When it comes to Christian education -- whether in church school classes or from the pulpit -- churches must tackle issues of the day and offer their members a thorough grounding in the Bible and in their faith tradition's heritage. Those were messages heard repeatedly during an Oct. 16 forum in New York City, focused on "Training and Preparation for Christian Education in the Local African American Congregation." The forum was sponsored by the NCC's Committee on Black Congregational Ministries.
Dr. Ernestine Galloway of New York Theological Seminary and The Riverside Church said, "We can't shy away from issues of the day -- sexism, racism, sexual preference. If we don't talk about it in church, people will only get a view that we don't appreciate." The Rev. Alberta Ware, Director of Church and Community Mobilization for The Balm in Giliad, Inc., pressed churches to become centers of HIV/AIDS education and testing and of compassion and care for people living with HIV/AIDS. She challenges pastors who claim, "We don't have HIV/AIDS in our church," to include HIV/AIDS infected/affected people in their Sunday morning prayers.
Time after time, she said, these pastors report that affected members have approached them to say, "Thank you for saying the prayer. I am worried about .... " The Rev. Violet Dease, Assistant Minister for Christian Education and Social Ministries at Abyssinian Baptist Church, spoke to the importance of faith development.
"If you've saved a soul but not followed up to give that person some education, you've only teased them," she said. "That sells the Gospel short."