A $1 million challenge grant -- the Oklahoma United Methodist Pastor Education Fund — was announced by Bill Junk, president of the Oklahoma United Methodist Foundation.
Mr. and Mrs. Paul Milburn of Shawnee will give $1 million to create an endowment for pastoral education in Oklahoma if other donors collectively match that amount.
"We’ve been seeing our seminary students graduate with $50,000-plus in debt," Junk said.
"That becomes a burden on the backs of these young people who want to serve Christ that many will never shake. This endowment is intended to recruit quality clergy, help them get through seminary without a debt load."
In exchange for funding in an academic year, a scholarship recipient will covenant to minister in the Oklahoma Area for two years
Delegates received commitment cards to return to the Foundation.
Bob Long echoed the president’s call. "Paul and Ann Milburn are such a blessing to Oklahoma United Methodists. We have to show them we want this to happen. Every church can do something if we are really serious about the future; I hope every pastor will choose to do something. Together we really can make a difference."
Rev. Long said financial help he received in seminary changed his ministry. He chairs the Foundation Board of Trustees.
During one-day seminars in districts in the fall, the Foundation will introduce ARISE!, a 12-month visioning process for churches.
From the Foundation’s 2012 report:
$51 million in gifts received.
A partnership with OCU, to manage the its endowment funds, about $40 million.
Annual return of 12.5 percent for the Foundation’s Endowment Investment Fund.
As of Dec. 31, 2012, total assets of about $225 million.