Beacon Street Diary blog

The International Council of Religious Education

One of the reasons I enjoy cataloging pamphlets is that I frequently encounter titles, authors, or organizations that entice me to research their histories and origins. In the materials we continue to catalog from the collections we received from the Chicago Theological Seminary is a group of pamphlets published by the International Council of Religious Education. We already have some pamphlets from this organization but with this new group, I decided to look into the origins of the Council. What I found is an important organization in the formulation and execution of religious education in the early to mid-twentieth century.

A quick search brought me to the Presbyterian Historical Society's "Guide to the International Council of Religious Education Records, 1839-1953". According to the guide:

"The International Council of Religious Education (hereafter referred to as the ICRE) was formed in 1922 at Kansas City through the merging of the International Sunday School Association and the Sunday School Council of Evangelical Denominations. The International Sunday School Association was created in 1905 to care for the Sunday school conventions which had begun in 1832. The Sunday School Council was organized in 1910 by the officers of denominational boards. The ICRE, consisting of forty denominational boards of religious education and thirty-three state councils of churches and religious education, combined lay and professional strength for closer interdenominational cooperation in Christian education. The ICRE operated under a charter granted by the United States Congress to the International Sunday School Association in 1907."

In 1950, the ICRE joined the National Council of Churches and was incorporated into the Division of Christian Education. While in existence the ICRE consisted of seventeen departments: Children's Work, Young People's Work, Adult Work, Leadership Education and Church School Administration, Family Life Education, Weekday Religious Education, Vacation Religious Education, Visual Education, Lesson Studies, Field Administration, Business and Public Relations, Laymen's Crusade for Christian Education, Ecumenical Education, Radio Education, International Radio Productions, The International Journal of Religious Education, and Education Evangelism.

Here are a few of the titles published by the Council now in our collection:

In his article, "The International Council of Religious Education: An Appraisal", (Religious Education: The Official Journal of the Religious Education Association, Volume 25, Issue 9, 1930), William Clayton Bower, wrote, "No more progressive educational ground has been taken by any modern group, religious or secular." And in his conclusion stated, " is engaged in a highly significant educational undertaking, in which the Evangelical Protestant churches are consciously facing together their common educational responsibility in contemporary American Life." Dr. Bower was Professor of Religious Education in the Divinity School at the University of Chicago and was the author of numerous books and articles on religious education. He is considered a major influential leader of the early 20th century religious education movement.



From my grandmother's

From my grandmother's memorabilia, I just found some small, 3"x5" cards, each from The International Council of Religious Education for "one unit of credit" and dated between 1933 and 1937.  In that first year, my mother and her brother would have been 10 and 11.  She took all her classes in Philadelphia, her home at the time.  I always knew my grandmother taught Sunday School and was knowledgeable about the Bible, but I did not know the extent of her training.


Here are the titles of her courses:

Experimental Elective - Book of the Acts 

Course #2, the Principles of Teaching

Course #53-63-73 Adolescent Department Administration

Course #6, The Teaching Work of the Church

The Pauline Epistles EE1

Church History #105

#1 The Pupil

52,62,72 Y. P's Materials & Methods

#3 The Old Testament

#6 - Message & Program of the Christian Religion

#51-61-71 Study of the Adolescent Pupil

110 A      Planning Religious Living

122b  New Testament

313b  Building a Total Youth Program

215b  The Child's Approach to Religion