I have just returned from participating in the 139th annual meeting of the Committee on the Uniform Series (CUS) in Orlando, FL. CUS is the group that through the years has produced the guidelines for a wide variety of denominations and groups to produce Bible study curriculum based on common Scripture passages and themes. CUS is the finest representation of the Christian spirit of unity in the body of Christ that I have experienced in all my years of ministry.
My first experience in CUS was in 1982, when I became manager of the Youth Curriculum Section at the Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention (now called “LifeWay Christian Resources”). The Uniform Series for youth was one of the curriculum series assigned to that section, and I attended my first meeting as a representative of Southern Baptists (who incidentally had been part of CUS almost from its beginning and who still hold the position of the denomination with the most years in which a representative of a single denomination has served as Chair of the committee). After a break of almost 10 years (when I managed an Adult curriculum section that did not deal with the Uniform Series), I returned to CUS in 1993 as a Southern Baptist representative in my role as a coordinator of curriculum development, first for the Sunday School Department and then for the Church Resources Group. I continued to serve on CUS until Southern Baptists pulled out of the Committee in an ill-considered drive for theological purity. In my last two years in CUS, I was chairing a special development group that was re-visioning the processes and direction for CUS in the 21st Century. I was forced out of that role mid-stream with Southern Baptists’ repudiation of ecumenical engagement. After my retirement from LifeWay in 2003, CUS invited me back as a consultant, trainer, evaluator, and developer of the Home Daily Bible Readings and Devotional Readings that support the CUS study plans. For five of the last seven years I have attended the annual meeting of CUS. This year marked my final year as I “retire” again and pass on the mantle to others.
In CUS, I have enjoyed an enriched fellowship with my fellow Baptists—from American Baptists to Seventh-Day Baptists to a rich variety of Black Baptist denominations. I also have developed deep friendships and appreciation for Christians from a wide host of other denominations (AME; AME Zion; Church of the Brethren; Church of God, Anderson, IN; CME; Cumberland Presbyterians; Mennonites; Presbyterian Church USA; United Church of Christ; United Methodists; and others). In recent years, independent publishers like Standard Publishing, Smyth & Helwys, and Urban Ministries have joined the mix. In every case, the people with whom I have worked have been devoted disciples of Jesus, passionate and compassionate people, and loving and affirming friends. I have been blessed by these friends, and I pray for their future efforts to fulfill their objectives.
I could not close these reflections without commenting on the approaching retirement of the Rev. Barbara Tilley, the administrator of CUS. Barbara had been my guide and supporter in undergirding and advancing the CUS re-visioning process. She also was instrumental is enlisting me to re-engage with CUS after my retirement. Her name along with many others (I dare not start to name them individually lest I accidentally overlook even one) have been written on my heart. They are friends. They are encouragers. They are brothers and sisters in Christ. Thank you, Barbara! Thank you, CUS! Thank you all, who have been part of my journey in the Church (with a capital C) of our Lord Jesus Christ.