The Stegall Seminary Scholarship Endowment Foundation is excited to announce a new chapter in its support of seminary students from the Alabama - West Florida Conference. Full-time, licensed local pastors who attend Advanced Course of Study on seminary campuses for one month in the summer will now receive a minimum $1,000 annual scholarship. There are over 70 full-time local pastors presently serving churches in the Alabama - West Florida (AWF) Conference, many of whom may be eligible for the scholarship. The inclusion of these full-time local pastors among the foundation’s scholarship recipients is one way the board of directors hopes to encourage those seeking to serve the church. “The Stegall Foundation is so appreciative of our dedicated donors,” says Dr. Paulette Thompson, foundation board member and scholarship committee chair. “It is because of their faithfulness that we are now able to support this group of clergy as they pursue their studies and live out their calling.” The 2016 Book of Discipline established provisions whereby full-time local pastors who complete courses on a seminary campus for one month during the summer may be included in a process that leads toward ordination as an elder. All choosing this path are required to have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and complete the Advanced Course of Study (ACOS). ACOS includes 32 seminary hours of specific graduate courses taught on campus at United Methodist-approved seminaries. Expenses for these full-time pastors include tuition, fees, books, travel, meals and housing. “Some of the most effective pastors within the AWF Conference throughout the years have been our full-time local pastors,” said Dr. Karl K. Stegall, foundation volunteer president. “As a matter of fact, the AWF Conference, as we know it today, would not exist without the deep commitment of so many wonderful full-time local pastors.” Yet, for many of these pastors, the opportunity to complete their theological education in the traditional on-campus seminary setting is not a possibility. In 2017, 11 full-time local pastors from the AWF Conference took courses at either Candler School of Theology or Duke Divinity School, and a comparable number will be taking courses on campuses this summer. One of those pastors is Chip Oakley, a full-time licensed local pastor currently appointed to and faithfully serving both St. Paul United Methodist Church in Hartford, Ala., and Westside United Methodist Church in Geneva, Ala. Oakley, who will attend summer courses on the Candler campus, is furthering his theological education because he feels that “unless I continue to grow as a pastor, it will be impossible for me to lead any church I serve into growth - spiritual or otherwise; these courses are fundamental to my ministry.” When Oakley decided to answer the call to ministry, he felt drawn to the United Methodist Church, but initially felt the church’s requirement for formal theological education was a barrier, both in terms of time and finances. He then discovered the Course of Study option for pastors, allowing him to “defer much of the financial strife.” Oakley says that the new scholarship he receives from the Stegall Foundation is “like manna from heaven!” “This scholarship makes the financial burden surrounding the pursuit of theological education much lighter,” says Oakley, who was spending a significant portion of his annual income attending the summer courses. “The Stegall Foundation assistance is a dream come true; the fact that others are willing to invest in me in such a meaningful way challenges me to also invest in myself.” With some of the financial burden lifted, Oakley is now able to continue his educational pursuits by attending seminars that develop leadership skills that assist him in his pastoral duties. “The scholarship is a tangible sign that I am valued as a developing pastor, and I hope each donor knows how much his or her gifts are appreciated” he says. “I feel very, very good about expanding our scholarship assistance to these course of study students,” said Dr. Stegall. “These pastors are already actively engaged as leaders within our local churches and we want them to know that they have our full support.”