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Uniform bible lessons
That's more than a coincidence: it's called the "uniform principle." Common bible lessons have been prepared by the National Council of Churches' Committee on the Uniform Series for 140 years next month.
"It's the ultimate form of ecumenical cooperation," said the Rev. Dr. Roderick Lewis, General Secretary of the General Department of Publications of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, who presided over an anniversary celebration of the curriculum series last week in San Antonio, Tex.
"Many decades ago, Christian educators and publishers saw the wisdom or working together on common lessons and themes," Dr. Lewis said. "Imagine the power of tens of thousands of Christians reading the same passages, focusing on the same messages, and expressing the same witness in all parts of the nation and the world."
The Uniform Series Committee is lodged in the NCC's Education and Leadership Ministries Commission (ELMC). Dr. Daryl Ingram, Executive Director of the Christian Education Department of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, is chair of the Commission. Brenda Tribett is the program specialist who provides staff coordination for the uniform series.
The objectives of the series have always been to provide a plan for studying the Bible which will help growing persons, increasingly, to know its content and to understand its message in the light of their own experiences and relationships; and to become a medium for achieving the objective of Christian education.
Clare J. Chapman, Interim General Secretary of the National Council of Churches, said the celebration during the meeting of the NCC's Education and Leadership Ministries Commission "was a wonderful event, an important commemoration."
In remarks during the anniversary
dinner, Chapman said the Uniform Lessons have been so successful over the
tempting to think
But that was not the case, Chapman noted. "In the early days of our republic there were few Sunday schools, and the ones that existed often found themselves under siege."
Chapman cited anecdotes recorded in a sprightly history, Our Heritage in the Uniform Series.
took nearly a hundred more years before Sunday schools became an integral
part of the
The idea was not immediately
embraced, but in a
convention of the Sunday School Union in
Chapman quoted from the 1872 minutes: " "
Chapman quoted from the 1872 minutes: "A quiver of eager desire seemed to thrill the whole body … There was scarcely a corporal’s guard of opponents to the measure. Although in the morning when the question was broached, repeated cries of ‘question’ were made, the council of caution prevailed, and the measure was not rushed through in hot haste, but left for the afternoon session. The ardor of its advocates had not at all cooled by the delay, the final vote being almost unanimous, and its announcement being greeted by the convention rising to their feet and singing the long meter doxology.
"No one writes minutes like this any more," Chapman said, smiling.
Virtually every communion that participates in the series has a hero or anecdote to illustrate the importance of a common approach to Christian education. Presbyterian Lyman Beecher, father of Harriet Beecher Stowe and Henry Ward Beecher (among other famous Beechers of the 19th century) also sired the Sunday school movement in the U.S.
Scores of political leaders and social activists testified their moral judgments were honed in Sunday school, including Baptist Helen Barrett Montgomery, an early champion of universal suffrage who wrote her own translation of the New Testament, Martin Luther King, Jr., and a virtual Olympiad of founders of the National Council of Churches: Dulles, Taft, Stassen, Dahlberg, Wedel and many more.
Twenty-two denominations and their representative staff form the Uniform Series committee which meets annually. They are working on outlines that will build that six-year cycle around several biblically rooted themes. Efforts are underway to adapt the outlines to a more Afri-centric approach for use in African American congregations.
Since 1872, Protestants of many traditions have worked together to create outlines for church school curriculum based on "the uniform principle. This ideal has motivated what is surely the most ecumenically and racially diverse group related to the NCC to work together faithfully on producing the most widely used approach to Bible study in the Protestant churches.
"When the Sunday School Union finally voted to create the series in 1972," Clare Chapman said, "the delegates rose to their feet in a spontaneous rendition of the Doxology. One hundred and forty years later, the chorus of celebration is still important. Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow.
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