Earlier this year, the International churches of Christ Teachers Service Team met and created a mission statement while discussing other relevant plans. This article is the minutes from their meeting which took place March 19-22, 2012 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Teachers Service Team Report
Minutes From the Teachers Service Team Meeting
March 19-22, 2012
Monday, March 19
I. The TEACHER’S ROLE paper—first developed in late 2010
1) The teachers service team completed a paper on the teacher’s role and qualifications. The Teacher’s Paper (TR) received feedback from evangelists and elders. The suggested changes were accepted. The delegates are looking at the TR paper. The delegates will vote on the TR paper in San Antonio. Once it is approved it will be circulated. It will translated into Spanish and other languages following delegates’ approval.
II. DISPUTABLE MATTERS—Differentiating Disputable Matters from Core/Central Matters.
Can we develop a problem solving process that is ubiquitous, useful for all theological tensions, not to be hijacked by personalities, nor bogged down by our personal views of favorite topics? Let’s develop processes that are transparent, thorough, and fair to dissenters. This will be our next project. We started on it in our meeting in Ft. Lauderdale. We discussed:
A. Defining Terms. What is the difference between a disputable matter (peripheral, Romans 14), a debatable issue (Acts 15, worthy of debate), a conscience issue (personally), a matter of fellowship (personal or congregational), an issue of opinion (= disputable) that doesn’t threaten fellowship, a weightier matter, or a doctrinal matter (Greek didache = “teaching”).
B. Determine Weight. Perhaps it’s better to designate them in these categories: non-debatable matters, weightier and debatable matters on which good brothers disagree, and peripheral matters of opinion.
A three-tier system—levels of weightiness (theological or biblical)
(1). Central. The Core of Salvation—non-debatable aspects of the faith, such as the deity of Christ, resurrection, baptism, etc.
(2). Important. That which is Crucial for Thriving (weighty, debatable, conscious)—continue to study out and review as a group. We have placed the issue of Christians serving in the military in this category and have worked on the issue together.
(3). Peripheral. Things that are Important but Disputable (opinions)—we let the issue rest as far as the fellowship goes.
As we study the Bible, we see there is a spectrum of ideas, issues, and matters that can’t easily be categorized. Some of these issues have many nuances. One of the more difficult jobs of an exegete is to determine which category is best for each issue being considered.
C. Consistently Follow Best Interpretation Methodology (Best Practices). We spend time developing a consistent hermeneutic with an examination of other material on the subject. This task force would read from the same books: Crux of the Matter, Hearing God’s Voice, selection from early Christians, and/or Unity in Diversity by Bobby Harrington.
Up to now, what has our hermeneutic been?
How can we objectively know, as a rule of thumb, which passages or developments in the Bible carry the most weight?
How do we use the early Christian writings?
D. Warning. A guiding principle of the restoration movement was: “In matters of faith, unity; in matters of opinion, liberty; and in all things, charity.” We also recognize the great number of splits within restoration churches. Thus, this is an important issue.
E. Consider Applicability—a very key issue on these matters. How do you apply it? Each local leadership will need to make its own application. Even if a church totally agrees, it must still determine its own local application. We have to be careful here because there is the temptation for the leader (leaders) to bind certain practices on the congregation, thus there is a need to proceed with caution in these matters.
F. Process model for the issue. We need a process to handle these matters.
Steve Kinnard, Douglas Jacoby, Joey Harris, and Steve Staten will be on this task force. There is a need to pull elders and evangelists in earlier on the Hermeneutical Methodology: Best Practices Towards a Standardized Approach discussions. We need their wisdom, experience, knowledge, and perspective. These matters warrant a collaborative approach.
A group of evangelists, elders, and teachers (a) studies the topic biblically (b) reads, How to Read the Bible for All Its’ Worth by Fee and Stewart, (c) discusses the topic thoroughly, (d) carries the discussion to a wider circle of peer review which includes the ICOC delegates, and (e) makes suggestions and recommendations for the local leadership of congregations on these issues.
III. The LOVE YOUR ENEMY issue—and the paper
A. We read and slightly edited the Love Your Enemy Paper from July 2011.
B. Some voiced concerns about Nationalism and right-wing Evangelicalism creeping into our movement of churches.
C. There is a wider margin on this topic within Teacher’s group than previously imagined. It centers mostly on protecting others out of self-sacrifice (in personal situations that come our way).
D. Most aspects of pacifism are not core divisive issues. The issue is the lack of kingdom-minded thinking.
E. The short paper giving our results from the pacifism paper should be presented to the delegates. Right now it is being reviewed by the evangelists and elders teams. After they look over it and give feedback, it will be sent to the delegates. So far the feedback to the paper has been very positive.
F. This topic, the discussions, and the paper-writing process have been a great learning experiment for developing our model of how to handle issues upon which we disagree. We learned how important it has been to include representatives from other groups (elders and evangelists) in this process.
G. We reviewed two related documents, which presented a position on pacifism. We included the two views at the end of our paper.
On Tuesday, we continued a discussion from our time together in Boston in which we evaluated our common goals as teachers. This was developed into a Teachers Mission Statement.
We also talked about developing a passport mechanism in our ministries that shows which courses a person has taken within our adult curriculum. The point of this passport is to generate enthusiasm toward an adult curriculum.
We want to target the area of biblical illiteracy in our churches. In order to do that, we want to develop an adult curriculum that is comprehensive and modular. The following is the statement we added to our mission statement concerning the adult curriculum: Develop a Congregational Adult Curriculum that is biblically sound, simple and modular, including the main biblical story, major biblical themes, and apologetics.
Wednesday: Subcommittee Reports and Other Matters of Interest.
We began by listening to reports from our subcommittee meetings with the evangelists and elders on Tuesday evening.
REVIEW of subcommittees on the Teachers Service Team
• Reviewed one of the anonymous papers on the topic of loving our enemies.
• The Love Your Enemy endeavor is complete. No longer a subcommittee.
• TECHNOLOGY report from Arturo and Joey.
• Disciples Bible Academy transferred to inter-service team group. This will become the board of the DBA made up of 12 people: 3 elders, 3 evangelists, 3 women’s ministry leaders, and 3 teachers.
• 20/20 Vision report (Steve Staten). We later decided that our mission statement would serve as our 20/20 Vision.
Current Sub-Committees (We trimmed these down to five):
1. Congregational Teaching. To develop a curriculum for the members of our churches. Ed Anton, chair. Joey Harris, Douglas Jacoby, Fred Faller, Steve Kinnard.
2. Technology—To develop ways to use modern technology as a teaching tool. Arturo Elizarrarás, chair. Joey Harris, Tom Jones.
3. Accreditation—To continue to develop our relationship with Lincoln Christian University. To pursue how we might launch a full-fledged accredited masters in the future. Glenn Giles, chair. Steve Kinnard.
4. Teacher Development—To think of ways we can train more teachers in our churches. Valdur Koha (chair), Joey Harris, Tom Jones, Rolan Monje, Steve Kinnard.
5. Disputable Matters and Hermeneutics—To research this topic and develop a paper, which state our hermeneutic and speaks to how we can distinguish between central truths, important matters, and peripheral issues. Steve Staten, chair. Gordon Ferguson, Steve Staten, Douglas Jacoby, Joey Harris, Steve Kinnard.
Next meeting of the teachers service team: October 21-24—Nashville.
ITS: Fall (or Spring) of 2013, Turkey
We also talked about adding other members to the group. We want to ask 3 women to join the service team. We have contacted the Women’s Service Team and asked them for names.
We want to host a reception of teachers and prospective teachers in San Antonio.
On Thursday we divided the group in two. A group of five discussed the meeting of the subcommittees from Tuesday night. The other seven members worked on the issue of hermeneutics.
Attendees: Steve Kinnard, Chairman. Ed Anton, Steve Brown, Arturo Elizarrarás, Gordon Ferguson, Joey Harris, Douglas Jacoby, Tom Jones, Valdur Koha, Rolan Monje, Reese Neyland, Steve Staten
The following is the Mission Statement developed by the Teachers Service Team:
TEACHERS SERVICE TEAM
We are committed to increasing biblical literacy in our churches, promoting teamwork with the elders and evangelists, providing opportunities for ministry staff education, and strengthening accountability and stimulating growth among a diverse group of teachers.
To respond to growing biblical illiteracy in our churches we will:
• Develop a Congregational Adult Curriculum that is biblically sound, simple and modular, including the main biblical story, major biblical themes, and apologetics.
To promote teamwork with the elders and evangelists we will:
• Invite elders and evangelists to be involved early in the process when doctrinal concerns come to our attention. Subcommittees on doctrinal matters should involve elders and evangelists with subject matter expertise. • Collaborate with elders and evangelists on teaching and training programs.
To provide opportunities for ministry staff education we will:
• Appeal to every congregation to expect new ministers to fulfill all the requirements of the ICOC Disciples Bible Academy.
• Respectfully encourage every minister to participate in continuing education in a manner fitting with his or her responsibilities.
To strengthen accountability and stimulate growth among a diverse group of teachers we will:
• Implement a web-based directory for everyone who functions in a formal role as a teacher.
• Develop best practices for addressing potential concerns related to the teaching role.
• Seek financial assistance that will facilitate the growth, training, travel, and discipling of those who are best suited to become teachers. Funding will also be used to create Disciples Bible Academy material in multiple languages.