On October 4–5, 2019, 17 full-time ministers, business leaders, teachers, elders, and others met together in Georgia. The meeting was established for developing a vision, philosophy, and fund for sponsoring scholarships and increasing the frequency and quality of academic teachings and writings. The discussions began with ideas first presented by Alex and Patti Hunter (Georgia), developed along with Kevin Grady (Michigan), and Jeff Jones (Illinois). On the second day the group agreed to two major ideas.

First, we would explore establishing an organization for identifying six to eight individuals who would qualify for the pursuit of a terminal degree—PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) or ThD (Doctor of Theology).

“Terminal degree” is the term often used to describe the highest level of education available in a given academic discipline. The prospective candidates must be capable of completing this education from a sufficiently accredited university and be incorporated into leadership strategies of congregations and/or teaching platforms. By the time they graduated, each new scholar would be integral in teaching the next generation.

Second, the patrons fund would also financially support the launch of a print and electronic academic journal in the hopes that it would eventually become self-supporting. Its target audience would be those who hunger for greater depth of understanding the Bible, theology, and practical subjects important to a mature Christian spirituality.

The following week the ideas were shared with the ICOC Teachers Service Team (TST) at a meeting in San Diego.

Both initiatives were originated in a bottom-up manner resembling developments during the Renaissance, the Reformation, and some occasions recorded in the Bible. Since the enterprises were born outside normal ecclesiastical channels, it was seen as important to coordinate and collaborate with various teams in the International Churches of Christ (ICOC). We immediately and consistently brought the TST into the conversation and reached out to the Catalyst Team (CT). The scholarship strategy and the journal will require the broad support of collaborating parties—donors, teachers, ministers, mission societies, existing educational platforms, and even from outside the ICOC.

On January 3, 2020 the business model and charter were developed for the Disciples Center for Education, which is a 503(c) religious organization. Steve Staten was hired as a consultant and Steve Kinnard was contracted as the lead editor for the development of the journal. Dave Pocta, who has been supported by an earlier fund that is now under the DCE project, began working on the journal and the scholarship project.

Flash forward: Following months of work with the DCE board and other advisors, collaborating with the TST (which includes an ongoing effort to collect information about educational platforms), identifying those serving in formal teaching roles, and communicating with the CT and many others, we’ve launched two information-rich websites, the DCE site focused on scholarships, and one that is the portal for a new journal to be released in February.

Scholarships – A Global Strategy for Training Trainers

The newly formed board, advisors, and the visionaries who met in October 2019 and at a follow-up in October 2020 agreed to some important concepts for improving our academic capabilities:

  • The patrons value all educational platforms utilized in the ICOC that help students achieve greater understanding of the Bible, biblical theology, and related fields, but their focus is on higher-level and highly accredited degree programs.
  • The fund is designed as an investment into those who can establish their capability for helping shape the future—the trainers of trainers.
  • The focus is PhD- and ThD-level degrees, but exceptions will be made, especially in areas of the world where it is nearly impossible to access this level of education.
  • The student will have already completed a higher education degree at a North American ATS (Association of Theology Schools) accredited university or a program abroad that is equivalent in terms of rigor.
  • Examples of qualifying higher education degrees are an MDiv, DMin, DEd, MA, MTS, or MS.
  • Prospective students can apply at the website.
  • A team is currently being assembled to review applications and begin making recommendations to the board by early Spring.
  • Churches and mission societies that seek to participate with the DCE in advancing prospective students should reach out to Steve Staten (stephenfstaten@gmail.com)

Teleios – A Journal to Promote Holistic Christian Spirituality

Steve Kinnard and Dave Pocta proposed that the academic journal would explore both the theory and praxis of teleios. Teleios is a Greek word that means “perfect, mature, complete, initiated, fully developed.” They were inspired by the Apostle Paul’s use of the word teleios in writing to the churches in Colossae, Laodicea and Heirapolis: “It is he (Christ) whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature (teleios) in Christ” (Colossians 1:28). This verse serves as the mission statement of Teleios.

By May an editorial board and an advisory board were being assembled, with the following goals, all centered around the definition of teleios :

  • to provide peer-reviewed articles for the advancement of scholarship in schools and churches, among leaders and all members of the ICOC and other parts of the Stone-Campbell Movement (SCM)
  • to encourage holistic spiritual growth and to provide material for maturation within the churches of the ICOC and the SCM
  • to build bridges between the various branches of the SCM, especially between the ICOC and the other branches of the SCM
  • to promote the study and practice of spirituality within the ICOC and the SCM

Teleios will be published biannually (winter and summer). The Teleios Society , which is a larger body of teachers, future teachers, and those who join the mission to advance biblical learning, will purchase subscriptions for the journal and participate in conferences. Members of the society will receive both the print and digital version of the journal plus an invitation to attend an annual meeting of the society, as well as receiving a monthly bulletin.

Teleios will consist primarily of peer-reviewed, scholarly articles, but it will also contain other types of material. This distinguishes Teleios from other journals. Teleios attempts to combine scholarly exploration with insights into practical Christian living and church life. Too often, there is an impenetrable wall between academic discussion and discipleship. Teleios wishes to bring these two worlds together for a healthy exchange of ideas.

Teleios is honored to have a distinguished group of scholars on its editorial board. To learn more about Teleios, go to Teleiosjournal.com, where you can also subscribe. There will also be information about the forthcoming conference, Let Justice Roll; you can find it at TeleiosSociety.com.

The disciplescenterforeducation.org website provides more extensive history and information about this giving opportunity for prospective donors who wish to support both future scholars and the Teleios journal.