The PCA's Unity Fund & MDiv Programs at Reformed Seminaries

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B.L.

Puritan Board Sophomore
Evening Friends,

At some point in the past I must have subscribed to byFaith, the PCA's online magazine, and on occasion I'll read what's going on in that denomination. The featured article this week is titled "From former prisoners to Ivy League grads, PCA’s Unity Fund casts a wide net", which piqued my interest so I gave it a read.

If unfamiliar with the PCA's Unity Fund here is some additional info from the website:

The 43rd General Assembly considered a personal resolution on racial reconciliation. Presbyteries responded to this appeal “to prayerfully consider any and all sins of racial prejudice” by submitting overtures on racial reconciliation that called us to individual and corporate repentance.
Repentance is an essential first step of racial reconciliation, but not the only one. So, the 44th General Assembly created The PCA Unity Fund. One of the objectives of The PCA Unity Fund is to provide seminary tuition subsidies to ethnic minority men called to gospel ministry in the PCA; and to ethnic minority men and women who are pursuing other ministry roles in a PCA church.


As I read the article I was a bit surprised by the profile of one of the scholarship recipients who is a woman serving as a youth ministry intern at her PCA church who was awarded money from the PCA Unity Fund to pursue a MDiv at Reformed Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.

I had to wonder...under what sort of rationale would the PCA, as a denomination, provide financial assistance to a woman who is pursuing a degree reserved for men who are seeking to enter into the gospel ministry? I remember being surprised to learn Westminster Theological Seminary (WTS) allows ladies to enroll in their MDiv program...and now learned Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS) does as well. If you're not eligible for ordination why would you pursue and be accepted into a MDiv program? Why would the PCA subsidize the tuition for a woman to pursue a MDiv?...am I missing something here?

At any rate...I was curious what my PCA brothers and sisters thought about this fund and more generally whether folks here think those who are ineligible for pastoral ministry should be admitted into the MDiv programs of schools like WTS and RTS.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
I'm not PCA, but here are some items to consider.
1) Neither of those two schools mentioned are denominational institutions. Therefore, not all the considerations of admission are bound to be set by the ordination standards of some denomination or other.

2) It could be the case that the "MDiv" degree is no longer regarded as a purely vocational (or "professional") certificate, but as a broadly applicable degree preparatory to various disciplines. I'm not terribly pleased with this concept, any more than I am about the slaughter of the term "marriage." If marriage is redefined to include lots of things that are excluded by the original meaning, what new term is there describing just those things that the term "marriage" once did? The same problem of meaning is created by watering down "MDiv" into a word that no longer defines the vocational certification for the pastoral office (as Scripture defines and limits it).

3) The PCA's own seminary may or may not (you'll need to check) allow women to the MDiv program. The GA's statement on the use of the Fund clearly distinguishes on the basis of the denomination's stance on women's ordination. In order to appear more even-handed in its treatment of men and women, even if CTS does not admit women to the MDiv but admits them to parallel track programs at that institution, the Fund handlers may feel obliged to grant aid to anyone (M/F) taking a comparable course at another acceptable institution--even if the other school has no "parallel" program for women.

This could raise doubts about a denomination as such granting aid to students not attending the denomination's programs, i.e. those with GA oversight. In the haste to avoid (or ameliorate past) unnecessary discrimination, the church could unwittingly or perhaps inevitably facilitate subsidizing considerable hostility to its standards, in the name of increasing accessibility to its resources. There will always be those who abuse the institution and generosity of others, but lowering obstacles to limiting that abuse may not show the overall net gain hoped for.
 

B.L.

Puritan Board Sophomore
These are great points to consider, as I am not PCA either. In response to point 2. and 3. I think you are on to something. I pulled the below off of the Covenant Theological Seminary website. Yes, they do indeed allow and encourage women to pursue a MDiv.

I think "MDiv" has been redefined and broadened considerably, which makes me wonder what the point of having a Master of Arts in Religion (MAR) or Master of Arts in Biblical Studies (MABS) degree program is at WTS, RTS, CTS, etc. anymore, but I digress.


Based on extensive feedback from experienced pastors and church leaders, our MDIV is designed to ground students in the disciplines required for pastoral and other vocational ministry by engaging the whole person through rigorous academics, on-campus community life, and expanded opportunities for real-life mentored ministry experiences alongside seasoned local pastors and ministry leaders.​

....​

THREE MAIN DEGREE TRACKS​
Students may pursue the degree through any of three ministry tracks:​
The Pastoral Ministry Track prepares men for ordained ministry and requires courses in homiletics and other areas of practical theology essential for traditional or nontraditional pastoral ministry.​

The Specialized Ministry Track prepares men and women for work in a variety of settings such as educational ministries, campus ministry, counseling, teaching, research, writing, or post-graduate study. This track prescribes practical theology electives (such as educational ministries, counseling, contemporary culture, and world mission) in place of preaching and one practical theology course.​

Church Planting Track This new track is part of the Seminary’s ongoing commitment to meet the growing need for gifted and trained church planters in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) and other denominations. Students may pursue the Church Planting Track either through on-campus residential study or through the new hybrid MDiv format, using a combination of online and on-campus intensive (week-long or weekend) courses to complete the degree.​
....​
The Women’s Ministry Leadership Award has been established to help launch last-year female MDiv students into ministry with little or no debt. This is a full-tuition scholarship given in the student’s last year of study.​
 
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Grimmson

Puritan Board Sophomore
In following the observed trend, I am also not in the PCA. I have long been critical of observed trends in seminaries and believe that this is part of the liberalization of seminaries that will have a impact towards the church. Some professors and church officers today may think that women should not be called to the pastorate position but once they are given the M.Div that does not mean that such a position will be true tomorrow.

In the last couple of years I been hearing about a call to elect Beth Moore as President of the SBC. This is a concerning call because the President does engage in the function of preaching as part of the office of president historically.

I do not have a problem with the giving of a scholarship for minority men, but I would have some questions in the context of minority women; particularly in an African American context where the majority of church leadership is women in such churches. I would like to know what was the driving force in the GA for the development of the scholarship to include them? Is it political? What is happening in relation to minority men in their church whereby they feel women must be included? Are they trying to mirror something they see in another denomination?

I think Rev. Buchanan connection to the redefinition of marriage is important. And it should be the role of the church to define terms and roles in accordance to scripture and not have that dictated by the large society. As denominational seminaries fall by outside influences so to will these churches influenced by the product of these seminaries. Churches and denominations ought not fund their own undoing, but I know they do not look at it in that way, which is why our brothers in the PCA need to speak out, because we really cannot in their GA.
 
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