Education Mission

The Educational Mission of the United Church of Christ

To the United Church of Christ 
Educational mission of the United Church of Christ
Toward a vision of education
The settings where learning occurs
Learning throughout life
A call for dialogue

To the United Church of Christ

What is the center of the church's life? What is it that we preach and teach? What is the heart of the gospel?

We preach Christ crucified, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength (from 1 Corinthians 1:23-25). There, in the cross of Christ, God reconciled the world to God's own self. At the darkest moment of human history, light is revealed, lives are transformed and reconciliation takes place.

How does the church preach and teach that today? Allan Boesak, the great Black South African theologian and church leader, has said: "Reconciliation is not feeling good; it is coming to grips with evil. In order to reconcile, Christ had to die. We must not deceive ourselves. Reconciliation does not mean holding hands and singing: 'black and white together.' It means rather, death and suffering, giving up one's life for the sake of the other." (Black and Reformed; Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1984, p. 29).

All is not well with teaching in the church. The message of reconciliation and transformation is not heard, and its implications are not understood. The suffering of human existence remains unrelieved by grace and truth for too many. The church, the churches, including many of the ministers, have lost touch with the language, symbols, and texts of faith. Many persons tell us that they feel illiterate and inarticulate about their faith. It may be more than a failure of educational systems that are admittedly privatized and fragmented. It may also be a failure of the church to be the church—to be Christ made visible and incarnate, to be an agent of reconciliation in the world. But part of that failure lies with the teaching ministries of the church, and God's own people are the ones who have asked for change.

Within the United Church of Christ, the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries, through its Division of Education and Publication, carries responsibility for the church's ministries in education.

In 1985, the Board of Directors of the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries adopted a mission statement, calling for profound and creative reforms in the educational ministries of the church. That expression of vision and intention acknowledges the inadequacy of current educational theory and practice, and of over-reliance on church schools often as the sole provider for education. It recognizes the urgent need of persons, churches, and institutions of the church to rediscover the language of faith and to reclaim its transforming and reconciling power.

In the fall of 1986 the Division of Education and Publication began its assigned task: "to develop an educational concept, a program, and adequate resources" for educational ministries in the United Church of Christ.

The following steps are being taken toward this end:

Studies have been made and discussions held to explore needs and possibilities for education.

The statement Toward a Vision of Education in the United Church of Christ, was developed, widely tested, reviewed, and is printed here for further discussion. That statement affirms assumptions on which a concept, a program, and adequate resources will be developed.

The statement will be discussed in a variety of settings through the spring of 1989, with particular attention to suggested questions for discussion.

In May, 1989, the staff of the Division of Education and Publication will formulate proposals for program and resources for consideration by the Board of Directors of the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries, and subsequently by groups, institutions, and churches throughout the United Church of Christ. The assigned task will be completed in 1989 and plans for implementation begun.

We look to the 1990's as a decade of reform and renewal of the church's educational ministries. In that expectation we offer this document for reflection and discussion. We invite your participation in this process, your response to this paper, and above all your renewed commitment to education that equips the church for ministry.

Ansley Coe Throckmorton, General Secretary Division of Education and Publication, United Church Board for Homeland Ministries, October 1988


The Educational Mission of the United Church of Christ

"THE DIVISION OF EDUCATION AND PUBLICATION is the primary program division responsible for the Board's ministry in education. It is designed to produce a wholistic approach the United Church of Christ's mission in education. The task of the division is to develop an educational concept, a program and adequate resources based upon: (1) an understanding of how the church is empowered to educate persons for Christian life, faith and discipleship amidst the various settings of life, including the church school, other dimensions of congregational life, and higher education; and (2) life span approaches in education that are informed but not limited to knowledge about the human life cycle or by cultural and environmental factors affecting human learning."

From the Mission Statement of the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries

The above mandate for the Division of Education and Publication, as adopted by the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries in 1985, provides both impetus and context for the statement which follows.


Toward a vision of education in the United Church of Christ

The church as the body of Christ is a sign of healing and hope in a broken world. As members of that body we have been entrusted with the message of reconciliation, and made stewards of the mysteries of God. —2 Corinthians 5:19 and 1 Corinthians 4:1

There is great hunger in the human heart and among the peoples of the earth for meaning and purpose for their lives and for liberating truth and power. The church is looked to by many for vision, direction, and courage. People, both within and outside of the church today, long to know the scriptures, to become articulate about faith, and to see more clearly the relationship between the gospel and the realities of the world.

The United Church Board for Homeland Ministries, recognizing the radical and rapid changes occurring in the social and natural order, the absence of vision in society at large, and the too frequent silence of the faithful within the church, calls for renewed commitment to education that will equip the saints for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:12) and will address the urgent need for the transformation of persons and of our common life.

The United Church Board for Homeland Ministries lifts up a vision of education in the United Church of Christ in which everyone is engaged in learning throughout life in a variety of settings.

That vision requires the reclaiming and reforming of the church's educational mission, the minister's historic office as teacher, and the committed partnership of the laity and clergy in the teaching ministries of the church.

We seek to clarify this vision through discussion, reflection, and action involving the whole United Church of Christ, its congregations and parishes, Conferences and Associations, agencies and institutions, ministries and mission.

In doing that, we affirm these fundamental principles:

The mission of the church begins with God who creates, sustains, and redeems the whole world and all life.

Persons of all ages and conditions are nurtured by continual inquiry into Christian faith and experience, as well as by the general search for wisdom, justice, and beauty in human society.

The foundations for the United Church of Christ's educational mission are found in:

   The biblical record of God's covenant with Israel and of the apostolic witness to Jesus Christ;
   The nature, purpose, and faith of the church;
   The informing presence of the Holy Spirit;
   The history and traditions of the United Church of Christ;
   The Christian understanding of human beings and society; and,
   The social and cultural milieu of the world in which we live.

In each new age the church must struggle for educational models and methods that respond to need and lead to change.

God teaches us through unexpected sources. Christians therefore must be continually open to all seekers and servers of truth.

Education in the United Church of Christ is informed and strengthened by racial, ethnic, cultural, and geographic diversity of its members. That diversity reflects the world in which we live.

Education in the United Church of Christ must be rooted in biblical and historic Christian faith, in the call to be disciples of Christ in the world, and in the fresh and transforming revelation of God in our time.

In the light of this vision and these principles, the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries is persuaded that reform and renewal of educational ministries is needed, and that education for Christian life, faith, and discipleship, will emerge from attention to a variety of settings and the life long issues.


The settings where learning occurs

Learning takes place in a variety of settings.

We invite the United Church of Christ to study with fresh energy all the settings where education may address the needs of our time and the hopes and possibilities for the future. We call upon the church to see the promise inherent in the congregation as a school of faith and to maintain and support its vital energies. Other settings may include homes, parishes, and schools, as well as places of work, of natural and artistic beauty, and of communal social action. New times and places, familiar and unfamiliar, can provide unexpected opportunities for teaching and learning the Christian faith.

In extending this invitation, we affirm that:

There are many contexts for the education of the whole person, and varied opportunities for the Spirit of God to move and transform.

Attention to the diversity of educational settings takes seriously the variety of ways by which persons and communities live, teach, and learn.

Urgent and perennial questions about human existence may arise and be addressed in surprising ways and in varied settings.

New configurations of settings for teaching and learning call for creative educational responses.


Learning throughout life

Learning is important throughout the human life.

We invite the United Church of Christ to join us in making fresh assessments of the kinds of education needed to enable persons to live in the love of Christ and to discern the shape of discipleship throughout the changing course of their lives.

In doing this, we affirm that:

The education of followers of Jesus Christ is a process through which lives are empowered to become open to the present and coming dominion of God, sustaining and promoting discipleship and enriching life in all of its personal and social dimensions.

Learning occurs throughout the span of human life as we ask about, and live with, the fundamental questions of existence, both of which open opportunities and occasions for education.

Learning occurs in a variety of ways: in study and reflection, in action and contemplation, in practice and discipline, in worship and sacraments, in prayer and celebration.

All the realities and needs of life are occasions for learning—e.g., dealing with personal and social crises of life; wrestling with issues of ethics; exploring the meaning of Christian vocation; assessing the impact of science, technology, economics, and politics upon individuals and nations; and recognizing and opposing injustice in every form.


A call for dialogue

This emerging vision and continuing reform of educational mission of the United Church of Christ requires the imagination and creativity of all the people of the United Church of Christ and its partners in education. There can be reform if it comes from a shared sense of need and possibility. We therefore call for dialogue as we seek that vision.

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