In 1975, the United Church of Christ honored two clergywomen with the first Antoinette Brown Award, celebrating the life and ministry of the first woman ordained into Christian ministry since biblical times as well as the lives and ministries of UCC clergywomen who exemplify Brown’s spirit of trailblazing leadership in church and society.
Forty years later, the pathways are considerably widened for women in ministry in the UCC, but there are still necessarily pioneers and innovators in our midst, women who lead in extraordinary ways and who make possible other women’s ministries. From March 1 – April 15, 2015, we invite your nominations of trailblazers (UCC clergywomen who honor Antoinette Brown’s vision of women in leadership in church and society) as well as catalysts (collectives, projects, congregations, or organizations that serve as provocative spaces that advance women in ministry). Honorees will be celebrated at General Synod 30 in Cleveland this summer.
Click on recipients’ names to hear interviews from Women: Finding Voice, an oral and written history of the Antoinette Brown Award. Find a complete list of awardees at the bottom of the page.
Interviewed for Women: Finding Voice in July 2011
Barbara Ann Gerlach: Artist, Minister, Advocate for Justice/Artista, Ministra, Defensora de la Paz y la Justicia, (2011 Award Recipient)
"I resonate with a God who frees me and calls me to a journey of love, creativity and adventure.
The survival of our planet depends on breaking down the dividing walls of nation and class, race and sex, religion and political ideology . . . seeing ourselves, above all our other identities, as one body and members one of another."1
 As quoted from Antoinette Brown Award Acceptance Speech. UCC General Synod, Tampa, Florida. July 4 2011
Carole C. Carlson: Conference Minister, Writer/Ministra de Conferencia, Escritora, (2011 Award Recipient)
"Much of what I have done has been a personal, one-on-one ministry. I tried to support and encourage women marginalized during the time when there was tremendous discrimination in the church."
Bernice Powell Jackson, Journey for Justice/Lucha por la Justicia, (2011 Award Recipient)
Local, national, and world justice and peace advocate. First woman as executive director of the UCC Commission for Racial Justice and as Executive Minister of Justice and Witness (UCC), President of the North American region of the World Council of Churches.
You, I, we must actively resist injustice. It doesn't matter which one, pick one.
Interviewed for Women: Finding Voice in September 2009
Marilyn Adams Moore: Social Prophet/Profeta Social, (1991 Award Recipient)
An ordained woman of faith and courage, Marilyn served the United Church of Christ for more than twenty years in mobilizing justice ministries in racial and ethnic groups.
"I think if the UCC is truly about what we say 'that they may all be one,' then we should be honest about what we really mean concerning pluralism. People don’t really want to share power, but it is mind boggling that we think power is ours to give. Power that we conceive as ours is really nothing. Power is of God." – Marilyn Adams Moore
Interviewed for Women: Finding Voice in August 2009
Ansley Coe Throckmorton: Preacher and Pastor/Predicadora y Pastora, (1981 Award Recipient)
There is great hunger in the human heart and among the peoples of the earth for meaning and purpose for their lives and for liberating truth and power. The church is looked to by many for vision, direction, and courage. People, both within and outside of the church today, long to know the scriptures, to become articulate about faith, and to see more clearly the relationship between the gospel and the realities of the world. – Ansley Coe Throckmorton
Interviewed for Women: Finding Voice in July 2009
Betty Jane Bailey: A Ministry of Education/Un Ministerio de Educación, (2001 Award Recipient)
"The church is a gathered community of people seeking to live together in love. They are equipping themselves for their own ministry and mission out in the world...People in the church are also called to think theologically about life and events – to put them in a perspective which includes God. The gathering together must result in a sending back into the world to respond to events in the world in a healing way."
Interviewed for Women: Finding Voice in June 2009
Barbara Brown Zikmund: Church Historian/Historiadora de la Iglesia - Theological Educator/Educadora Teológica, (2005 Award Recipient)
“Women are reinventing ministry for the future, refusing old definitions, and reshaping understandings of ordained persons. The setting apart of a few to full-time Christian service is a functional not a value judgment. The calling to the ministry is not qualitatively any better than that of many other vocations, it is simply different.” BBZ – Church historian, theological educator
Interviewed for Women: Finding Voice in Mayo 2009
Candita Bauzá-Mattos: Primera Mujer Hispana Ordenada en la Iglesia Unida de Cristo/First Hispanic Woman Ordained in the Evangelical United Church of Puerto Rico, (2009 Award Recipient)
Cuando vine acá y me di cuenta de la relación que tenían la Iglesia Unida de Cristo y la Iglesia Evangélica Unida de Puerto Rico, sentí que yo pertenecía a algo que era no solamente bravío sino que poseía un don que daba sentido a mi vida y a mi ministerio.
Candita Bauzá-Mattos, primera mujer graduada del Seminario Evangélico de Puerto Rico y la primera en ser ordenada en la Iglesia Evangélica Unida de Puerto Rico, es la coordinadora y consultante del Concilio de Ministerios Hispanos de la Iglesia Unida de Cristo.
When I came here and saw the relationship that the United Church of Christ and the United Evangelical Church of Puerto Rico had, I felt that I belonged to something that was not only brave but a gift that gives meaning to my life and to my ministry.
Candita Bauza-Mattos is the first Hispanic woman to graduate from the Evangelical Seminary of Puerto Rico and the first woman ordained in the Evangelical United Church of Puerto Rico.
Interviewed for Women: Finding Voice in April 2009
Julie Peeples: Pastor to the Community/Pastora para la Comunidad, (2009 Award Recipient)
In responding to community issues and to individuals in her church, this community healer and reconciler has learned to make space for God. She first asks, What is missing that I am called of God to make present? “I'm not trying to bring God to people, I'm trying to surface what I know is already there.”
Interviewed for Women: Finding Voice in March 2009
Talitha J. Arnold: Saguaro Ministry/Ministerio del Cacto (Cactus), (2007 Award Recipient)
For me, the central call of pastoral ministry is to build hope and build faith. The opportunity to build the church—be it by building the community, building the structure, or creating new opportunities for learning or service—is one of the true joys of pastoral ministry.
Interviewed for Women: Finding Voice in February 2009
Bernice Buehler: Prayer in Action/Oración en Acción, (1983 Award Recipient)
The first woman to receive a divinity degree at Yale, Bernice Buehler became National Director of Religious Education for the Evangelical and Reformed Church.
"Bernice was a gung-ho go-getter in terms of fighting for the rights of children and for their respect. She took an important role in setting forth needs and concerns of children – a power house in educational resources."
Interviewed for Women: Finding Voice in January 2009
"For me, ministry is possible only as responsiveness to the moving of God among the people, and a willingness to be used by God, often in surprising ways. The work has to be something worth doing; that in itself gives meaning to ministry. It must feel like God needs me to be there."
"The question still today is whether we are in touch with God enough ourselves to be able to mediate and facilitate so that other folks also will come into God's presence and grow as faithful people."
Interviewed for Women: Finding Voice in December 2008
Annie Rubena Campbell, (1977 Award Recipient)
The Reverend Annie Rubena Campbell worked in the Ozark missions, and was much loved by the "mountain folks." It is thought that she also had medical training. It is not known if Annie Campbell is still living.
Interviewed for Women: Finding Voice in November 2008
María Teresa Unger Palmer: Advocate of Immigrants/Defensora y Consejera de los Inmigrantes, (2001 Award Recipient)
Immigrant pastor, educator, advocate for North Carolina's Latino community, María Teresa Unger Palmer has recognized many gifts and talents as her initial ministry expanded and evolved into an ever-broadening voice of justice.
Interviewed for Women: Finding Voice in October 2008
Alice Bigley Snow: Parish Minister/Ministra de Parroquia, (1979 Award Recipient)
The church kept asking me to substitute preach. They asked me to do more and more. That was what I really deep down wanted to do but didn't know if I could. It opened up the doors when I said yes that first night.
Interviewed for Women: Finding Voice in September 2008
Minister to society, Yvonne Virginia Delk has committed most of her life to dismantling racism, "binding in covenant faithful people of all tongues and races."
"Like Sojourner, I too have traveled up and down this land telling the truth as I see it about racism, sexism, economic injustice, and violence. Facing the truth—and telling the truth—not only sets us free, but calls for new ways of being, of speaking, of acting, and of witnessing."
Interviewed for Women: Finding Voice in August 2008
Peggy Brainerd Way: Pastoral Theologian/Teóloga Pastoral, (1993 Award Recipient)
I want my students to know that Christianity must be an embodiment and practice, not a set of statements or words. I encourage my students to celebrate diversity because it is God's intention that diverse cultures learn how to hear each other, to stand each other in our differences.
Interviewed for Women: Finding Voice in July 2008
"We finally have come to understand that we cannot be an inclusive church unless all people, regardless of their disability, color of their skin, or national origin are welcome in Christ's Church. Let us give thanks for our individual uniqueness and for Christ who binds Christians together as different pieces of cloth are brought together to make a quilt."
Interviewed for Women: Finding Voice in June 2008
The Rev. Dr. Marie Fortune, founder of FaithTrust Institute, (formerly known as the Center for the Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Violence), and widely known author, speaker, teacher and advocate for ending domestic violence, was the earliest voice in the church to name sexual abuse and begin to address it in our churches.
Interviewed for Women: Finding Voice in May 2008
Leila W. Anderson: Pilgrim Circuit Rider/Conductora del Circuito Peregrino, (1981 Award Recipient)
Leila Waite Anderson held a traveling national staff position in Christian Education that led her through the Convention of the South, the northern prairie and then from New York to the Hawaiian Islands. She drove a station wagon that served as home and office.
"Changed attitudes and practices in people's lives are more important than the mouthing of theological phrases; therefore Christian education should help individuals and groups to make Christian choices when confronted with alternatives of thought and action."
"A teacher is a person who can guide a group in finding its own answers."
Interviewed for Women: Finding Voice in April 2008
Barbara Mosley de Souza: Missionary in Brasil (Brazil), (1997 Award Recipient)
Barbara Mosley de Souza founded the Association of Community Health Educators in Rio de Janeiro in 1996. The health clinic offers medical treatment, health education and disease prevention to the whole shantytown community. Where knowledge is so scarce, it is critical to teach people to understand in their own terms in ways they can communicate with people of their same level of experience.
Education is empowerment. In the midst of corruption and violence, we are bringing hope and we have proved that with unity, we can accomplish a lot.
Interviewed for Women: Finding Voice in March 2008
Jan Griesinger: Campus Ministry/Ministerio Universitario, (1999 Award Recipient)
Justice is the strongest sense of God for me. Faith has to be lived out. My life has been a journey of doing what needs to be done in this long struggle.
Activist movements, particularly women's liberation, have shaped most of Jan Griesinger's life and work as a campus minister and lesbian pastor. The first Antoinette Brown Award recipient chosen because of her lesbian activism, she was active in the UCC Gay Caucus and National Co-Coordinator of the Coalition (1984-1997).
Interviewed for Women: Finding Voice in February 2008
Joyce B. Myers-Brown: Missionary for Justice and Peace/Misionera de Justicia y Paz, (1989 Award Recipient)
"Ministry has given me the privilege of entering into people's lives—helping them grow spiritually and personally. Yet as a pastor I am deeply concerned about social justice issues. It is rewarding to be doing something and saying something that you really care about and you think and hope will make a difference."
Interviewed for Women: Finding Voice in January 2008
"Farthest from my mind then, as now, was the intention of leading a feminist movement for the so-called "emancipation of women" in the church. The church's expectations about the non-ordination of women ministers were neither written nor spoken about. The only ferment was in the minds of those women who wanted to be ordained. - The first woman from Lancaster Theological Seminary to be ordained."
Interviewed for Women: Finding Voice in December 2007
Mary Ann Wilner Neevel: Ptaya Owo Owo Klake (Talking Together)/Conversando Juntos, (1995 Award Recipient)
If an adventure opens up for you that leads you into a larger understanding of the church, go. . . . Long term pastorates – if you can keep yourself finding what is fresh – are an amazing thing to have. You know people from the time you baptize them and marry them then baptize their kids.
Interviewed for Women: Finding Voice in November 2007
Anne Pearse Smith: Ministry of Christian Education/Ministerio de Educación Cristiana, (1989 Award Recipient)
Women are a vital part of the church -- not just an appendage. Wherever she went, she gained the confidence of church program participants. Her training and ability to relate to people of all ages overcame the sexist hostility of the 1930s. Although the Navy did not hire its first woman chaplain until the 1970's, she acted as 'chaplain' to the serving women.
Interviewed for Women: Finding Voice in October 2007
Henrietta Spring Stith Andrews: A Ministry of Presence/Un ministerio de presencia, (2001 Award Recipient)
"I knew as a young woman that I wanted work where I could have freedom to be myself, work that I could not wait to get up in the morning for and that I didn't mind putting in long hours. God answered those prayers in conference ministry."
Interviewed for Women: Finding Voice in September 2007
"What I knew from early on is that I wanted to help people. I want to communicate that there is no better gift to give than to be there for someone when it really counts. As Eden's Professor of Field Education and the Practice of Ministry (1988-2003), she married her passion for pastoral ministry with seminary work."
Interviewed for Women: Finding Voice in August 2007
Barbara Warren McCall: In Her Own Words/En sus propias palabras, (1987 Award Recipient)
Human liberation means just that: full personhood for all. For a number of years, Barbara Warren McCall was a minister-in-waiting. Then she served as a bridge woman who caught the vision of feminism through her own professional pilgrimage.
Interviewed for Women: Finding Voice in July 2007
Rosemary McCombs Maxey: Losemale Makomps Makse cvhocefkvtos/Justice Journey, (1997 Award Recipient)
"The justice issue seeks you out," reflected Rosemary McCombs Maxey, first American Indian woman to be ordained in the United Church of Christ. Today she teaches the MVSKOKE language in order to keep it alive. On Mondays, she makes her weekly three-hour drive as chaplain to Native Hawaiians incarcerated at Watonga. "In order to get along, we need not get rid of people's differences but honor them as uniqueness."
Interviewed for Women: Finding Voice in June 2007
LaVerne McCain Gill: Ministry of Empowerment/Ministerio de capacitación, (2003 Award Recipient)
Whatever her storytelling form of expression—writing, media production, orating or preaching—LaVerne McCain Gill's lifework offers an invitation to explore. She brings together women of all times with stories that share how oppressed persons, particularly African women and African American women, have met hopelessness with hope.
Interviewed for Women: Finding Voice in May 2007
Dosia Carlson: A Christian, an Alleluia/Una cristiana, un aleluya, (1983 Award Recipient)
A disability weaves its way into and through everything that happens in a person's life. It added a particular texture to Dosia's whole be-ing. While only one thread of her unique fabric, her personal battle was to permeate all that she would do and become.
Interviewed for Women: Finding Voice in April 2007
Joan Bates Forsberg: Bridge to Understanding/Puente al entendimiento, (1975 Award Recipient)
"Out of the blue, I was invited to go to the Divinity School. Twenty-eight women students had told Dean Colin Williams that they needed a faculty woman with whom they could talk "when things are really bad and we need an advocate.' He said, 'You're right.'"
She soon was promoted to Assistant Dean and then to Associate Dean for Student Life, where she continued to advocate for women.
Interviewed for Women: Finding Voice in March 2007
Eleanor S. Morrison: Early Sexuality Educator/Educadora de sexualidad temprana, (1991 Award Recipient)
Take a look at this list: Early sexuality educator; advocate for justice for the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgendered community; author; and retreat leader in areas of racial justice, human sexuality, parent effectiveness, feminist theology and spiritual development. That's Eleanor Shelton Morrison!
Interviewed for Women: Finding Voice in February 2007
Davida Foy Crabtree: Ministry of the Laity/Ministerio del laicado, (1977 Award Recipient)
I gain my energy from, and give my energy to the wonders of life rather than to our failings as human beings…. When a word needs to be spoken over against some forms of sin or injustice, I do speak it…. Still, I believe that the primary word from God is a word of blessing.
Interviewed for Women: Finding Voice in January 2007
Gretchen DeVries: Seed-Planter/Plantadora de semillas, (1985 Award Recipient)
My call to the Christian ministry was a gradual unfolding and awakening. At almost forty, I was reminded that as an individual one must continually plant the seeds that later come to fruition through the work of the Holy Spirit.
Interviewed for Women: Finding Voice in December 2006
Ruth C. Duck: Birth of a Hymn/Nacimiento de un himno, (2003 Award Recipient)
I discovered, not without tears and anger, that the church had far to go to be just toward women and other humans. I began to make connections between the church's many masculine images for God and its historic exclusion of women from ministries. Read on to learn what gift she used to make a difference.
Interviewed for Women: Finding Voice in November 2006
Rhoda Jane Dickinson: Pastor by Adoption/Pastora por adopción, (1975 Award Recipient)
I was among the earliest clergy women in the Congregational Church. The turn of the century (1900) was a daring, expectant time when "Pioneer Spirit" gained new meaning. Some church members lived a hundred miles from the church. Black Beauty, my pony, and I traveled many miles together visiting them.
Interviewed for Women: Finding Voice in October 2006
As a youth, I could always spot something attractive or positive in whoever it was. I can see the potential. As a chaplain in a women's prison, I deal with poverty, domestic violence, sexism, child abuse, mental illness and addiction -- all in one place, all the worst issues women have to deal with.
Complete List of Recipients
1975 Reverends Joan Forsberg and Rhoda Jane Dickinson (deceased)
1977 Reverends Davida Foy Crabtree and Annie Campbell (deceased)
1979 Reverends Dr. Yvonne Delk and Alice Snow (deceased)
1981 Reverends Ansley Coe Throckmorton and Leila Waite Anderson (deceased)
1983 Reverends Bernice Buehler (deceased) and Dosia Carlson
1985 Reverends Gretchen DeVries (deceased) and Beatrice Weaver McConnell
1987 Reverends Marie Fortune and Barbara Warren McCall (deceased)
1989 Reverends Joyce Myers-Brown and Anne Pearse Smith (deceased)
1991 Reverends Eleanor Shelton Morrison (deceased) and Marilyn Adams Moore (deceased)
1993 Reverends Laurie Whinnem Etter and Peggy Brainerd Way
1995 Reverends Mary Ann Neevel and Henrietta Stith-Andrews
1997 Reverends Barbara de Souza and Rosemary McCombs Maxey
1999 Reverends Marilyn Stavenger and Jan Griesinger
2001 Reverends María Teresa Unger Palmer and Betty Jane Bailey
2003 Reverends Ruth C. Duck and LaVerne McCain Gill
2005 Reverends Ruth M. Brandon and Barbara B. Zikmund
2007 Reverends Virginia Kreyer (deceased) and Talitha J. Arnold
2009 Reverends Candita Bauzá-Mattos and Julie Peeples
2011 Reverends Barbara Gerlach, Bernice Powell Jackson and Carole Carlson
In 2013, there were no recipients of this award during a season of transition.
2015 Reverends Traci Blackmon, Sharon Ellis Davis and Martha Spong (Representing RevGalBlogPals, winner of the first ever Catalyst Award)
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
While the independent Congregationalists had been struggling in New England to recover and maintain biblical faithful ness, a stream of German and German-Swiss settlers-farmers laborers, trade and craftpersons, many "redemptioners" who had sold their future time and services to pay for passage, flowed into Pennsylvania and the Middle Atlantic region. Refugees from the waste of European wars, their concerns were pragmatic. They did not bring pastors with them. People of Reformed biblical faith, at first sustained only by family worship at home, they were informed by the Bible and the Heidelberg Catechism.
Strong relationships developed between Lutheran and Reformed congregations; many union churches shared buildings. At first, there were no buildings and laymen often led worship. In 1710, a Dutch Reformed minister, Paul Van Vlecq, assisted a German congregation gathered at Skippack, Pennsylvania. At nearby White Marsh, Van Vlecq established a congregation in the house of elder William Dewees, who held the congregation together until the church was reestablished in 1725.
Another layman, tailor Conrad Templeman, conducted services in Lancaster county, ministering to seven congregations during the 1720s. Schoolmaster John Philip Boehm had maintained a ministry for five years without compensation. Responsible for the regular organization of 12 German Reformed congregations in Pennsylvania, although not regularly ordained, he reluctantly was persuaded to celebrate the sacraments for the first time on October 15, 1725, at Falkner Swamp, with 40 members present. Boehm -- orderly, well educated, devout -- spent the ensuing years traveling the country on horseback, 25,000 miles in all, preparing Reformed Church constitutions.
Meanwhile, the Heidelberg-educated and regularly ordained pastor George Michael Weiss arrived from Germany in 1727 to minister to the Philadelphia church founded by Boehm. He carried the Word and the Lord's Supper to communities surrounding Philadelphia. Weiss' strong objections to Boehm's irregular ministry caused Boehm to seek and receive ordination by the Dutch Reformed Church by 1729. Funds for American churches were still coming from Europe, and Weiss went abroad to Holland in pursuit of support for his congregations. Successful, he returned in 1731 to minister among German Reformed people in New York. Before 1746, when Michael Schlatter, a Swiss-born and Dutch-educated young pastor from Heidelberg, arrived in America, congregations of German settlers were scattered throughout Pennsylvania and New York. German immigrants had followed natural routes along rivers and mountain valleys, and Reformed congregations had emerged in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina. The spiritual and financial health of these 40 congregations were watched over by the Dutch Reformed Church in Holland, assisted by the German Reformed center at Heidelberg, Germany.
Support came from the Classis ("association") of Amsterdam that sent Michael Schlatter to America to "organize the ministers and congregations into a Coetus (synod)." Schlatter did this within a year of his arrival in Pennsylvania. With the cooperation of Boehm, Weiss, John Bartholomew Rieger, and 28 elders, the Coetus of the Reformed Ministerium of the Congregations in Pennsylvania came to life on September 24, 1747 and the Coetus adopted in 1748 the Kirchen-Ordnung that Boehm had prepared in 1725. The Kirchen-Ordnung placed discipline and care of the local church in the hands of a consistory of elders, deacons, and the minister, elected by the congregation. Members were charged with "fraternal correction and mutual edification." The minister was to preach "the pure doctrine of the Reformed Church according to the Word of God and to administer the holy seals of the Covenant ... : always to adhere to the Heidelberg Catechism ... to hold catechetical instruction ... [and] give special attention to church discipline, together with those who have oversight of the congregation."
In light of the multiplicity of German sects, such as Moravians, Mennonites and Dunkards, who competed for the attention and allegiance of German immigrants, the authority of the Coetus, organized according to the same structure and discipline as the local church, was welcome. The German Reformed Churches felt protected from "unscrupulous proselytizers. They achieved a mutual identity and respect, and established authority for faith and practice. Among pastor and people, shared responsibility was carried out within a community faith, under the Lordship of Christ. The leadership of Micha Schlatter and his colleagues prepared the congregations to endure the upheaval of the American Revolution and to maintain their identity in the ethnic and religious pluralism that characterized William Penn's colony.
Many German Reformed settlers served in the Revolutionary armies, 20 percent of Reformed pastors as chaplains, though Continental Congress Chaplain John Joachim Zu1 was labeled a Tory for his anti-war stand. During the Brit siege of Philadelphia in 1777, farmers wrapped the Liberty Bell and the bells of Christ Church in potato sacks and hauled them to Allentown, Pennsylvania, where pastor Abraham Blumer hid them under the floor of Zion Reformed Church for safekeeping. Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, a Reformed layman, disciplined Washington's troops during the bitter Valley Forge winter.
The Coetus strengthened the churches and prepared t] for self-government in the early years of the United States 1793, European ties were broken. A Reformed Church Constitution was adopted, a Synodal Ordnung; an official name taken, The Synod of the German Reformed Church in United States of America, and a hymnbook committee appointed. There were in that year, 178 German-speaking congregations and 15,000 communicant members.
Revival theology was antithetical to the German Reformed tradition. However, pietistic influences within the German Reformed Church responded to the warm-hearted moral virtue of the revival. On the frontier, people found its emphasis on the individual compatible with their needs. The newly independent German Reformed Church, short of pastors and threatened by a revivalist gospel, established a seminary in 1825, at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, that moved in 1829 to York, in 1837 to Mercersburg and finally to Lancaster in 1871, where it became Lancaster Theological Seminary. Franklin College (1787) of Lancaster, jointly supported by the Lutherans and the Reformed, in 1853 merged with German Reformed Marshall College to form Franklin and Marshall College.
As ministers arrived in America from the pietist centers in Europe, pietistic rather than confessional patterns appeared in Reformed congregations, and the guiding light of the catechism was dimmed. Missionary zeal abounded. People were highly susceptible to the leadership of charismatic frontier preachers. Church leaders were concerned that young and old be instructed in Reformed Christian doctrine. In 1806, the first German Reformed Sunday schools appeared. In the midst of it all, and in reaction to revivalist sectarianism, a controversial movement at the seminary at Mercersburg set off a re-examination of the doctrines of Christ and of the church -- not just in the German Reformed Church, but among all American Protestants.
First, however, there would be years of ferment when the Synod would endure turmoil and defection that would test and eventually strengthen its essential stability. Pietist minister Philip William Otterbein, a Reformed Church pastor, later founded the United Brethren Church, today a part of the United Methodist Church. Harrisburg's pastor, John Winebrenner, locked out of his church by the consistory, met with his followers in private homes to form a new denomination, The Churches of God.
As the Reformed Church grew, continuing use of the German language became an issue. Although German congregations were divided between the use of German or English, the Synod itself conducted meetings and issued minutes in German until 1825. By 1824, the Ohio Synod separated from the parent synod in order to ordain its own ministers and in 1850 organized Heidelberg College and Seminary in Tiffin.
The controversial Mercersburg movement would shake the church. With the arrival at the Mercersburg seminary of John W. Nevin and Swiss-German professor of historical and exegetical theology, Philip Schaff, Mercersburg became a center of concern that the revivalism of the Awakening was inauthentic. Schaff was the most outstanding church historian in 19thcentury America and the primary mediator of German theology to America.
The Mercersburg movement, counter to the sectarian trend of the time, called for a "true revival" centered in the life of the church, guided by the catechetical system, and in particular, the Heidelberg Catechism. The movement's leaders called for a recognition of the church as one, catholic, and holy. They acknowledged the error to which the church in all ages had been subject, urged an end to sectarianism and pretensions to the one true church and called for cessation of anti-Catholicism which had been pervasive for some time. Schaff's charitable attitude was seen by some in the Philadelphia Classis, the "Old Reformed" and loyal to Zwingli's Reformation, as heresy. Nevin, Schaff, and their followers sought to go back to the creeds and to make the mystical presence of Christ, mediated by word and sacrament, the essence of the church. Reverence for the creeds, catechism, and liturgy, they believed, would unify the church and combat sectarianism. In liturgy, the Mercersburg people favored an altar as the center for worship with formal litanies, chants, prayers and clerical garb, while "Old Reformed" pastors preferred a central pulpit, free prayer and informal worship.
The "Old Reformed" were caught up in the American revival and clung to their German sectarian identities. Schaff maintained that Reformed theology's contribution to the New World lay in the supremacy of the scriptures, absolute sovereignty of divine grace, and radical moral reform on the basis of both. A former member of The Evangelical Church of The Prussian Union, Schaff later cultivated warm relationships with Evangelicals in the West.
The Mercersburg Review, the movement's chief literary medium, which began publication at Marshall College in 1848, was greatly responsible for effecting changed attitudes. Its challenge would call other denominations to self-examination as well. It was the German Reformed Church's initial contribution to the movement toward unity and ecumenism that would take shape in the next century.
The low church "Old Reformed" minority in the East, after a long struggle against a revised liturgy, called a convention in Myerstown, Pennsylvania, in 1867 to prevent its use. In January 1868, the Reformed Church Quarterly began and in 1870, Ursinus College opened its doors, supported by the "Old Reformed."
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.
Of all the United Church of Christ traditions, the Christian Churches were most uniquely American in origin and character. In Virginia, Vermont, and Kentucky, the Second Great Awakening in the early 1800s stirred the hearts of quite disparate leaders and their followers with the impulse to return to the simplicity of early Christianity. The first group was gathered in 1794 in Virginia by a Revolutionary soldier, James O'Kelley. He, with many other Methodists left the church over their objection to bishops. Methodism, they felt, was too autocratical. They wanted the frontier churches to be freed to deal with the needs and concerns that were different from those of the more established churches. They declared that the Bible was their only guide and adopted as their new name, the Christian Church.
A few years later, at Lyndon, Vermont, Abner Jones and his followers objected to Calvinist Baptist views. In 1801, they organized the First Free Christian Church, in which Christian character would be the only requirement for membership, and in which all who could do so in faith, were welcome to partake of the Lord's Supper. Christ was seen to be more generous than to withhold Communion from all but those who had been baptized by immersion. Jones was later joined by Baptist Elias Smith, who helped to organize a Christian church in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and began publishing, in 1808, the Herald of Gospel Liberty. Smith's paper became a means of drawing the separate Christian movements together.
With a minimum of organization, other churches of like mind were established and the movement became known as the "Christian Connection." The "Connection" had been organized in 1820 at the first United General Conference of Christians, during which six principles were unanimously affirmed:
- Christ, the only head of the Church.
- The Bible, sufficient rule of faith and practice.
- Christian character, the only measurement for membership.
- The right of private judgment, interpretation of scripture, and liberty of conscience.
- The name "Christian," worthy for Christ's followers.
- Unity of all Christ's followers in behalf of the world.
By 1845, a regional New England Convention began.
A third group, under Barton W. Stone, withdrew in 1803 from the Presbyterian Synod of Kentucky in opposition to Calvinist theology. Stone's followers eventually numbered 8,000 and they, too, took the name Christian. Followers of Stone spread into Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. Some of this group united with followers of Alexander Campbell at Lexington, Kentucky, in 1832 to found the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), which became the largest indigenous body of Protestants in America. (In the 1970s, the Christian Church [Disciples of Christ] and the United Church of Christ began conversations to consider possible union.) Christians who refused to follow Stone and unite with the Disciples, gradually identified with the Christian Churches led by O'Kelley in Virginia and by Jones and Smith in New England.
From 1844, when the New England Convention passed a strong resolution condemning slavery, until long after the Civil War was over, the Christian Churches of the North and the South suspended fellowship with each other. As a result, whites controlled the newly-formed Southern Christian Association. In the North, the first Christian General Convention was held in 1850, and for the first time, Christians began to behave as a denomination.
Christians valued education since their first leaders came from well-educated New England families that had exhibited a humanitarian spirit. In 1844, Christians helped to establish Meadville Seminary with the Unitarians. In 1850, Defiance College in Ohio was born and two years later the coeducational Antioch College, Horace Mann its president, came into being in Ohio. Elon College was founded in North Carolina in 1889, and a year later, the suspended fellowship between northern and southern churches was restored. Christian colleges were recognized as holding the key to an educated clergy and an enlightened church membership.
There was a leveling influence in the frontier church that promoted a democratic spirit. The Great Awakening on the frontier promoted an anti-creedal religion, independent personal judgment, and freedom of conscience. Quite different from the rough nature of frontier life itself, educated leadership brought refined sensibilities, compassion, and concern for humanitarian causes to the churches.
James O'Kelley's denunciation of slavery in 1789 had attracted many blacks to join Christian churches in the South. They were further attracted by the revival style and the zeal for humanitarian reform. Neither race nor gender was a stumbling block to Christian fellowship in the South. Black churches were not organized before the Civil War and in 1852, Isaac Scott, a black man from North Carolina, was ordained by the Christian Church and sent to Liberia as the first overseas missionary from that denomination. The democratic social structure in the Christian Church proved more hospitable to women's sense of "calling" than had been true in Puritan New England churches. In 1839, the Virginia Christian Conference recognized an Ohio minister's wife, the former Rebecca L. Chaney, as her husband's official associate in preaching. The Christian Church exercised its independence under God when it became the first denomination to recognize the ordination of a woman. In 1867, at Ebenezer Church in Clark County, Ohio, Melissa Terrel was ordained to the Christian ministry. Following the Civil War, black members of the Christian Church tended to cut themselves off from whites to form churches of their own. The black church became the only social structure totally supported by the black community. Elevated to a high status in a climate that denigrated black males, black ministers were close to a peer relationship with white community leaders. Black church ministers were not only pastors and preachers to their congregations, but were social workers and organizers for human rights as well. Black ministers and their churches were often targets of reaction, sometimes violent, during repeated periods of local political battle over issues such as freedom from oppression, the achievement of voting rights, opportunity for land ownership, equality of educational and vocational opportunity, the right to participate in the same amenities offered others in American communities.
Women in many black Christian churches became, to an even greater degree than in white churches, the backbone of church life; many became preachers. Black women so reared, upon joining integrated churches, found it difficult to accept less crucial tasks where men dominated.
The Reconstruction Era after the Civil War was slow and painful. During the time of estrangement, Christian churches of both North and South had increasingly assumed characteristics of a denomination. During the first post-war decade, the Southern Convention adopted a manual for standardized worship and Christian Church rites, as well as for defining "Principles" for Christians. During this period, a group of freed slaves established, in 1866-67, the North Carolina Colored Christian Conference. This group maintained close ties with white Christians and shared in the General Convention of the Christian Church. In 1874, the Eastern Atlantic Colored Christian Conference was formed and in 1873, the Virginia Colored Christian Conference. As numbers of black Christian churches increased, the churches organized themselves further into conferences. In 1892, the Afro-American Convention met for the first time representing five conferences with a total membership of 6,000.
The General Convention of 1874 adopted a Manifesto, defining for the Christian Church movement true unity as based not on doctrine or polity, but on Christian spirit and character. The Manifesto stated: "We are ready to form a corporate union with any body of Christians upon the basis of those great doctrines which underlie the religion of Christ ... We are ready to submit all minor matters to ... the individual conscience."
Not until 1890 was the division between the North and the South sufficiently overcome to adopt a Plan of Union that formed a new General Convention.
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.
There were harbingers of the Reformation before the 15th century. In England, John Wyclif translated the Bible into English in 1382 so that all people could have access to it. John Hus encountered Wyclifs translation and writings when returning Oxford students brought them to the University of Prague from which he was graduated in 1394. After furthering the cause of biblical access and authority and opposing the Catholic sale of indulgences, Hus was burned in 1415. He claimed that Christ, not the Pope, was the head of the church; the New Testament, not the church, was the final authority; the Christian life was to be lived in poverty, not opulence.
In 1517, the German monk, university teacher, and preacher, Martin Luther nailed 95 theses of protest against certain doctrines and practices (such as the sale of indulgences) of the Roman Church to the door of the Wittenberg cathedral. His subsequent teaching, preaching, and 'writing spread Lutheran reform throughout northern Europe.
Almost simultaneously, Reformation winds blew to France and Switzerland. In Zurich, Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531) and in Geneva, John Calvin (1509-64) took up the banner of reform. Their powerful ministries impressed leaders from Europe and Britain seeking a better way. From these churches of Switzerland, the German Reformed movement and the English Congregationalists would breathe deeply.
The Reformed churches differed from the Lutheran churches in avoiding the "Catholic use" of imagery and instrumental music. They differed in their interpretation of the Lord's Supper; rather than being the body and blood of Christ, Reformed faith held that the bread and wine were "seals" or remembrances of Christ's spiritual presence.
Luther and Zwingli had other differences besides their interpretations of the elements of Communion. Zwingli was more of a humanist and Luther considered his political activism dangerously radical and theologically unsound. French refugee John Calvin arrived in Geneva, crossroads for exiles and expatriots, in 1536. He rapidly became more influential than Zwingli, second only to Luther. He wrote a popular, systematic presentation of Christian doctrine and life, The Institutes (1536, final edition in 1559). Most important of Calvin's Institutes was obedience to God's will as defined in the scriptures. Salvation, he wrote, came by faith in God's grace, mediated through word and sacrament by the power of the Holy Spirit. Good works were consequences of union with Christ in faith, not the means of salvation. Calvin considered the law an indispensable guide and spur to the Christian life; prayer provided nourishment for faith. He argued that faith was a divine gift resulting from God's unconditional decree of election.
Further, Christian life was maintained by the institutions of the church, the sacraments of Holy Communion and baptism, and discipline. Calvin followed the biblical model in providing pastoral care and church discipline through pastors, teachers, elders, and deacons.
The Reformed faith eventually reached the German Palatinate around Heidelberg. Elector Frederick III (1515-76) was forced to mediate between his own warring Zwinglian and Lutheran chaplains; he dismissed them both. Sympathetic to Calvinism, Frederick entrusted the writing of a new confession to two young protégés of Calvin and Melancthon, Casper Olevianus (1536-87) and Zacharias Ursinus (1534-83). The result was the remarkable Heidelberg Catechism, adopted in 1563, that unified the German Reformed Church and became a treasured resource for instructing the young, for preaching, and for theological teaching.
There also was wider social unrest in Europe. From 1618 to 1648, the Thirty Years War ravaged the continent. Before the fighting ceased, most of Germany, and especially the Palatinate where the Reformed Church had been influential, was reduced to a wilderness. Churches were closed; many pastors and people starved or were massacred. The Peace of Westphalia in 1648 divided the spoils. The Roman, Lutheran, and Reformed churches were allowed to reclaim territories that had been theirs in 1624. Calvinist Reformed churches, for a time unrecognized, were honored along with Lutheran churches.
Protestantism in Germany had lost all its eastern territory.
When two thirds of Hungary was regained for Catholicism, Hungarian Reformed Church Christians suffered intolerance. Their descendants immigrated to America and in 1890 began the first Hungarian Reformed Church in Cleveland. As the Magyar Synod, Hungarian churches united with the Reformed Church in the United States in 1921. Forty Hungarian congregations continue in the United Church of Christ as the Calvin Synod.
Perspectives and Procedures for Ecclesiastical Authorization of Ministry
The changing landscapes of church and denominational life in the 21st century impact the form and function of ministry, including the ways in which the United Church of Christ calls, authorizes and oversees ministers. Consequently our Manual on Ministry, which saw its last update in 2002, needs reflection and re-vision -- a fresh, 21st century vision for authorized and authorizing ministry. To that end, the Ministerial Excellence, Support & Authorization (MESA) Team) formed the Habakkuk Group, tasked with seeing and writing the vision of authorized ministry and making it plain for the United Church of Christ. In 2017, the Habakkuk Group's work is being engaged through four regional events across the denomination.
A draft of the re-visioned Manual on Ministry is shared by the Habakkuk Group for the wider church’s discernment through engagement. This draft reflects feedback provided by judicatory staff, seminary partners, Committee on Ministry members, and national and ecumenical colleagues in 2016. An additional chart overviews the feedback received thus far by outlining which parts of the drafted MOM are ready to use and which ideas of the drafted MOM are still in discernment. The wider church’s continued reflection is invited during 2017 through use of the discussion guide and completion of a feedback form.
The United Church of Christ Manual on Ministry is published in ten separate sections or booklets. Each section is available separately or as part of the complete Manual that includes all ten sections in a single binder. The ten sections are:
1. Partners in Authorizing Ministry
An overview of the covenantal relationships and underlying assumptions about authorized ministry, including the ministerial codes.
2. Student in Care of Association
Commentary, processes, and procedures for those preparing to enter the Ordained Ministry of the United Church of Christ.
3. Ordained Ministry
Commentary, processes, and procedures for Ordained Ministry, including Ordained Ministerial Standing.
4. Dual Standing and Privilege of Call
Commentary, processes, and procedures for those ordained ministers of denominations other than the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) who seek to serve in the United Church of Christ or who seek to enter the Ordained Ministry of the United Church of Christ. Ordained ministers of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) should see section 5, "Ordained Ministerial Partner."
5. Ordained Ministerial Partner
Commentary, processes, and procedures related to the reconciliation of ministries with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
6. Commissioned Ministry
Commentary, processes, and procedures for Commissioned Ministry, including Commissioned Ministerial Standing.
7. Licensed Ministry
Commentary, processes, and procedures for Licensed Ministry.
8. The Oversight of Ministries
Commentary, processes, and procedures for the nurture and accountability of the ministries of the Church.
9. Ecclesiastical Endorsement
Commentary, processes, and procedures for those seeking to serve as chaplains in professional organizations and military or other U.S. government agencies.
10. Supplemental Materials
Commentary, appendices, and a glossary related to multiple sections of Manual on Ministry.
United Church of Christ Special Mission Offerings (SMOs) exist to allow congregations and individuals to meet people at points of critical need in their lives. Though many options exist for direct, individual support of these needs, the SMOs allow a common witness and make a collective positive impact. Our church has identified four areas where these critical human needs exist:
• in places lacking health and educational resources and/or where disaster has struck;
• within systems of injustice which oppress daily life and opportunity;
• in the lives of church leaders without sufficient resources to live with dignity;
• in the nurture of youth and congregations just beginning their lives of faith.
We believe these SMOs collectively serve to lift people closer to the abundance and wholeness to which Jesus Christ has called us to work together to bring about.
One Great Hour of Sharing
Supports partners in countries with ministries that fund health, education and agricultural development, emergency relief, refugee ministries and both international and domestic disaster response, administered by Wider Church Ministries, Global Sharing of Resources.
This offering is received on the Fourth Sunday of Lent.
Strengthen the Church
Supports church growth, pastoral and lay leadership development, youth and young adult ministries within conferences and administered by Local Church Ministries.
This offering is received on Pentecost Sunday.
Neighbors in Need
One-third of this offering supports the Council for American Indian Ministry (CAIM) and two-thirds is administered by Justice and Witness Ministries to support a variety of justice initiatives, advocacy efforts, and direct service projects through grants.
This offering is received on First Sunday of October as part of World Communion Sunday.
The Christmas Fund
Provides direct financial assistance to retired and active United Church of Christ authorized ministers and lay employees and their surviving spouses, including pension and health premium supplementation, emergency assistance, and Christmas thank-you checks. A ministry of the Pension Boards, the offering is received annually on the Sunday before Christmas.
This offering is received on the Sunday before Christmas.
To order additional Special Mission Offering materials call United Church of Christ Resources at 800.537.3394 or to place or change a standing order call the Office of Philanthropy and Stewardship at 866.822.8224.
Gifts to Basic Support of Our Church's Wider Mission benefit the full range of the United Church of Christ mission across the country and around the globe.
Our faith is 2000 Years old but our thinking is not.
• Because of our belief in a continuing testament, we are attentive to God's creative movement in the world...
• We arrive early on issues of social justice, as evidenced by courageous "firsts" for racial justice, equality for women, and inclusion of gay and lesbian people.
• We prepare leaders who are open to and prepared for ministry in the present and future church.
• We train leaders who grow spiritually, who build up the church, and put their faith into action.
• We embrace and equip new kinds of congregations and new modes of leadership.
No matter who you are or where you are on life's journey, you are welcome here.
• Because we believe in extravagant welcome, we insist that God's table is open, not closed, and God's gift and claim in baptism are irrevocable…
• We demonstrate this through public professions of our identity/purpose: multi-racial, multi-cultural, open and affirming, accessible to all.
• We advocate justice for all as an extension and expression of faith.
• We are open to new ways of being church and forming Christian community.
• We affirm that cultural differences expand our ability to welcome more people.
• We strive to keep our perspective global in our partnership with people of faith around the world.
Never place a period where God has placed a comma.
• Because we believe in transformation, we believe the church's mission is changing lives - individually, systemically and globally...
• We identify, recruit, educate and support leaders who inspire others.
• We support churches and plant new churches as vital places of worship, learning, and justice advocacy.
• We change lives through our global partnerships, missionaries and advocacy.
Thank you for your partnership. Together we are changing lives!