East Ohio Laity to Lead Online Classrooms

E-learning concept. Schooldesk and chalkboard on the laptop keyboard.By Rick Wolcott*

Two East Ohio Conference educators are looking forward to teaching online courses this fall through BeADisciple.com.

The site, part of the United Methodist-affiliated Institute for Discipleship at Southwestern College, has more than 2,000 students participating in approximately 150 Christian education courses each year.

Two of the new courses will be taught by Dr. Joshua ReichardJesus’ Abba: An Introduction to the Process-Relational Perspective on God begins August 1 and costs $40, and Using the Common English Bible: A Primer begins August 15 and costs $30.

“The two new modules represent some of my own theological interests,” said Reichard, vice president of Valley Christian Schools, a network of urban, diverse, multicultural, K-12 Christian private schools in Northeast Ohio, and the first certified lay minister in the East Ohio Conference.

“In the Jesus’ Abba course, I’m presenting a study on John B. Cobb, Jr.’s latest book and his ‘definitive statement on God,’” Reichard said.  “I’ve done quite a bit of scholarly writing around process-relational theology and so, this is a topic that’s quite important to me. It’s also Cobb’s most accessible book to date, which means that it’s most likely to get ‘into the pews’ and impact laypersons in a meaningful way. I hope to provide a platform for lay leaders and clergy alike to explore these ideas together.

“In the course entitled, How to Use the Common English Bible, I hope to empower laypersons to use the CEB translation in meaningful ways, both for private bible study and for public ministry,” he said.

“I think we are at a place in United Methodist history where we need a new wave of lay leadership to rise up and help our church realize its mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,” Reichard said.  “If we understand Wesley’s original intent for clergy itinerancy, then we realize that it is built on strong lay leadership at the local level. I hope to leverage online learning to help realize that vision in the 21st century.”

Dr. Martha Banks, a research neuropsychologist at ABackans DCP, Inc., in Akron, will teach Faith Communities’ Response to Domestic ViolenceIt will examine the history and consequences of domestic violence and look at the ways in which churches, pastors, and individual lay people can prevent domestic violence and help those affected by it.  The course begins September 12 and costs $90.

“In 2014, The East Ohio Conference supported Resolution 2014‐03 to encourage all East Ohio churches to designate a day during the month of October to present an activity that will bring awareness to the congregation about domestic violence,” said Banks, whose primary research is on traumatic brain injuries sustained by victims of intimate partner violence.

“As a means of preparing United Methodists with the information needed to teach congregations, I am offering the course to people who will provide training for their congregations.  Students will learn about different kinds of domestic violence, the cycle of violence, and who is affected by domestic violence.  Designed to be practical, most of the readings for the course are handout materials that learners can pass along to members of their congregations,” she said.

A former professor at The College of Wooster and at Kent State University, Banks said, “The opportunity to teach through a United Methodist Church resource was irresistible.”

*Rick Wolcott is director of Communications for the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church.