Written by Bennett Guess
UCC-related Deaconess Foundation in St. Louis has approved a gift to Eden Theological Seminary, a UCC seminary, that could total more than $18 million.
The gift is the largest ever received by the Missouri seminary and among the largest grants ever awarded by a foundation to a seminary in the United States, according to a joint press release.
The money will be used to strengthen the school’s long-term financial viability and includes $4.5 million to be disbursed over the next three years to provide additional operating revenue and assist Eden in the repayment of outstanding debt.
Contingent upon Eden’s ability to make financial strides during the initial three-year period, the foundation will provide up to $13.6 million in additional support, which will be used, in part, to retire all outstanding debt.
The Deaconess Foundation was created in 1997 from proceeds of the sale of the UCC’s DeaconessHospital in St. Louis and focuses its support on organizations associated with the church and those helping to preserve and improve the health of children in stressed neighborhoods.
"Deaconess and Eden are both United Church of Christ institutions that are located in St. Louis, and we've been closely related throughout our histories," said the Rev. Jerry W. Paul, president and chief executive officer of the Deaconess Foundation. "We approached the seminary with this offer because we recognize that Eden plays a vital role in our church, and in sustaining the liberal theological tradition that is so important to mainline Protestantism."
The Rev. David M. Greenhaw, Eden’s president, said the gift is a wonderful development for the school, but also for the communities it serves.
"Deaconess' support will enable us to concentrate on what matters most – providing our students with an exceptional seminary education so that they become the finest pastors and community leaders they're capable of being," Greenhaw said.
"Eden's operations will continue to rely on the critical support of alumni and other donors, but thanks to Deaconess' generosity we will be spared much of the severe financial pressure that's common to seminaries in today's world," Greenhaw said. "The simple fact is that it costs considerably more to provide a theological education than can be charged in the form of tuition. Like almost all seminaries, Eden has been caught between rising costs and our desire to provide quality instruction."
Located on a 22-acre campus in suburban St. LouisCounty, Eden Theological Seminary has 12 faculty and provides lay and pastoral graduate instruction to more than 200 students serving over 18 denominations.
To date, Deaconess Foundation, a member of the UCC’s Council for Health and Human Service Ministries, has provided $31 million in grants to more than 200 organizations.