A Brief History of Beginnings with
Annual Meetings, Dates, Places, and Themes

From notes by D. Bruce Roberts, Past President

According to an article by Mark Rouch, one of the original members of SACEM, the organization grew out of consultations convened by the National Council of Churches Department of the Ministry (NCCDOM) Committee on Continuing Education. The Committee met independently for the first time in 1965[1] where the decision was made to have conferences that would be continuing education for continuing educators. At the 1966 meeting at Kellogg Center for Continuing Education, Michigan State University, the consultation “decided that a society of continuing educators for ministry should be formed”. [2]

In 1967 at the Center for Continuing Education, Syracuse University (in sweltering heat with no air conditioning), SACEM was established during the business meeting when the committee’s report was accepted. Bylaws were adopted and the name selected, with one emendation, from the committee proposal. Proposed was Society for the Advancement of Continuing Education of the Ministry. “The” was dropped to become “Continuing Education for Ministry”—a small but highly significant change. The Majority sentiment was that the new society should focus on the whole ministry of the church, including the work of non-ordained professionals in ministry, as well as laity.[3]

When I joined SACEM in 1981, it seemed wise for my own memory to keep a list of the Annual Meetings, places, and themes. So what follows is my record that unfortunately does not include meetings from 1967 to 1980. I had hoped to find the rest of the meeting information in the SACEM Archives at Union Theological Seminary in New York, but have not yet had the opportunity. The Archives, by the way, were established in the 1990’s when Connolly Gamble, who was the first SACEM President and then Executive Director, wanted to give SACEM all of his many records. The question was where to keep the substantial number of materials. Robert E. Reber, a long time member and past president of SACEM, was then at Auburn Theological Seminary, and he negotiated a space for the archives at Union Theological Seminary Library.

June 8-11
Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX "Discovering Viable Continuing Education Models”
June 7-10      
Presbyterian School of Christian Ed., Richmond, VA “A Hard Look At Continuing Education”
(“15th Anniversary meeting”)
June 13-16
Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, Chicago, IL  “Continuing Education and the Dynamics of Change”
June 18-21
Moravian Theological Seminary, Bethlehem, PA “Taking The Learner Seriously”
June 17-20
Barnard College/Auburn Theological Seminary, New York, NY          “Breaking Down/Building Up: Transformations in Ministry”
June 12-13
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, Toronto, ON “Learning Our Way: Towards Wholeness in Ministry

January 9-11

Amelia Island Plantation, Jacksonville, FL,

“A Fresh Look at Continuing Education”
(20th Anniversary meeting)

January 8-10

Marriott Hotel, Orlando, FL

“Theological Perspectives for Continuing Education”

January 13-15
Doubletree Hotel, New Orleans, LA,  “Continuing Education for the Whole People of God” 

January 12-14

La Mansion Del Rio Hotel, San Antonio, TX

"The Learning Society and the Church”
1991    January 17-20  Town & Country Hotel, San Diego, CA  “Leadership Dilemmas in a Changing Church: The Role of Continuing Education”
January 10-12
Marriott Hotel, Orlando, FL  “Transformative Learning: Making a Real Difference” (25th Anniversary meeting)

January 8-10

New Orleans Baptist Seminary, New Orleans, LA

“The North American Context for Continuing Education in Ministry: How is the Gospel Being Experienced?”

January 7-9

Scarritt-Bennett Center, Nashville, TN

“Marketing: How to Tell Our Story”
January 6-8
Emmanuel College & Victoria University, Toronto, ON “Transformational Learning: Bringing Wholeness to a Broken World”
January 12-14
National 4-H Center, Washington DC “Religion in Public Life”

January 10-12 

Brite Divinity School, Fort Worth, TX

“Going the Distance” (on distance education) (30th Anniversary meeting)  

January 9-11

Techny Towers Conference Center, Chicago, IL

“Church as Learning Community: Integrating the Five Disciplines of The Learning Organization”

January 8-10

Scarritt-Bennett Center, Nashville, TN

“Ethics and the NewLearner: From Follow the Leader to Learners as Leaders”

January 14-16

Auburn Theological Seminary, New York, NY

“Liberating Our Imaginations for Continuing Theological Education”

January 11-12

Holiday Inn Select, Decatur, GA

“Exploring Possibilities for Lay Theological Education”

March 1-3 


El Caribe Resort & Conference Center, Daytona Beach, FL

 “Learning from the Heart: Spirituality, Community, and   Education” (35th Annual Meeting)

February 21-24

Lambuth Inn, Lake Junaluska, NC

“Coloring Outside the Lines:Seeking New Models for Continuing Education”

February 19-22

Sheraton Four Points Hotel, Denver, CO

“Listening to Many Voices: Lifelong Learning in a Global Context”

January 27-30

Trinity College, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON “The Church in Mission: Leading for Learning”  

February 17-19

Scarritt-Bennett Center, Nashville, TN

“Rediscovering Sabbath Rest”
2007    The 40thAnnual Meeting, Scheduled for January 26-28, in Berkeley, CA, was cancelled.  A planning sub-group of the Board met in Columbus, Ohio, to decide how to proceed. The result was the 2008 Annual Meeting.
February 15-17
Blackwell Center, Columbus, OH “Emerging Opportunities for Leadership in Continuing Education” w/ Mary E. Hess.

March 6-8,

Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur, GA

“Crafting Continuing Education: Identity and Intentionally” w/ Ron Cervero and Russ Moxley.

January 21-24

Scarritt-Bennett Conference Center, Nashville, TN                                          

“Transcending Boundaries: Creating Communities of Learning and Renewal” with reports on peer learning projects.

August 16-17

2011    August 16-17, Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur, GA

A leadership crisis and lack of an Annual Meeting produced the need for a re-visioning meeting of some board members and other interested persons at Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur, GA. The meeting was called during phone conferences of the Board, initiated by new board member, Steve Fetter, of the United Church of Canada. In the phone conferences, the Board decided to invite as many from the membership as possible with the understanding that those attending who needed help would be reimbursed travel and overnight expenses from the SACEM treasury.  The group gathered at Columbia and was led in a planning process by Chris Hammon assisted by David Sawyer. The gathered group declared itself the equivalent of the Annual Meeting for decision-making purposes, appointed the former board members to be the “Coordinating Committee,” elected Rebecca Youngblood president, determined to spend some of the remaining funds to update the web page and to support further meeting planning, suspended the by-laws (in order to give maximum freedom for visioning, and planning), agreed to meet in one year, and set a date in 2013 for another gathering of the whole membership.  Rick Rouse, Past President, agreed to head up a planning task force for the 2013 gathering.

July 30-August 1

Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur, GA

The second consultation was planned to follow up on the 2011 meeting. The meeting was led by President Becky Youngblood and Rick Rouse, who was asked to be the meeting facilitator. The purpose was to refine plans for the future of the organization now known as SACEM and to attend to planning for the next regular meeting to be held in 2013 at Spirit of the Desert, the Lutheran conference center, in Carefree, Arizona on the topic of “Learning Without Borders.” The consultation meeting produced a proposed purpose statement, a proposed new name, and related documents as well as reports on plans for the 2013 meeting. These results will be published on the new, revised website.

March 8-10


Spirit of the Desert, Carefree, AZ,

 “Learning Without Borders” featuring Eric Law, Founder and Director of the Kaleidoscope Institute.  Border Links has been engaged to facilitate a one day cultural immersion experience in Nogales—on both the American and Mexican side of the border.


[1] Rouch, Mark, “From Yesterday to Today in Continuing Theological Education,” in A Lifelong Call to Learn edited by Robert E. Reber and D. Bruce Roberts (Herndon, VA: Alban Institute, 2010), p. 4.

[2] Ibid., p.5

[3] Ibid.