Locke Bowman: A lifetime of excellence in Christian education
Locke Bowman: A lifetime of excellence in Christian education

Locke Bowman

The Rev. Dr. Locke E. Bowman, Jr., Professor Emeritus of Virginia Seminary, first Director of the Center for the Ministry of Teaching and James Maxwell Professor of Christian Education and Pastoral Theology from 1983 until 1994, passed away at Evanston Hospital in Evanston, Illinois on November 14, 2013, while recovering from heart surgery.

Dr. Bowman leaves behind a legacy of devotion to the work of supporting others in sharing their Christian faith. As priest, professor, and experienced Sunday school teacher, he made Christian education the focus of his work. 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 or 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.

Locke joined the faculty of Virginia Theological Seminary in the fall of 1983 as the first full professor of Christian education at an accredited Episcopal Seminary. He came to VTS from his position as Executive Director of the National Teacher Education Project (NTEP), which he founded in 1968. The 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.

It was at VTS that Locke brought all of his vision and previous experience together. He was responsible for the development of the Center for the Ministry of Teaching (CMT), dedicated in 1986. To be truly effective, Locke believed “resource centers … 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.”

As part of Locke’s expansive vision, the CMT produced the first issue of Episcopal Teacher in 1986, to support the efforts of Sunday school teachers throughout the country. You are reading this publication today because of his dedication to sharing ideas with those responsible for education in local congregations.

As a VTS faculty member, Locke created courses for seminarians and non-degree students that would instill in generations of future clergy and church school leaders the importance of quality education in the Episcopal Church and the wider ecumenical community. Building on the work of such progressive educators as John Dewey, Locke believed that learning should be interactive and must involve students directly in the experience, a concept well ahead of its time in church education, and one he modeled in his own classroom.

Among his great accomplishments, Locke conceived and oversaw the development of the Episcopal Children’s Curriculum (ECC), carefully selecting writers and artists to publish content that reflected sound biblical scholarship, contemporary understandings of child development, and established teaching methods. The first set of ECC materials was available in 1990, and Locke retired in December of 1994 after completing the last volume.

Locke Bowman 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. Locke never tired of highlighting the importance of teaching in his ministry; every article, book, and editorial we wrote reflects the act of teaching as the single most important factor in the continuation of the faith and the church of the future.

Dr. Amelia J. Gearey Dyer is the Associate Dean for Special Projects of Virginia Theological Seminary. From 1996 until 2007, Dr. Dyer was the Director of the Center for the Ministry of Teaching and worked with Dr. Bowman in developing the Episcopal Children’s Curriculum.

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