By: Von Clemans
Portland, Oregon – As I write this (6/24/16) the 222nd General Assembly of the PC(USA) is nearing its end after a week of orientations, committee meetings, and plenary sessions. Our four partner denominations have similar national gatherings. We all have some forum where issues are discussed and direction is set.
The Presbyterians met in Portland to elect as Stated Clerk (the highest ecclesiastical and constitutional officer), J. Herbert Nelson, the first African-American man to hold this office; commissioned a new group of mission co-workers; adopted the Belhar Confession from South Africa as our 12th confession; created a 2020 Vision Team and established a Way Forward commission to determine new denominational structures and their functions. The assembly of almost 600 commissioners also addressed controversial issues on Israeli-Palestinian relations and fossil fuels divestiture. (See The Presbyterian Outlook GA 222 for more details.)
For educators in the reformed tradition there was one item of particular interest. In all our denominations we have seen tremendous changes in the role of educators and the value of educational ministry. Denominational staff positions in education have been combined, reduced, or eliminated. Congregations struggle with the financial costs of highly trained educators and with how to provide training and support for volunteers in educational ministry. In significant ways, the future of educational ministry is in question – at least in terms of how the Church has done educational ministry in the past.
So the Presbyterians considered these challenges and came up with their response – the formation of a Special Committee to Study the Reformed Perspective of Christian Education in the 21st Century. This committee was charged with a number of tasks:
- Assessing the historical roles of Christian and [in the PC(USA)] certified Christian educators and how that history informs the future.
- Getting a “landscape view” of Christian Education ecumenically across denominations seeking how best to lift up and strengthen educational ministry.
- Investigating how educators, paid and volunteer, can offer themselves to the denomination.
- Studying trends in employment and participation in the pensions program to see if the certification process can be made more accessible.
- Partnering with racial ethnic caucuses and small membership congregations to explore how resources and certification can better reflect the diversity in the church.
- Exploring how best to create awareness of and increase the value of Christian in the ever-evolving reality facing congregations.
While all of our denominational partners will have different formulations of and responses to the challenges facing educational ministry, we can probably agree that the role of educators and Education ministry in congregations is undergoing a stressful transition – stressful for congregations and stressful for educators. What we have known and done in the past is no longer working.
APCE looks forward to being a partner with the leaders of the PC(USA) as they respond to the challenges articulated by their action in Portland. APCE is also committed to working with all its denominational partners to support and enhance educators and educational ministry as we face shared challenges. Among our members we have a lot of creativity, energy, imagination, and love. With God’s grace working in and through us, educational ministry – in whatever ways it evolves – and Christian educators, will continue to make and teach disciples as God forms and reforms God’s church.
Von Clemans, current president of APCE, is a PC(USA) pastor/educator serving in adult educational ministries at Myers Park Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, NC, where he has been for over fifteen years. For over three decades he has helped congregations, educators, and pastors make appropriate use of technology in enhancing their ministry. He is married to Marion, a retired PC(USA) educator. They have two adult children and two grandchildren.