The Rev. Barbara Brown Zikmund participates in Synod blood drive. W. Evan Golder photo.
Nothing says "welcomeÓ quite like a home-baked cookie. That's why the churches of the Minnesota Conference provided 8,000 dozen of them, or thirty two cookies per General Synod participant. Saint Mark's UCC in Bloomington, Minn., a church of 90 members, sent more than 100 dozen cookies. Rainy River Parish, a collective of three UCC churches near the U.S.-Canadian border, also provided 100 dozen. Their pastor, the Rev. Rosanna M. Walker, and a church member drove two hours to deliver the goodies. Outside the convention center, a helpful sign alerted drive-by donors: "Cookie drop-off here!Ó
General Synod 24 enthusiastically adopted three resolutions aimed at strengthening the UCC's commitment to ending racism in the church and in public policy. The first calls on the UCC to become an explicitly anti-racist church and encourages all congregations, Associations and Conferences to adopt anti-racist mandates, including commitments to provide regular antiracism education and training for all church staff and volunteers. A second resolution focuses attention on racism and militarism in U.S. drug policy, while a third called upon the UCC to renew its battle against racism in all its guises.
With love from Minneapolis
During General Synod, there were at least 799 letters sent to elected officials addressing issues of faith, justice and public policy, according to usage reports from the UCC's Take Action website. During the five-day period, delegates and visitors utilized www.uccTakeAction.org to generate personalized letters on issues such as fair treatment for detained Haitian refugees, opposing the creation of a school voucher program in Washington, D.C., and protecting federal funding for Head Start. The website saw 222 first-time users join the UCC's Justice and Peace Action Network, while the UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries reports that dozens more signed up using the old pen-and-paper method.
Pass the platelets
Delegates were lining up and lying down to give blood. More than 200 units were collected by the American Red Cross, with the Ohio Conference delegation ¨¨ one of Synod's largest ¨ ¨ showing up en masse to participate. Meanwhile, the Synod approved a resolution supporting the donation of blood, tissue, bone marrow and bodily organs as a faithful expression of Christian stewardship and generosity.
While in Minnesota, the General Synod adopted a statement of tribute to the state's late U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone, saying that he "embodied the moral vision and passion of the UCC to further the causes of true democracy, grassroots representation and justice for all peoples.Ó The resolution was proposed by Minnehaha UCC in Minneapolis. Wellstone, a democrat, was campaigning for a third term when he, his wife Sheila, daughter Marcia and five others were killed in a plane crash on Oct. 25, 2002, near Evelyth, Minn.
Lauding the Supreme Court
About 200 turned out on Sunday, July 13, for a General Synod celebration commending the U.S. Supreme Court's sweeping 6-3 decision in June to overturn state sodomy laws. The General Synod has long opposed criminalizing private sexual conduct between consenting adults, and at past Synods, rallies opposing sodomy laws have been held in those locations that retained them, including Kansas City, Mo., the site of General Synod 23. "The U.S. Supreme Court has finally caught up with the United Church of Christ,Ó said the Rev. John H. Thomas, UCC general minister and president.
Scouting for all
The General Synod urged the Boy Scouts of America to change its policy banning gay youth from membership. "Discrimination against anyone based on sexual orientation is contrary to our understanding of the teachings of Christ,Ó delegates said in a resolution adopted with overwhelming support.
"We affirm the work of the Boy Scouts of America,Ó said Diana Burdett, a member of Peace Dale Congregational UCC in Rhode Island, "but as an open and affirming United Church of Christ, we must speak the truth and speak out againstÓ the national organization's policy.
Star Tribune policy opposed
UCC leaders met with the Minneapolis Star Tribune's managing editor on Tuesday, July 15, to express "keen disappointmentÓ in the newspaper's decision to rescind its policy banning Indian mascot names and images from its sports pages. The UCC has a long history of supporting groups who want American Indian names and images removed from sports because their use promotes racial stereotypes. The Rev. John H. Thomas, UCC general minis- ter and president, was accompanied by Bernice Powell Jackson, executive minister of Justice and Witness Ministries, Juanita J. Helphrey of the UCC's Racial Justice Ministry Team, the Rev. Kim Mammedaty, executive director of the UCC-related Council for American Indian Ministry, and the Rev. Clyde Steckel, Minnesota Conference Minister. Thomas told managing editor Scott Gillespie that the church would continue to press its concerns with the newspaper.