Written by Anthony Moujaes
After exploring what a relevant and thriving United Church of Christ would look like in 10 years, a UCC Board-charged task force now has a clear picture of the issues that matter to members of the denomination. A survey of 4,000 constituents of the church reveals that they are like-minded about what the UCC's top issues are, and what they should be going forward.
"What we learned from both surveys is that, as a denomination, we are on one accord with our future priorities and issues. These were the five areas where people said we should place our focus," said the Rev. Darrell Goodwin, who chairs the Strategic Implementation Task Force.
Climate change, racial justice and income inequality were the top three issues identified by two groups of survey respondents — the first group was primarily age 40 and under, and the second group was all ages. The other two issues were immigration justice and religious tolerance.
Made up of 10 people from across the denomination, the Strategic Implementation Task Force began its work in the fall to identify the pieces and steps required to move the denomination into that vision of a transformative church in the next decade.
Goodwin presented the latest information to members of the UCC Board of Directors, meeting from March 9-11 in Cleveland. Board member Dick Harter summarized the thoughts of several of his colleagues, saying, "I would like to see us pursue exactly what we saw on screen," referring to Goodwin’s presentation.
Moving forward, Goodwin outlined some of the steps the task force will pursue, including: Organizational alignment of national setting with the mission, vision, purpose of the UCC; investing in technological infrastructure; focus on developing curriculum and response training related to current issues in the world; declaring a commitment to inclusive excellence across all aspects of the church; and a thought lab to cultivate diverse ideas and perspectives.
"At Synod, we are going to create an innovation lab in the Exhibit Hall, where people can come in and share creative ideas and brainstorm whatever they think is possible," Goodwin said.
The Rev. John Dorhauer, UCC general minister and president, said the task force’s work was critical in articulating "a future worth living into."
"We needed first to see a future that shifted the narrative away from decline and diminishment. They have done that," Dorhauer said. "The Board, and I with them, needed to see what was coming so that we could align our staff less with past needs than with future expectations. They gave us that. I am grateful to them for helping us see not just what is possible, but what is being called for from us."
Dorhauer added that the national setting is responsible for using its resources to align its personnel with the mission of the future.
"We don't so much want to react to what others are doing than we want to proactively call ourselves into a future with a purpose that matters," he said. "The Task Force has given us a clear vision, and has articulated a set of priorities that will help define and design relevant and meaningful mission going forward."