Written by Gregg Brekke
"We face a daunting task," the nominee for general minister and president of the United Church of Christ told delegates to the 27th General Synod, alluding to economic difficulties and declining membership in many parts of the denomination. "There is a daunting task ahead…ahead of us…ahead of me—and ahead of you."
In an acceptance speech on June 26, the Rev. Geoffrey Black invited all members of the church, in every setting—in local churches, in covenanted ministries, in theological seminaries, and as ecumenical partners—to work together. "In the UCC," he said, "ministry is not a social act. We are in this together."
He quoted scripture: "We do not lose heart. We are all of us in this ministry together." And he insisted that "we are adequately and incredibly gifted to serve the world."
The nominee also spoke of the denomination's commitment to the struggle for justice and peace as "part of our identity." It is possible, he said, "for us to be an inclusive church and still be a church of faith. This is why our voice is needed: so that all people will know that they are God's people."
Black's name was placed in nomination by the chair of the search committee, Henry T. Simmons, pastor at St. Albans (N.Y.) Congregational UCC, and Black was received with a standing ovation and ringing applause. His statement was interrupted several times by applause and he was greeted at the conclusion with a second ovation.
Black, whose name is pronounced "Joff-rey," has been minister of the New York Conference for nearly a decade. Prior to that he was pastor of local congregations for fifteen years, a university chaplain, and was on the staff of the UCC Office for Church Life and leadership. He is a graduate of Lincoln University and Yale Divinity School.
If elected on June 29, Black will succeed the Rev. John H. Thomas who has served as general minister and president since 1999 and is not eligible for reelection.