"Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God." [1 Corinthians 2:6-7 RSV]
The United Church of Christ (UCC) is a denomination that reflects the pluralistic story of American Protestantism. Created in 1957, it is known for bringing together ecclesiastical bodies rooted in English Puritanism, American frontier revivalism, and German religious history. It takes seriously the calling of Christians to oneness in Christ and participates actively in the contemporary ecumenical movement. The prayer of Christ "that they may all be one" is central to its self-understanding.
Louis Gunnemann, who has written about this young denomination in The Shaping of the United Church of Christ, notes:
The formation of the United Church of Christ was a venture of faith, a response to a vision created out of the heritage of the past and in the context of new responsibilities. To know the beliefs, movements and events comprising that history is to begin to accept ownership and to be shaped by it. 
History, however, as with many academic ventures, sometimes gets into habits. Popular patterns of interpretation prevail for a time and then "revisionists" come along and new interpretations emerge. "What actually happened" does not change; it is simply seen with new eyes and shared with new understanding.
History is organic; it grows and flowers, it dies back and goes to seed. It needs tending, like a garden, to produce its best blooms. Sometimes it benefits from fertilizer. At other times careful pruning and even the grafting of old branches on to new stock will revive its beauty.
The United Church of Christ organizes its history around the legacy of the Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Church. These two denominations, which were themselves the result of earlier unions, provide the raw material for the "historical orthodoxy" of the United Church of Christ. In UCC historical work, therefore, one commonly finds a careful balance between the "four streams which become one"—Congregational, Christian, Evangelical, and Reformed. Churchpeople have come to expect that each tradition will receive its "one quarter time." But this is a distortion of history.
What happens when historical orthodoxy governs the exploration of the past? First, some parts of the history are lost forever when only half the story is told. Certain individuals and groups remain invisible. After a time they seem to have never existed or certain events seem to have never happened. The histories of women and of many racial and ethnic groups do not fit into the scope of historical orthodoxy, and they are forgotten or selectively remembered. Often those who were on the losing side of controversies are not given fair treatment.
Second, when historical orthodoxy prevails, the methods used to retrieve historical information and the type of research deemed legitimate are consciously and unconsciously limited. In some instances the oral traditions and unofficial memorabilia of a group are ignored because they fail to fit scholarly criteria. Again, the experience of ethnic groups or of peoples marginal to the dominant history is overlooked because it exists in stories and songs and languages foreign to the researcher. In such cases certain types of historical material are not recognized as being important.
Third, when historical orthodoxy dominates, typical research sources (such as letters, diaries, and journals) are read from only one perspective. Good history, however, approaches such materials with an open mind. For example, the records of missionaries contain profound insights into "native" world views and values. If these materials are read only through "white" or "colonial" eyes, the history of mission and the church is distorted. When they are examined from the standpoint of mission recipients, the picture changes.
Fourth, when historical orthodoxy governs the approach to materials, current events and special movements seem to emerge unrelated to any historical context. Yet few things in the church exist without some previous expression. The legacies of contemporary special interest groups are grounded in histories that need to be discovered and understood. But when historians settle into standard ways of "seeing" the past, the sources of contemporary change are difficult to discern.
History is not always neat and fair. And the UCC history is more complex than the historical orthodoxy that informs its self-image. The United Church of Christ is an extremely pluralistic and diverse denomination that is nourished by many "hidden histories." These important stories out of its past do not appear within the traditional fourfold history. Yet, as Gunnemann says, only when churchpeople know the beliefs, movements, and events that make up their history will they be able to accept ownership and be shaped by that history.
"Hidden Histories in the United Church of Christ" attempts to move beyond UCC historical orthodoxy. The hidden histories of the United Church of Christ are unknown. They need to be preserved and adequately shared within the denomination to enable ownership. This book seeks to expand knowledge about the diversity of contemporary church life. It will especially stretch leaders in their understanding of the UCC. It connects the United Church of Christ with some significant developments in American religious and ethnic history. More chapters could have been included, but this is a beginning. Another book exploring the histories of the Chinese, Hispanics, Hawaiians, and others could be developed.
This book began with plans for an optional event sponsored by the UCC Historical Council in cooperation with the Coordinating Center for Women at General Synod XIII of the United Church of Christ held on June 29, 1981, in Rochester, New York. Because of the interest generated in the "Unity and Diversity of the UCC" during that session, authors were found to write the eleven chapters that make up this collection. In rough chronological order the chapters document some of the hidden histories.
The first chapter is about the American Indian. Although contemporary historiography speaks of Native Americans, this essay retains the historical label Indian. The author of the chapter is not a member of the Indian community but writes from the perspective of the mission boards that initiated and maintained Christian work with American Indians for more than one hundred fifty years. In the not-too-distant future perhaps this story can be retold from a Native American perspective.
Most black history in the United Church of Christ is linked to the antislavery crusade of Yankee Congregationalists who worked throughout the nineteenth century to uplift and support their black sisters and brothers in the South. Some black UCC churches, however, do not come from that past. They are related to the development of the Christian denomination and evolved in the tidewater regions of Virginia and North Carolina, unconnected to black Congregationalism. This Afro-Christian connection is described in chapter 2.
The history of the German Reformed Church in Pennsylvania is the concern of the third chapter, which presents the nineteenth-century controversy between the Mercersburg movement and those who called themselves "Old Reformed." Some of the tensions within the United Church of Christ today are similar to this conflict between "high church" and "low church" factions.
Foreign mission activities set the stage for the fourth chapter, on Armenian Congregationalism. Because of the work of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions in the nineteenth-century, Armenian Christians of "evangelical persuasion" grew in numbers throughout the Ottoman Empire. Later, when Armenians came to the United States seeking refuge from persecution, they brought that legacy with them. From missionary beginnings Armenian Congregationalism moved to become part of the United Church of Christ.
The German heritage of the United Church of Christ is usually associated with the Evangelical and Reformed story. Chapter 5 tells how some German churches in the UCC were Congregational. These churches were organized on the midwestern frontier by German emigrants who came from Russia in the late nineteenth century. The emigrants were befriended by American Congregationalists but retained some of the Pietism they had nourished in Russia for several generations.
The image of the American Missionary Association (AMA) that is usually conveyed is one of white New England school teachers who went into the South after the Civil War to raise the educational level of blacks. Chapter 8 looks at that history from a different perspective and documents the involvement of blacks who worked for the AMA in education and in church development throughout the entire century.
Chapter 7 retrieves an important and often overlooked story of women in the church. Building on a German movement, in the late nineteenth century, the Evangelical Synod of North America offered women the opportunity of becoming deaconesses. These women shared their gifts in many health and welfare ministries sponsored by the church. Furthermore, their consecrated service gave them unique leadership opportunities as pioneer professional women.
The United Church of Christ has incorporated many diverse groups in its long history. Chapter 8 tells about a group—the Schwenkfelders—that seriously considered becoming part of the United Church of Christ but never did. Descendants of a sixteenth-century German reformer, they came to Pennsylvania in the colonial era and have been good neighbors to the German Reformed people for centuries.
Reformed hospitality, however, did result in a formal connection between the United Church of Christ and the Hungarian Reformed people. Chapter 9 explores the Hungarians' history in the United States and their independent status as the Magyar Synod of the Evangelical and Reformed Church. Within the United Church of Christ the Calvin Synod, a conference without geographical boundaries, continues to support UCC churches of Hungarian Reformed origins.
Chapter 10 returns to the story of women in the churches. This chapter explains how independent boards and organizations for women in the four denominations that formed the United Church of Christ provided a special power base for women at the turn of the twentieth century. It argues that these churchwomen changed the mission movement, helped women around the world, and set the stage for great changes in women's lives in the twentieth century.
The last chapter in the book, chapter 11, explores the development of Japanese Congregationalism in America. From Neesima Jo, who smuggled himself out of Japan in 1864, to the concentration camps of the 1940s and into the post-World War II period, the story of Japanese participation in the United Church of Christ is impressive.
Any examination of "hidden histories" is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, learning these stories is disturbing. Preconceptions and assumptions are stretched and challenged. This experience is painful, because these histories show how deeply captive the church is to cultural patterns of ethnocentrism, racism and sexism.
On the other hand, studies of this type highlight the strengths of pluralism. There is power for the entire church in knowing these stories; and for those who stand outside UCC historical orthodoxy these histories bring justice. The United Church of Christ seeks unity within its diversity. Only as it is able to locate, preserve, and share the fullness of that diversity will it be enabled to embrace the oneness of Christ.
On Tuesday, June 25,1957, at Cleveland, Ohio, the Evangelical and Reformed Church, 23 years old, passionate in its impulse to unity, committed to "liberty of conscience inherent in the Gospel," and the Congregational Christian Churches, 26 years old, a fellowship of biblical people under a mutual covenant for responsible freedom in Christ, joined together as the United Church of Christ. The new church embodied the essence of both parents, a complement of freedom with order, of the English and European Reformations with the American Awakenings, of separatism with 20th-century ecumenism, of presbyterian with congregational polities, of neoorthodox with liberal theologies. Two million members joined hands.
The story of the United Church of Christ is the story of people serving God through the church. Co-President James E. Wagner, a graduate of Lancaster Seminary, parish minister, seminary professor, and instructor in Bible, brought intellectual and spiritual stature, wisdom and brotherly warmth to match the generous personality of Co-President Fred Hoskins, gifted Congregational Christian professor and pastor, of liberal theological orientation and consummate organizational ability.
A message was sent to the churches from the Uniting General Synod, signed by its moderators, Louis W. Goebel and George B. Hastings, its co-presidents, and co-secretaries Sheldon E. Mackey and Fred S. Buschmeyer. After acknowledging the separate ancestries of the parties to the union and citing ecumenical "relatives" of both denominations, the message stated, "Differences in ecclesiastical procedure, which in sundry places and times have occasioned tensions and disorders, are appointed their secondary place and are divested of evil effect." The union, the message continued, was possible because the "two companies of Christians hold the same basic belief: that Christ and Christ alone is the head of the Church ... From him [we] derive the understanding of God, ... participation in the same spirit, the doctrines of faith, the influence toward holiness, the duties of divine worship, the apprehension of the significance of baptism and the Lord's Supper, the observance of church order, the mutual love of Christians and their dedication to the betterment of the world" ("Report on the Uniting General Synod:" Advance, July 12, 1957, p. 22).
A Joint Resolution, declaring the basis of union, adopted by both parties at the Uniting General Synod, said in part: "Delegates of the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches, in joint session assembled this day in the city of Cleveland, Ohio, do hereby declare that The Basis of Union with the Interpretations has been legally adopted ... that the union ... is now effected under the name of 'The United Church of Christ' ... that the union be formally pronounced ... in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit ... that until the adopting Constitution ... The Basis of Union shall regulate the business and affairs of the United Church of Christ .... "
The Second General Synod at Oberlin in 1959 received for study by the churches a first draft of a constitution and approved a Statement of Faith:
Statement of Faith We believe in God, the Eternal Spirit, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and our Father, and to his deeds we testify: He calls the worlds into being, creates man in his own image, and sets before him the ways of life and death. He seeks in holy love to save all people from aimlessness and sin. He judges men and nations by his righteous will declared through prophets and apostles. In Jesus Christ, the man of Nazareth, our crucified and risen Lord, he has come to us and shared our common lot, conquering sin and death and reconciling the world to himself. He bestows upon us his Holy Spirit, creating and renewing the church of Jesus Christ, binding in covenant faithful people of all ages, tongues, and races. He calls us into his church to accept the cost and joy of discipleship, to be his servants in the service of men, to proclaim the gospel to all the world and resist the powers of evil, to share in Christ's baptism and eat at his table, to join him in his passion and victory. He promises to all who trust him forgiveness of sins and fullness of grace, courage in the struggle for justice and peace, his presence in trial and rejoicing, and eternal life in his kingdom which has no end. Blessing and honor, glory and power be unto him. Amen.
Able administration by the co-presidents and intensive committee work by lay and clergypersons produced an orderly procedure for consolidation of boards and other program agencies. The Third General Synod at Philadelphia in 1961 adopted the Constitution and By-Laws and elected a devoted, hardworking pastor its first president. Ben Herbster, earnest supporter of educational and ecumenical Christian endeavors, always faithful to the needs and requests of local churches and pastors, would guide the "freedom and order" of the new church for eight years. Calling for unity, he would, in his own words, remain "experimental ... seeking new modes that speak to this day in inescapable terms."
The youthful years of the United Church of Christ called the church to ministry in a society barely recovered from a war in Korea, soon thrust with its burden of sorrow and guilt into another in Vietnam. Burgeoning and expensive technologies in a shrinking world seemed to offer the bright prospect of ever more familiar human relationships, with fleeting promises of time to enjoy them, yet generating ominous clouds of increasing crime, violence and fear of nuclear annihilation. The first years of the church's life began during a period of unprecedented national economic prosperity and hope, when, during the preceding decades, new church buildings had abounded to accommodate worshipers disinclined to consider denomination important.
The constitution had provided for the General Synod to recognize the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries and the United Church Board for World Ministries as mission instrumentalities. Also recognized to do the work of the church were the Pension Boards and the United Church Foundation. Other program instrumentalities for the whole work of the church have been established, as needed, by the General Synod: Stewardship Council, Office of Communication, Office for Church in Society, and Office for Church Life and Leadership. The General Synod has also provided for such special bodies as Commission for Racial Justice, Commission on Development, Coordinating Center for Women in Church and Society, Historical Council, Council for Ecumenism, Council for Higher Education. A Council of Conference Executives includes the 39 conference ministers. A Council of Instrumentality Executives assists the president and Executive Council in planning implementation of General Synod and Executive Council (ad interim for General Synod) decisions. (See pages 32-33, 53-64.)
The priorities, pronouncements, and program recommendations of the General Synods throughout the 1960s and 1970s reflected a biblical sensitivity to God's care for a world that once led Jesus of Nazareth to weep over the city of Jerusalem. Peace, ecumenism, and human rights walked hand in hand in the United Church of Christ during the 1960s, continuing into the 1970s, the last with a louder and louder voice. At the grassroots, many people worked for black and other minority justice rights, for the elevation of women to equal regard and opportunity with men in society, for just treatment and consideration of all persons of whatever sexual affectional preference, for a more humane criminal justice system, and for the enablement of people with handicaps to lead a full life. Local churches were encouraged to support local councils of churches and the work of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States, that had in 1950 united many efforts of Protestant and Orthodox churches.
On the national level, a Consultation on Church Union (COCU) was initiated in 1960 to "form [together] a plan of church union both catholic and reformed," and to invite any other churches to join that could accept the principles of the plan. The United Church of Christ promptly joined the effort and COCU produced in 1966 a Plan of Church Union. By 1970, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the International Congregational Council had merged, and in 1976, COCU's In Quest of a Church Uniting was submitted to ten participating American churches for study and response; in 1977, a Plan of Union was published. The consultation would continue and the United Church of Christ often reiterated it "would not do anything alone that could be done as well or better with other churches."
In 1972 United Church Herald joined Presbyterian Life to become A.D. The same inclusive spirit became prominent within the denomination as well. In an attempt to bring young people more fully into the life of the church, the two former national youth structures (Pilgrim Fellowship and Youth Fellowship) were abandoned. In 1969, the Seventh General Synod voted that a minimum of 20 percent of all future Synod delegates and members of national boards must be under 30 years of age. This action has led many conferences, associations, and churches to include youth in decision-making bodies.
Increasing numbers of young people attend General Synods as visitors as well as delegates. Delegates under 30 have strongly influenced decisions. Articulate, committed young people have inspired and given new life to the General Synods since 1969. A 1980 National Youth Event at Carleton College rallied youth leaders of the United Church of Christ. No longer are young people seen as "the church of tomorrow"; they are an integral part of the church today throughout the denomination.
During a period of student unrest, strong protest of America's involvement in the Vietnam War, continuing pressure for minority rights, the initial upheavals of the women's movement, and following national outrage and grief over assassinations of public leaders, North Carolinian Robert V. Moss, New Testament scholar and president of Lancaster Theological Seminary, was elected president of the United Church of Christ by the General Synod in 1969. Greatly loved, a gentle man with firm biblical conviction, he spoke with a loud anti-war voice and guided faithfully the church's peace and justice efforts. With General Synod mandate, he called for withdrawal from Vietnam and for support of United States policies that would lessen rivalries in the Middle East. An advocate of ecumenism, he served with distinction on the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches and supported its stands against apartheid in South Africa and for world peace.
General Synod VIII, concerned also with the faith crisis, racial justice, peace and United States power, and the local church, established a Task Force on Women in Church and Society, which pressed successfully for a General Synod mandate that 50 percent of delegates to national meetings and members on national boards and councils be women, and later for use of inclusive language in the church. The Council for American Indian Ministries (CAIM), Pacific and Asian American Ministries (P AAM), and the Council for Hispanic Ministries look after special needs and interests of their minority groups and offer their unique gifts of ministry to the rest of the church.
From the General Synod in 1973, a delegation of95 flew from St. Louis to the Coachella Valley in California to stand with the United Farm Workers in their struggle against farm owners and a rival union. The General Synod responded to the financial crisis of six black American Missionary Association-founded colleges in the South, by raising $17 million through the bicentennial17176 Achievement Fund campaign between 1974 and 1976. The fund also aided overseas educational institutions. The same General Synod voted bail money for the "Wilmington 10," a group of eight young black men and one white woman who, involved in a North Carolina racial conflict, were imprisoned with a United Church of Christ worker, who was sent by the Commission for Racial Justice to help.
In the autumn of 1976, the church mourned the death from illness of its 54-year-old second president. Robert V. Moss died on October 25. Feeling keenly their loss, the churches received gladly his legacy of concern for justice, peace, and ecumenism.
Joseph H. Evans, secretary of the United Church of Christ, led the church as its third president for an interim period of 11 months. He repeatedly carried across America and overseas a message of unity and purpose to the grieving church and with pastoral skill brought comfort to many people.
Disintegration in the culture of traditional Christian mores surrounding sexual relationships and the institutions of marriage and family raised the need for a church study of human sexuality. Differing perspectives on biblical teaching rendered the study controversial. The General Synod in 1975 and 1977 sustained the conviction that sexual and affectional preference should not be a basis for denial of human rights enjoyed by others.
In 1977, the General Synod chose a vigorous former pastor and Massachusetts Conference minister, Avery D. Post, as president. A New Englander of poetic appreciations and ecumenical faith, grounded in a neoorthodox biblical theology, he was elected by acclamation.
The synod also called the church to responsible monitoring of exploitative broadcasting, public access and opportunity for handicapped persons, and the right to meaningful, remunerative work. World hunger and a threatened environment were commended to United Church Christians for attention and remediation, as was the social responsibility of multinational corporations.
A covenant with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to continue cooperative projects and theological and ecclesiological studies postponed a decision on formal union negotiations until 1985.
United Church Christians provided legal and moral support during the seven years that it took to win vindication for the "Wilmington 10." After a 1979 national women's meeting convened 2,000 women at Cincinnati, the Coordinating Center for Women in Church and Society was established and funded by General Synod XIII. By 1980, there were 485 United Church of Christ congregations of predominantly minority background, numbering 76, 634 persons of Afro, Asian and Pacific Island, Hispanic, and American Indian heritage. Between 1970 and 1979, each group showed net gains in membership. A decline in general United Church of Christ membership was believed to reflect demographic and migratory patterns in the United States.
Movements within the church such as the United Church People for Biblical Witness, the Fellowship of Charismatic Christians in the United Church of Christ, and United Church Christians for Justice Action help people of like perception and intention to find one another within the "beautiful, heady, exasperating mix" of the pluralistic church.
The church responded to these changes. Recognizing the urgency of Christian renewal and mission, General Synod XIII adopted a four-year program to fund New Initiatives in Church Development. Synod delegates expressed their support for women's equality by participating in vigils to encourage ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. Peace and Family Life, eloquently upheld by youth delegates, became priorities for the biennium.
General Synod XIV, meeting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, saw the election of the Rev. Carol Joyce Brun as the third Secretary of the United Church of Christ, succeeding Dr. Joseph H. Evans. At General Synod XIV the ministry sections of the Constitution and Bylaws were extensively amended, "Youth and Young Adults" was adopted as a priority, a new Council on Racial and Ethnic Ministries was authorized, a mission partnership with the Presbyterian Church of the Republic of Korea was voted, and such mission issues as the concern for persons with AIDS, justice and peace in Ce tral America, and the evil of apartheid in South Africa received the careful attention of the delegates.
Delegates at General Synod XV, meeting in Ames, Iowa, expressed their concern about the farm crisis in the United States, declared the United Church of Christ a Just Peace Church, supported sanctuary for political refugees escaping from South Africa and Central America, and supported full divestment of all financial resources from all corporations doing business with South Africa. In a historic action, General Synod XV voted an ecumenical partnership with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and voted a relationship with the Pentecostal Church of Chile.
Succeeding A.D. in 1985 was a new tabloid, the United Church News.
The United Church of Christ, through the ecumenical Office of the President and the United Church Board for World Ministries, local churches and individual members, continues communication and visitation with Christian leaders, lay and ordained, throughout the world, including those in the Soviet bloc, the war-torn Middle East, developing countries, and especially in partnership with united and uniting churches of Christ. The church remains a member of the National Council of Churches, the World Council of Churches and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches.
The United Church of Christ continues, a united and uniting church. God alone is its author, Christ alone its head. A biblical church, it continues to witness by the power of the Holy Spirit, remembering that "truths hitherto guarded in separateness become imperilled by their separateness, because they are in essence 'catholic' truths, not 'sectarian' (Norman Goodall quoted by Hoskins, op. cit., p. 33).
What is the United Church of Christ Archives?
What the UCC Archives Does:
- Collects, preserves, and provides access to the records of the UCC from around the time of the creating Union in 1957 onward.
- Acts as the office of records management for the national setting of the denomination.
- Provides guidance for how to manage current and historical records to all settings of the denomination.
What is in the UCC Archives:
The records, photographs, resources, and objects from around the time of the creating Union in 1957 onward.
A selection of a few of the vast resources include:
- Records from the national offices
- UCC Yearbooks
- General Synod Minutes
- Executive Council Minutes
- Resources developed by national offices
- Documentation about the formation of the UCC
- Records of projects and innitiatives
- Collections from national UCC organizations, committees, councils and groups
- Council for Health and Human Services
- UCC Historical Council
- Personal papers of people involved in the work of the national setting of the denomination
- Rev. Arthur Clyde's collection of hymnals
- Rev. Harold Wilke's papers documenting his work in the UCC
- Conference publications and newsletters
- Written histories of local churches, associations, conferences, and other UCC-related ministries
Electronic versions of General Synod Minutes, The Constitution and Bylaws and New Conversations are now available at rescarta.ucc.org.
All documents are searchable by keyword, and are complete to present.
Partnerships with other Historical Organizations:
The UCC Archives works closely with other archives that hold the records of the denominations that united to form the UCC. Please visit the Historical Council page to find more information about those institutions.
The Rev. John C. Dorhauer, author and theologian, currently serves as ninth General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ.
Before his election at the 30th General Synod in June 2015, Dorhauer was the Conference Minister of the Southwest Conference of the UCC, the regional body that provides support and services to 47 local UCC congregations and clergy within Arizona, New Mexico and El Paso, Texas.
Prior to his role at the Southwest Conference, Dorhauer served as associate conference minister in the Missouri Mid-South Conference, and also served First Congregational United Church of Christ and Zion United Church of Christ, in rural Missouri. Dorhauer received a B.A. in Philosophy from Cardinal Glennon College (1983), and has a Master of Divinity degree from Eden Theological Seminary (1988), the same year he was ordained in the United Church of Christ. He received a Doctor of Ministry degree from United Theological Seminary (2004), where he studied white privilege and its effects on the church. His second book, Beyond Resistance: The Institutional Church Meets the Postmodern World, was released in June 2015. His first book(written with Sheldon Culver), Steeplejacking: How the Christian Right is Hijacking Mainstream Religion, was published in June 2007.
Dorhauer is passionate about justice. Two statements that shape his theology are: "God is love. God is just." He is also passionate about the future of the denomination, insistent “that the Holy Spirit envisions a future in which the United Church of Christ matters.” During his tenure, he is calling on the denomination to rethink itself and to consider new ways of “being church” in light of reduced societal interest in institutional religion, and the steep decline in the membership of the UCC since the 1960s. He says alternatives to institutional churches, what some call the "emergent church," will not immediately supplant, but will grow alongside the institutional church for a long time.
Under his leadership during his first year in office, UCC congregations addressed racism through the Black Lives Matter movement and the denomination’s White Privilege curriculum, released in September 2016, which Dorhauer initiated; campaigned against discrimination, including that aimed at the LGBTQ community; and offered extravagant welcome and visible public support for Muslim neighbors through its Building Bridges initiative.
Along with his passion for justice, Dorhauer has a passion for and love of baseball – specifically the St. Louis Cardinals – music, literature and poetry. He has been married to his wife for nearly 31 years and they have three children.
Dorhauer was chosen as the GMP candidate by an 18-member search committee in February 2015. His candidacy was confirmed by the UCC Board of Directors by a two-thirds vote in March. He was elected at the 30th General Synod, which met June 26-30, 2015 in Cleveland. Dorhauer replaced the Rev. Dr. Geoffrey Black, as the ninth person to lead the UCC since the denomination was formed in 1957.
Dorhauer was the first person to conduct a legal same sex wedding in the state of Arizona when he performed the wedding service of David Laurence and Kevin Patterson on October 17, 2014. In June 2015, facing verbal threats while standing across from 250 armed bikers targeting a local mosque, Dorhauer, as nominee for United Church of Christ general minister and president, joined 250 inter-religious supporters from Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths opposing a protest outside the Islamic Center of Phoenix. In October 2015, in one of his first directives as general minister and president, Dorhauer issued a call to leaders of the United Church of Christ to stand against planned demonstrations in their community targeted at Muslims and their places of worship. That same month Dorhauer also went to a Kansas City high school to rally with students countering a protest of Westboro Baptist Church, which opposed the school’s decision to crown a transgender girl as homecoming queen.
Rev. Traci Blackmon is the Executive Minister of Justice & Local Church Ministries for The United Church of Christ and Senior Pastor of Christ The King United Church of Christ in Florissant, MO.
Initially ordained in the African Methodist Episcopal
Church, Rev. Blackmon served in various ministry capacities for 9 years, prior to becoming ordained in the United Church of Christ and installed as the first woman and 18th pastor in the 162 year history of Christ The King United Church of Christ. A registered nurse with more than 25 years of healthcare experience, Rev. Blackmon's clinical focus was cardiac care and in latter years her focus shifted to mobile healthcare in underserved communities with the greatest health disparities in her region. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from Birmingham - Southern College (1985), and a Master of Divinity degree from Eden Theological Seminary (2009).
As pastor, Rev. Blackmon leads Christ The King in an expanded understanding of church as a sacred launching pad of community engagement and change. This ethos has led to a tripling of both membership and worship attendance over the last seven years, expanding membership engagement opportunities, and the establishment of community outreach programs. Community programming includes a computer lab, tutoring, continuing education classes, summer programming, a robotics team, children's library and girls' mentoring program, all housed in the church.
Regionally, Rev. Blackmon's signature initiatives have included Healthy Mind, Body, and Spirit, a mobile faith-based outreach program she designed to impact health outcomes in impoverished areas. Sacred Conversations on Solomon’s Porch, quarterly clergy in-services designed to equip local clergy to assess physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health concerns within congregational life, Sista SOS Summit, an intergenerational health symposium for women and girls, and Souls to the Polls STL, an ecumenical, multi-faith collaborative that was successful in providing over 2,800 additional rides to the polls during local and national elections.
A featured voice with many regional, national, and international media outlets and a frequent contributor to print publications, Rev. Blackmon's communal leadership and work in the aftermath of the killing of Michael Brown, Jr., in Ferguson, MO has gained her both national and international recognition and audiences from the White House to the Carter Center to the Vatican. She was appointed to the Ferguson Commission by Governor Jay
Nixon and to the President's Advisory Council on Faith-Based Neighborhood Partnerships for the White House by President Barack H. Obama. Rev. Blackmon co-authored the White Privilege curriculum for the United Church of Christ and toured the nation with Rev. Dr. William Barber of Moral Mondays and Repairer of the Breech, Rev. Dr. James Forbes of The Drum Major Institute and pastor emeritus of The Riverside Church in New York, and Sister Simone Campbell of Nuns on the Bus proclaiming the need for a Moral Revival in this nation.
Rev. Blackmon is a graduate of Leadership St. Louis and currently serves on the boards of The Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, Chicago Theological Seminary, and WomanPreach! Rev. Blackmon is a co-author of the newly released White Privilege curriculum through the United Church of Christ and has received several awards and recognitions, inclusive of:
- The White House President’s Volunteer Service Award
- The St. Louis American Stellar Award
- 2015 Ebony Magazine Power 100
- Deluxe Magazine Power 100
- St. Louis University - Community Leader of the Year
- 100 Black Men of St. Louis Community Leader of the Year
- The Coalition of Black Trade Unionist - Drum Major Award
- NAACP - Rosa Parks Award
- Rosa Parks Award - United Trade Unionist
- The Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis Woman in Leadership Award
- National Planned Parenthood Faith Leader Award
- The United Church of Christ - Antoinette Brown Leadership Award
- Honorary Doctorate, Eden Theological Seminary
Rev. Blackmon currently resides in both St. Louis, MO and Cleveland, OH and was named 2017 Citizen of the Year by The St. Louis American and as one of St. Louis' 100 most influential voices as well as . Rev. Blackmon is the proud mother of three adult children: Kortni Devon; Harold II; and Tyler Wayne Blackmon.
If you are a member of the press and would like to schedule an interview with Rev. Traci Blackmon, please contact:
Connie Larkman, News Director
For all other inquiries, please contact:
Denise Pittman, Executive Assistant
The Rev. James Moos is Executive Minister of the UCC's Wider Church Ministries and Co-executive of UCC/Disciples' Global Ministries.
Following his ordination in 1986, Moos was called to Adams County Parish, UCC, where he served until 1991. Moos then became senior pastor at Bismarck (N.D.) UCC, serving 15 years before accepting the call as executive minister of UCC Wider Church Ministries.
Moos' involvement at the Conference and national levels includes serving as chair of the Northern Plains Conference council (1990-1991), multiple periods of service with the Conference's Church and Ministry Committee and Mission and Outreach Committee; and on the Wider Church Ministries/Common Global Ministries Board of Directors (1999-2005).
A Global Ministries short-term volunteer to East Timor in 2002, Moos has served as president of the East Timor Education Foundation, a funding agency for Global Ministries, from 2004 to the present.
In 2005, Moos began a six-year stint on the UCC Executive Council, including two years as its chair.
Moos enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1976 and was on active duty until 1980. Five years later, he became a reserve chaplain for the Air Force and served for 18 years.
Growing up on a farm near Streeter, North Dakota, Moos went on to earn his bachelor of arts degree at Seattle Pacific University in 1983 before obtaining both his M.Div. (1986) and Ph.D. (1996) from Princeton Theological Seminary.
Moos is married to Sharon Moos, whose career is in the health-care administration field.
Jim has been deeply engaged with Global Ministries in support of its partnership with the Protestant Church in East Timor. He brings experience in administration and finance, a commitment to the prophetic witness of the United Church of Christ, a passion for connecting local churches to the global body of Christ, and an understanding of the collegial and ecumenical nature of serving as Executive Minister of Wider Church Ministries and Co-Executive of the UCC/Disciples' Global Ministries.
If you are a member of the press and would like to schedule an interview with Rev. James Moos, please contact:
Connie Larkman, News Director
For all other inquiries, please contact:
Linda Long, Executive Assistant
Presidents and General Minister and Presidents
Fred Hoskins & James E. Wagner – Co-Presidents (1957-1961)
Ben M. Herbster – President (1961-1969)
Robert V. Moss – President (1969-1976)
Joseph H. Evans – President (1976-1977)
Avery D. Post – President (1977-1989)
Paul H. Sherry – President (1989-1999)
John H. Thomas – General Minister and President (1999-2010)
Geoffrey A. Black – General Minister and President (2010-2015)
John C. Dorhauer – General Minister and President (2015-Present)
God has moved throughout the 20th century to impel a worldwide movement toward Christian unity, of which the United Church of Christ is but a part. Understood deeply as obedience, the movement is seen more expediently as an antidote to the rising forces of paganism. The ecumenical movement calls the churches to restore their oneness in Christ by union. A divided church is unlikely to convince the world.
Two world wars and religious sectarianism had made clear a need for the church to take seriously its responsibility as agents of God's healing, and in repentance, to acknowledge in its divisions a mutual need for Christ's redemption. The World Council of Churches, Protestant and Orthodox, met at Amsterdam in 1948 under the theme "Man's Disorder and God's Design." In 1961, it merged with the International Missionary Council. The Second Vatican Council at Rome, called by Pope John XXIII, met between 1962 and 1965, with a primary purpose of "peace and unity." Ending with a reemphasis on ecumenicity, the Pope participated in a joint religious service with non-Catholic Christian observers, and resolved to "remove from memory" the events of A.D. 1054 that first split the Christian church "in two great halves," Catholic and Orthodox.
The United Church movement overseas had an early beginning in the South Indian United Church (1908), later to be the Church of South India and the Church of North India. The Church of Christ in China (1927) followed and, much later, in Japan the Kyodan (1941), The United Church of Christ of the Philippines (1948) and the National Christian Council of Indonesia (1950). Common historic missionary roots were celebrated during a 1976 ecumenical visit to four of the United Churches by a delegation from the United Church of Christ, U.S.A., led by its distinguished ecumenist president, Robert V. Moss, recognized as a world church leader.
Between 1900 and 1950, Congregational churches of ten nations united with other denominations, many losing the name "Congregational." Others followed as the United Church movement proliferated. In the United States, the Congregational Churches had, since 1890, been making overtures of unity toward other church bodies. German "union" (Lutheran Reformed) churches in western Pennsylvania and in Iowa, recognized and received as German Congregational Churches in 1927, were absorbed and integrated.
Congregational associations during and following World War I received into fellowship Armenian Evangelicals, a refugee remnant of the 19th-century reform movement in the Armenian Apostolic Church in Turkey. During a period of Turkish genocidal persecution of Armenians, thousands escaped to America, many Evangelicals. In the 1980s there are 16 Armenian Evangelical churches holding membership in the United Church of Christ. Locally, the association relationship among churches made it easy to extend congregational fellowship across denominational lines.
Although it frequently stated convictions of unity, the Christian Church (perhaps because of its long travail over its own North-South division and its disinterest in organizational structure) had remained separatist. Correspondence with the Congregationalists led to a meeting in 1926, when a decision to pursue union was taken. On June 27, 1931, at Seattle, Washington, the Christian Church, with a membership of 100,000, including 30,000 members of the 65 churches in its Afro-American Convention, joined with the Congregational Churches of nearly a million members. They saw their temporal organization of Christian believers as one manifestation of the church universal, a denomination that they intended would remain adaptable, so as to enable a faithful response to the biblical Word of God in any time, in any place, among any people.
Such an understanding of the church had also matured in the Evangelical and the Reformed churches from seeds planted centuries before in Switzerland and Germany and replanted in America by the Mercersburg movement. With resolve strengthened by the great ecumenical assemblies, the Reformed Church in the United States, led by George W. Richards, in 1918, produced a Plan of Federal Union in hope of uniting churches of the Reformed heritage. Similarly inspired, Samuel Press, supported by the local churches represented at the 1925 General Conference, led the Evangelical Synod of North America to undertake negotiations looking toward organic union. While other communions of shared tradition had become involved, by 1930, only the Reformed Church and the Evangelical Synod pursued their long-hoped-for union.
After six years of negotiation, a Plan of Union evolved, approved in 1932 by the General Synod of the Reformed Church, ratified by the Evangelical Synod at its General Convention of 1933. Significant and unprecedented was the decision to unite and then to work out a constitution and other structures for implementation, surely an act of Christian obedience and faith in the power of the Holy Spirit to sustain trust in one another. On June 26,1934, the Evangelical and Reformed Church was born at Cleveland, Ohio.
Download the UCC Brand Guidelines for more information about the UCC brand standard logo, colors, motto, graphics and phrases.
The United Church of Christ logo, re-designed in 2017, reflects both tradition and new initiatives within the denomination.
- The new logo is designed to complement the visual representation of A Just World for All (see below) which illustrates the UCC's Purpose, Mission, and Vision Statements, adopted in 2017
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The primary UCC logo consists of an updated comma emblem and the words "United Church of Christ" using 'Regencie' as the type face. Gill Sans can also be used in conjunction with the Primary UCC Logo.
The UCC's tagline: God is still speaking, (words followed by comma) is an option to use with the logo.
Read more about the transition to the new logo in 2017 here.
The Brand Guidelines document includes more detailed information on the acceptable uses of the logo.
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The UCC logo is a registered trademark of the United Church of Christ. The files on this page may be downloaded and reproduced by congregations of the United Church of Christ for use in social media, print publications and websites.
The United Church of Christ is a denomination which reflects the pluralistic story of American Protestantism. Created in 1957, the UCC has brought together ecclesiastical bodies rooted in English Puritanism, American frontier revivalism, and German religious history. In this book, the contributors attempt to move beyond the four main streams of the UCC - the UCC "historical orthodoxy."
This collection of essays expands knowledge about the diversity of the UCC, and connects the UCC with many significant developments in American religious and ethnic history. It explores such areas as Native American Protestantism, black Christian churches, a schism in the German Reformed Church, Armenian congregationalism's missionary beginnings, German congregationalism, blacks and the American Missionary Association, Deaconess ministries, the Schwenkfelders, the Calvin Synod (Hungarian), women's work and women's boards, and Japanese-American congregationalists.
Contributors include: Clifford Alika, Percel O. Alston, John Butosi, William G. Chrystal, Clara Merritt DeBoer, Sally A. Dries, Serge F. Hummon, Martha B. Kriebel, Miya Okawara, Ruth W. Rasche, John C. Shetler, Vahan H. Tootikian, and Barbara Brown Zikmund.
How can you use "Hidden Histories" in your congregation? We think you'll find it useful for book clubs, adult study groups and new-member classes. We encourage you to use your church's newsletter to let folks know that this important series on the rich ethnic and theological history of the United Church of Christ is now online.
Our thanks to Barbara Brown Zikmund, retired historian of the United Church of Christ, and former president of Hartford Seminary, who (in the 1980's) edited these two books on Hidden Histories in the UCC; and to Virginia H. Child, who scanned and proofread these texts. Thanks also to United Church Press for permission to reproduce these two volumes on the web. You can buy print versions of Hidden Histories volume I and volume II from United Church Press along with other books on UCC history and identity.
Editor's Introduction: Beyond historical orthodoxy | pdf
American Indians, missions, and the United Church of Christ | pdf
The Afro-Christian Connection | pdf
The Ursinus School and the reaction against evangelical catholicism | pdf
Armenian Congregationalists flee from genocide and find a home in the U.S. | pdf
German Congregationalism on the American frontier | pdf
Blacks and the American Missionary Association | pdf
The Deaconess Movement in 19th-century America: pioneer professional women | pdf
The Schwenkfelders | pdf
The Calvin Synod: 500 years of tradition lead to the UCC | pdf
Women's work and women's boards | pdf
Sho-Chiku-Bai: Japanese-American Congregationalists | pdf
Hidden Histories in the United Church of Christ: Volume II
The union by the Congregational and Christian churches seemed the most natural in the world, yet most of their life together from 1931-57 concerned the General Council with matters surrounding church union, first its own and then with the Evangelical and Reformed Church.
Yet the work of the church continued. In 1934, the General Council at Oberlin, "stirred by the deep need of humanity for justice, security, and spiritual freedom and growth, aware of the urgent demand within our churches for action to match our gospel, and clearly persuaded that the gospel of Jesus can be the solvent of social as of all other problems," voted to create the Council for Social Action. The Council reflected the focus of continuing Christian concern for service, international relations, citizenship, Japanese-Americans, rural life, and legislative, industrial and cultural relations. The General Council had acted to simplify and economize at a national level the prolific and redundant independent actions by churches and conferences, while maintaining the inherent liberties of the local churches.
State Conferences, led by Superintendents or Conference Ministers, responded to local church requests for pastors, resources in Christian education, youth and adult conferences, and speakers on mission and social concerns. They received funds for mission, helped new church starts, and maintained ecumenical contacts.
Printed literature and communication continued to be essential. In 1930, the Christian Church's The Herald of Gospel Liberty merged with The Congregationalist, to become Advance. The Pilgrim Press, a division of the Board of Home Missions, continued to publish and distribute books, Christian education curriculum materials, monthly magazines and newspapers, hymnals, worship and devotional material, and resources for education and evangelism. Nationally, the Women's Fellowship connected the work initiated by women in the churches; the Pilgrim Fellowship provided a network of Christian youth. The Laymen's Fellowship enabled men to carry forward a cooperative ministry.
Congregational Christian and Evangelical and Reformed Church leaders already had begun private conversations about union when German Evangelical Church pastor, Martin Niemoeller was incarcerated in Nazi Germany for preaching the Christian gospel from his prominent Berlin pulpit. He boldly opposed the persecution of Jews. On Christmas Eve, 1938, United States Catholics and Protestants, including Congregational Christian and Evangelical and Reformed leaders, sent a message to the German people. A subtle shift in emphasis had gradually crept among the churches from a desire to evangelize the world to a concern for the needs of human society.
The proposed United Church of Christ tried patience and tested persistence. By far the rockier road to union confronted the Congregational Christian Churches. From before the postponed Uniting General Synod of 1950 until 1957, thousands of hours and dollars were spent on court litigation of suits brought against the General Council by autonomous bodies and individuals of the Congregational Christian Churches. Sustained by a court ruling in 1949, the litigants, defining the General Council as "a representative body" accountable to the churches, maintained that the Council had no power to undertake a union involving the churches. Merger leadership defined the General Council as accountable to itself, "a gathering of Christians under the Lordship of Christ." That interpretation persuaded the court to reverse the ruling on appeal, sustained in 1953.
Truman B. Douglass, who would become general secretary of the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries, pointed to the theological principles of the "Headship of Christ" and the Reformed "priesthood of all believers," that sustained autonomy and fellowship, as basic to the Congregational Christian polity. Therefore it was applicable to the "agencies of fellowship." General Council minister Douglas Horton suggested that the General Council was "a kind of Congregation," and that neither it nor the local church was subordinate to the other.
The most celebrated suit was brought by The Cadman Memorial Congregational Church in Brooklyn on behalf of itselves and other Congregational Christian churches against Helen Kenyon, moderator of the General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches. Helen Kenyon bore the weight of these litigations with strength, patience and valor. Justice Archie O. Dawson, of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York opined, "It is unfortunate that ministers and church members, who purport to abide by Christian principles should engage in this long, expensive litigation. ... " Then speaking as a "Christian layman ... in all humility" he urged the parties to the controversy to "give prayerful consideration to 1 Corinthians [6:1,5-7] when similar controversies arose to trouble the early Christians" (Fred Hoskins, Congregationalism Betrayed or Fulfilled, Newton, MA: Andover Newton Theological School, 1962. Southworth Lecture [paper], pp. 7-8).
Louis W. Goebel at the 1950 Evangelical and Reformed General Synod had with patience and grace stated, "so long as they continue to extend to us the hand of friendship and fellowship ... we members of a church committed to ... the reunion of Christ's church, are bound to accept that hand" (Louis H. Gunnemann, The Shaping of the United Church of Christ: An Essay in the History of American Christianity, New York: The Pilgrim Press, 1977, p.41).
Ruling against those who would block it, the Court of Appeals issued the assurance that the union "would in no way change the historical and traditional patterns of individual Congregational Christian churches" and that none would be coerced into union. Each member was assured of continuing freedom of faith and manner of worship and no abridgement of congregational usage and practice. The ruling assured the churches that the union would depend on voluntary action taken by independent, autonomous churches (Hoskins, op. cit., p. 41).
In the United Church of Christ, the separate denominational ancestral stories are preserved at the Congregational Library in Boston, Lancaster Theological Seminary, Eden Theological Seminary, and Elon College.
Legally free to proceed with union, uneasiness remained.
Congregational Christians needed to clarify the difference between authority and power; while all autonomous units - individuals, churches, and agencies-were endowed with temporal power, none wielded authority over another except through the biblical authority of God in Jesus Christ. Evangelical and Reformed Christians needed reassurance that there would be one body and not just one head, trusting that the Holy Spirit would make of the Covenant, owned by the parts of the body-individuals, churches, and agencies-a whole United Church of Christ. In trust, a joint 1954 meeting of the Congregational Christian Executive Committee and the Evangelical and Reformed General Council (ad interim for the General Synod) affirmed The Basis of Union with the Interpretations as a foundation for the merger and sufficient for the drafting of a Constitution.
Both communions approached the 1957 Uniting General Synod with fresh leadership. James E. Wagner had succeeded Richards as president of the General Synod in 1953, and on Douglas Horton's resignation in 1955, Fred Hoskins was elected Minister and General Secretary of the General Council. Eight theologians from each uniting communion met to study basic Christian doctrine, theological presuppositions, and doctrinal positions in preparation for the writing of a Statement of Faith.
All of the Evangelical and Reformed churches, responding to a responsibility laid upon them by their church tradition, and those Congregational Christian churches that understood the church as a people gathered by Christ moved a step farther toward reunion of the Christian church on June 25, 1957 as, with faith in God and growing trust in one another, they became The United Church of Christ. Some 100,000 members, unable to accept the union, joined The National Association of Congregational Christian Churches or The Conservative Congregational Christian Conference.
A Short Course in the History of the United Church of Christ tells our story beginning with our origins in the small community who followed Jesus 20 centuries ago and continuing to the present. Learn about the Reformation—a protest movement against the abuse of authority by church leaders; the rediscovery by Luther and Calvin of the Bible's teaching that salvation is not earned, but is a gift; the epic journey of the Pilgrims from England to the shores of North America; the waves of emigration by German and Hungarian Protestants seeking spiritual and political freedom; the beginning of the first Christian anti-slavery movement in history; the 20th-century movement to reunite the divided branches of Christ's church, and, as a result of that movement, the union of several traditions of Protestant Christianity into the United Church of Christ in 1957.
We invite you to use the Short Course for your personal study or as a resource for confirmation and new-member classes in your congregation. On every page, you'll find links to related resources on this website, links to other resources on the Internet, and ideas about books for further study. Also recommended: Hidden Histories of the United Church of Christ.
Full Version in PDF
The Early Church
Our Reformation Roots
German Evangelical Movement
Reformation in England
German Reformed Church
Education and Mission
The Christian Churches
German Evangelical Synod
An Ecumenical Age
Evangelical and Reformed
The UCC Comes of Age
Excerpted from "A History of the United Church of Christ" by Margaret Rowland Post
All Christians are related in faith to Judaism and are faith descendants of the first apostles of Jesus who roamed the world with the good news of God's love. Within five centuries, Christianity dominated the Roman Empire. Until A.D. 1054 when the church split, it remained essentially one. At that point, the Eastern Orthodox Church established its center at Constantinople (Istanbul), the Roman Catholic Church at Rome.
During the 16th century, when Christians found the church corrupt and hopelessly involved in economic and political interests, leaders arose to bring about reform from within. The unintended by-product of their efforts at reform was schism in the Roman Church. Their differences over the authority and practices of Rome became irreconcilable.
Protestant reformers such as Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, and John Calvin held that the Bible, not the Pope, was sufficient authority as the word of God. Paramount was the message of Paul that persons are justified by the grace of God through faith alone. Such faith did not lead to rank individualism or moral indifference, but to good works out of love for God.
Protestantism spread throughout Europe. Lutheran churches were planted in Germany and throughout Scandinavia; the Reformed churches, originating in Switzerland, spread into Germany, France, Transylvania, Hungary, Holland, England, and Scotland. The United Church of Christ traces its roots back to those movements to proclaim the good news based on biblical truths led by the Spirit of God. It presently binds in covenant nearly 6,500 congregations with approximately 1,800,000 members. One of the youngest American denominations, its background also makes it one of the oldest in Protestantism.
The United Church of Christ, a united and uniting church, was born on June 25, 1957 out of a combination of four groups. Two of these were the Congregational Churches of the English Reformation with Puritan New England roots in America, and the Christian Church with American frontier beginnings. These two denominations were concerned for freedom of religious expression and local autonomy and united on June 17, 1931 to become the Congregational Christian Churches.
The other two denominations were the Evangelical Synod of North America, a 19th-century German-American church of the frontier Mississippi Valley, and the Reformed Church in the United States, initially composed of early 18th-century churches in Pennsylvania and neighboring colonies, unified in a Coetus in 1793 to become a Synod. The parent churches were of German and Swiss heritage, conscientious carriers of the Reformed and Lutheran traditions of the Reformation, and united to form the Evangelical and Reformed Church on June 26, 1934.
The Evangelical and Reformed Church and the Congregational Christian Churches shared a strong commitment under Christ to the freedom of religious expression. They combined strong European ties, early colonial roots, and the vitality of the American frontier church. Their union forced accommodation between congregational and presbyterial forms of church government. Both denominations found their authority in the Bible and were more concerned with what unites Christians than with what divides them. In their marriage, a church that valued the free congregational tradition was strengthened by one that remained faithful to the liturgical tradition of Reformed church worship and to catechetical teaching. A tradition that maintained important aspects of European Protestantism was broadened by one that, in mutual covenant with Christ, embraced diversity and freedom.