In the General Assembly Mission Council’s ongoing efforts to cultivate missional and entrepreneurial leadership and to support a movement that starts at least 1,001 new worshiping communities, the Office of Financial Aid for Studies has renamed its existing debt assistance program to more clearly express its purpose to relieve pastoral debt and support church growth.

Transformational Leadership Debt Assistance (TLDA), formerly known as the Theological Student Loan program, opened for application on January 16. Designed to forgive loans to seminary graduates who are serving in temporary and/or part-time pastoral positions in Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregations of 150 members or less or in new, emerging worshiping communities, the program’s goal is to remove financial barriers to their service.

"We are pleased to utilize resources entrusted to us to support risk-taking pastors of small, growing communities of faith to further the mission of Christ," said the Rev. Marcia Clark Myers, director of the Office of Vocation, which includes the work of Financial Aid for Studies.                                                                                                                                    

In addition to incentivizing service to new models of church, TLDA also provides relief to pastors burdened with educational debt and complements the Board of Pension’s Seminary Debt Assistance program, seeking especially to serve applicants who are not eligible for that program.

“Transformational Leadership Debt Assistance is a program for teaching elders called to transform an existing church or plant a new one,” said Laura Bryan, associate for Financial Aid for Studies. “It is designed for pastors with a passion for being church in today’s world, for making disciples, for reaching out to new generations and populations, and for presbyteries that support and affirm such calls.”

Eligible applicants will be graduates of an ATS-accredited seminary with educational debt who are serving a PC(USA) congregation in a part-time or temporary called position. The applicant will be eligible for a $3,000–$5,000 forgivable loan to be applied to their educational debt. The loan will be forgiven upon completion of an 18-month period of service. The loan is renewable with a maximum lifetime benefit of $15,000.

The program will be offered twice in 2012, with open application periods of January–April and June–September. For a complete list of eligibility criteria or to download an application, due April 1, 2012, visit the TLDA website. Awards will be announced by June 15.