June 29, 2013Just as General Synod 2013 is using the five days from June 28 through July 2 to share what "God’s Vision" is for its delegates, clergy, lay leaders, youth and staff, the five Officers of the United Church of Christ shared their vision for the UCC as they lead the denomination into the future.
Written by Anthony Moujaes
Written by Anthony Moujaes
"During the past couple of years, those of us whom you have entrusted to lead our denomination in distinct ways as Officers of the Church have developed a strategic vision plan with four specific bold, inspirational goals — or BIGs as we have called them — to guide our steps in the years ahead, goals that may take 10 years to achieve," said the Rev. Geoffrey Black, general minister and president of the UCC. "We will lean together into the future with our BIGs."
The officers outlined the goals in a report from the collegium during morning plenary on Saturday, Day 2 of General Synod in Long Beach, Calif.
The BIGs were developed from the three core values of the UCC that "resonate strongly across the life of our church," and "reflect the adaptive change of the UCC," Black explained. Those three values paint the picture of a denomination that believes in continuing testament, extravagant welcome and changing lives.
The four bold inspirational goals: A bold, public voice, reachable and welcoming congregations, engaged discipleship, and excellent and diverse leadership.
The Rev. J. Bennett Guess, executive minister of Local Church Ministries, shared with gathering that issues of the environment, marriage equality and immigration are important issues, and "as we sharpen our bold public voice, the environment will be one of our priorities," Guess said, thanking the church for embracing the Mission 4/1 Earth environmental campaign in April and May.
"Naming these three areas of justice advocacy as priorities does not mean we will not remain actively engaged on other issues with our bold, public voice," Guess said. "[Our voice] makes a difference. It helps change lives. It says to the world, ‘Listen to what our Stillspeaking God is saying."
To plant welcoming and reachable congregations, the officers announced the launch of Extravagance UCC. Extravagance UCC is envisioned as a web-based spiritual community that gathers in a new way of defining church in the 21st century.
"As much as we want to be there for everyone with a welcoming and reachable congregation, some folks will be out of reach in the usual ways we have established churches," said W. Mark Clark, associate General Minister. "To respond to them — we are inviting you to think about what it means to be a non-geographic community of faith, held together by the Spirit, the internet, and the intention of those seeking to be part of the United Church of Christ."
To achieve engaged discipleship, the Rev. James A. Moos, executive minister of Wider Church Ministries, said the UCC will work in partnership with our seminaries to extend theological education with online courses. He mentioned the UCC’s Faith, In project as a way for congregations and members to live out their faith by showing love for their communities through service. Moos also described how the church reached out to its global brothers and sisters.
"By mindfully bringing our lives to our reflections and our scripture, and our scripture to our reflections on living, we can continually learn new lessons about discipleship," Moos said. "And that is the essence of this engaged discipleship we seek.
Finally, the Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo, executive minister of Justice and Witness Ministries, wants the church to keep looking into the future to identify and support excellent leaders "who support the full diversity of who we seek to be as a church in this rapidly changing world."
"We want to connect members of the UCC with the skills and experience needed for effective leadership with men and women who can benefit from such mentoring relationships," Jaramillo said. "We want to diversify the pool of candidates who are ready to and experienced to take on significant roles such as conference ministry, national setting ministry and wider church ministry."
"[The leadership of the church] is excited about our BIGs," Black said, "and I hope you are too."