Young, a lifelong UCC member who will be honored by the church Monday for his work as one of the nation's foremost civil rights leaders, said the denomination's affirmation of the full civil and religious equality of same-gender marriage would be a continuation of its historic witness for justice and equality.
"I'd be disappointed if we did not approve this resolution," Young said. "I think it would be consistent with our historic spirit of fairness and justice. But it also would be consistent with the spirit of grace and mercy as the path to peace and that you judge not that you not be judged."
Elected delegates from the church's 39 regional Conferences and national Covenanted Ministries will debate three different marriage-related proposals during the meeting of the General Synod which began Friday and runs through Tuesday. One, from the UCC's Southern California/Nevada Conference, asks the General Synod to affirm full civil and religious marriage equality for same-gender couples. If passed, the UCC's General Synod would become the first mainline Christian body to support such a measure.
A second counter-resolution, offered by eight geographically diverse congregations, asks the Synod to affirm "traditional" marriage as "between one man and one woman." A third proposal, by the Central Atlantic Conference, calls for a time of church-wide prayer, conversation and study on the issue.
Home to one of the nation's largest gay populations, Young said approval of the same-gender marriage equality resolution would be a welcome development in Atlanta.
"In terms of per capita gay population, I think Atlanta is probably right after San Francisco and New York so I think such a decision would be a welcome decision in the city of Atlanta," Young said. "And I don't think that it would pose a problem for any of our churches here that I know of. For the most part, I think, we have come to grips with this issue."
Young, a product of the UCC's American Missionary Association (AMA) tradition whose first pastorate was at the AMA-founded Bethany Congregational Church in Thomasville, Ga., served at one time as the executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
Young's salary while he was with the SCLC was paid by the UCC's Board of Homeland Ministries.
A graduate of Howard University and Hartford Theological Seminary, Young became the first black since Reconstruction to serve in the House of Representatives from the Georgia. He served two terms as mayor of Atlanta and, in 1977, was confirmed by President Jimmy Carter as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. He also spent time working for the National Council of Churches.
"I had an experience when I was with the NCC," Young said. "There were a number of gay clergy there and I remember once when there was a big issue on race being discussed and I got worked up about it and my gay friends said, 'Andy, you can't speak to this issue. You are too emotional about it. You have to let us fight this battle for you.' And they said, 'One day you might have to fight a battle for us.' Those were some of the most influential people in my life at that point so I can't back off this issue."