Written by Gregg Brekke
Rev. Pat deJong
The UCC's 27th General Synod came to a close Tuesday evening, June 30, with a celebration of five days of worship and work.
In her concluding sermon, the Rev. Patricia E. deJong recalled Matthew's Gospel story of Jesus and the disciples and the Sea of Galilee. While Jesus walked on water in the Sea of Galilee, it is Peter who provides the drama. Will he or won't he step out of the boat and walk with Jesus?
"Are we ready to take the risk and step out of the boat? Are we willing to go where Jesus is standing?" she asked.
The senior pastor of First Congregational UCC in Berkeley, Calif., deJong also reminded visitors and delegates that "anybody who rocks the boat takes a tremendous risk. Water is mighty powerful, and it can also be impersonal and downright mean."
As General Synod ended, delegates and visitors had much boat-rocking to remember from their time together.
The Rev. Geoffrey Black, who has served for nearly a decade as minister of the UCC's New York Conference, was called by election Tuesday evening to succeed the Rev. John Thomas as General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ. Thomas was ineligible for an additional term.
The announcement of Black's election was greeted with a standing ovation. In brief remarks, the new general minister and president thanked the delegates and spoke of his high expectations of working with other members of the UCC's five-person Collegium of Officers. Echoing his remarks at the time of his nomination, Black affirmed, "We are in this together."
The Executive Ministers of two covenanted ministries also were called by election to new terms. The Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo was re-elected as Executive Minister of Justice and Witness Ministries and the Rev. Stephen L. Sterner was chosen as Executive Minister of Local Church Ministries. All will serve four-year terms beginning Oct. 1, 2009.
|Wrap-up video of General Synod highlights
Longtime health care reform advocate Rep. John Conyers of Michigan visited with UCC members and made the case for a single-payer health care system during a workshop on Saturday afternoon.
Conyers, a 22-term U.S. Representative and a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus, came over from Detroit for the day. During a brief meeting with a handful of church leaders, Conyers said he admires the UCC and has friends in the church. He expressed appreciation for the denomination's stands on civil and human rights issues.
Monday afternoon, 200 Synod-goers marched from DeVos Place to City Hall and gathered in the shadow of Grand Rapids' signature Calder stabile to demonstrate their commitment to universal health care.
Leading the 15-minute walk was Mayor George Heartwell, a UCC pastor, and the demonstration organizers, the Rev. Bert Perry of the Florida Conference and the Rev. Peter Wells, an Associate Conference Minister from Massachusetts. Chanting "Health care now!" they wound their way through downtown streets on a path cleared by city police.
Resolution actions called for solidarity with the people of Iran, support for Iraqi refugees, a continuation of "Sacred Conversations on Race" and advocacy regarding a single-payer health care solution - among many others.
Delegates also considered resolutions on restructuring the national setting of the UCC, approving a resolution written during Synod called "Toward Unified Governance for the National Setting of the United Church of Christ." The resolution asks the Executive Council and the Covenanted Ministry Boards to bring to General Synod 28 a proposal for a single governance board, along with necessary constitution and bylaw changes. That Synod is planned for Tampa, Fla., in 2011.
Bylaw and constitution changes were approved allowing the creation of guidelines facilitating multiple paths to authorized ministry. Amendments emphasized authorization of all UCC ministers: ordained, commissioned, and licensed; the responsibility of Associations in determining fitness for ordination, discernment in the ordination process in all settings of the church and the importance of covenants of mutual responsibility.