William Wirt, an innovative educator and superintendent of the Gary, Indiana schools established a program in 1914 in which 619 students participated in off-campus religious education. Dr. Wirt believed that the church, home, playground, library, and school were all components in a child's education. The public school, had and still has, no responsibility for teachers, curriculum, conduct, or achievement within the Released Time classes.
Released Time grew and flourished. In 1922, for example, Released Time programs were active in 23 states. 40,000 students from 200 school districts were participating. By 1932, thirty States had active Released Time Programs in 400 communities with enrollment of 250,000 students. Ten years later, in 1942 participation reached 1.5 million students in 46 States. Released Time peaked in 1947 with 2 million students enrolled in 2,200 communities. During this time, 12 States adopted favorable Released Time legislation. Currently, it is estimated that there are over 1,000 Released Time Programs in operation today involving over 250,000 students in kindergarten through high school.
California Released Time Christian Education Association Pastor and educator, Wayne Edwards took a trip along the California coast visiting Released Time Christian Education programs in 1988. He discovered that most people working in Released Time had no idea how many people were involved in Released Time and what they were able to do with their ministries . He and Oakland director, Frank Connaughton, agreed that California RTCE Ministries would benefit from networking together.
Under Wayne Edwards’s guidance and with Frank Connaughton’s help, the California Released Time Christian Education Association was started. Wayne’s friend, Forrest Turpen, invited him to bring people interested in Released Time to the Christian Educators Association, Int'l Convention in Anaheim in 1989. A group from the National Association of Released Time Christian Education, based in South Carolina, came to Anaheim to help get things started. A committee formed to make the networking group a reality.
California has had RTCE programs since the World War ll era - when parents were extremely concerned about the effect the war years were having on children. People were watching and waiting. Released Time programs started in 1942 in Oakland, Los Angeles, Burbank, Long Beach and Anaheim .
The state ministry sponsors an annual conference and regional meetings so members and friends get together in person. It is the best way to network, pray together and share success stories and prayer concerns. Share with one another helps learn methods that work in RTCE classrooms.