History That Forms Faith
Tony E Dillon-Hansen
7 June 2017
A Five Week Study of Christian History (In Brief) From Acts to the UCC formation.
(This would be similar to the format of the “Bible in 90 Days” classes for prospective members and current members wanting to learn more about the historical traditions of the Church.)
Course Aims and Outcomes:
To gain an understanding of the different historical periods of the Church and how the UCC came to be and how faith has changed over the centuries. (Italics indicate if resource is available)
The hoped outcomes include:
· Understand the impact of persecutions and early worship
· Understand the impact of corruption and violence to religious teaching
· Understand the breadth of prominent ideas of faith
· Understand how separation of Church and State came to be
· Understand how the UCC works to be United and Uniting.
Format and Procedures:
· The course is laid out over five weeks of discussion with a scripture theme relating to topics for that discussion along with a short lecture and recap of previous week to provide some guidance of discussion.
· Participants are requested to make at least one online note and feedback in an online forum during the week to keep the conversation moving, if the online resource is available.
· The first and last meeting are meant to be communion worship meals to encourage the idea of communion, cooperation and return to origins.
· The ground rules will be collectively decided in the first meeting but should adhere to value and to respect each other’s views, uniqueness, and diversity.
· Keep confidences shared within the group and respect each other’s privacy.
We will survey large portions of time and will certainly miss some key points along the way. I assume that you are taking the course because you think that learning about the history of the Church may help deepen your faith. This course and the topics considered may also raise more doubts, even controversy.
· Read and prepare ahead of class so that we all can be engaged in the conversation and bring our gifts to share with each other.
· Again, respect for opinions is requested and I would ask participants to mutually agree to the agreed ground rules before proceeding.
· Given only five meetings, your attendance is expected at each one to be mutually respectful of each other’s’ time commitments.
· If you must miss a class, please follow up with others or the instructor for following week activity preparations.
· If you wish to share reference work regarding the week’s topic, please be willing to share that reference with participants so that all might be able review the points made.
Accommodations and Inclusivity:
Please let me know how we can help you attend and participate with aids.
No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.
“We agree to differ; we resolve to love; we unite to serve.”
Week 1: The Early Church During Roman Era.
The debates in early church to Constantine. How persecutions influenced the early Church along with the Donatist crisis and Council of Nicea.
Scripture Lesson: Matthew 18: 20; Luke 22: 14-20, 24-27
The scripture here where is God and the institution of communion.
Reading suggestions: Gonzalez (Vol 1) Chapters 11-14, 17
Celebrate communion worship with a community potluck meal.
This meeting will lay out the rest of the course structure and use the community meal to remember practices of the early Church. Also, Matt Ridley describes the evolution of collaboration that originates and continues through community meals. Then invite people from historically marginalized groups like LGBTQ to share experiences of what is like to be persecuted and how the community managed to rally around hope. The idea would be to share the parallels of history with today and why and how history has impacted our faith.
Week 2: The Crusades and the Rise of the Papacy
The Middle Ages, focus upon the impact of the Crusades and political controversies surrounding these that impacted Church polity.
Scripture: Hosea 2:1-15,
The scripture here calls upon punishment of Israel for many crimes.
Reading suggestions: Gonzalez (Vol 1) Chapters 24, 27, 28, 31, 34-35.
After a brief rise with the Roman Empire, the Church is again in crisis mode since the collapse of the Roman Empire causes the collapse of the Church structures as well. We will review the efforts to secure a new home and military power to secure the faith through Charlemagne and the Holy Roman Empire thereafter. Once established, the Roman Church finds challenges in Avignon again. The power of the papacy is exerted via the crusades. The “one [Church] to rule them all” ends with the Great Schism.
Week 3: First Generation Reformers: a Crash Course.
Scriptural basis and interpretation changes, political interwoven religion where leaders are taking sides and aligning churches with nation and city-states.
Scripture: Ephesians 2:1-10, 19-22
The scripture shows us one basis for some of the reformers theologies.
Reading suggestions: Gonzalez (Vol 2) Chapters 1-8
The group will build a “cheat sheet” and questions about basic ideas.
Reformation first generation of Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, King Henry VIII, John Knox, and Anabaptists.
· Video about Luther and the general beginning of the Protestant Reformation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1o8oIELbNxE
- Video about Zwingli’s efforts to reform in Switzerland https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SUcGSUbzMFE
- Video about John Calvin and his style of French/Swiss Reform. http://study.com/academy/lesson/john-calvin-religion-beliefs-quotes.html
- Discussion of Henry VIII and John Knox http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/people/denominationalfounders/john-knox.html
- Anabapitists https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=czX_ExP5kG8
For each reformer:
- What was their profession?
- Why did they split?
- What was their nationality?
- What was their basic theology impact? How does the UCC incorporate these?
- What is the current tradition called?
Week 4: Ideas of Religious Freedom, Social Justice in Church, and New Desire to Unite Faith.
Growth of secularism, Methodism and Pietism as they relate to origins of the UCC.
Scripture: Isaiah 10:1-2; Isaiah 58:6-10
The scripture lessons are a foundation for social justice in the Bible. (Guess and Beckmann, n.d.).
Reading suggestions: Gonzalez (Vol 2) Chapters 18-24, 27
· John Wesley and Methodism. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QmlzwYTg_J0
· Pietism. http://www.pietisten.org/ggng/
· Manifest Destiny. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C5SWDeIgNpE
A discussion here that focuses upon the fast expansion of traditions based upon piety, social justice raise hope but also tensions with existing traditions of reformers as well as societies outside of European descent, like American Indians. We see systemic problems of bigotry and persecution. We see the growth of public education via the Churches. We see the growth of public health systems via Churches. We see how religion has tied itself to the state, and then the state learns that it is useful to separate itself from theological debates as the debate widens to multiple parties. We see how the UCC came to be through its outreach efforts.
Week 5: The Four Traditions that Form the UCC. What is a Covenant? Who Can Have Communion with Us? Where Do We Go from Here?
What is the value of tradition or unity? Uniting churches – UCC, UMC, Disciples of Christ.
Reading suggestions: UCC Website. http://www.ucc.org. “About Us.” “Who We Are.” “What We Believe.”
Scripture: Matthew 25: 31-46
The scripture here tells us more about social justice and the way to eternal life.
· UCC 101: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e4NiU_9REYE
· I am the UCC. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGUkd42919Y
· Extra video. Gerald, C. (2016) “Gospel of Doubt.” Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/playlists/519/faith_in_the_modern_world
We celebrate another communion meal like our previous discussion, but hopefully, this time with evolved ideas and views about our work to share. The hope is that-- just like the spread of time for the Church has altered communion, so too has the five weeks with the classmates.
I would like to discuss the diagram of the United Church of Christ four traditions into one with how that is similar to the early Church and how that is different. In this discussion, I would like to spend time discussing the prospective visions people have for the Church as well. Our goal this week is to build a list of requests and observations to share with the wider Church (the congregation and the wider Church).
· What does scripture mean to you today?
· What do you like about the Church?
· What would you reform?
· How would you invite more people to Church?
Additional Course Resources:
Have a Bible of your own for reference or borrow one from the Church library.
Gonzalez, Justo. (2002). The Story of Christianity, Vol. 1: The Early Church to the Dawn of the Reformation. HarperOne.
Gonzalez, Justo. (2002). The Story of Christianity, Vol 2: The Reformation to the Present Day. HarperOne.
Guess, J. B. and Beckmann, D. (n.d.). Biblical Foundations for Advocacy. Cleveland, Oh: United Church of Christ. Retrieved from http://www.ucc.org/justice_advocacy_resources_biblical-foundations-for.
Ridley, M. (1996). The Origins of Virtue: Human Instincts and the Evolution of Cooperation. New York, NY: Penguin Books.