Written by Connie Larkman
Four members of the UCC's Collegium of Officers will travel April 20 to Puerto Rico to explore the potential of rebuilding a relationship between the denomination and the Iglesia Evangelica Unida de Puerto Rico (the United Evangelical Church of Puerto Rico and former Puerto Rico Conference of the UCC).
"My hope is that we can engage in respectful and thoughtful exploration of the implications of any kind of relationship, especially since there is still a lot of healing to be done," said the Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo, executive minister for Justice and Witness Ministries.
The "healing" stems from the Puerto Rico Conference's decision in 2006 to withdraw from the UCC following the General Synod 25 vote in 2005 in favor of marriage equality for gays and lesbians. A half-dozen Puerto Rican delegates walked out of the Atlanta General Synod after the resolution passed.
"They made the break without consultation," said Jaramillo of the Conference's 3-1 vote to end the affiliation. "That was part of what was really troubling. They didn't consult. They just left. In one fell swoop, we lost 68 churches."
The Iglesia Evangelica Unida de Puerto Rico had been affiliated with the UCC since the denomination's founding in 1957.
"There had always been some discomfort among some in the Puerto Rico churches over the Open and Affirming stance of the UCC," said the Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, the UCC's general minister and president. "We received their invitation to join them in discussion, and we've been sensitive to find the opportune time to visit to continue that conversation."
The Collegium will meet with UCC minister the Rev. Edward Santiago Rivera, senior pastor of the Iglesia Evangelica Unida de Puerto Rico, and other church leaders April 21 and 23. Collegium members will guest preach at area churches April 22.
In addition to Jaramillo and Black, the United Church of Christ will be represented by Collegium members the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, executive minister for Local Church Ministries, and the Rev. James Moos, executive minister for Wider Church Ministries.