From the Worldwide Faith News archives


Date 05 May 1996 12:56:55


                     CONSIDER FUTURE PROJECTS 
                     by Jerry L. Van Marter  
                         and Linda Green 
                  United Methodist News Service 
NASHVILLE, Tenn.--For the first time in almost 36 years, curriculum 
developers from 25 Protestant denominations met here March 31-April 3 to 
consider Christian education and curriculum resources for the future. 
     Thirty Presbyterians, including staff members and elected persons, 
participated in the conversations.  Donna Blackstock, coordinator for 
resource development in the Christian Education Program Area of the 
Congregational Ministries Division, said "nothing definitive" emerged from 
the talks. 
     "Several projects were discussed but no commitments were made on 
anybody's part," Blackstock told the Presbyterian News Service after the 
     According to the Rev. Sidney Fowler, chair of the consultation and 
director of Homeland Ministries for the United Church of Christ, the last 
time denominational representatives gathered to discuss the theory of 
curriculum development was in 1960. 
     When the Joint Educational Development (JED) committee dissolved in 
1993, it set aside money for a 1995 consultation "to envision educational 
ministry in congregations."   
     "Bible Discovery," newly revised and widely used in Presbyterian 
churches, was a JED product. The current cycle of "Bible Discovery" and 
another Presbyterian curriculum, "Celebrate," are scheduled to run through 
the end of the century.  Neither is planned for production beyond the year 
2000, Blackstock said. 
     The Nashville consultation attracted 177 participants, including staff 
from denominational educational and publishing organizations, local church 
leaders, seminary teachers and curriculum-related business professionals. 
Representatives from the Consultation on Church Union (COCU), the National 
Council of Churches and the American Jewish Committee were also present. 
     Participants agreed that curriculum of the future must relate to 
societal issues; be inclusive in language, gender and imagery; incorporate 
technology; and not reflect the dominant culture exclusively. 
     In what format curriculum should be produced generated spirited 
conversation.  According to Gary Rowe of Turner Educational Services in 
Atlanta, today's era of CD-ROM, cable television and "information served at 
the speed of light" has "altered the role of books and publishing." 
     Calling books "slow and based on the opinions of individuals," Rowe 
added, "Children today are living in an age where technology is a 
background of life ... and if we assume that teaching for this generation 
can be the same as it was for us, the churches will be empty." 
     According to the Rev. Carol Lakey Hess, a professor at Princeton 
Theological Seminary, the task for Christian educators and curriculum 
writers is to remember and recover faith stories, to open people to God and 
empower people for justice. 
     "The curriculum of the church ought to be grounded in and ought to 
point us to our fundamental connection to God," she explained.  "We need to 
develop curriculum to assist in forming faith identity." 
     While agreeing that faith identity is important, Daniel Aleshire, 
associate director of the Association of Theological Schools in the United 
States and Canada, said, "I do not know if we need new kinds of information 
or if we need a new kind of commitment.  Our problem is the failure to do 
the things we already know how to do." 
     Blackstock said the lack of specific results out of the conference "is 
not disconcerting yet, but clearly ecumenical arenas for curriculum 
development are unsettled right now." 
                                 # # # 

For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
  Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
  phone 502-569-5504            fax 502-569-8073  
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