Why does the Baptist Center for Ethics produce Sunday school curriculum?
Because we believe ethics is at the heart of Christian faith, not a side product, not a secondary matter of concern, not an occasional emphasis, not an afterthought. Ethics is a full partner with theology. How we live the Bible is as central as how we read the Bible.
Baptist tradition, especially Southern Baptist history, offers a much different fossil record. Ethics material was only occasionally and selectively explored in the Southern Baptist Convention's Sunday school curriculum. Ethics material was generally relegated to discipleship training programs that occurred on Sunday evenings with a fraction of the attendance of Sunday school. Sunday school curriculum severed faith and action. Faith was a matter of mental assent, propositional regurgitation and privatized commitment.
From BCE's earliest days, we thought this failure was a profound one that trivialized authentic Christianity. We determined to jettison the old approach of the SBC Christian Life Commission's pamphleteering with short-term study guides.
As we grew organizationally, we produced a 19-lesson, biblically based, print piece titled Families in 3D. It included a student and leader guide.
We published this curriculum unit under the imprimatur of Acacia Resources. The name is from the only wood mentioned in the building of the Ark of the Covenant. Acacia wood is listed in the Bible with other precious objects—gold, silver, fragrant incenses.
Today the wood is recognized for its commercial value, species diversity and environmental durability. We thought that both acacia's unique biblical position and contemporary distinctiveness made it a fitting image for what we desired to do.
The success of Families in 3D led to three more print units. The last was released in the spring of 2000.
When the SBC adopted a new Baptist Faith & Message statement that summer, we rushed to produce an online, 13-unit curriculum titled Real Baptists, as a way to quickly provide a much-needed resource to thoughtful Baptist churches.
With addition a few years later of a full-time curriculum editor, Jan Turrentine, BCE determined to provide ongoing, undated, online educational material.
We saw great potential for online resources. They are less expensive to produce and therefore more affordable for churches. They are faster to conceptualize and therefore more relevant to current events. They are undated and therefore hold a long shelf-life.
We did not foresee, however, the full potential of Acacia Resources as a global resource. We have joyfully received orders from Baptists overseas in Australia, Austria, Canada, New Zealand and Scotland.
Recognition of this global market paralleled our decision to enlist global Baptists as writers, including Australians, Brits, Canadians, a Bulgarian and a German, ensuring an educational voice to worldwide Baptists.
Online accessibility has also emerged as a benefit to military chaplains. Naval Chaplain Ben Sandford told us recently that he had used two units, Five Lessons for Advent and Genesis: The Creation of Relationships, while at sea. "When I was on a ship, it was wonderful, because I could find it online while floating in the North Arabian Sea."
While we began by producing curriculum to address a flaw in the Southern Baptist education approach, we have experienced a number of unintended benefits:
- making material more accessible through an online approach;
- providing fast delivery;
- giving voice to global Baptists; and
- pitching in to build a stronger international Baptist community.
One of the best benefits to bottom-line Baptists is that we save churches money on educational material. It is cheaper than print, and there are no postage costs.
Isn't it time for your church to make ethics central to your Christian education design, advance church stewardship and join the global Baptist community?
Robert Parham is the executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.
Click here to see the full Acacia Resources lineup.