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."
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UCC Truths, which says it challenges the UCC's "course of dishonest political activism," has its take on the synod resolutions.
News elsewhere on the UCC synod includes:
United Church of Christ synod backs same-sex marriages | The United Church of Christ's rule-making body voted overwhelmingly yesterday to approve a resolution endorsing same-sex marriage, making it the largest Christian denomination to do so. (Associated Press, July 05, 2005)
Local churches say no tie with United Church of Christ | Representatives of area Churches of Christ say they are not united with a United Church of Christ resolution supporting same-sex marriages and are, in fact, separate from the liberal northern religious group. (Daily Leader, Brookhaven, Miss., July 19, 2005)
Church delegation offers Mideast peace investment plan | Effort meant to quell divestment from Israel (Boston Globe, July 2, 2005)
The Church Of Spongebob | The United Church of Christ stands up for all sorts of political issues while their flocks stand up and head for the doors. (The Weekly Standard, Jul 18, 2005)