The past and present of the United Church of Christ’s social justice advocacy work became the topic of discussion on internet radio as the Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, general minister and President of the UCC, joined the Rev. Carolyn L. Boyd’s show as a guest Wednesday, July 31. Black and Boyd, the host of ‘What’s at Stake, Spiritually’ on Inner Light Radio explored the role of the UCC in advancing a more just society. The show, based in Washington, D.C, highlights and dissects the spiritual ramifications of public policies, laws and regulations, and also seeks out conversations around current events that face the world.
Black also fielded a few questions from callers to the show. In his conversation with Boyd, who is a member of Plymouth UCC in Washington, D.C., Black began by speaking about the foundations of the denomination, and some of the ways the UCC’s history binds its members – particularly through social justice work.
"Part of the way you approach that is to try to remember and connect all that brought the United Church of Christ into being. Our long history goes back into the 18th and 19th century," Black said. "As we encounter issues today, we have taken seriously our forbearers, both white and black, who had a commitment to justice, a commitment that pushed them to take serious risk to advance their cause."
The UCC has been a "church of firsts" as the first mainline denomination to ordain an African American (1785), a woman (1853), and an openly gay minister (1972). Black spoke to how the church could maintain its history of being first in the future.
"The people that are the church today, like the people who were the church historically, are people of deep faith," Black said. "When we engage [social issues] we have to look at what is inside the people and what sustains us in the struggle for justice and peace.
"It’s not just engaging issues – that comes from something, from faith in God," Black added.
When asked about the need for churches to respond to cultural changes while dealing with lower membership, Black didn’t shy away from stating that all institutional churches may go through a period of decline in an era of constant change. He also hinted at what the future of churches might look like.
"There are new forms of community in the digital age where people are connected," he said. "Going forward, churches must be willing to move away from an old established form and look at what church must become will hold promise."
"People of faith and deep commitment have been at the forefront of the transitions of society," Black added. "Those are the kinds of people who will lead us beyond the place where we are now… to move us to a place of a just society."