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Jack Seymour

By Dori Baker


Jack L. Seymour, Ph.D. (1948--) is professor of Religious Education at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois.  A retired elder in the United Methodist church, Jack’s contributions to the church, guild and theological education are rooted in his passion for helping people live out their theological voice in the world. Jack’s signature contribution is as the primary topographer of the field, charting the linkages between different approaches to Christian Education. His work explores the dynamics of tradition, interpretation, theology and education within and across faith traditions, always with an emphasis on educating for the public good.  Jack’s deep love for the church and its capacity to be a source of healing in the world comes alive in the seminary classroom, in his mentoring of doctoral students, in his attention to the curricula of theological education.  In addition, both the Religious Education Association (and its predecessor, APRRE, the Association of Professors, Practitioners and Researchers in Religious Education) and its journal, Religious Education benefitted greatly from his leadership, including more than a decade as editor of the journal. 


Formation and Family

Jack was born on October 27, 1948 to Albert and Esther Seymour in the auto-industry town of Kokomo, IN. His father, a factory worker, and his mother, a school nurse, were part of a deeply religious extended family whose lives revolved around weekly worship, Bible study, and prayer meetings. Social life was dotted with Sunday School parties and summer vacations at church camp.

A Methodist and then United Methodist (after the 1972 merger), Jack was the product of what he would later name the “community of faith” model of education. Within a web of evangelical networks, the young Jack heard clear messages at church about the link between faith and right behavior.  The oldest of two siblings, he was president of his high school youth group and was the first in his family to go to college, fulfilling a dream of his parents and grandparents for higher education.

His identity and vocation were shaped by early memories of listening to his grandmother tell stories about what it meant to be a “Seymour,” including characteristics such as hard work, faithfulness, availability to others, and a commitment to public life.  On Sunday afternoons, extended family members would travel from forty miles away to gather at his grandmother’s home to play, eat, and share stories. Jack drew on this familial identity formation as a metaphor for the ways faith communities educate, instilling values and identity by passing on traditions that are reinterpreted by subsequent generations.

A key formative moment of Jack’s early life occurred in his teens, when his mother worked as a nurse for the Howard County Council of Churches, which had a medical outreach to migrant workers who traveled to the Midwest to pick tomatoes and other fruit. For two summers, he accompanied his mother on her visits to these rural farmers of Mexican descent. Jack describes this time as opening his eyes to people of different cultures and languages, as well as educating him about socio-economics, class, and discrepancies in access to necessary resources such as health care. This experience, in addition to living and going to church in an integrated neighborhood, formed Jack in an openness to varieties of human experience which would become a central commitment to his later work.

Although steered by friends and family toward church-related colleges, Jack chose a public university, Ball State University, where he majored in history and minored in philosophy.  During college, he attended a downtown UMC church that was more progressive than his home church.  Earlier influences on leadership, education, and openness continued as he pursued higher education; he became active in campus religious life, becoming vice president of the association of campus religious organizations.  As the 1960s brought marches for civil rights and protests against the war in Vietnam, Jack took part and was deeply influenced by the religious leaders of these movements.  For three years he served as student assistant for a professor of history and a teaching assistant for a professor of humanities, thus beginning to shape his approaches to teaching and learning dynamics in the classroom.  He attended college during the Vietnam draft, gave up his deferment in junior year, and luckily was not drafted. 

Jack graduated from college in 1970.  Following the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy that year, he entered Vanderbilt Divinity School and continued his active engagement in the struggles for justice and peace.  Seminary at that time had an open curriculum allowing for majors and minors; Jack majored in church history and minored in historical theology.  In Nashville, he met and began to take classes with leaders in the UMC Board of Education. An interest in education led him to take classes at Peabody School of Teachers.  A key influence during this time was Richard Cookson, of UMC Board of Discipleship.  

During seminary, he worked for two years in a summer-long day camp that intentionally integrated urban children with children of non-urban members, and served as minister of education at Trinity Presbyterian Church from 1971-1975.  Working in a day camp for urban children and supervising a staff of ten young people, Jack began to feel a draw to the field of Christian education. “Seeing the difference that education could make, both in the counselors and in the kids in the day camp was revelatory,” he said. “After that I took a course on Christian education and I fell in love with the field.  Watching people learn, watching them say things like ‘why didn’t anybody tell me that before?’ and watching them claim their voices as theologians was just amazing to me.”

Jack completed his Masters of Divinity in 1973, was ordained an elder in the UMC, and immediately began focusing on education through a Doctor of Ministry

In 1974, upon graduating with his Doctor of Ministry, Jack began to teach part-time and work in field education.  This expanded from 1975-1978 when he served as assistant director of field education and assistant professor of church and ministry.  During that time he entered Peabody College to begin a Doctor of Philosophy in educational policy studies (focusing on the history and philosophy of education) with a minor in church history.  His mentor during the time was the esteemed educational historian, Robert Polk Thomson, who had written a history of the College of William and Mary.  Jack took exams on the history of education, philosophy of education, American church history, and community psychology.   His dissertation was published as the book From Sunday School to Church School: Continuities in Protestant Church Education, l860‑l929.  (Washington, DC: University Press of America, l982) He graduated with his PhD in 1982, from the then merged Peabody College of Vanderbilt.

Jack became a parent to Anne in 1974 and Laura in 1980 and divorced in the 1990s. His friendship and later marriage to Christian educator Margaret Ann Crain led to many fruitful writing, research, and teaching collaborations. When Jack’s daughter Anne married, converted to Judaism, and enrolled her children in Hebrew school, his longstanding professional interest in interfaith religious education took on a renewed vigor through the eyes of a grandfather.

University and Seminary Teaching

Jack served as director field education and assistant professor of church and ministry at Vanderbilt University from 1974-1978, where he also taught Christian education. He went on to teach and lead in field education at Chicago Theological Seminary from 1978-1981 and to teach at Scarritt Graduate School from 1981-1988, before coming to Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, where he served as Professor of Religious Education from 1988 until his retirement in December 2014.

At Scarritt, Seymour worked closely with colleagues Robert O’Gorman and Charles Foster, who would become lifelong friends and collaborators. Together, they built a joint EdD in religious education with then Peabody College of Vanderbilt. During this time, Seymour also lectured at UMC board and events, JED events, and NCC events and began his publishing in the fields of Christian religious education and theological education.

At Garrett-Evangelical, Seymour encountered colleagues with a long history of work in Christian Education, including Dorothy J. Furnish and Linda and Dwight Vogel. These colleagues became good friends and collaborators, with whom Jack and Margaret Ann have shared decades of their vocational journeys, in addition to numerous actual journeys with their international travel partners, the Vogels.

Jack stepped into various leadership roles including Academic Dean and Vice-President for Academic Affairs (1996-2006), Director of the Joint Garrett-Evangelical/Northwestern PhD Program (1992-1997) and Director of the Ph.D. program (2009-2012).

Contributions to Christian Education

Research and Writing

The crux of Jack’s research and writing is the interpretive work of translating faith into practice through religious and theological education. He has done this from both the bird’s eye view -- with major works defining the field -- and from the ground up, with practical guides for lay people.

His training as both an historian and an educator resulted in the ability to map a complex field as it evolved, beginning with Contemporary Approaches to Christian Education (edited with Don Miller, 1982) and culminating in his recent work Teaching the Way of Jesus:  Educating Christians for Faithful Living (2014).  Between these field-mapping capstones, Jack’s writing provided tools for lay people to think theologically about their lives in connection to Christian tradition. Of his work, Jack says: “The tradition can be passed on in ways that are oppressive and restrictive or ways that give life to a living God in the midst of a new religious reality. The role of Christian education is discipleship and mission; you can’t do that without schooling and community.”

Contemporary Approaches mapped the field and began a trajectory of thought about the distinctions among and connections between different approaches to Christian education.  In this work, Jack and his co-author Donald Miller named five approaches  -- religious instruction, faith community, spiritual development, liberation, and interpretation -- as alternatives, highlighting the distinctions between them and the different ways practitioners of these approaches value the content, context and roles of educating in faith. (1982) Translated into Korean and Japanese, this book shared the literature of the field across the globe and was instrumental in mainline denominational conversations in the US around strategies embodied in local congregations.  Eight years later, in Theological Approaches to Christian Education, Jack and Donald Miller built on their earlier work, this time probing the theological and educational issues that ground the discipline. In particular, this work examined the processes by which Christian faith is embodied, communicated, and reformed within culture. (1990) As the field and Jack’s thinking about it evolved, different approaches came to be depicted like points on a map, still distinct and separate, but more akin to starting points with links to diverse ways at arriving at the ends of Christian discipleship. He explored these linkages in a collection of essays, Mapping Christian Education, this time positing four distinct metaphors that guided the congregational task of education at the close of the 1990s. These were: social transformation, faith community, personal formation and religious instruction.  (1997) Each of these works helped educators and their institutions think appreciatively and critically about strategies for helping people embody Christianity through lived reality.

Jack’s lifelong interest in public theology and education across faith traditions comes into sharpest relief in his most recent book, a practical theology integrating historical and biblical research, educational analysis, scholarship in Christian education, and congregational experience. (2014) In Teaching the Way of Jesus, Jack reflects theologically on education in the early Christian church, particularly in its rootedness to Jewish scripture, customs and tradition. Through this thick description of historical evidence of Jews living under Roman rule, he illustrates that Jesus’ ministry was a practice of “traditioning” – passing on while adapting a revered inheritance. As a rabbi in this essentially dynamic process, Jesus serves as a guide for contemporary followers and teachers, struggling against multiple oppressions that limit the flourishing of ourselves or others.

“I am absolutely convinced that Jesus’ ministry was about how you live in a world of oppression,” Jack says, reflecting on the latest of four books that spanned three decades of careful participation and observation of Christian education. “He was not a revolutionary. He was trying to find a way for communities of people to live and a way to be faithful when the world was falling apart.”

In Teaching the Way of Jesus, Jack gives close examination to three interrelated sets of scholarship about Christian religious education. They are: community of faith, instruction, and mission. In this way, Jack circles back to themes from his earlier works, but does so in a way that puts each approach into conversation with advances in theological and biblical research, while at the same time tying a loop back to congregational, personal, and communal life.

 Jack reflects on the book’s purpose: “It is an attempt to say: our lives are focused around theology. Theology is the way we human beings talk about what it means to be faithful. This is a practical Christology to try to help us not only live faithfully, but live into a public world. Jesus was pointing to a living God.”

After surveying congregations and their educational ministries at the close of the 20th century, Jack wrote: “Safe harbors are needed for people to open the depth of their lives and ask, Where is God? Who does God want me to be? How can I be faithful to God? How can I be whole? … We need to provide multiple opportunities where groups can grow together, where colleagues are free to mentor and care, and where people can share in truth and honesty heartfelt concerns.” (1997)

This instinct – to assist people in personal meaning-making that reaches outward toward the enrichment of public life -- is the source out of which many of Jack’s other writing surfaced.  In Educating Christians (1993), he and co-authors Margaret Ann Crain and Joseph V. Crockett explore the basic human need to make meaning. Living, as we do, in “unfinished temples of meaning” provides opportunity for humans to continue exploring one’s vocational quest across a lifetime. Learning happens in structured and unstructured moments when we reflect with others on encounters with life – be that the crisis of a job loss, a cross-cultural exploration, or a story-telling moment with a five-year old at the funeral of a grandparent.

These themes emerged again in Yearning for God (2003), where Jack and Margaret Ann used the practices of ethnography – deep listening to the lives of people – to help small groups explore together the quest for an integrated and holistic faith. This emphasis on ethnography became a hallmark of research emerging from the doctoral students who studied with Jack and Margaret Ann.

Across his body of work, one detects the historian’s eye: he uses history to define the operative theologies at work in various approaches to Christian religious education. Not only has Jack’s work helped educators teach theologically, but it has helped scholars analyze the theological approaches guiding the field. In this way, he helped show that the field could honor and pursue multiple theological perspectives simultaneously – and indeed – that such an approach deepens the import and impact of educating for faith.

The Ministry of the Teacher in the Seminary, Congregation and World

Jack’s research and writing life is embodied in his teaching – be that in the seminary classroom, at denominational events for congregational leaders, or as a shaper of the seminary curricula. In all these places, his keen observation of history aids the ongoing evolution necessary for a faith tradition to remain vital.

Students in Jack’s seminary classrooms experience a lively and hospitable presence that takes seriously the learner’s tacit knowledge as a critical starting point for education. Two introductory Christian education courses are Jack’s favorites to teach, because “they help religious leaders claim their own theological education and realize they can help the people of God claim their own theological education.”  It is this turn, from naming and claiming one’s own role in shaping meaning, to then learning to ignite this claim in others, that inspired Jack to support – over the span of 30 years -- the Christian Educator’s Fellowship, a guild of practitioners within the United Methodist Church. He regularly test-drives his latest research and writing at these bi-annual gatherings, where he enjoys encouraging educators in the trenches of a changing religious landscape.

He said of this connection: “These are people who make a difference. They are often afraid that they don’t.. So I want to encourage them. And I want to help convince them and empower them to help the people of God be more faithful in a contemporary way, in a justice way.”

In the work A Deacon’s Heart, he and co-author Margaret Ann Crain successfully claim a theology of baptism as the primary ordination service, while also claiming a distinct ministry for the deacon. That ministry is “to embody for the Church the lifetime call and the full-time service of ministry, to be a sign of the ministries to which all Christians are called in their daily lives.” By reporting on and describing ministries of persons who have “a deacon’s heart” Jack’s teaching around the themes of this book has been an inspiration to many who are innovating ways to embody pastoral leadership for a new day.

Jack’s love for theological education makes him a frequent facilitator of consultations for members of the Association of Theological Schools and for the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning around such topics as curriculum revision and embodying diversity. To this work he brings an awareness of how seminaries must change in order to prepare religious leaders for a pluralistic society. In this way, he helped seminaries adapt their curricula toward greater alignment between seminary goals, classroom teaching, and the changing needs of the world.

On the importance of equipping pastors to be public theologians, he had this to say: “Most of our grads are going into local churches. They’re going to be hearing all kinds of things in the public world about what’s Christian and what’s Muslim and what’s Jewish. And it’s going be risky and scary out there. Pastors need to know that they are good theologians and good biblical scholars. How does the seminary curriculum empower them to know that they are constructing and reconstructing the tradition, alongside human beings who are doing the same from their own contexts?”

Moreover, as mainline denominations decline, seminarians are finding alternative places to live out their vocations. On this point, he offers: “Some of our grads are not going to go into the church. They are going to go into public vocations where theology, the faith, and biblical study empower them and help shape their vocations. How are they able to claim their role as theologians and exegetes in that public space?”

Host to the Flourishing of a Field

Much has changed within the field of religious and Christian educations since Jack’s early days as a practitioner and scholar. Most notably, the field shifted as scholars distance themselves from schooling models of education and align themselves with an emphasis on formation, claiming space as one of several specializations within the broader field of practical theology. The effect of Jack’s leadership in this changing field is visible in two primary ways – in his editorship of the journal Religious Education and in his mentoring of a new generation of scholars.

In his leadership of the guild and as editor of the journal, Jack acted as a host: he set the table, invited people to come enjoy the feast, and then curated the conversations that occurred around that table. From 2005 until 2015, Jack served as editor of Religious Education, the primary scholarly journal of the field. Each year, in preparation of the meeting, he guided the creation of a volume introducing the theme and stimulating scholarly conversation.  Following the meeting, he collected the articles that best represented the conversation and helped define next steps in the field’s evolution. Under Jack’s stewardship, the journal expanded its global reach in readership and scholarly contributions, while at the same time becoming more inclusive of scholarship from diverse religious traditions and about the interfaith endeavor itself.  Jack’s last contribution as editor was an essay, co-authored with Jewish scholar Deborah Court, about the importance of interfaith collaborations for public life.

In addition to editing the journal, Jack held numerous offices within REA/APPRE, including president and long-time member of the editorial board.  In 2011 he helped found the Horizons in Christian Religious Education, a book series highlighting the work of a promising new scholarship in the field.

Finally, Jack has gifted the field through recruiting and mentoring a new generation of scholars who claim religious education, Christian education or practical theology as central to their vocation. Between 1990 and the present, Jack advised the academic progress of fifty Phds, thirty of them in Christian education, through doctoral programs Northwestern University and Garrett-Evangelical. Frequently he used his status and leadership in the field make visible the work of younger scholars, providing platforms for their research to be highlighted. 

Jack used the moment of his retirement for just such an opportunity, hosting a gathering of former students, focused around the theme “educating for redemptive community.”  In creating that symposium, he explained: “I want to argue that the task of religious education – and Christian education as a part of that – is in fact to do everything that is possible to build, not just the church, but the world – that redemptive community.” The symposium was an opportunity to celebrate the legacy of Christian education at G-ETS while looking at the future of the church and the wider field. The symposium focused on three hallmarks of Jack’s legacy 1) teaching the faith tradition and its vision of redemptive community; 2) participating in the education of the wider public about the healing of community; and 3) engaging in partnerships and coalitions with others in mutual understanding, education and action.


Jack Seymour’s vocational commitments emerged from an upbringing that was steeped in traditional Christian practices and working-class Protestant family expectations. Forged in the crucible of 1960s social movements, Jack brought his commitments into collaboration with others in the field. The result is a body of work that celebrates a learner’s ability to be called into complex action and reflection on one’s faith that help create healing for the earth and its peoples.        

n.b.: All unattributed quotations are taken from interviews and personal communications.

Works Cited

Seymour, Jack L. Contemporary Approaches to Christian Education. Edited with Donald Miller. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1982

Seymour, Jack L. Mapping Christian Education: Approaches to Congregational Learning. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1997.

Seymour, Jack L. Theological Approaches to Christian Education.  Edited with Donald Miller. Nashville: Abingdon Press. 1990.

Seymour, Jack L. Teaching the Way of Jesus: Educating Christians for Faithful Living. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2014.

Seymour, Jack L. Educating Christians: The Intersection of Meaning, Learning and Cocation. With Margaret Ann Crain and Joseph Crockett. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1993.

Seymour, Jack L. Yearning for God: Reflections on Faithful Living. With Margaret An Crain. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2003.

Seymour, Jack L. A Deacon’s Heart: The New United Methodist Diaconate. With Margaret Ann Crain. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2001.


Books and Monographs

Teaching Biblical Faith: Leading Small Groups Bible Studies. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2015

Teaching the Way of Jesus: Educating Christians for Faithful Living.  Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2014.

Yearning for God: Reflections of Faithful Lives.  With Margaret Ann Crain.  Nashville: Upper Room Press, 2003.

A Deacon’s Heart: The New United Methodist Diaconate.  With Margaret Ann Crain.  Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2001.

Mapping Christian Education: Approaches to Congregational Learning.  Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1997.

Educating Christians: The Intersection of Meaning, Learning, and Vocation.  With Margaret Ann Crain and Joseph Crockett.  Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1993.

Theological Approaches to Christian Education.  Edited with Donald Miller.  Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1990.  (This book was translated into Korean in 1993.)

Praying the Gospel of Mark: On Faith and Blindness.  Nashville: Upper Room Books, 1988.

The Church and the Education of the Public: Refocusing the Task of Religious Education. With Robert T. O'Gorman and Charles R. Foster.  Nashville: Abingdon Press, l984.

From Sunday School to Church School: Continuities in Protestant Church Education, l860‑l929.  Washington, DC: University Press of America, l982.

Contemporary Approaches to Christian Education.  Edited with Donald Miller.  Nashville: Abingdon Press, l982. (This book was translated into Korean in l982 and Japanese in l987.)


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"The Future of the Past: History and Policy‑making in Religious Education."  Religious Education 8l (Winter l986): ll3‑l33.

"A Reforming Movement: The Story of Protestant Sunday Schools."  In Renewing the Sunday School and CCD.  Pp. 3‑25.  Edited by D. Campbell Wyckoff.  Religious Education Press, l985.

"Faith as the Agenda of Practical Hermeneutics."  Pastoral Sciences/Sciences pastorales 4 (Fall l985): l7l‑l82.

"Review Essay: Lawrence Kohlberg, The Philosophy of Moral  Development."  Zygon l8 (December l983): 470‑474.

"Teaching as Religious Leadership: Rethinking the Pastoral Role."  Quarterly Review 3 (Fall l983): 6‑l7.

"Practical Hermeneutics and Religious Leadership: Implications for Theological Education."  With Robert Moore.  In Pastoral Theology and Ministry: Theological Field Education, Key Resources, Vol. IV.  Pp. l05‑ll9.  Edited by Donald Beiss­wenger and Doran McCarty.  Association for Theological Field Education, l983.

"The Untried Curriculum: The Story of Curriculum Development for Protestant America."  In Confrontation: Curriculum. Pp. ll‑26.  Edited by Marion Brown and R. Harold Hipps.  Christian Educators Fellowship, l982.

"Theological Models for Field Education."  In Association for Theological Field Education.  Report of Proceedings of Sixteenth Biennial Consultation. Pp. 214-224.  Association for Theological Field Education, l98l.

"Placement Design: Defining the Context for Field Education."  In Theological Field Education, Vol. III.  Pp. 2l5‑22l.  Edited by Donald Beisswenger, Doran McCarty, and Tjaard Hommes.  Association for Theological Field Education, l980.

"Education for the Kingdom: Leadership in Tomorrow's Church."  Chicago Theological Seminary Register 69 (Fall l979): ll‑2l.

"Towards a Theory Base for Theological Field Education."  In Association for Theological Field Education. Proceedings of Fifteenth Biennial Consultation. Pp. l23‑l29.  Association for Theological Field Education, l979.

Book Reviews for Chicago Theological Seminary Register, Christians in Education, Church School, Religious Education, Religious Studies Review, Teaching Theology and Religion, and Weavings.

Select Articles in Church Publications:

              “Teaching the Way of Jesus.” Christians in Education 17 (Spring 2011).

“Teaching Jesus: Education for Discipleship.” Christians in Education 12 (Spring 2006): 4-7.

“Christian Education into the Future.” With Margaret Ann Crain.  Christians in Education 8 (Fall 2002): 4-6.

"Helping People Reflect on Life Experience." Christians in Education 3 (Winter 1996-97): 1-6.

"Metaphors for Youth Ministry." FAYM (UMC Fellowship of Adults in Youth Ministry) Resource Packet (Fall 1994). 

"When Culture Is Falling Apart."  In Generation X Workbook and Video.  UMC Board of Discipleship, 1994.

"Come, Emmanuel."  In The Upper Room Disciplines 1995.  Upper Room Books, 1994.

"Vocation: Living God's Grace."  In The Upper Room Disciplines 1992.   Upper Room Books, 1991.

"The Authority of the Bible in Christian Education."  Biblical Literacy 5 (Spring 1991): 14-15.

"Living Out a Vision."  With Duane Ewers.  In Christian Education: Planning Handbook. Pp. 1‑4.  Edited by Roy Ryan.  Discipleship Resources, 1988.

"Family Worship: Enlarging Our Horizons."  Christian Home l7 (Winter and Spring l984‑85).

"What Do We Mean by Evaluation: Faithfulness in Educational Ministry."  With Robert O'Gorman.  Church School Today l (Spring l983): 5‑7.

"Centerquest."  In Guide to Curriculum Choice. Pp. 56-62.  Edited by Carol Wehrheim.  Brethren Press for Joint Educational Development, 1981.

Select Papers for Academic Societies, Consultations, Lectures, and Workshops:

“Teaching the Way of Jesus: A Christology for Christian Education.”  International Academy of Practical Theology, Toronto, Canada. April 13, 2013.   

“Rethink Christian Education.”  National Conference of Christian Educators Fellowship. October 24, 2010.

“Teaching the Way of Jesus.”  Ruben E. Speaks Lecture Series.  (Three lectures: 1. Teaching the Way: The People of God as Theologians;” “Teaching the Way of Jesus in an Interfaith World;” and “Teaching for Public Life: Living the Way of Jesus.”).  Hood Theological Seminary.  October 7-8, 2010.

“Living the Way of Jesus in an Interfaith World.”  National Conference of Christian Educators Fellowship, October 27, 2008.

"Congregations and Inter-Religious Education.”  Invited paper for Conference on “Character, Commitment, and Citizenship:  Religious Schooling in Liberal Democracies.”  Sponsored by Center of Jewish Education at the University of Haifa and Von Hugel Institute of St. Edmund’s College, Cambridge University.  February, 2007. 

“Teaching Jesus: Teaching for Discipleship in an Interfaith World.”  National Conference of Christian Educators Fellowship, October, 6 2006.

“Leadership:  The Character of Theological Teaching.”  Keynote for ATS Conference on Teaching and Learning in Theological Education.”  March 9, 2001.

 “Hearing the Yearnings of All God’s People.” With Margaret Ann Crain.  1998 Convocation for United Methodist Deacons and Diaconal Ministers, October 23-24, 1998.

"Theology at Sunset: Educating for Public Life."  Jones Lectures.  Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, February 1-3, 1993.

Resource Leader. "Japan and the United States: A Global Future for Christian Education." Conference sponsored by Seiwa College, Japan, January 1991.

"Schooling: Paradigm for Church Education."  Education for Christian Life and Mission Division, National Council of Churches, May l5, l986.

"From Sunday School to Church School" and "Pilgrimage of Faith as a Paradigm for Christian Education." Wertsch Lectures.  St. Paul School of Theology, October 3‑4, l979.

Online resources

Webinar: Teaching the Way of Jesus

Excerpts from Publications

Seymour, Jack L. (1993). Educating Christians: The Intersection of Meaning, Learning and Vocation (with Margaret Ann Crain), Nashville, TN: Abingdon.

The argument of this book is that meanings are ultimately personal. No one but me lives in my skin. However, personal does not mean private. Living at the intersection is very public. Multiple forces of life meet in the intersections. In education we seek to provide hospitable and just spaces, where our lives can be opened for reflection and decision. Religious education creates contexts where learning toward wholeness and vocation takes place. (116)

Teachers seek to create contexts for learning. Since we know one another’s realities only fragmentarily, listening is thus the starting place for teaching. Mutuality and co-learning empower us to enter more deeply into experience and risk. (142)

Meaning is made in community. The work of church educators to affect the environment of the church, and the activitiy of the community educators to affect neighborhoods and towns, are educational processes. People become aware of their commitments as they engage in processes of reflection and meaning-making. Whether we are planning the structure of next year’s Sunday school program, designing a celebration of ministries in the congregation, or creating structures to promote peace, we act on our meanings. May our vocations be infused with God’s call. God lures us forward “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly” (Micah 6:8). (180)

Critical reflection on living becomes the curriculum for religious education. We examine the meanings our lives embody, so that we may more fully incarnate wholeness and justice. Therefore, we do not teach concepts, creeds, or images alone. Learners do not merely recite content. Instead, teaching occurs in the midst of life, embracing us as whole persons, as well as the tradition. Death and birth, loneliness and relatedness, meaning and meaninglessness become sugjects – the content of religious education curriculum. Issues of loss, of limits, of gift, and of justice call us to reflect and act. (187)


Seymour, Jack L. (2003). Yearning for God: Reflections of Faithful Lives. With Margaret Ann Crain. Nashville, TN: Abingdon.

The new creation is as close and as common as a small group of humans loving one another while they deeply disagree about the mission of the church. The new creation is as huge as the entire universe. Still we humans yearn for some connectedness to the whole. We yearn to experience a healed and reconciled community. The yearning for a new creation is the motive that drives us to search for what we are “supposed to do.” We want a vocation that will contribute. We want to know grace; we want to connect with God. This yearning drives us to find meaning in the midst of personal crises. If we can see some larger purpose for our crises, then the crisis is more bearable. The yearning also drives us to try to understand and alleviate suffering as we seek to make the world more just. (140)

Almost every interview ended with the words thank you. We thanked the persons for inviting us onto the holy grounds of their lives. They thanked us because they found a time and a place to question, to reflect, and to express how they are seeking to connect faith to life. They prayed aloud that the openness they had experienced in the interviews to questions about their lives and faith traditions would be accepted in their churches, congregations that they loved. Indeed they wanted to sit at a welcome table. Moreover, they yearned for opportunities to “tell their troubles over” – to express the details of living but not in a narcissistic, pride-filled way. They wanted to walk and talk with Jesus. In other words, they sought to understand how their faith connected to living, making life meaningful and empowering it with grace, vocation, and hope. The answers they gave are not always consistent. Often they push boundaries. Sometimes they are even misdirected. But they represent a yearning to know the God whose grace-filled presence is found in life. And these persons yearn to be God’s agents of faith and hope by building communities of meaning, justice, healing and new creation. (114)

Teaching the Way of Jesus: Educating Christiins for Faithful Living. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2014.

Mapping Christian Education: Approaches to Congregational Learning. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1997.

“Religious Education among Friends and Strangers: Contributions of Revisionist Educational History to Public Living.” On the Edge: (Auto)biography and Pedagogical Theories on Religious Education. Ed. By Ina ter Avest. Pps 175-185. RoggerdamL Sense Publishers, 2012.

“The Clue to Christian Religious Education: Uniting Theology and Education, 1950 to the Present.” Religious Education 99 (Summer 2004): 272-286.

“The Ethnographer as Minister: Ethnographic Research in the Context of Ministry Vocations.” With Margaret Ann Crain. Religious Education 91 (Summer 1996): 299-315. 

Author Information

Dori Baker

Dori Grinenko Baker (Garrett-Evangelical, MDiv, 1990; Northwestern Univeristy PhD, 2000) is Research Fellow at the Forum for Theological Exploration (FTE) in Atlanta, GA and Director of Spiritual Life at Sweet Briar College, Virginia.