For years increasing requests have come from Bible workers, singly and in groups, asking for a new permanent name for this class of workers, especially for use when laboring for those not of our faith. This reached its logical culmination at the 1941 General Conference in San Francisco, where one hundred and twenty-five Bible workers, assembled in council from all over North America, with some from other divisions, urged a new name. Assurance was there given that this would be undertaken through the established organization channels.
As a step toward this objective, arrangements were made to have the Bible workers for each conference listed annually as a separate group in the denominational Year Book. This is now an established policy. Then, at the succeeding Autumn Council of 1941, the following action was passed authorizing separate credentials for Bible workers, instead of including them with other groups under the general missionary license as heretofore. The action stated:
"We recommend, 1. That the former plan of distinctive Bible Worker Credentials be revived, and that these credentials be issued to all regular, full-time Bible workers in lieu of the present general Missionary License issued to various groups of workers."
But this could not be made effective until an acceptable permanent name could be agreed upon. The Advisory Council of the Ministerial Association was next authorized to conduct a poll of the five principal groups most directly involved—Bible workers, evangelists, pastors, conference presidents, and college Bible teachers—the latter group chiefly because of their long use of one of the frequently mentioned names. The returns from this poll were illuminating, and afforded clear direction. The results were then tabulated and presented to the Plans Committee of the 1942 Autumn Council, just held in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Various individual titles, such as Minister's Assistant, Bible Counsellor, Bible Reader, Bible Lector, Bible Tutor, Missionary Teacher, Bible Woman, Deaconess, Lady Evangelist, Lady Visitor, and Clergywoman had been submitted. Because of the local or sectional character, such could not, of course, receive serious consideration. But the Plans Committee, on the basis of the almost equal poll preference for "Bible Teacher" and "Bible Instructor," registered a straw vote of preference of four to one for Bible Instructor, thus avoiding conflict in name with college and academy Bible teachers. Therefore, upon unanimous formal vote of the Plans Committee, the following recommendation was transmitted to the Council and passed unanimously by that body :
"Whereas, The 1941 Autumn Council authorized separate credentials for Bible workers, to supersede the former plan of including them with other groups receiving the general missionary license, but with issuance of such credentials contingent upon the selection of a new name for those heretofore known as 'Bible Workers; and,
"Whereas, The Ministerial Association was authorized to take a representative poll of the groups most vitally concerned in the name to be chosen—evangelists, pastors, Bible workers, conference presidents, and institutional Bible teachers ; and,
"In response to the request of the Bible worker group, and in view of the various factors involved, and the results of the poll recently taken;
"We recommend, I. That the name Bible Instructor be placed on the new credential card for those heretofore called 'Bible Workers; and,
"2. That our conferences and institutions be invited to employ this name for this group, especially when they are laboring for those not of our faith.
So, Bible Instructors, you now have your new name. Numerous conferences, and many evangelistic efforts have employed this title in the past. So it is not untried. It is dignified, accurate, and representative. A uniformity of practice should now result. Your credential card for 1943 will bear the name Bible Instructor. And it will be well for those who hold these credentials to foster the change from the old name to the new, which transition may not be easy for some of our older workers. We should doubtless never have made the change had the term been confined just to our own ranks. But the public did not always understand.
The growing recognition and the increasing call for more and yet more competent evangelistic Bible instructors is most encouraging. The ever greater use of Bible instructors in the various conferences, and the call for recruits, both experienced and inexperienced, is most auspicious. And the growing concern of the theological departments of our colleges over more adequate Bible instructor courses that will challenge the finest young womanhood of the denomination, augurs well for the future. Truly, the work of the Bible instructor holds forth the greatest single opportunity of direct service for God open to women today.
Two other aspects of Bible instructor recognition and advance should be noted. One is the course in Advanced Bible Instructor Methods, which is now offered twice a year at the Theological Seminary. The other is a Home Study Institute course in Bible instructor methods, which has been duly arranged for, and will be ultimately produced, together with a comprehensive Bible Instructor's Manual. But that will take time. These are some of the tangible efforts being made in behalf of the Bible instructor work by the secretaries of the Ministerial Association, especially by Miss Louise Kleuser, who is charged with fostering this important feature.
L. E. F.