to be appointed to the committee, but a minister could serve the committee in an advisory capacity. When the appointed church is vacant, the counsellor could serve in the same way.
  • 3.8.      Synod does not consider it necessary to provide the committee with an outline of what the committee is expected to pay for on an item by item basis. The committee works under the auspices of council and if council is unable to give the necessary assistance, classis can be consulted.

4.         Recommendations:

That Synod decide:

  • 4.1.      To thank the church at Grassie and the committee for its work.
  • 4.2.      To discharge the church at Grassie for the duties completed during the period October 2010 to December 2011.
  • 4.3.      To re-appoint the church at Grassie as the Committee for Needy Students of Theology to look after extending financial aid to those students of theology who are in need of it.
  • 4.4.      To mandate this church:
    • 4.4.1.   To review and modify the current guidelines and procedures in light of the considerations mentioned above, with a special focus on Considerations 3.2 and 3.3 mentioned above.
    • 4.4.2.   To assess the churches annually as per the number of communicant members in the current Yearbook based on the anticipated funding required for the year ahead.
    • 4.4.3.   To report annually to each church of the federation on its activities and to report triennially to each general synod on the same.