Upon joining the national staff in July, I decided to research the UCC's history and polity.
Afterwards, I thought of Sir Thomas More's letter to his children. In it he recalls the ways he demonstrated his love for them when they were very young. He goes on to say that he so admires their accomplishments that "my being your father seems hardly a reason at all for my love of you. My love for you has grown so much the more, that it now seems I've never loved you before."
Similarly, my affection for the UCC has grown after learning its legacy.
As I tried to identify the uniqueness of the UCC, it seems that we have had a gift of "being early." This gift dances across nearly every page of our history. Evangelical and Reformed and Christian immigrants found ways to "make do" in a new strange land. The Pilgrims were warned by John Robinson, their pastor in Holland, not to stick fast to where Luther and Calvin left them, because "the Lord has more truth and light yet to break forth out of his Holy Word."
Our history is one of reaching deep into God's bag of abundance and pushing aside many conventional and once relevant gifts to offer new gifts that create possibility. For example, among our gifts of being early we:
Wrote America's first anti-slavery tract 300 years ago;
Founded colleges such as Harvard and Yale and also eight historically-black colleges;
Established health and human service ministries that continue to this day;
Ordained Antoinette Brown, the first woman, in 1853;
Voted powerful civil rights Synod resolutions in 1963;
Ordained the first openly self-affirmed homosexual person in 1972;
Raised bail at Synod to free the "Wilmington 10" in 1973;
Supported genetic engineering technology in 1989;
In recent years, the extreme religious right has so dominated public discourse on religion that the public does not understand how or why our church comes to take such positions. In stark contrast, the UCC has proclaimed the abundance of God's grace for all people, saying, "God help us if we fail to do so."
Sir Thomas More closed his letter to his children, "Continue to endear yourselves to your father and, by those same accomplishments that make me think that I had not loved you before, make me think hereafter (for you can do it) that I do not love you now." I am confident that our great church will not rest upon past accomplishments. And I am confident that my love for it will only grow to proportions that will make me think I do not love it now. Thanks be to God!
Ron Buford is Public Relations and Marketing Manager for the Office of General Ministries, in the UCC's national setting. As I See It is a column to help UCC members become acquainted with church leaders and their views.