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Locke Bowman

By Amy Geary Dyer


Locke E Bowman, Jr. (January 12, 1927 - November 14, 2013) Bowman was a Presbyterian pastor (1951-1983) and Episcopal priest (1983 --) and professor emeritus of Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia. The focus of his work was supporting the task of clergy and laity in their ministry of teaching and learning in the church. He believed that everyone can be a good teacher if provided with the appropriate training, the necessary tools and the mentorship of other teachers. His contributions, including the development of a resource center for teaching, curriculum development, workshops for Christian educators, and numerous  editorials and articles that reached the leaders of Christian education in parishes, have significantly impacted the role of teachers in the church. In an interview in May of 1984, Locke summarized his “profoundly simple” philosophy of education: 

I believe there is no such thing as “education” without teaching…If we begin with the teacher, helping him/her to do the best possible job, then all the rest will follow. Curricular resources will be the tools of the teacher, not the teacher’s master. Schools and organizational structures will be shaped to make the teachers’ roles more prominent. Innovation will proceed from teachers’ insights, worked out with the students in an atmosphere of mutual respect.[i][ii]

iBooty, John E. (1995) Mission and Ministry: A History of Virginia The3ological Seminary

Harrisburg,  PA :Morehouse Publishing , p 347


Locke E Bowman, Jr. was born on January 12, 1927 to Locke E. Bowman, Sr. and Naomi McCann in the small farming community of Clinton, Missouri. Locke grew up on a farm with his younger sister, Dorcas, and attended the local elementary school. During a “release time”[i] religious education class he heard a teacher tell the story of Moses, an encounter that would affect his view of learning through story. After graduation from high school in 1943, Locke worked as a writer and copy editor at three newspapers of Central Missouri—in Sedalia, Liberty and Clinton. These experiences would shape his entire life. It was in Sedalia that Locke encountered Rosemary Burrows, one of the people whose mentorship would form his commitment to editing, writing and publishing that met the highest standards of journalism. Burrows would ask him at the end of each day, “What did you learn today?” A question he would ask his students throughout his career. [ii]

Locke attended William Jewel College, a small liberal arts college in Liberty, Missouri, where he met his future wife, Ruth Ellen Halter. After graduation, with a double major in English and history, he entered McCormick Seminary in Chicago in the fall of 1948. He was ordained as a Presbyterian minister in 1951.  He and Ruth were married on August11, 1952. Together they raised their son, Locke E Bowman III. They were married for 52 years.

While attending seminary, Locke met and was influenced by Hulda Niebuhr, older sister of H. Richard and Reinhold Niebuhr and professor at the Presbyterian School for Christian Education at McCormick. She believed in the integrity of the learner and encouraged her students to develop education that was experiential, reflective, and transformative.[iii] Professor Niebuhr’s influence furthered his desire to instill in teachers of religious education the goals for excellence in the teaching of scripture and passing on the faith to the next generation.[iv] Her lessons would be carried into Locke’s own teaching ministry, along with the tradition of “The Light House Parade,” In this celebration of light held around All Hallows Eve, a celebration that he brought to Virginia Theological Seminary, children and their families would make light houses out of boxes, put candles inside and parade through the streets. 

After three years at First Presbyterian Church in Brookfield, Missouri, where he was known as “the teaching pastor,” Locke was called to Philadelphia, PA to be the editor of resource materials for youth at the national Presbyterian Church USA headquarters. He contributed to the Christian Faith and Life curriculum, a series of Christian education materials produced for the denomination.

In 1968, Locke and his family moved to Scottsdale, Arizona to found the National Teacher Education Project. Locke’s innovative work in the field of Christian education developed into a worldwide ministry to teachers and Christian educators in parishes and on military bases.  In 1972, Locke received an honorary  Doctor of Humane Letters (LHD) from Schiller University in Europe for his international and ecumenical work through the National Teacher Education Project.

During this time in Arizona, Locke felt a call to become an Episcopalian. Drawn by the liturgy, the Eucharistic theology and ethos of the Episcopal Church, Locke joined the Episcopal Church and was ordained as a deacon in 1983 and a priest in 1984.

In 1982, The Very Rev. Richard Reid became Dean and President of Virginia Theological Seminary, in Alexandria, Virginia. In his inaugural address he outlined several new initiatives for the seminary including a vision for strengthening the educational ministry of the church following the tradition of Lester Bradner, a prominent early 20th century educator in the Episcopal Church. After consulting with several prominent Christian educators, Dean Reid invited Locke to join the faculty as the professor of Christian Education and Pastoral Theology in the fall of 1983.  Fittingly Locke would deliver the Bradner Lecture at General Theological Seminary in New York in 1991. During his time at Virginia, Locke would establish the Center for the Ministry of Teaching, develop courses for clergy and laity, establish a Master of Arts in Christian Education degree, write, edit and publish a curriculum and a tabloid newspaper. He retired from Virginia Seminary in December of 1994.

After retiring from Virginia Theological Seminary in 1994, Locke became the General Secretary to the Board of Examining Chaplains (1995-2003) a body that oversees the administration of examinations for future priests in the Episcopal Church.  Locke was also employed as writer and editor for The Pilot, the local newspaper in Southern Pines, NC where he and Ruth lived.

In retirement, Locke lived in Evanston, IL, where he edited manuscripts and worshipped at the Church of the Atonement in Chicago, where one of his former seminary students was the rector.  Locke served 34 years in the Presbyterian Church and 30 years in the Episcopal Church and was one of the few people to have held a national office in these two major denominations.

[i] “Release time education” allowed children from public schools to attend religious education classes one afternoon a week.

[ii] Telephone conversation with Locke Bowman, August 14, 2013

[iii] Caldwell, Elizabeth F. (2007?) Hulda Clara August Niebuhr. Retrieved from

[iv] Ibid.


Contributions to Christian Education

As Executive Director of the National Teacher Education Project (NTEP), from 1968 to 1983, a program funded jointly by the Lilly Foundation, the National Presbyterian Board of Christian Education and an anonymous donor, Locke developed an international and ecumenical institute for teaching and learning in the church.  NTEP was ground breaking in its efforts to train teachers and leaders in Christian education. Its five day training institutes attracted teachers from every part of the nation.  During his time in Arizona, Locke also coordinated and edited a curriculum for the Navajo tribe nearby based on storytelling (1968), worked with the US Department of Defense in training chaplains and teachers on military bases throughout the world, specifically the Department of the Navy. His Manual for Religious Program Specialists in their Role as Coordinators of Religious Education was a significant and detailed effort to create, write and publish a manual for use with chaplains and religious educators of all denominations who were engaged in religious education programs on military bases worldwide.  It was through this endeavor that Locke met Rabbi Arnold Resnicoff, who introduced him to the work of Rabbi Max Kadushin, whose work Locke would focus on in Teaching for Christian Hearts, Souls & Minds.[i]

According to the Association of Presbyterian Educators citation in 1982, “Locke was one of the first to set specific standards and objectives for improving teaching in the church and provided a wealth of resources for all phases of church education. It would be hard to find any church educator who has not been profoundly influenced by his outstanding work.” [ii]

Locke worked with Sister Carol Rennie, OSB and other staff at the NTEP to develop materials to support and enhance the work of teachers in Sunday schools. Sister Carol remembers Locke as “affirming of teachers, helping them to understand their role in passing on the faith to the next generation. He made the concepts accessible to them and instilled in them the confidence to teach even with limited resources.” [iii]

Through his grand experiment in religious teaching, Locke affected many individuals who still remember what they learned under his mentorship.[iv]

Locke initiated the publication of Church Teacher, a magazine designed to help the teacher in the Sunday school classroom bring the very best in resources and understanding of both children and learning to the task of forming a new generation of Christians. He served as editor from 1973-1983. The NTEP also produced a monthly series of cassette tapes and supplemental resources that were designed to be distributed to individual churches for use by individuals or groups of teachers for continuing education opportunities.

Locke joined the faculty of Virginia Theological Seminary in the fall of 1983. At the meeting of the Board of Trustees in May of 1984, the Board approved Locke’s proposal to create the Center for the Ministry of Teaching, with Locke as its first Director. The center was to have three phases of development:

“Phase I: Establish a Library of resources in Christian Education, and a Calendar of Events for Church Teachers/Educators—operative by January 15, 1985.

Phase II: Developing an innovative Laboratory for Parish Leaders—with first course offerings beginning September 1,, 1985

Phase III: Establish a Department of Research and Development, to begin its work January 15, 1986.”[v]

It was at VTS that Locke brought all of his vision and previous experience to bear. He was responsible for the development of the Center for the Ministry of Teaching (CMT), publication of Episcopal Teacher, and the creation of courses for seminarians and lay people that would instill in generations of future clergy and church school leaders the importance of quality of education in the Episcopal Church and the wider ecumenical community. Locke was a professor who not only taught his theories of but enacted them in teaching laboratories and in his own classroom.

The Center for the Ministry of Teaching (CMT), a name Locke selected to reflect its purpose, was dedicated in 1986. The CMT was located in Packard Laird Hall, which had previously served as the Virginia Seminary Library. In keeping with Locke’s belief that spaces for Christian education should be the best possible, the Georgian building, with Palladian windows at each end, was restored and refurbished to contain, several offices, an oratory, and media resource room on the lower lever and a classroom and educational resource area on the upper level. The bright, welcoming interior provided a place for teachers, and leaders of churches to meet, examine resources for teaching from all denominations and a number of related secular sources. The CMT continues its work in a new location, Key Hall, another building that once served as the Virginia Seminary’s library and was totally restored to serve the teaching ministry of the church in the 21st Century.

“Resource centers, to be truly effective, should have full time, adequately-compensated consultants who will work aggressively to make items known and available to the teaching staffs of the Sunday schools.”[vi]

Locke’s vision was particularly embodied in the workshops he held for Christian educators.  The speakers invited for special events included story tellers and denominational leaders.  A variety of educational and traditional games and media that both supported family life and Christian formation, as well as a wide variety of print resources and media, were available. The CMT became the place for many denominational educators and teachers to peruse Sunday school curriculum, examine educational materials and preview videos that could then be borrowed for use in their parish youth groups, teacher training and adult education programs.

Classes for seminarians were another vehicle for Dr. Bowman’s plan for exposing future clergy to the resources and experiences that would equip them with the skills and knowledge needed for promoting and supporting excellent educational programs in the church. Incorporated into the required class, Teaching in the Church, was a laboratory teaching experience. Students from local Episcopal day schools and adults from nearby parishes and a retirement home were brought to the CMT for a lesson taught by the seminarians, on a topic of their own choosing, using what they had learned in class. The experience was filmed by cameras installed in the classroom and reviewed later by the students who learned from seeing themselves in the act of teaching and from Locke’s gentle feedback on their work. 

 This structure was key to Locke Bowman’s understanding of the act of teaching and is reflected in his book, Teaching for Christian Hearts, Souls, and Minds. The lesson plans always began with a statement that determined what concept would be taught followed by the goals and objectives, and strategies that would be used in the actual teaching event. The lessons always focused on what the learner would know at the end of the experience. “The student will be able to” … was the beginning of each objective that would be measureable at the end. [vii]

Locke believed that learning should be interactive and should involve students directly in the experience, a concept just beginning to emerge in education theory in general and well ahead of its time in church education,  This form of teaching was embodied in the way the class itself was taught. Seminarians engaged in interactive learning experiences, a new way of learning for most of them. Locke had developed a series of Learning Centers that could be used in class rooms with young children through adults. The learning centers focused on a single subject or season of the church year. One session of the seminary class was devoted to experiencing these learning centers and was the highlight of each semester. Seminary students often began the semester resentful of this required course and skeptical of its use in their future ministry. By the end, most were converts to the importance of Christian education and its centrality in their ordained leadership. Many returned to the CMT after graduation to make use of its resources or sent their directors of Christian education to visit the Center or attend workshops.

Episcopal Teacher and Encountering Christ in the Episcopal Church

In 1986 the CMT produced the first issue of Episcopal Teacher, a tabloid newspaper written, edited and published by the CMT to support the efforts of Sunday school teachers throughout the country.  Episcopal Teacher was published 10 times a year and provided editorials written by Locke Bowman, expressing encouragement for teachers and hope for the Christian education process, stories of excellent programs being carried out  in parishes, ideas for  seasonal activities that reflected the liturgical year, puzzles, games, and even cartoons. Episcopal Teacher is still published by the CMT as a quarterly magazine, and distributed free of charge in hard copy and on line. That same year   Encountering Christ in the Episcopal Church, a confirmation curriculum written by Ronald and Charlotte Molrine, was published by Episcopal Teacher Press.

Episcopal Children’s Curriculum

The General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Anaheim, California in 1984 appointed a blue ribbon task force of clergy and lay people to examine the state of Christian education in the Episcopal Church. The National Church’s education ministry had declined significantly, as it had in many other denominations, from its investment in the Seabury series in the mid 1950’s until current times. One purpose of the task force was to determine if the Episcopal Church should invest once again in the publication of a curriculum to be used in parishes. Locke Bowman served on this committee and helped it understand the needs of teaching in the church. He introduced the idea of a catechetical guide similar to sharing the Light of Christ published by the Roman Catholics. The idea was adopted and resulted in the publication of Called to Teach and Learn in 1994. The task force determined that the diversity of the Episcopal Church did not lend itself to the production of Christian education materials by the national church and encouraged individuals, dioceses, and seminaries to undertake this effort.

Locke Bowman was prepared for this outcome and began work on the initial concepts for the development of what would be called the Episcopal Children’s Curriculum.  Working in collaboration with Morehouse Publishing, and with a generous grant from the Sture Olsson Foundation, this ambitious effort would produce nine years of teaching materials. The first set of materials was available in 1990.  The Episcopal Children’s Curriculum was grounded in sound biblical scholarship, understandings of child development, and established teaching methods.  Its Foundation Paper outlined the theological and educational beliefs that would be the guide for the development of all the materials.

“The aim of Christian education in Episcopal Church parishes and congregations is to assist every member in living out the covenant made in Holy Baptism (BCP, p. 304). Hence, the common ministry of teachers and learners focuses on matters of both faith and practice:

·   Faith in God who made heaven and earth, in Jesus Christ the Son of God, and in the Holy Spirit who is Lord and giver of life.”

·   Practice of worship and prayer, of repentance and obedience, of loving service to all persons, and active pursuit of God’s justice and peace in the world.”[viii]

The curriculum project included experienced teachers and directors of Christian education who shared their expertise in the creation of lessons for each age level. Their understanding of the situations that many teachers experienced informed the format and teacher support materials that were included with the curriculum. The final project contained nine Teacher’s Guides, for ages preschool through intermediate, children’s books, Take Home Cards, Student Newsletters, resource books, and posters for use by teachers and students. The Episcopal Children’s Curriculum expanded after Dr. Bowman’s retirement to include Episcopal Curriculum for Youth, is still available online and being used in parishes as of this writing.  The entire Episcopal Children’s Curriculum, completed in 1994, was edited by Locke, who also devoted many hours of personal attention to the selection of writers, artists and the publishing of these materials.

Writing, book, articles, editorials,

In 1988, Locke began writing Teaching for Christian Hearts, Souls & Minds, a book devoted to the development of principles of Christian formation based on the work of Rabbi Max Kadushin. Using the essence of Rabbi Kadushin’s thought Locke expanded on Kadushin’s fundamental concepts of the Jewish faith and developed the idea of magni-concepts for use in the Christian context. The term magni-concepts refers to “[t]he value -concepts of God’s love, God’s Justice, the gospel of Christ and the Church as Christ’s Body are magni (large) and utterly essential for Christian discourse.[ix]

Locke Bowman has contributed numerous articles for ecumenical publications and the Episcopal Church, all focusing on his belief that Christian education for all ages should be taken seriously and with attention to excellence in the environment where teaching takes place, the training of teachers, and the importance of sharing faith in the triune God with current and future generations of Christians. Never tiring of highlighting the importance of teaching in his ministry, every article, book, and editorial, reflects the act of teaching as the single most important factor in the continuation of the faith and the church of the future.


[i] Bowman, Locke E. (1990)Teaching for Christian Hearts, Souls & Minds New York, NY: Harper & Row

[ii] APCE Association of Presbyterian Church Educators

[iii] Telephone conversation with Sister Carol Rennie, OSB, August 13, 2013

[iv] Ibid.

[v] Board minutes, dean’s file ay 16, 1984. Booty p. 347

[vi] Wyckoff, D. Campbell Ed. (1986) Renewing the Sunday School and the CCD Birmingham, AL: Religious Education Press, p.96

[vii] Class materials 1987

[viii] ECC Foundation paper 1990

[ix] Bowman, p. 39




Bowman, Locke E. (1963) How to teach senior highs. Philadelphia: Westminster Press.

Bowman, Locke E. (1971)  Education for Volunteer Teachers : a Report on the Project for the Advancement of Church Education (PACE) 1968-1970 Scottsdale, Arizona : National Teacher Education Project.

Bowman, Locke E. (1972) 70 cues for teachers  Scottsdale : The Arizona Experiment.

Bowman, Locke E. (1974) Essential skills for good teaching [2d ed.]. Scottsdale, Arizona.  National Teacher Education Project.

Bowman, Locke E. (c1974) Essential skills for good teaching: National Teacher Education.  Project manual Revised edition.

Bowman, Locke E. (1977) Straight Talk About Teaching in Today's  Teachers. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press.

Bowman, Locke E. (1980) Teaching Today: the Church's First Ministry. Philadelphia: Westminister Press.

Bowman, Locke E. (1990) Teaching for Christian Hearts, Souls, and Minds : a Constructive, Holistic Approach to Christian Education. San Francisco: Harper & Row.

Chapters in Books:

Bowman, Locke E. (1986) Analysis and Assessment: The General Protestant Sunday School. In Wyckoff, D. Campbell (Ed.) Renewing the Sunday school and the CCD (pp 91-112) Birmingham, AL: Religious Education Press.

Bowman, Locke E. (1988) Challenges Facing the Churches: what would happen if ... ? In Does the church Really Want Religious Education Birmingham, AL: Religious Education Press.


Bowman, Locke E. (1983) Curricular Decision-making.  In Religious Education Philadelphia, Pa. : Religious Education Association; vol. 78, no. 1 (1983), p. 103-107.

Bowman, Locke E. (1984) An interview with the Reverend Locke E. Bowman, Jr. In Virginia Seminary Journal, Vol. XXXVI, no. 1, (May, 1984)
Alexandria, VA : Protestant Episcopal Theological Seminary in Virginia.

Bowman, Locke E. (1990) Episcopal Children's Curriculum. In Virginia Seminary Journal, Vol. XLII, no. 1, (July, 1990) Alexandria, VA : Protestant Episcopal Theological Seminary in Virginia.

Bowman, Locke E.  (1991) Call for a serious Christian Education Summit Meeting. In Anglican Theological Review, Inc. Vol. 73, no. 1 (Winter 1991) (pp 106-112)

Bowman, Locke E. (1991) Christian Education: A Ministry of Hospitality. Virginia Seminary Journal, Vol. XLIII, no. 4, (December, 1991) Alexandria, VA: Protestant Episcopal Theological Seminary in Virginia.

Bowman, Locke E. (1993) The Episcopal Children's Curriculum. In Virginia Seminary Journal, Vol. XLV, no. 4, (December, 1993) Alexandria, VA: Protestant Episcopal Theological Seminary in Virginia.

Audio Tapes and Curriculum

Bowman, Locke E. (1970) Whither church education? In Howe, Reuel L., The future of ministry [sound recording] Pittsburgh, PA : Thesis Theological Cassettes, 1970. Thesis theological cassettes; v. 2 no. 8.

Christian Faith and Life Curriculum. Youth Editor (1955-1968)

Episcopal Children's Curriculum (1991-2000).  preschool shell, preschool chalice, preschool, cross, primary shell, primary chalice, primary cross, intermediate shell, intermediate chalice, intermediate cross / Amelia J. Gearey, Locke Bowman, editors. Harrisburg: Morehouse; Alexandria, VA : Center for the Ministry of Teaching.

Manual for Religious Program Specialists in Their Role as Coordinators of Religious Education (c1985) Chief of Naval Education and Training. Department of the Navy

Experimental Navajo Curriculum Units.(1968) Locke E. Bowman Editor. The Arizona Experiment, Scottsdale, AZ


Editorials  in Church Teachers (1973-1983)  and Episcopal Teacher (1986-1995)

Locke E. Bowman, Jr.’s papers and publications are located in the archives of the Bishop Payne Library at Virginia Theological Seminary, 3737 Seminary Road, Alexandria, Virginia 22304.


Excerpts from Publications

-Bowman, Locke E. (1986) Editorial Episcopal Teacher, Alexandria, VA. Center for the Ministry of Teaching.November 1986, p. 2

“ All baptized people in the Christian community are teachers—they teach just by being who they are (committed disciples of our Lord). But there are persons chosen from the Body of Christ who take on special leadership roles and engage in intentional “acts of teaching.” They think through what it is that needs to be taught, they consider how their students prefer to learn, and become aware of the resources available not only for  interpreting the Christian heritage but also for understanding human growth and development. Out of all this welter of data they dare to approach their task…and many do it heroically, touching the lives of boys and girls, men and women, in wonderfully inspiring ways!”

-Bowman, Lock E. (1987) Editorial. Episcopal Teacher, Alexandria, VA. Center for the Ministry of Teaching. July/August 1987, p.2

“We need not apologize for organized efforts in parishes to help people know and enter fully into the tradition of God’s people. If Sunday School is one way to attack this task of educating, then let it be a good one! If other approaches are better, the let the innovations proceed. But at the core of all such enterprises must be a certain amount of dedication to disciplined study and learning. . . .

So it seems to me that we ought to recover a new dedication to establishing disciplined approaches to learning. We can take into account all the good insights as have acquired about the abilities of the various age levels. We can choose from a wide range of published materials as our class resources. We can work with the students to decide upon appropriate learning strategies.

And then we can say to ourselves, ‘Let’s make teaching and learning a top priority in the life of our Church. If we believe in Jesus Christ as Teacher, as the very One who is the incarnation of the teachings of god (Torah), and if we see ourselves as Christ’s disciples in this time and place, we have a mission to teach—that is to share what is most precious to us. We have an obligation, to explore Scripture and tradition, and we are called to employ reason (thinking skills) in assessing how our faith speaks in this age.’”

-Bowman, Locke E. (1990) Teaching for Christian Hearts, Souls, and Minds : a Constructive, Holistic Approach to Christian Education. San Francisco: Harper & Row. p.104

“When we grasp clearly that an interrelated complex of value concepts is at the heart of our faith, we recognize that this very complex is, after all, our religious education ‘curriculum.’ All the rich lore, all the stories and commentary, all the historical data—everything we store and treasure as a people—emanate from and point back to the magni-concepts that govern our formation as God’s people. We are under no pressure to outline and cover and systematize everything that comes our way. The conversation centers around the love of God, the justice of God, the good news of the gospel, and the life of the Church as Christ’s Body. These conceptual frameworks, taken as a whole and never viewed as hierarchy of thought, are the mind so graciously bestowed upon us by the Holy Spirit. Not only do they color our conversation; they correct and redirect it, and they bid us return again and again to the Source.”

Editorials written by Dr. Bowman in Church Teacher and Episcopal Teacher from 1973-1995 provide insightful reflections on teaching and learning for all ages.

Bowman, Locke E. (1990). Teaching for Christian hearts, souls, and minds : A constructive, holistic approach to Christian education. San Francisco: Harper & Row.


Author Information

Amy Geary Dyer


Amelia J Gearey Dyer, Ph.D. Florida State University. Amelia serves as the James Maxwell Professor of Christian Education and Pastoral Theology at Virginia Theological Seminary, Alexandria, VA.