(Editor’s Note: Bill Tillman previously held the T.B. Maston Chair of Christian Ethics at Hardin-Simmons University’s Logsdon Seminary. He also previously was Director of Theological Education for the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Tillman shares information about his Center for Congregational Ethics.)
By BILL TILLMAN
Coordinator, Center for Congregational Ethics
The formation of the Center for Congregational Ethics is the fruition of an idea I’ve had over most of the 30 years I spent doing classroom work in graduate theological education.
I’ve received questions as to why a center with this name. The queries come out of assumptions that the ingredients of congregational ethics have been part of theological education all along.
Ironically, the assumptions are misplaced. A long–term review of theological education institutions will reveal a decreasing emphasis on what can be labeled as applied theology.
Certainly, there are courses in spiritual formation, missions, evangelism, theological and biblical ethics; but most of these, if they exist in curricula, lack practical, functional ingredients. The courses tend to be delivered more as theoretical concepts. A classroom can be a stimulating but also a sterile context. Emphases toward how congregational decision making, conflict mediation, and Christian character development, which are a major part of congregational life, often are lacking. These dynamics fall at the heart of congregational life; and it does not take a long-tenured congregational leader to realize how much a part of one’s job involves these matters.
So, over the decades myriads of theological education students have moved into ministerial positions without the skills of being able to identify the kinds of conundrums that face them in the rapidly changing cultural paradigms confronting them. They likely will fail at finding interdisciplinary ways toward developing not only strategies and tactics toward “equipping the saints” on how congregations should be addressing both the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.
Then, there are those congregational leaders who have not been able to participate in formal theological education. Their strategies and tactics are usually limited to those resources which they can obtain online, from following self-proclaimed “church leaders,” often trying to implement techniques and programs developed for congregations quite unlike their own.
The Center for Congregational Ethics is a resource for Christian ethics education in local churches and an attempt at addressing these aforementioned deficiencies. Through the Center, workshops are produced dealing with developing civility among congregants, identifying ethical challenges in culture, and education toward Christian character development and implementation.
Daily reflections on readings from the Revised Common Lectionary are posted on the Center’s FaceBook page. Contributors to these reflections live across the United States and in several international locations. They are asked to reflect on the readings of a given calendar day and move beyond a traditional devotional style; rather, they are requested to interpret the passages accurately but always have a call to action and suggestions for living out the passages in one’s own cultural context. Once per week there is a series called “The Right, The Good, The Happy,” posted. This series forms an op–ed approach to social issue questions which have particular relevance to congregational life.
I invite you to get acquainted with the Center’s FaceBook offerings. You will discover compositions from skilled writers, theological thinkers, and applicators of Scripture to life who will provide you encouragement to apply your own theology every day.
Bill Tillman is the Coordinator for the Center for Congregational Ethics. He served Baptist institutions for over 40 years, 30 of which were spent teaching Christian Ethics.