Delegates to General Synod 27 passed with amendments Tuesday a resolution to research the UCC's relationship to the eugenics movement and to explore any possibility that the UCC should apologize for perceived involvement in it.
Submitted by the Kansas-Oklahoma Conference, the resolution calls for "a study of the eugenics movement of our predecessor denominations, our churches and our clergy."
Eugenics is the study of improving the human condition by discouraging reproduction by persons having genetic defects or encouraging reproduction by persons presumed to have desirable inheritable traits. Tinged with notions of racial supremacy, the movement's popularity peaked in the early 20th Century.
The original resolution called for Justice and Witness Ministries to research and produce resources on its own. The amended version calls for JWM to oversee the study, encouraging Conferences, Associations, local congregations, agencies and ministries to lead participation in it.
"I think it's appropriate that we apologize if it's appropriate," Penn Central delegate John Kelly Poorman said from the floor. "And we need to look forward, to the people who are still doing this kind of thing."
One of the first eugenics studies in the United States was conducted by the Rev. Oscar Carleton McCullough of Plymouth Congregational Church in Indianapolis in 1877. The New York Times reported in 1913 that the Rev. Henry E. Jackson began to perform only "eugenic weddings," in which all bridegrooms would be required to furnish medical certificates. Nell Dwight Hillis, pastor of Brooklyn's Plymouth Congregational Church, helped organize the first National Conference on Race Betterment in 1914.