COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Statehouse Atrium was filled with Christian educators, concerned citizens and major players in education policy for the first InspirEd Conference Monday. Hosted by The Ohio Christian Education Network (OCEN) – a subsidiary of Citizens for Community Values (CCV) – the four-hour event included keynote speeches by pollster and culture analyst George Barna as well as Assistant Secretary of Primary and Secondary Education at the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) Frank Brogan.
State Senator Matt Huffman (R-Lima) and State Representative Kyle Koehler (R-Springfield) also participated.
OCEN Executive Director Averel Meden opened the event and CCV President Aaron Baer shared Jude 1-4 to get the conference moving in the right direction. He said it represented the purpose of the gathering,
1 Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James,
To those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ: 2 May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you.
3 Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the [c]saints. 4 For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand [d]marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
Baer expressed his concern that the group of Christian educators needed to follow Jude’s instructions and, “…contend earnestly for the faith,” because the culture is losing it. He also shared CCV’s goal of generational transformation.
That theme ran through the message of the first presenter, DJ Hueneman, Training and Development Coordinator for Ruah Woods. The ministry’s mission is to follow Pope John Paul II’s call, “to engage in a ‘New Evangelization’, a reproposal of the Gospel, which will fundamentally reawaken and revitalize the life in Christ for all Christians – so all may live in the TRUTH of a culture of LIFE and a civilization of LOVE.” (emphasis theirs) Ruah’s focus is on the Theology of the Body, which is the former Pope’s teaching on human identity including love, life and sexuality.
Baer led the first panel discussion which featured Mr. Hueneman, David Mahan, CCV’s Pastor Ambassador who also teaches in public and private schools on the issue of sexual risk avoidance, and Dr. Monty Lobb, Ohio Christan University’s Dean of the School of Business and Government. The foursome talked about how to form a Christian worldview in a hostile culture.
They covered the lie that a person can be anything they want to be, including any gender, on any given day. Mahan explained the idea of abstinence outside of marriage is foreign to the inner city children, but that 85-90% of the students he’s taught want to have a great marriage and family. Lobb said he encourages his students to get involved in elite roles in the culture so they are in a position to be the change.
Frank Brogan told the group the Federal DOE supports school choice and discussed a bill he hopes will pass. Senate Bill 634 would allow states to participate in a tax credit scholarship program. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) introduced the Senate-version of the legislation called the “Education Freedom Scholarships and Opportunity Act.”
“Arguably the most important thing that a mother and father can do beyond family, faith and country, and that is decide where and how their children will be educated,” Brogan stated. He also shared a message from Washington, “The real message I came to bring from Secretary DeVos, from the Department of Education and from all of us in DC is…it is true, we need to continue to increase opportunities for parents to make their choices.”
Michael Hartley of Ohio Family Network introduced the new organization and its purpose – to support the Whitehouse push for paid family leave. The group is talking to conservative, pro-family leaders with the hope of gaining their support. Hartley wants conservatives to go on offense on this pro-family issue that traditionally Democrats have championed.
Following lunch, Averel Meden interviewed Sen. Huffman and Rep. Koehler. Both men are strong supporters of education options for all students, especially the disadvantaged. Koehler discussed House Bill 122 which would create the Opportunity Scholarship, a plan that would combine the Cleveland Scholarship and the Ed Choice Scholarship into one program.
George Barna finished the lineup. His subject was the loss of the Christian worldview in the United States and its detrimental impact on culture. The sum a person’s beliefs are what Barna refers to as a “worldview.”
“You do what you believe,” Barna said.
The dominant worldview right now is post-modernism, Barna told the audience, which is diametrically opposed to the Biblical worldview. He also shared statistics that were discouraging to the crowd, including evidence that only 7% of Americans currently hold a Biblical worldview and Christians are continuing to lose ground.
“Your primary task is to shape a biblical worldview in the mind and heart of every student in that school,” Barna emphasized to the educators.
He concluded by exhorting attendees to understand their importance. “Until we can adequately equip leaders in the other dimensions of influence, the future well-being of America largely depends upon Christian schools and homeschooling reaching more young people and equipping them with a biblical worldview.”
Barna assured listeners that one or two elections would not move the needle on the cultural decay. He believes it will take 40 years to turn the tide.
After a give-and-take between the CCV President and the premier pollster, it was time to end the first InspirEd conference.
Baer closed with the same reference he had used in his opener, Jude. He read,
24 Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, 25 to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”
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