United Church of Christ News

UCC victorious in lawsuit as judge strikes down N.C. gay marriage ban

A federal judge has struck down North Carolina's marriage laws as unconstitutional, giving the United Church of Christ and its co-plaintiffs a monumental and historic victory for equality for all people. General Synod of the United Church of Christ et al vs. Cooper challenged the state's Amendment One for violating the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of religion.

"Of the three marriage equality cases pending in North Carolina, it is this landmark case about religious freedom and marriage equality that has finally struck down North Carolina's unconstitutional marriage laws," said UCC General Counsel Donald C. Clark.

U.S. District Court Judge Max Cogburn issued his ruling late Friday, Oct. 10. The landmark lawsuit was the first instance of a national Christian denomination challenging a state's marriage statutes.

"We are thrilled by this clear victory for both religious freedom and marriage equality in the state of North Carolina,' said the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, a UCC national officer. "In lifting North Carolina's ban on same-gender marriage, the court's directive makes it plain that the First Amendment arguments, made by the UCC and our fellow plaintiffs, were both persuasive and spot-on. Any law that threatens clergy who choose to solemnize a union of same-sex couples, and threatens them with civil or criminal penalties, is unconstitutional."

The suit, filed in April by the UCC and a coalition of clergy, same-sex couples and religious denominations, claiming that the state's marriage laws violate the First Amendment rights of clergy and the principle of "free exercise of religion."

Under Amendment One, which passed in late 2012, same-sex couples could not legally marry in North Carolina, and clergy could be charged with a crime for officiating a marriage ceremony without determining whether the couple involved has a valid marriage license.

"The issue before this court is neither a political issue nor a moral issue. It is a legal issue and it is clear as a matter of what is now settled law in the Fourth Circuit that North Carolina laws prohibiting same sex marriage, refusing to recognize same sex marriages originating elsewhere, and/or threatening to penalize those who would solemnize such marriages, are unconstitutional," Cogburn wrote in his opinion.

"What an exciting time to be part of the United Church of Christ," said the Rev. Nancy Ellett Allison, pastor of Holy Covenant United Church of Christ (Charlotte, N.C.) and one of the plaintiffs in the case. "Our denomination, Holy Covenant UCC and our other UCC congregations have stood with clergy and same sex couples throughout the state of North Carolina demanding marriage equality through our lawsuit challenging Amendment One. That the Honorable Max O. Cogburn, Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, has struck down Amendment One and ordered the state to begin recognizing same-sex marriages is a victory for all North Carolina citizens."

Just hours before the ruling, the plaintiffs filed a motion asking Cogburn to resolve the lawsuit through an agreement between the plaintiffs and North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper.

Even though Friday's agreement by the principal parties dismissed the First Amendment claim, Cogburn's opinion recognized the implications of religious freedom in the case. "It is clear ... that North Carolina laws ... threatening to penalize those who would solemnize such marriages, are unconstitutional," he wrote.

"We are thrilled that the judge's order specifically recognized the religious freedom implications of this case and our clergy will be able to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies as faith practices call for without fear of prosecution," said Heather Kimmel, UCC associate general counsel.

North Carolina becomes the 28th state, in addition to the District of Columbia, to recognize same-gender marriages in the United States. Weddings can begin immediately.

Celebrating Yvonne Delk and 40 years of service to UCC

Ask the Rev. Yvonne Delk to recall her ordination and reflect on her four decades as a minister in the United Church of Christ, she’ll share the moment she was empowered to serve in faith.

"It seems like only yesterday that I was kneeling at the altar and hearing the ordaining prayer, which invoked God’s power and spirt to anoint and empower me for ministry," said Delk.

This weekend, the African American Women in Ministry Conference will celebrate Delk's 40 years of service, the first African American woman ordained in the denomination. The conference, from Oct. 9-11 at the Franklinton Center at Bricks in Whitakers, N.C., is a spirited gathering for women in all phases of ministry — ordained, commissioned, in discernment, and licensed in varied ministry settings — within the UCC and in other denominations.

Under the theme "Embracing God's Call: From Isolation to Celebration," the conference is also a moment to celebrate the women who have followed Delk’s lead.

"As I look back over the past 40 years, I am rejoicing in the increasing number of African American women who have said ‘Yes’ to the call for ministry and who are offering to our church and society their creative spirits, their talents and their visions for change and transformation," Delk said. "They represent the leadership that is needed for growth and new life in the church and society."

The second oldest of six children, Yvonne Virginia Delk grew up in the Southern Conference of the UCC and was ordained in 1974 at Fellowship United Church of Christ in Chesapeake, Va. She was the first African American woman to head a national instrumentality in the UCC (the Office for Church in Society in 1981).

"We lift prayers of thanksgiving to God for the blessings that have flowed to us as a result of the ministry that [Delk] has done in the name of Jesus," the four national officers of the UCC said. "Yvonne Delk has responded to God’s call serving as an exemplary teacher, a prophetic preacher, and a courageous leader in denominational and ecumenical settings."

This year the Rev. Christine Wiley, co-pastor of Covenant Baptist/UCC in Washington, D.C., the Rev. Valerie Bridgeman, founder and executive director of WomanPreach, and the Rev. Jennifer Leath, pastor of Campbell AME Church, Media, Penn., will speak at the conference.

History aside, Delk also feels that women of color still face similar obstacles today, and those issues will be part of the discussion at the conference.

"The challenge for the church is to be open and affirming in not only receiving their gifts but being open and assertive in the placement of these gifts," Delk said. "Racism and sexism were barriers 40 years ago and they are barriers today."

"In the conference at Franklinton Center, we will be building a sister-to-sister network of spiritual and vocational support," she continued. "However, we need the denomination at every level -- national, conference, and local -- to name this as a priority; to identify strategies and resources that will open hearts and doors for their leadership; and at the same time offer its affirmative commitment to remove the barriers which prevent African American Women in Ministry from moving through those doors."

Franklinton Center at Bricks, a former slave plantation, was transformed into a UCC conference center with a focus on justice advocacy. The fellowship hall is named for Delk.

Mission trip to offer solidarity with Honduran LGBT community

Imagine living in fear of assault, persecution or rape for being gay — or worse yet, being murdered for loving someone of the same gender.

The people in the LGBT community in Honduras live with this grim reality. According to Honduran equality advocates, 20 LGBT people are killed every year, United Church of Christ minister the Rev. David Mateo says this is why he and a dozen others will travel to the Central American country this month to be in solidarity with LGBT Hondurans.

"The important thing [people should] know is this is justice work," said Mateo, pastor of Iglesia Unida De Chapel Hill, in North Carolina. "When a country or community isn't respecting human rights, or human differences, people need to pay attention to those actions. So I think our mission as Christians is to be a witness for justice. This group is taking a first step to go there and listen to their stories and bring them back, and share what those people face there."

"We want to give them hope they can continue to bravely do what they are doing, and we want to create a liaison and create a relationship," Mateo said.

The diverse delegation of 10 people, who are LGBT and straight, English- and Spanish speaking, travel to Honduras from Sept. 11 through Sept. 14. While in the city of Tegucigalpa, they'll meet with six nonprofit organizations to build new relationships that will guide a long-term advocacy effort, and will appear in public to announce their presence and intentions before speaking with journalists.

Despite the dangers LGBT Hondurans face, they still possess the courage to advocate for their rights. Mateo and the accompanying delegation will offer their support during the trip by meeting with representatives of these advocacy groups to understand their struggles, and offer support and solidarity in establishing a coalition for the future.

"Last year, I did an informal visit, and it was amazing with more than 70 kids between 18 and 35 in an underground place," Mateo said. "The only place they can be together in is one of these agencies, so they have programs to educate them and keep them safe. It was amazing how [these agencies] work with no resources to keep these kids safe."

Mateo also has a list of items he is trying to collect and distribute to the Honduran non-profit groups, including school supplies, board games and HIV-AIDS resources.

"We already sent about 6,000 condoms for HIV-AIDS advocacy programs two weeks ago," Mateo said. "In the future we'd like to send another 45,000 condoms. We may also consider establishing an LGBT church."

There are six members of Iglesia Unida de Chapel Hill in the delegation, as well as Alex Cordova, director of LGBT affairs with Centro Latino (a nonprofit agency), Jose Alegria, a community leader with gay youth, and the Rev. Roberto Ochoa, interim pastor of Lakewood Congregational UCC in Worcester, Mass.

"We have a commitment to Hispanics in that fight for social justice," Mateo said. "We believe that all human beings deserve a place in the world. Our church is the only Hispanic congregation in the area that accepts openly gay [persons]."

Iglesia Unida is a ministry of United Church of Chapel Hill, a congregation that raised and donated $1,200 toward the cost of the trip.

"We're proud of David and the people of Iglesia Unida, and their willingness to make this witness in Honduras and show solidarity with the people there," said the Rev. Rick Edens, pastor of United Church of Chapel Hill.

PATHWAYS Theological Education program appeals to nontraditional students seeking careers in ministry

Heidi Hulme, of Faith United Church of Christ in Davenport, Iowa, was married with a family when she "tripped" into the Christian education director position at her church. While she knew traditional seminary was not the right path for her, she still felt a pull to full-time ministry. Looking for an alternative route, she became a licensed children's and youth pastor in 2008 through classes offered by the Iowa Conference of the UCC, and is currently enrolled in the PATHWAYS Theological Education program, with hopes of becoming an ordained UCC minister.

"When I read about the PATHWAYS opportunity, it was a no-brainer for me," said Hulme. "It was the only way I saw myself getting to the point of being prepared for the possibility of ordination. This is the perfect PATHWAY for a 'non-traditionalist' like me."

In response to the changing culture of ministerial authorization in the UCC and in an effort to address leadership training needs, the PATHWAYS Theological Education program was launched in Nov. 2011 by the Southeast Conference of the UCC to minister to aspiring learners in theological and ministerial training. The mission of PATHWAYS is to bring together the best of traditional theological education and the contemporary experiences of the church toward new ministry models by offering affordable, accessible and high-quality theological education to lay and authorized leaders.

Open to the wider UCC church, PATHWAYS carries on the legacy of the TAP (Theology Among the People) program used to train lay leaders within the Southeast Conference for a decade. But unlike the TAP program that took place in a classroom setting, PATHWAYS courses are offered online, encouraging partnerships with other conferences and providing accessibility to distance learners. Also, while TAP offered one curriculum designed for lay leaders, PATHWAYS offers training at three different levels, with the second and third levels designed for those seeking authorization in the UCC.

"PATHWAYS is a continuation of the TAP program in the sense that it is a regional theological education program that is conference based, but it is also replacing the TAP program in the sense that we are doing things differently," said the Rev. Sarah Kim, executive director of theological education and dean of PATHWAYS. "We are truly representing an alternative pattern of theological education that aims to prepare our church leaders — a different strategy for a changing world."

PATHWAYS curriculum is built specifically around the Marks of Faithful and Effective Authorized Ministers. Courses are developed and facilitated by an ecumenical group of educators from seminaries and universities, and by ordained clergy and licensed ministers from a variety of denominations who have excelled in local church ministry and other specialized ministries. Each level of the curriculum involves a learning community of 10-15 people. Level 1 is a two-year program designed for lay leaders seeking foundational training in theology and ministry. Level 2 is a 15-month program designed for licensed ministry in a local church setting, and the Level 3 program is 17-month course designed to prepare lay and licensed ministers for ordination in the UCC.

In January of 2012, PATHWAYS also implemented the Global Theological Education (GTE) immersion trip, where participants from the Southeast Conference and students from Lancaster Theological Seminary take a three-week immersion experience to Thailand.

This summer, PATHWAYS recognizes five graduates from the Level 2 program and by Dec. 2014 will have seven graduates from the Level 1 program. There are currently three people enrolled in the Level 3 program, Kim said.

"We have built and are implementing all three Levels of the PATHWAYS program since it launched in 2011," said Kim.

While Kim is not sure there is a "typical" PATHWAYS student, she said there are certain characteristics they share. Many are not interested in attending traditional seminary due to factors such as location, cost, and full-time jobs and families, but they wish to prepare themselves for authorized ministry. They are learners who are able to communicate online and enjoy the flexibility that comes with distance learning, and many are already serving in churches, often in rural areas, and want to continue their education and training.

"The online learning platform does allow a virtual community where learners find strong bonds with one another, get important feedback, and feel a sense of community," Kim said. "Sometimes this type of social context is critical to those serving small churches in rural areas as sole pastors."

Marsha Brown is another student who found success through the PATHWAYS program. After a friend introduced her to Holy Trinity Community Church UCC in Nashville, Tenn., Brown began the TAP program in 2008 during a period of discontent and uncertainty in her life. She has since graduated from the TAP program and is currently completing Level 2 of PATHWAYS, with plans to continue to Level 3 for ordination. She is involved in pastoral care work at Holy Trinity and Phoenix Christian Church in Wildersville, Tenn., where she also preaches once or twice a month. For Brown, these programs helped her figure out her life's true calling during a time when she couldn't find the answers.

"Prior to this, I had moments of wanting to enter into the ministry, but really had no idea of how or in what position or title," Brown said. "I knew I wanted to delve into the scriptures more and I was thirsting for knowledge. So the new chapter in my life began."

Authorized Ministerial Updates August 2014

Ministerial changes reported in the Data Hub—the UCC's information system for ministers and churches—for new positions/calls entered into the system in August 2014.

CC: Congregational Christian
CM: Commissioned Minister
DS: Dual Standing
LM: Licensed Minister
MID: Member in Discernment
MS: Ordained Ministerial Partner Standing
OM: Ordained Minister 
POC: Privilege of Call
U: Unknown/No UCC Standing
P: Pastor
SP: Senior Pastor
CP: Co-pastor
AP: Associate or Assistant Pastor
IN: Interim Pastor
SU: Supply Pastor
Y: Youth Ministry
OL: Other local church position
MM: Minister of Music
PE: Pastor Emeritus
CE: Director of Christian Education

OM, Virginia R. Brasher-Cunningham, P, Pilgrim UCC, Durham, NC
OM, Debby Harness, AP, Saint Johns Evangelical UCC, Saint Louis, MO
U, John C. Carpenter, P, St. Paul's UCC, Grand Haven, MI
OM, Robert E. Townsend, P, United Church of Christ at the Lighthouse, Naples, FL
LM, Thomas Fernandez, P, Kalahikiola Congregational UCC, Kapaau, HI
POC, Forrest Cornelius, P, First Congregational UCC, Charles City, IA
U, Johnathan Rehmus, P, Village Congregational UCC, Cummington, MA
OM, Sherry Triggs, P, First Congregational UCC, Iowa Falls, IA
DS, Matthew Hunt, P, Saint Paul UCC, Keokuk, IA
LM, Patrick Slessor, P, Grace United Church of Christ, Wilton, IA
OM, Larissa Forsythe, P, Saint Philips'/Concord Village UCC, Saint Louis, MO
POC, Dorinda Broadnax, AP, Community Congregational, Montgomery, AL
OM, Sharon K. Maddox, IN, Emmanuel United Church of Christ, Weldon Spring, MO
OM, Lynn B. Brightman, IN, Peace United Church of Christ El Paso, El Paso, TX
OM, Fredric Arthur Brightman, IN, Peace United Church of Christ El Paso, El Paso, TX
OM, Allison C. Smith, IN, Phippsburg Congregational UCC, Phippsburg, ME
OM, Mark Daniel Wilson, P, First Congregational UCC, Waterville, ME
OM, Sterling Fritz, P, Redeemer's UCC, Littlestown, PA
LM, Carl Vass, CP, United Church of Christ, Olds, IA
LM, Carl Vass, SU, Congregational UCC, Danville, IA
LM, Elaine Vass, CP, United Church of Christ, Olds, IA
OM, Richard J. Mangnall, IN, Saint John's UCC, Crown Point, IN
OM, Christopher Burtnett, P, First Congregational UCC, Algona, IA
LM, Amber Espinosa, CE, Olivet Congregational UCC, Saint Paul, MN
U, Gary Waters, SP, United Protestant Church, Grayslake, IL
OM, Patricia StandTal Clarke, OL, First Congregational Church Flagstaff UCC, Flagstaff, AZ
OM, Doris I. Ruben, P, Peace United Church of Christ, Dorchester, WI
OM, Brenda Barnes Jamieson, IN, First Congregational UCC, Janesville, WI
MID, Andria Davis, AP, Church of Beatitudes UCC, Phoenix, AZ
OM, Nancy N. Elsenheimer, OL, Ktizo UCC, Phoenix, AZ
MID, Kendra Joyner, AP, First Congregational Church of Glen Ellyn UCC, Glen Ellyn, IL
LM, Dianne Prichard, CE, First Congregational UCC, De Witt, IA
OM, Beth B. Johnson, OL, Shepherd of the Hills Congregational UCC, Phoenix, AZ
OM, Gail Joralemon, OL, First Congregational UCC, Albuquerque, NM
U, Jessie Lowry, IN, Pilgrim UCC, Wheaton, MD
OM, Ashley Harness, AP, Lyndale Congregational UCC, Minneapolis, MN
U, Sherwood McKay, IN, Powder River Congregational UCC, Broadus, MT
U, Neva Rathbun, SU, Community UCC, Baker, MT
OM, Jill Bierwirth, IN, First Congregational UCC, Big Timber, MT
POC, Jim Smith, P, United Church of Christ, Ballantine, MT
LM, Rick Thompson, SU, First Congregational UCC, Glasgow, MT
U, Leonard Shatkus, P, First Congregational UCC, Plentywood, MT
OM, John C. Miller, P, Trinity UCC, Millersburg, PA
OM, John W. Hawk Jr, IN, Community UCC, Red Lodge, MT
U, Robert Zadow, IN, United Christian Church, Miles City, MT
U, Stephen Sinclair, SP, Holladay UCC, Salt Lake City, UT
DS, Eric Biehl, P, Salem UCC, Steinauer, NE
DS, Eric Biehl, P, Saint Paul's UCC, Tecumseh, NE
POC, Casey Karges, P, Cortland United Church, Cortland, NE
LM, Mildred Canales, P, La Nueva Cosecha De Dios, Hartford, CT
OM, F. Lynne Busch, P, Saint Jacob's UCC, Sunman, IN
OM, F. Lynne Busch, P, Saint John (Penntown) UCC, Sunman, IN
OM, Lauren Jones Mayfield, P, Lynnhurst UCC, Louisville, KY
CM, Carol S. Wilson, OL, Rincon Congregational UCC, Tucson, AZ
U, Damond Jackson, P, First Congregational UCC, Tempe, AZ
U, Robert Coons, IN, Zion United Church of Christ, Henderson, KY
OM, Christina Cataldo, SP, Winthrop Congregational UCC, Winthrop, ME
POC, Bill Jardine, IN, Zion Gladstone UCC, Fairbury, NE
POC, Bill Jardine, IN, Saint Paul UCC, Jansen, NE
OM, Helen L. Greer, IN, Arlington Community CUCC, Arlington, NE
LM, Dena Holland-Neal, AP, Trinity United Church of Christ, Gary, IN
OM, Paula R. Comper, IN, Immanuel UCC, Highland, IN
OM, John King, SP, United Church of Christ, Richfield, OH
OM, Jody M. Betten, IN, First Congregational UCC, Elkhart, IN
OM, T. J. Jenney, SP, Immanuel UCC, Lafayette, IN
OM, Gary R. Friend, IN, First Congregational Church of Tallmadge, Tallmadge, OH
OM, Monte E. Canfield, SP, Saint John UCC, Strasburg, OH
OM, Donna Lee Kendrick-Philips, CP, Saint Paul's UCC, Marthasville, MO
OM, James Albert Ewen, SP, Central Congregational UCC, New Salem, MA
OM, Carolyn Grace Peck, P, First Congregational UCC, North Adams, MA
OM, David A. Neil, P, United Church of Bernardston, Bernardston, MA
OM, Lori Bievenour, SP, Saint Peter's UCC, Carmel, IN
OM, Michele Davis, P, East Congregational UCC, Milton, MA
MID, Jennifer K. Macy, P, First Church of Danvers, Congregtional, Danvers, MA
U, David Frey, P, Congregational UCC, Brodhead, WI
OM, Daniel Haas, SP, St. John's UCC of Rosenberg, Rosenberg, TX
OM, Kirk Lyman-Barner, SP, Praxis UCC - Americus, Americus, GA
OM, Norman B Bendroth, IN, First Congregational Church of Milton, UCC, Milton, MA
OM, Rita M. Wilbur, AP, Plymouth United Church of Spring, Spring, TX
OM, Andrew Greenhaw, P, St. Paul UCC of New Orleans, New Orleans, LA
OM, Tom Smith, P, Faith UCC, Bayard, NE
OM, Robert Blake, MM, Cathedral of Hope Houston - UCC, Houston, TX
LM, Rob Sandstrom, SU, First Congregational UCC, Pelican Rapids, MN
OM, Emilia Halstead, P, First Congregational UCC, Concord, NH
OM, Rennie Mau, P, Koolau Hui'ia Protestant Church UCC, Anahola, HI
OM, Choo Lak Yeow, IN, Ewa Community Church UCC, Ewa Beach, HI
OM, Ronald G. Kent, SP, First United Protestant Church UCC, Hilo, HI
OM, Judith McShane Burke, P, Hoolehua Congregational UCC, Hoolehua, HI
U, Jayne Ryan Kuroiwa, P, Windward United Church of Christ, Kailua, HI
OM, Judith McShane Burke, P, Kalaiakamanu Hou Congregational Church UCC, Kalamaula, HI
OM, Alan R. Akana, P, Koloa Union United Church of Christ, Koloa, HI
OM, Judith McShane Burke, P, Kaluaaha Congregational Church, Pukoo, HI
OM, Judith McShane Burke, P, Waialua Congregational Church, Waialua, HI
OM, Eva O'Diam, IN, Hayshire UCC, York, PA
OM, Lou Ann Jones, IN, Saint John's UCC, Dallastown, PA
OM, William Noel Koch, IN, Community UCC, Miami Shores, FL
DS, Kiyoshi Gushiken, AP, Makiki Christian UCC, Honolulu, HI
LM, Rick Hirakawa, P, Kahikuonalani Church UCC, Pearl City, HI
LM, Diane Hultman, P, Pu'ula United Church of Christ, Pahoa, HI
OM, Gloria Imamura, AP, Central Union Church UCC, Honolulu, HI
LM, Robinhood Marthin, P, Chuukese Community Church of Christ, Honolulu, HI
LM, Richard Miller, P, Kanaana Hou-Siloama UCC, Kalaupapa, HI
M, Bob Smith, AP, Church of the Pacific UCC, Princeville, HI
DS, Enoch Stephen, AP, Kahului Union Church UCC, Kahului, HI
LM, Charlene Taketa, P, Lanakila Congregational Church UCC, Kealakekua, HI
DS, Jun Lagon, P, Filipino United Church of Christ, Waipahu, HI
OM, Nofotolu Alo, P, Trinity Samoan Congregational Church, Honolulu, HI
OM, Robert B. Macfarlane, IN, Mashpee Congregational Church United Church of Christ, Mashpee, MA
OM, Philip W. Reller, SP, Pearl City Community Church UCC, Pearl City, HI
DS, Jori Lokboj, P, Maui Marshallese UCC, Kahului, HI
OM, David de Carvalho, SP, Mokuaikaua Church, Kailua Kona, HI
MS, Karen D. Binford, IN, First United Church of Christ, Warren, OH
OM, Jill H. Small, IN, Union Congregational UCC, Peterborough, NH
OM, Bonnie Sedgwick Stagg, IN, Congregational UCC, Hollis, NH
U, Russell Davis, SP, Federated UCC, Webster, MA
OM, Tricia Lytle, SU, Ursinus UCC, Rockwell, NC
U, Remond Jeik, P, First Marshallese UCC, Waimea, HI
LM, Shiro Timothy, P, Kosrae Honolulu Congregational Church, Honolulu, HI
LM, Ronald S. Fujiyoshi, P, Olaa First Hawaiian Church, Kurtistown, HI
OM, Martha Spong, IN, Faith United Church of Christ, New Cumberland, PA
OM, Barbara L. Callaghan, AP, Union Congregational UCC, Montclair, NJ
LM, Jamie Kent, P, Memorial UCC, Lexington, NC
OM, Kathryn Jean Douglas, IN, Zwingli UCC, Monticello, WI
OM, Barbara Ann Frey, CE, First Church of Christ Cong UCC, Clinton, CT
LM, Sawej Sawej, P, Honolulu Marshallese UCC, Nanakuli, HI
OM, Laura L. Kent, IN, Church of the Good Shepherd UCC, Boyertown, PA
U, Samuel Pullen, OL, Zion Evangelical UCC, Indianapolis, IN

The Center for Analytics, Research and Data (CARD) provides oversight of the UCC Data Hub through which ministerial changes are made. However, Conferences and Associations are responsible for reporting changes and maintaining ministerial records in this system. If you have questions about this information, please contact the appropriate Conference or Association.

Love wins at LGBT-friendly New Hampshire church

Love trumps all. The Rev. Eliza Buchakjian-Tweedy, pastor of First Church Congregational United Church of Christ, wants to spread that message far and wide as a way to say thank you to supporters around the world. Her Rochester, N.H., congregation, which received more than 70 LGBT rainbow flags from all over after its flags were stolen, will recognize the support and solidarity it received by commemorating those gifts.

First Church Congregational will celebrate a welcoming love for all people on Sunday, Sept. 7, when the church hosts a "Sunday of Extravagant Welcome" to recognize diversity within the church and around the Rochester area.

The event comes after First Church Congregational was victimized twice in July by the theft of rainbow flags that symbolize the church's Open and Affirming commitment to welcome people of all races, classes, nationalities, genders, gender identities, and sexual orientations. Since the thefts became public, replacement rainbow flags and banners have streamed into First Church Congregational from across the United States and around the world from places such as Canada, France and Germany.

The world-wide support has left Buchakjian-Tweedy feeling "overwhelmed."

"To see this outpouring of love and support — the Gospel promises that loves trumps all, that love wins over hate, love wins over anger, and love wins over death — what we have is God's kingdom shining through this small church in a small state," she said.

The Sunday of Extravagant Welcome will also reaffirm First Church Congregational's commitment to welcoming all people without exception, and thanking those who generously supported the church. Buchakjian-Tweedy will say a few words to mark the occasion, and then those assembled will gather on the church lawn to decorate the church with the six dozen rainbow flags it received. The event is open to the community.

First Church Congregational, which was founded in 1731, became an Open and Affirming Congregation in 2002. The first theft of a rainbow flag occurred in 2013, during the week of Fourth of July. When it happened again multiple times this summer, she reported it to local police. The story eventually went viral, prompting the donations of dozens of rainbow flags.

"I've gotten handwritten notes from people I've never met, flags from complete strangers," Buchakjian-Tweedy said. "To take something they read on the internet and respond in a physical and tangible way, this speaks to something profound within people."

Buchakjian-Tweedy plans to share a few donated rainbow flags with nearby churches, who are "changing their signs to say, 'We stand with First Church Congregational,'" Buchakjian-Tweedy added.

"If we can reach just one teenager, scared and alone, contemplating suicide, we will have done our job," Buchakjian-Tweedy said. "The United Church of Christ — a denomination with a long history of social justice work — holds that 'God is Still Speaking' and that churches are still called to strive for a just and compassionate world for all of creation, most especially for those who have been historically marginalized and excluded from the Church."

Geoffrey Black plans to retire in 2015

With a deep sense of gratitude, serving the United Church of Christ during a time that he's called both a challenge and a privilege, the Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, the denomination's general minister and president, has announced he plans to retire early.

Black's decision to retire at the end of General Synod 2015 – two years before the conclusion of his second term – is in part because of his belief that at that time the church will reach an intersection where the transition to a unified body of governance, the scope of work among the covenanted ministries, and the missional priorities of the national setting will all align.

"Terms of office do not always fit the ever-evolving needs of an organization," Black said. "The national setting of the United Church of Christ has moved through a major transition and we are steadily moving forward as a leaner, more focused and agile organization. I hope we can continue along this trajectory and maintain our momentum. I believe that a change in leadership next year, bringing new energy and vision, will help to ensure that we do."

The UCC continued to break new ground during Black's tenure, becoming the first national denomination to file a lawsuit against a state (North Carolina) challenging the constitutionality of its marriage laws. The UCC became the first denomination to take a stand against fossil fuels when the General Synod in 2013 voted in favor of moving toward divestment from fossil fuel companies, along with other strategies, as a way to combat climate change. The church also completed its transition to a single 52-member board of governance from five different boards, marking the first time that one board was responsible for all the church's affairs.

Black announced his retirement 11 months before he plans to leave office so that the United Church of Christ Board will have ample time to identify and nominate his successor. Board chair the Rev. Bernard Wilson, who expressed his gratitude for Black's leadership during a period of difficult transitions, is now putting together a search committee to recommend the denomination's next General Minister and President. He hopes to have the group in place by the end of the month.

"The search committee will require careful, prayerful discernment but will also need to adhere to a tight timeline," said Wilson. The committee will need to collect and review the profiles of those called to apply for consideration. The committee then will need to interview those candidates it considers worthy, select one candidate and present that candidate at the March 2015 meeting of the UCCB."
Black has acknowledged that the months ahead will be filled with important work and decisions for him and his fellow national officers, and that he remains committed to his responsibilities.

"My hope and expectation is that you will join with me in that engagement, with the awareness that my tenure as General Minister and President will end next year, but with an even greater awareness that there is much to be accomplished before then," Black said.

Black was re-elected by the General Synod of the UCC to a second term in June 2013 during the denomination's biennial gathering in Long Beach, Calif. He was called to the leadership of the church five years ago by the former Executive Council of the UCC, and was confirmed as the UCC's seventh GMP by delegates during General Synod 2009 in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Before arriving in Cleveland for his first term in April 2010, Black was the conference minister for the New York Conference of the UCC from 2000 to 2009, and a pastor at the Congregational Church of South Hempstead (N.Y.) for almost 15 years (1980-1994). He also worked for the national setting from 1994 to 2000 in the UCC's Office for Church Life and Leadership.

"Given the fact that God has blessed the United Church of Christ with such a rich and diverse array of very capable and inspired leaders, I am confident that there is someone in our midst who will answer to God's call to serve as our next general minister and president," Black said.

"I ask for your prayers for Geoffrey and his wife Pat, for those who will serve on the search committee and for those who will come before it," Wilson said. "I also ask that you pray for our beloved United Church of Christ as we move into the future God has before us."

Authorized Ministerial Updates July 2014

Ministerial changes reported in the Data Hub—the UCC's information system for ministers and churches—for new positions/calls entered into the system in July 2014.

CC: Congregational Christian
CM: Commissioned Minister
DS: Dual Standing
LM: Licensed Minister
MID: Member in Discernment
MS: Ordained Ministerial Partner Standing
OM: Ordained Minister 
POC: Privilege of Call
 U: Unknown/No UCC Standing
P: Pastor
SP: Senior Pastor
CP: Co-pastor
AP: Associate or Assistant Pastor
IN: Interim Pastor
SU: Supply Pastor
Y: Youth Ministry
OL: Other local church position
MM: Minister of Music
PE: Pastor Emeritus
CE: Director of Christian Education

LM, Michael Bennett, P, Saint Peter's UCC, Franklin, IA
DS, Steven Hartman, IN, Union Congregational United Church of Christ of Green Bay, Green Bay, WI
OM, Christopher Rankin, P, Trinity UCC, East Petersburg, PA
MS, Michael Grogan, P, Congregational Church of Lincoln City UCC, Lincoln City, OR
MID, Twila Rhodes, CE, Community Church UCC, Vero Beach, FL
OM, Stephanie Anne Thompson Wargo, OL, Pleasantville UCC, Chalfont, PA
OM, Charlotte Tracy Wright, IN, First Congregational UCC, Hadley, MA
U, David C. Newhart, IN, Friedens UCC, Oley, PA
LM, Adelaide Stong, AP, Saint John's UCC, Lansdale, PA
OM, Douglas N. Hodges, P, United Church of Christ of Fredericksburg, Fredericksburg, VA
OM, Christopher A. Gilmore, P, Sixth Avenue United Church UCC, Denver, CO
OM, Karin A. Case, AP, First Church in Cambridge Congregational UCC, Cambridge, MA
OM, Camille F. Gianaris, AP, Pilgrims' UCC, Fruitland Park, FL
U, Gordon Jones, P, New Liberty UCC, Cynthiana, IN
MID, Scott Meyer, OL, First Congregational UCC, Riceville, IA
OM, Marjorie Ann MacNeill, IN, Malletts Bay Congregational UCC, Colchester, VT
OM, Thomas C. Kinder, IN, Congregational UCC, Bradford, VT
OM, Charles M. Purinton Jr, IN, First Congregational UCC, Saint Albans, VT
DS, Ashley Whitaker, P, The United Church of Mapleton, Mapleton, MN
OM, Melinda L. Feller, P, Saint John's UCC, Elkhart Lake, WI
LM, Ami Dion, SU, West Congregational Church, Taunton, MA
OM, Ruth Nye, IN, First Congregational UCC, South Windsor, CT
OM, Meredith A. Jeffers, SU, First Congregational Church of Madison, Madison, CT
OM, Deborah Roy, SU, Whitneyville UCC, Hamden, CT
LM, George Brown, AP, Burchette Chapel United Church of Christ, Manson, NC
OM, Shana Gail Johnson, P, Peace Memorial UCC, Palos Park, IL
OM, Michelle K. Mcnamara, IN, Immanuel UCC, Evergreen Park, IL
OM, Daniel T Schultz, IN, Bethany UCC, Oshkosh, WI
OM, Gary L. Miller, IN, Saint Paul UCC, Malone, WI
OM, Delbert Darrell Permann, IN, Saint Paul's UCC, Ellsworth, WI
OM, Sue Joiner, P, First Congregational UCC, Albuquerque, NM
LM, Tammy Ebensberger, SP, Community Congregational UCC, Clinton, IA
OM, Frances J. Ruthven, IN, South Congregational ChurchUCC, Amherst, MA
MID, Courtney Jones, AP, Hope Central Church, Jamaica Plain, MA
OM, Sarah Buteux, AP, First Churches of  Northampton, Northampton, MA
OM, Mary Lou Gifford, P, First Congregational UCC, Randolph, MA
LM, Corinne Ellis, AP, Plymouth Congregational UCC, Des Moines, IA
OM, Sandy Cheatham, AP, United Church of Broomfield, Broomfield, CO
U, Loren Richmond Jr, P, Henderson Community Church, Henderson, CO
OM, Eldonna Hazen, P, First Congregational UCC, Madison, WI
OM, Jennifer A. Long, P, Central Square Community Church, Central Square, NY
LM, Donald Kelly, P, Congregational Christian UCC, Windsor, VA
OM, Kenneth D. Fuller, P, Christ's Reformed UCC, Cavetown, MD
MID, Cynthia Lee, AP, Community UCC, Miami Beach, FL
OM, Ronald Hughes, P, Saint Matthew's UCC, Chester Springs, PA
OM, Blair Kirkpatrick, P, United Parish UCC, Lenora, KS
LM, John Chaplin, AP, Urbandale UCC, Urbandale, IA
MID, Ryan Downing, IN, First Congregational UCC, Cedar Rapids, IA
OM, Bonnie Scott Jelinek, IN, United Church On the Green UCC, New Haven, CT
OM, Ken White, P, College Street Congregational UCC, Burlington, VT
OM, Robert M. Spaulding, IN, Pilgrim United Church of Christ, New Bedford, MA
U, Tom Forster-Smith, IN, Payson Park Church, Belmont, MA
OM, Jeffrey K. Erb, P, Union Church UCC, Ludlow, MA
OM, Dana L. Allen Walsh, P, South Church UCC, Andover, MA
OM, Cameron Barr, P, United Church of Christ Congregational, Grinnell, IA
OM, David Russell, IN, Little Home Church By the Wayside UCC, Wayne, IL
OM, James Joseph Olson, P, Saint John's UCC, Waukegan, IL
OM, Laura L. Kent, IN, Church of the Good Shepherd, Boyertown, PA
OM, Sherry Tucker, P, Easthampton Congregational Church UCC, Easthampton, MA
OM, Teresa A. Hughes-Martin, P, Zion United Church of Christ of New Providence, Strasburg, PA
U, Reno Wright-Hammock, P, Grace United Church of Christ, Milwaukee, WI
LM, Dana Schindler, P, United Church of Christ, Elcho, WI
LM, Dana Schindler, P, United Church of Christ, Kempster, WI
OM, Joshua Knappenberger, P, Zion Blue Mountain UCC, Strausstown, PA
OM, James D. Rapp, P, First Congregational UCC, Indianapolis, IN
U, Scott Stewart, P, The United Church of Clinton, Clinton, MA
LM, James Cope, P, Emmanuel UCC, New Berlin, PA
OM, Patricia Leader, IN, Saint Paul's UCC, Spring Grove, PA
OM, Christopher R. Schwab, P, First United Church of Christ, Carlisle, PA
LM, Craig Kramer, P, Saint Paul's UCC, Ravine, PA
OM, Michael D. Boehm, P, Zion United Church of Christ, Blain, PA
OM, Michael D. Boehm, P, Sandy Hill UCC, Kistler, PA
OM, Tony Fields, P, Saint Peter's UCC, Dubois, PA
LM, Alex Shea Will, AP, Hancock United Church of Christ, Lexington, MA
OM, Philip B. Harner, IN, Grace United Church of Christ, Greencastle, PA
U, Robin Bartlett, P, First Church UCC, Sterling, MA
MID, Pamela Cochrane, AP, Hancock United Church of Christ, Lexington, MA
OM, Herbert L. Henry, IN, Congregational UCC, Punta Gorda, FL
OM, Daniel B. England, IN, First Congregational UCC, Litchfield, CT
OM, Melanie J. Lawrence-Caldwell, P, Collenbrook United Church, Drexel Hill, PA
OM, Deborah L. Patterson, P, Smyrna UCC, Canby, OR
MID, Drew Terry, P, Wright Community Congregational UCC, Boise, ID
OM, William Noel Koch, IN, Congregational Church UCC, Miami Lakes, FL
OM, Michelle Wilkey, AP, David's UCC, Kettering, OH
MID, Mark Brockmeier, P, Townsend Congregational Church UCC, Townsend, MA
MID, Emily Munger, P, Congregational Church UCC, Columbia, SD
OM, Kenneth W. Weidinger, IN, Faith United Church of Christ, Cincinnati, OH
POC, Heidi Vardeman, IN, Saint John's United Church, Chesterton, IN
U, Gary Blain, P, First United Church of Christ, Newton, KS
MID, Katherine Ann Mallory, SU, Pilgrim Congregational UCC, New Haven, CT
OM, Martin Garrison, P, St. Peter's Church of Coupland UCC, Coupland, TX
OM, Sara Jane Munshower, SU, Union Chapel UCC, Fishers Island, NY
OM, Denise M. Terry, P, Congregational UCC, East Granby, CT
OM, Robert Moore Jr., CP, Christ Congregation UCC, Princeton, NJ
U, Jacqueline Gilchrist, SU, North Stamford Congregational Church, Stamford, CT
OM, Joseph Francis Cistone, P, Saint Paul's Community UCC, Cleveland, OH
OM, Mark Robert Seifried, IN, West Parish Church UCC, Andover, MA

The Center for Analytics, Research and Data (CARD) provides oversight of the UCC Data Hub through which ministerial changes are made. However, Conferences and Associations are responsible for reporting changes and maintaining ministerial records in this system. If you have questions about this information, please contact the appropriate Conference or Association.

UCC youth, families invited to National Youth Event 2016 at Walt Disney World® Resort

The youth throughout the United Church of Christ should plan on bringing sunglasses and short sleeves to National Youth Event 2016. And so should their parents and the rest of the family, too. That's because the event will take place at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., from July 26 through July 29. The decision to make the event into a family-inspired gathering where everyone is welcome prompted the decision to take NYE to Walt Disney World.

United Church Funds announces fossil-fuel-free investment fund

On the anniversary of the United Church of Christ's historic vote to take action to lessen the impact of fossil fuels on climate change, United Church Funds announced the launch date of a new fossil-fuel-free investment fund. The Beyond Fossil Fuels Fund is a domestic core equity fund that will be free of investments in U.S. companies extracting or producing fossil fuels, and is targeted to open for investment on Oct. 1, 2014.

"Our staff has worked hard this year since General Synod to identify appropriate investment options and managers for this fund," said Donald G. Hart, president of UCF. "Our final manager selection will be based on total investment commitments from current and new investors."

The UCC became the first mainline religious denomination to vote to move toward divestment from fossil fuel companies as one strategy to combat climate change on July 1, 2013, at General Synod 29 in Long Beach, Calif. The resolution calls for enhanced shareholder engagement in fossil fuel companies, an intensive search for fossil-fuel-free investment vehicles, and the identification of "best in class" fossil fuel companies by General Synod 30, taking place June 26-30, 2015.

Since the resolution's passage, UCF and The Pension Boards of the UCC, the denomination's main investment vehicles, have been actively engaged in various levels of shareholder activism, using the process of shareholder engagement to work toward the goals of the UCC resolution. The Beyond Fossil Fuels Fund is another step toward meeting those goals, which the Rev. Geoffrey Black, UCC general minister and president, says is a realization of the UCC's act of prophetic witness on climate.

"As stewards of God's creation, we must continue to grow in our commitment to initiatives like this if we are to have a sustainable future on earth," said Black. "The United Church of Christ's support of this fund will make it possible for others to follow."

With a commitment of $10 million in seed money from the United Church of Christ Board's Investment and Endowment Committee, UCF will be able to offer a fund based on the S&P 500 index, free of fossil fuel companies and inclusive of UCF's traditional set of exclusionary screens, which eliminate companies that conflict with the values of the investor. However, UCF's preferred outcome would require a total commitment of at least $20 million, with which UCF would be able to offer an enhanced index fund that provides an opportunity for higher investment returns.

Investors who are interested in shifting part or all of their domestic core equity allocation to the Beyond Fossil Fuels Fund can visit the fund's website or send an email to BFFfund@ucfunds.org to receive a call from a UCF staff member. After Aug. 31, 2014, UCF will make a determination on fund style and manager based on investor commitments to the new fund.

"We, who are dedicated to protecting our planet, appreciate UCF's fidelity in fulfilling the commitment they made at General Synod," said the Rev. Jim Antal, conference minister of the Massachusetts Conference of the UCC who spearheaded the UCC's resolution to move toward divestment. "I urge UCC churches and conferences to prayerfully consider an investment in this fund."