The First of the Five "Fundamentals:" The Bible is the Inerrant Word of God!

Column by Bishop John Shelby Spong on 28 March 2007 0 Comments
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I am concerned abut the early faith education of my grandchildren in
Sunday school. What suggestions/books can you give for their learning in
the more progressive stance of the development of faith as most church youth
education is still in the Dark Ages?


You ought to be concerned. Most Church School material is dreadful.
Those that seek to be relevant become vapid and ignore the traditions they
cannot translate. Those that try to teach the historic content of the
Christian story never seem to deal with the critical scholarship of the past
250 years. I suggest that one of the reasons for this is that so few
congregations will take the time or allocate the resources to make an
effective Church School possible.

About 50 years ago, the Episcopal Church tried to do something in this
area. The result was called the Seabury Series. It was anything but a
success as less that 20 per cent of our congregations ever even tried to use
it. It was far too demanding for most churches to embrace with their
volunteer approach.

To do the Seabury Series, churches were told they had to offer the
following supportive structure:

  1. The Sunday morning class time children had to be a minimum of 50

  2. Those teaching must be undergirded with ongoing teacher training
    sessions led by competent and trained professionals.

  3. Family Worship must be part of the total experience. This meant that
    the worship service plus the 50 minute class period would constitute a
    two-hour commitment each Sunday for the whole family.

  4. Ongoing adult education for parents must be part of the total program.
    Adults too must come to grips with the inadequacy of what we call "Sunday
    School education."

If a church wants to be serious about educating their children, these
parts of the educational pattern are still, I believe, essential. I do not
think the Seabury series failed; I think it was never properly implemented.
I also do not think that the church in most places is capable of carrying
out these pre-requisites. I do, however, believe that the people who crafted
this series knew the building blocks necessary to success and that there are
no short cuts to quality Christian education.

If you want to do something about the sad state of American Sunday
Schools, you might begin by trying to get your church to make the commitment
to do what needs to be done. A major starting place would be the adult
class taught by the pastor/priest where he/she might share his/her critical
scholarship learned at the seminary/theological college. If the ordained
person is not willing to educate the adults of the congregation with
anything more than "Sunday School pablum," nothing you do will make much of
a difference.

I hope this is helpful.

John Shelby Spong




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