Written by Daniel Hazard
So, there you are, minding your own business, just rummaging through your grocer's produce section, when someone recognizes you as a member of "that church" and accosts you for "not believing in the Bible" - whaddaya do?
The Rev. Susan Thistlethwaite, president of UCC-related Chicago Theological Seminary, has a suggestion: You should sign up for her new, six-week online class called "Biblical and Theological Self-Defense for the United Church of Christ."
"I often attend Conference and Association events and, all around the country, I hear people saying that they feel as if they are under attack," she says, "and they feel ill-equipped when someone says 'Why do you go to that gay church?' or claims that the UCC's social and theological positions are 'against the Bible.'"
Thistlethwaite says she's seen the need for a long time, but she only started developing the course in earnest after a colleague alerted her to the availability of online-curriculum software.
The web-based classroom allows for password-protected interchanges between teacher and students; downloadable reading materials; and student- to-student interaction. It's the next-best thing to being there, she says, especially for UCC members eager to muster more courage to stand up for themselves and their church.
The syllabus, she says, will range from the theoretical, including basic introductions to theology, Christology and ethics, to the ultra-practical, such as how best to respond to verbal attacks against your church or your personal beliefs.
"We'll take it on the road and examine some possible scenarios," she says. "We need to help our people come to their own defense. There are many who feel like they don't know how to respond when attacked from a place of biblical literalism."
Beginning the week of March 27, the online not-for-credit course will cost only $45 per person, and congregations can enroll multiple church members for the single $45 audit fee. (Course credit, however, is available for those who desire it, even though full tuition is required and students will need to make arrangements to also attend a five-day, on-campus class, May 15-19.)
Registration is required before March 24 and enrollment will be limited to 100 students. Interested participants can preview the course's first module by emailing email@example.com, and you'll be sent a temporary password and information on how to preview the materials.
"The key to the UCC is laity education," she believes. "Our polity doesn't work if our people don't feel prepared or comfortable defending what they know to be true."
Learn more @
Not-for-credit registration for "Biblical and Theological Self-Defense for the United Church of Christ" is required before March 24 at ctschicago.edu. The cost is $45. Select "webcourse registration" from the blue section of the homepage. To register for academic credit, contact the registrar at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.