Commending Christian Formation Certification Programs
Commending Christian Formation Certification Programs
Christian education as it used to be, organized in Sunday School classrooms and focusing on information transmission, is dead. The heart of Christian education today in The Episcopal Church, as embraced in The Charter for Lifelong Christian Formation, is to prepare one another to transform the world according to God’s vision. As the Church strives to join in God’s mission of transformation and reconciliation, Christians need to be equipped to discern where God is moving and how they should participate. They need to know the practices that will sustain them spiritually as they encounter the deep needs of the world. They need to know how to bring Christian values to critique the values of the secular sphere. They need to experience Christian community that inspires and worships together. They need leaders who will equip them to bring about change. They need assistance in bringing each new generation into the process.
Throughout this triennium numerous congregational and diocesan Christian educators have had positions eliminated due to budget shortfalls. At the same time, membership in the National Association for Episcopal Christian Educators (NAECED) has grown, with an increase in congregations requesting ideas for resources and programming to provide educational ministries for children, youth and adults. People with the skills and talents of Christian education and formation are needed more than ever as the Church learns to exist in the post-Christian culture of North America and beyond. We cannot count on children learning the great stories of our tradition from their parents. We cannot assume that people will come to church and Bible study out of duty. Yet, spiritual hunger is at epidemic proportions. Trained Christian educators continue to be needed to design contexts for learning that address the hunger for meaning. One does not need to be called a “Christian educator” to provide such leadership; volunteers, chaplains, liturgists, spiritual directors, camp directors, retreat leaders, and yes, Sunday School teachers all contribute to the ongoing formation of Christians. What many desire is the opportunity and support to be trained with skills to address the new reality of our world today.
The Standing Commission designated a Certification Working Group to study the availability of continuing education opportunities in our church as well as learn about NAECED’s development of a certification process. Surveys and anecdotal information was collected. Discussions were held with members of the NAECED Board of Directors, as well as members of the Standing Commission on Ministry Development and Standing Commission on Mission and Evangelism. They, too, were seeking to learn what training was being offered across the church for lay and ordained leadership, as well as areas of competencies (Resolution 2009: A019 regarding the identification of best practices for theological education and formation). The Commission expects to continue collaboration with these bodies in the next triennium on competencies across all orders for educational leadership.
Resolution A046 Commend Continued Development of Lifelong Christian Formation
Resolved, the House of __________ concurring, that the 77th General Convention commends the National Association for Episcopal Christian Education Directors (NAECED) for their work in developing and supporting lifelong Christian Formation in The Episcopal Church; and be it further
Resolved, that the 77th General Convention commends the ministry of Christian formation and education leaders in The Episcopal Church for continuing to lift up The Charter for Lifelong Christian Formation adopted at the 76th General Convention and the importance of inviting, inspiring and transforming people in the Christian faith as well as the continued development of training for leaders of the church; and be it further
Resolved, that the 77th General Convention commends to all dioceses and congregations the use of online Christian formation and leadership certifications as well as other forms of continuing education for Christian educators. We commend the work of NAECED in developing the Certificate in Leadership for Lifelong Christian Formation (CLLCF), Virginia Theological Seminary’s Center for the Ministry of Teaching’s programs, the Seminary of the Southwest’s Certificate Program in Christian Education, General Seminary’s Certificate in the Spiritual Guidance of Children and other recognized entities for offering continuing education opportunities and certification for those called to the ministry of Christian formation. We commend the Formation and Vocation Offices of The Episcopal Church to actively collaborate and serve as a resource as needed and appropriate in the development and promotion of these certificate programs.
Christian formation leaders, facilitators and teachers called to this ministry, paid or volunteer, need continuing education and resources to do their ministry. We have been made aware in our research that the use of certification is sought and desired by Christian formation leaders and directors in the various dioceses and congregations. Affirming the variety of resources and centers available and making them known through organizations such as NAECED is good stewardship, allowing congregations and dioceses to collaborate as opposed to working in isolation.
Why such a resolution at this time? We have seen through our research a significant decrease in the number of diocesan and congregational professionals in Christian formation. Volunteer ministers are especially desirous of greater resources for skill development and confidence. The use of technology is so widely used now, it is in the Church’s best interest to have continuing education and resources available on-line as well as in residential or local settings. This resolution does not mandate certification for those called to the ministry of Christian education; it reaffirms those who desire to continue their education and professional development.
In consultation with the Standing Commission on Ministry Development as well as NAECED, we are mindful of the need and desire to have this work incorporate the work of TEAC (Theological Education of the Anglican Communion) on Anglican Theological Competencies: teaching skills, knowledge in scripture, tradition, Anglican identity, personal and spiritual growth and transforming communities and systems. In addition, it is desired that this work for certification and continuing education be consistent with the increasing number of effective models for ministry development being used throughout The Episcopal Church. All models of ministry development need to be validated and supported equally.