Pilgrims' Mixed Progress
For most evangelicals in the United Church of Christ (UCC), it was two steps backward and one step forward at July's national synod meeting in Atlanta. While the 1.3 million member liberal denomination passed controversial resolutions endorsing homosexual marriage and supporting divestment of funds involving Israel, it also passed a resolution affirming the person and work of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. However, the body refused to add the affirmation to ordination vows.
Theologian Gabriel Fackre, emeritus professor of Christian theology at Andover Newton Theological School and part of the UCC's Confessing Christ movement, told CT he was "pleased by the [Jesus is Lord] resolution, which though imperfect was a very important victory for a denomination ready to reaffirm its roots."
David Runnion-Bareford, director of Biblical Witness Fellowship, a voice for evangelical renewal in the UCC, is disappointed in the gay marriage and divestment decisions. But he is not surprised by actions of the synod, which he said is out of touch with many of the nearly 6,000 UCC churches.
"We draw encouragement from resurgence in hundreds of UCC-affiliated local churches where the gospel is being preached for the first time in years," Runnion-Bareford told CT. "In an internal survey, 27 percent of people who attend UCC churches identify themselves as evangelical. And two-thirds of the local churches in the UCC send no funds to the national group."
Why stay? "We love an association with the UCC because of the wonderful creeds and catechism of the church, walking in the footsteps of the Puritans and Pilgrims," Runnion-Bareford said. "If we die as a vocal confessing remnant, the liberal body will claim our heritage as its own."