SPECIAL REPORT TO THE AACS BOARDS
Should KCEA Reaffiliate With The AACS?
A Condensation of The 48-Page Report
In 1992 the Keystone Christian Education Association (KCEA) concluded after much study and prayer to terminate its membership with the American Association of Christian Schools (AACS). In subsequent months and years the AACS endeavored to have the KCEA reconsider its decision and to return to the AACS.
In January, 1996, AACS Board members and KCEA Board members met at Willow Valley Family Resort, Lancaster, PA, for a day-long exchange of information.
At the Willow Valley meeting KCEA was again encouraged to reevaluate its position, and at its next meeting the KCEA Board voted to undertake a thorough evaluation of reaffiliation. The Bible was to continue to be the ultimate guide, and the classroom and the children were to continue to be the never-forgotten concerns. Having confidence that they understood the heart of the brethren in AACS leadership, KCEA determined to conduct its reexamination of the AACS using common research procedures based on written documentation and a fact-based criteria.
For this study KCEA’s Board or a subcommittee of the Board met together for some two dozen meetings during 1996 and 1997, expending hundreds of man hours of time. As a result of this time commitment the Association will probably never be the same. The men did not just focus on an examination of the AACS; they devoted time to an examination of KCEA, thoroughly examining what we believe, what we do, and why we do it. It has certainly been a blessing to KCEA. It has been a very profitable self-study. Although we live in a busy, busy, hurry, hurry world, we recommend that our brethren in the ministry take time to do a similar study.
As requested, here is a summary of what KCEA has found about itself and what KCEA has found about the AACS. In this report we have chosen to focus on seven areas wherein we have found major contrasts. In numerous cases we have cited some of the examples that we have found so that the reader can observe the same trends or patterns.
Comparing KCEA and AACS
1. Separation in Ministry – Doctrine
KCEA has from its formation been an organization of Pennsylvanians dedicated to serve Christian Education among their peers. Embracing the fundamental, separatist standards of the Christian faith as the basis of ecclesiastical fellowship when the trend is to diversify to attract and “build,” KCEA stands on the Word of God to avoid any hint of pragmatic practices.
The AACS identifies itself as fundamentalist and separatist and has identified that it parallels KCEA. However, when we look at the “footprints” of AACS to identify its practices and trends, we find that there appears to be great divergence in practice. AACS is displaying subtle and disquieting signs that it is burdened by the historic fundamentalists’ position regarding separatism as it seeks to broaden its appeal to a larger constituency.
2. Autonomy in Ministry – Federation
KCEA’s paradigm (model, pattern, or principle) of organization is planned to provide safeguards for ministries that are concerned (1) about consistency in inter-ministry relationships and (2) about autonomy. By its name the KCEA is an “association.” In ecclesiastical terms, its philosophy and practice says it is an informal “fellowship.” In organizational terms, KCEA is a parachurch organization sponsoring activities through which local ministries can “cooperate.” In terms of governance, the local ministries that affiliate with KCEA have even more autonomy than those that participate in a “confederacy” or in a “co-op.” The AACS approaches (1) consistency in inter-ministry relationships and (2) autonomy in a different manner.
The AACS has identified that the paradigm followed by many of its state associations is that of a democracy. Individual ministries are members.
An analysis of the ministries listed in the AACS Directory indicates (1) that some states appear to restrict their membership to those with relatively small variations in doctrine and practice; thus, any inter-ministry yoking at the school level would not conflict with the ecclesiastical patterns of the local ministries in other relationships. (2) In some cases a state may be holding to good, high biblical standards while individual schools of diverse doctrine are “going around” the state association to be members of the national. (3) In some other states there appear to be fewer restrictions on membership, and the belief system therein would be more “open.” In these cases decisions as to where that association will stand and what that association will do are made either (a) by folks whose belief system condones such diversity in doctrine and practice, (b) by folks who practice such diversity, or (c) both.
The AACS name says it is an “association,” but the paradigm of organization in the AACS is that of a “federation.” The federation is built around popular elections and votes by the state and national associations as they meet together in business sessions. At the national level each state may vote and influence others based upon their belief system. Whatever is enacted by a vote of 51% of the quorum present is what the body and its individual members will do.
3. Focus in Ministry – Purpose
KCEA has determined to remain focused in its purpose and view of biblical teaching and to guard against having its focus determined by the popular “what works” philosophy, including “growth-oriented” methods that pursue size and finances.
KCEA’s focus is upon helping the local pastor, principal, teacher, and church/school succeed in ministry while trusting God to work through those individuals and groups to sustain KCEA’s ministry.
KCEA believes that God’s plan for His children is built upon a life of serving God and relying upon God for provision. There is no evidence of a different standard for religious ministries than for individuals.
The AACS offers education, legislative, and legal services. However, it is obvious that these are not the focus of their organization. The documents and practices of the AACS indicate that they pursue financial success for state associations as a major component of their mission. This is a significant development for fundamentalism, both because it (1) displaces the traditional view of dependence upon God and because it (2) displaces the traditionally valued hallmarks such as spiritual challenges, stronger schools, stronger teachers, and stronger students in Christian education.
4. Responsibility in Ministry – Helping
The goal for KCEA is to utilize its resources to directly benefit the local school, the teacher, and the child and to do this with minimal overhead costs.
When the KCEA offers programs and services to its affiliating ministries, these are structured to prompt the ministry to advance in its abilities and maturation. To non-affiliated ministries inside and outside Pennsylvania, KCEA has exercised great care and has responded when asked for information, advice, or other assistance. KCEA has sought to give ongoing assistance to all in a manner that would aid the local ministry to develop itself, to be independent and strong. In both cases, to do otherwise breeds a nonbiblical dependence similar to the paradigm (model, pattern, or principle) that has reigned at Washington for decades. The Washington model does not help; it hinders.
The AACS directs a significant part of its resources to build the national organization, its PACE organization, and its state organizations, all far removed from the local school, the teacher, and the child.
The AACS appears to be caught up in the pursuit of a modern paradigm of responsibility, a model that secular conservatives and Christian fundamentalists, separatists have historically stood against. It is a model based upon the perceived benefit of building a big organization through reliance upon name, size, power, and strong public relations efforts — but at the price of making states, local churches/schools, and individuals dependent.
5. Direction in Ministry – Contemporary Trends
KCEA lives in a modern age; however, KCEA resists the contemporary trends that are pushing fundamentalism into neo-evangelicalism. In many ways we are old-fashioned, following the old traditional perspective of methods in ministry. We serve a God Who has not changed to be up “with the times.” His Word has not changed to be “with the times.” Thus, when businessmen, researchers, educators, and churchmen approach KCEA with ideas of how to change to be relevant in modern society, we exercise great caution. Ideas, programs, methods, and concepts must be accepted only after being filtered through the whole of biblical knowledge, theology, philosophy, policy, and experience.
In view of what these books, written from “both sides,” indicate as characteristics, it appears that the AACS leadership is at or near the trend-making edge as they pursue the contemporary model. AACS appears to believe that this pursuit is biblical, beneficial, and worthy for all of the brethren. They not only promote the principles of contemporary Christianity for activities within the organization, they promote the principles for implementation by the local schools and churches.
6. Policy in Ministry – Safeguards
KCEA has a long history that promotes a philosophy of human leadership wherein there is a strong emphasis upon the importance of developing, implementing, and regularly upgrading a well-studied philosophy accompanied by statements of institutional mission/vision and detailed written policy. Visionary leaders function very effectively within this structure.
For its philosophy of human leadership, the AACS appears to utilize a leadership model wherein vision functions with little or no written philosophy and operational policies and works within that framework.
7. Organization in Ministry – Constitution
Because the KCEA is an informal fellowship, utilizes a self-perpetuating board, and limits itself to a narrow purpose, an extensive Constitution is not needed — only one with basic safeguards for the faith and provision for internal administration. Safeguards for the protection of the affiliating ministries are built into the nature and structure of the organization.
The AACS has made repeated claims that a working Constitution is in place and that this safeguard protects everyone. However, the observation of their practice and the content of their Constitution does not support this claim.
This study may be one of the largest research projects undertaken recently by a group of fundamentalists. KCEA did not originally seek to undertake this project, but it was conducted at the urging of the AACS; and if KCEA was going to commit itself to the project, it would not undertake the task in a half-hearted manner. KCEA is not seeking to publicly criticize any of our brethren or other Christian organizations, but feels compelled to be honest and forthright in sharing the conclusions of the project.
KCEA will never be the same because of the time committed to the task. KCEA’s leadership has learned much about themselves and about their brethren. We see more clearly where we have things in common. We see more clearly where we have differences.
We have many friends within the AACS. We are confident that we will enjoy eternity together in Heaven. It is an encouragement to us that we know that we share a deep concern that the lost come to know Christ and that the saints need to be edified. We are happy that we can fellowship together at many convocations, Bible conferences, and retreats.
It is clear to KCEA that there are significant differences in the way the KCEA and the AACS view important issues.
KCEA has concluded that it cannot be joined with the AACS. KCEA has been informed that if KCEA does not reaffiliate with AACS, AACS will start an alternate state association in Pennsylvania. We do not believe this to be ethical or beneficial to the cause of Christian education. The only basis for this new organization would be if AACS is convinced that no viable state association for fundamentalist Christian schools exists for Pennsylvanians. We regard the starting of any new fundamentalist state association in Pennsylvania as both (1) a breech of Christian ethics and (2) a detriment to unity and harmony among the brethren.
We trust that both organizations can now get back to the ministries to which we believe that they have been called.
Passed unanimously by the KCEA Board, August 4, 1997.
Final editing approved, September 4, 1997.
Pastor Paul J. Connor, KCEA Secretary/Treasurer
Full report available for download
The full document is approximately 48 pages in length (utilizing standard margins and 12 point type). The document includes extensive illustrations an explanation of findings and includes seven dozen footnotes. These almost exclusively reference the documents and statements supplied to the KCEA by the AACS. You can download a compressed (zip) file formatted in rich text by clicking here.