There are two lines in the UCC Statement of Faith that touch me deeply. I hope they will help us during our deliberations. They are at the heart of our understanding of what it means to take risks for our faith, for what we perhaps do not even yet understand, but believe in our heart of hearts is right and just. These lines remind us of our UCC past, encourage us in the present and bear witness for the future.
You call us into your church to accept the cost and joy of discipleship: God has called us into the UCC. It is not of our own volition, but it is a call from God. As we struggle with issues that sometimes divide us, it is good to remember that God has called us together, to wrestle with difficult issues and, somehow, to be bearers of grace. And the good news is that we don't all have to agree on everything; we just have to know that we are called together and called to love each other as Jesus loves us.
Being a disciple of Jesus is the most difficult thing we will ever be called to do. Being a disciple means bringing good news to the poor, release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind. It means touching lepers, eating with those most despised and bringing healing to a broken world. It means opening ourselves, just as Christ opened himself, to those most unlike us, those whom we most fear or despise, those marginalized, cast-out and forgotten ones, to the Samaritans and Canaanites of our world.
At the 5th General Synod in 1965, the UCC voted to be a church open to persons of all races and cultures. As a result, local congregations were asked to take a vote on whether they would open their doors to persons of other races. Many of our congregations agreed to do so, but many others could or would not. The cost and joy of discipleship.
You promise to all who trust you . courage in the struggle for justice and peace: At General Synod, we will honor the Rev. Andrew Young, a child of the UCC and an ordained minister in this great denomination. We honor his courage during the civil rights struggle, when he served as chief of staff for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. We honor his courage as an elected official and as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
There are three resolutions coming to General Synod which deal with same-gender marriage. One, from several local churches, defines marriage as between one man and one woman. A second, submitted by the Central Atlantic Conference, calls for study, prayer and conversation. A third, submitted by the Southern California-Nevada Conference (SCNC), favors same-gender marriage. At the SCNC annual meeting, when their resolution was voted upon, there was much heart-felt discussion. "It was very difficult for those who were there," said Edith Guffey, associate general minister, who was present for the vote. "It was a struggle."
Likewise, we have two resolutions concerning possible divestment from companies supporting the Israeli occupation of Palestine. This, too, will engender difficult discussions and much struggle to find a way towards justice.
I don't know how we will discern God's will at General Synod, but I do know we are called to be a courageous, loving and faithful church. God promises courage in the struggle for justice and peace. To God be the glory!
The Rev. Bernice Powell Jackson is executive minister of Justice and Witness Ministries.