The Chicago Temple
June 11, 2006
This message comes via Rev. Dr. Jane Fisler Hoffman, Conference Minister of the Illinois Conference. It was preached on Trinity Sunday by Rev. Philip L. Blackwell, pastor of the downtown Chicago United Methodist Church, also known as the Chicago Temple.
I said to everyone involved with printing the bulletins, “Please put two m’s into the sermon title. I don’t want to talk about God’s ‘coma’ and have to revive the ‘Death of God’ theology of the 1960’s and 70’s. It’s God’s comma.”
And here it is, right here. I am wearing a comma lapel pin that was given to me by my good friend and United Church of Christ minister, Chuck Wildman. The comma is part of the most recent advertising campaign of the UCC. The punch line is, “Don’t put a period where God has put a comma.” That’s a good line. I asked Chuck who said that, which famous theologian. And he replied, “Gracie Allen.” Some of us remember Burns and Allen. Gracie Allen at her theological best, “Don’t put a period where God has put a comma.”
The television ads accompanying this advertising campaign for the United Church of Christ were rejected by the major networks – CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX. “Too controversial,” some said. “Too religious,” others judged. Imagine, something religious being controversial. What the video shows is a traditional church family sitting in a traditional church. A woman nearby struggles with a crying baby, the traditional family glares disapprovingly, and then they push an ejection button and the mother and crying child are jettisoned from the church. And then the family ejects a poor person, a gay couple, and a Middle Eastern-looking man. Finally, the voice over said, “God doesn’t reject people. Neither do we.”
The networks did not want anything that provocative on television. Imagine all that we see each day on the screen, and the message that God does not reject us is too much.
The essential truth of that spot announcement is our point for this morning: God continues to reveal new truths to us. God continues to build new communities for us. God continues to reach out to us so that no one is left out of the family of God. So, let us not dare to put a period where God has put a comma.
This notion of continuing revelation makes some people uncomfortable. After all, isn’t everything that we need to know in the Bible? Isn’t everything already said and done? Some of us remember the old bumper sticker (have you noticed that there are no new bumper stickers these days?), the old one dictated, “The Bible says it. I believe it. That settles it.”
But, if that were true, then the disciples of Jesus would have been misled. They believed that God was doing something new in Jesus Christ. There would have been no new revelation in what Jesus said and did. All that about, “You have heard it said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,’ but I say to you, ‘Turn the other cheek,’” all of that would have had to be thrown out. No new interpretations allowed of the scriptures. No healings of unclean. No challenges to the moneychangers and the legalists. No inclusion of the outsiders. No calling Jesus “Messiah,” “Lord,” “Savior.” All of that would have to be considered an “activist” interpretation of the text, in this case, what we call the Hebrew Scripture, the Old Testament. Without perceiving God’s continued revelation in Jesus the Christ, there would be no New Testament.
And there would be no Church. We understand today that the Church is the work of the Holy Spirit. That is what we celebrate on the Day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit is God’s gift of God’s self to the Church so that we may exist throughout history, around the world, with vitality and purpose.
Do we understand what we have just said? We have spoken in Trinitarian terms. The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is an affirmation of the Church that God continues to reveal to us God’s truth, God’s will, God’s intention for us. God’s communication with us is filled with commas, not periods, not full stops. And beware any of us who try to end God’s story prematurely, saying that we now know all there is to know, and close the book on God.
The Trinity is a complex concept – God, Three in One and One in Three, in traditional language Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in functional language Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. I attended the General Conference several years ago and overheard a conversation in the hallway in which a prominent minister on the fundamentalist side of things was saying to a newspaper reporter, “Now, we believe in three gods. The Jews believe only in one, but we believe in three – Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.” And I intercepted the reporter after the conversation and pleaded with him not to print that.
We do not believe in three gods. We believe in one God who reveals the divine truth and love to us in a multitude of ways. And the best way that the tradition has been able to characterize it, the dominant metaphor, has been to imagine God as playing three characters in a drama, three “personae.” One is the creator who relates to us through all there is around us, another is the redeemer who relates to us personally so that we all might be made whole through him, “saved” as John the gospel writer puts it, and a third person who relates to us is the sustainer, the one who energizes us, who keeps us going. It is not a logical construction, but it reveals a truth beyond logic. At the heart of God is the divine urge to relate to us. The concept of the Trinity is relational, and it is all about loving us, John 3:16, not condemning us, John 3:17. God is writing human history with commas, not periods.
Today we have a lot going on. Not only do we honor this as Trinity Sunday, but also as Peace with Justice Sunday. And you see the description and envelope in the bulletin that underlines the belief that God’s love needs to be revealed continually in the real world of politics, food, and human rights. This also, by our own declaration, is Reconciling Congregation Sunday. Today we honor a decision this congregation made a decade ago publicly to make clear that we welcome everyone into the religious life here at the Chicago Temple. Every week we place our welcoming statement in our printed material:
We know that some people read that and decide to stay away from this church. We sense that many more read it and come close to see if we really mean it, if we really live by it. Earlier this year, in the face of the divisiveness over homosexuality that rends asunder the United Methodist denomination, our Church Council reaffirmed this welcoming statement. This is who God calls us to be here in the middle of the city. This represents our faithful intention. This is our expression of John 3:16 and 17, of God’s love for the whole world, “God so loved the world,” and of God’s acceptance, “not to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through (Jesus Christ).” Our welcoming statement stands in the tradition of acknowledging that God continues to reveal divine truth to us. It represents our comma, not a period.
Let’s put our statement into an historical context. October 1845, two theologians, Jonathan Blanchard and Nathan Rice, debate in Cincinnati. The issue: the Bible’s view of slavery. For four days, eight hours a day, they contended, Blanchard appealing to the whole scope of the Bible, the principles of justice and righteousness, to the declaration of the unity of all as God’s children, Rice quoting over and over chapter and verse justifying slavery.
Today could we imagine such a debate over slavery? Could we imagine people invoking the legal definition of African-Americans as three-fifths of a person? There is no debate. There is no defense of what John Wesley called in his own time the “inexorable villainy” of American slavery. But at one time slavery defined the American church, and the Methodists split north and south like everybody else, and it was not until 1939 that the two regional segments of Methodism were reunited. And it was not until 1968 that full inclusion of African-Americans was completed. Today it is a mark of shame upon us. But then, it was an open debate. God continues to reveal truth to us. God continues to write the story with a comma even when we try to end it with a period.
The role of women in the church, the next big debate after slavery. Do you know who the first woman was who was ordained by a recognized church body in America? Antoinette Brown Blackwell in 1853, by the Congregationalists. She was the sister-in-law of the first female doctor in America, Elizabeth Blackwell. Over the years, I have gone out on a genealogical limb trying to connect our family with that branch of the Blackwells. I have not found the connection yet, but what a great family tree to be part of.
This summer the United Methodists will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first woman ordained in our denomination, only a century after the Congregationalists! But it was a tough fight. For decades people said, “But look what it says here: ‘Woman, keep silent in the Church.’ Paul said it, so it is true forever.” John Wesley was ahead of his time when he invited women to teach classes and read scripture in public. But it took the institution a long time to erase the period where God had only put a comma. Tuesday night Cerna Castro Rand will be ordained an elder in the church. Last year Cheryl Magrini was ordained a deacon. Is there any doubt about their gifts or call to the ministry? None at all, but within the lifetime of some of us their ordination would not have been possible. God’s continued revelation enriches the Church. A comma, not a period.
Friday Sally and I accompanied our two grandchildren, Karl age 4, (that’s Karl with a “K”), and Julia, 2, and their parents, Liz and Dave, to the Field Museum and the Planetarium. Eighty years ago, the exhibits that dazzled us would not have been possible. At the Field Museum, it was the story of the evolution of life on our planet. At the Planetarium it was the telling of the beginning and continued change of our universe. In the 1920’s any scientific evolutionary theory was under attack by the Church. There was the Scopes Trial in Tennessee, Darrow versus Bryan. Clarence Darrow had his office in the Chicago Temple during those years. Today we claim him; he never claimed us.
Darrow lost, and Scopes was fined for teaching non-biblical theories of science. Today, except for the most hard-boiled of literalists, there is little debate over the role of science and the complementary, but distinct, role of faith. The stories of creation in the Bible, and there are many of them, are the faithful witnesses of the communities who told the stories. They are not to be read as astrophysics. But, the Church has been so slow to erase the period it placed after the Book of Genesis that it took the Vatican 350 years to forgive Galileo for being right! “Do not put a period where God has put a comma.”
And so, I suggest, it is with our welcoming statement. What we say about all people, and expressly about gays and lesbians and transgendered people because that is the issue of the day, grows out of our respect for God’s continuing revelation. As James Russell Lowell wrote, “New occasions teach new duties, Time makes ancient good uncouth.”
Our statement grows out of the impulse to argue from the spirit of the faith rather than the letter of the law, the general rather than the particular. And if some insist that we must argue about the particulars in scripture, chapter and verse, then let us start not with sexual identity issues, about which Jesus says nothing, but with caring for the poor, about which he says a lot. And about hospitality for the outsider, and about tithing and the use of money, and about hypocrisy and lying, and about mean-spiritedness, and about warmongering, and about violence, and about god-forsakenness in our personal lives.
We welcome all because God has accepted us all. We know that because it has been revealed by God the creator, by God the redeemer, and by God the sustainer. We know that because God, in big and small ways, continues to show us what is of most importance and what is irrelevant.
Let us pray that the Church be relevant to God as well as to society. Let us pray that we remain open to God’s lead so that the whole world may know of God’s love, a love that does not condemn but brings new life. God’s story continues, comma after comma after comma. Thanks be to God! Amen.
The General Minister and President and The Stillspeaking Initiative are pleased to convey the following
We, the steering committee members of Confessing Christ, offer this modest essay in the form of a letter to the church. We hope that it may provide further theological dimensions to our denomination's recent efforts to reach out to the world. It attempts to ground the hospitality that the United Church of Christ has been celebrating in our ecumenical heritage and to give it further specificity so that its uniquely Christian nature becomes clear. It could function as a theological resource for "stillspeaking" congregations and other groups in our denomination...
These small pieces are intended to be our gift to the church, a gift intended to invite and stimulate theological reflection informed by our common Christian heritage. They are the fruit of a lengthy and passionate theological conversation among our membership.
Yours in Christ,
Convener of the Steering Committee, Confessing Christ
Statement on Christian Hospitality [pdf]
Send us your stories and ideas for growing your hospitality. Tell us what's happening in your area. Drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org
Not 18? You can still make your voice heard!
Just because you're not old enough to vote doesn't mean you can't be involved in the elections. In fact youth voices are needed more than anything in politics. Throughout history, political leaders have looked to young people as a source of inspiration. Elected officials love to talk about what youth "want" or "need." In the elections, let's speak for ourselves.
There are a number of ways to get involved in the elections and make an impact on our country's future. Get together with your youth group and engage your local congregation and community. Here's some ideas from OFOV:
Just because you can't vote doesn't mean others shouldn't. Sometimes people just need to be reminded that it is their privilege and their duty to vote. Jog their memory and sign them up!
- Set up a voter registration table before and after church.
- Register people at church suppers, coffee houses and other events.
- Go out into your community and register voters at the local shopping center, grocery store, fair, baseball game, etc.
- Encourage your school administration to hold a registration drive or include voter registration cards with high school diplomas.
- Plan a coffee house or a concert. Not only will this provide an opportunity for your buddy's band to perform in front of a live audience, it will provide you with a room full of people ready to register to vote.
- In the weeks leading up to the elections, invite your congregation to a series of movie screenings. You can show fun elections related films or serious documentaries on issues you're interested in - However you want to do it! Set up a location, invite your congregation, pop some popcorn and get them signed up to vote!
Get Out the Vote
- If you have a license, volunteer to drive individuals to the polls. You've finally got your license - put it to good use!
- Organize or participate in phone banking or canvassing.
- Volunteer to provide child care or to walk peoples' dogs while they vote.
- Make signs and put them up around town reminding your community to go to the polls. Maybe even put an election day countdown outside your church!
Want more ideas?
Check out our resources for college students!
Youth Ministries or Sunday School
Do you lead the youth in your congregation or teach Sunday School classes? Why not use that as an oppertunity for discussion. Here are some sample questions to get you started.
- Why do you think voting is important? Why do you think some people don't vote?
- Who is running for office and what do you think they stand for?
- How do you believe people should be treated in our society?
- What things do people need to live a good life?
- What are a few local, national, and international problems (that you see on TV or in the newspaper), and what can we do to help solve them?
- What are some examples of public policies from that past that were harmful to people (e.g. slavery, the Holocaust, lack of voting rights for women and minorities)? What does our faith or ethics tell us about these policies?
- What are issues being discussed in the campaigns that have moral or ethical dimensions (e.g. hunger, environmental protection and education)? Explain both sides of the debate.
- What did Jesus say about taking responsibility for our society?
- Can you name some New or Old Testament figures who were part of the political debate of their time? (Moses and the law, the prophets, etc.)
- Have a "Love Your Neighbor: Vote" poster contest in your church or community, or ask youth to create posters or fliers that inform their congregation and community about the upcoming elections.
- Create an "investigating political reporter sheet" and have youth interview family, congregation, or community members with several questions: Have you ever voted? Are you registered to vote? Did you vote in the last election? Do you plan to vote in this election? Is it important we vote? If so, why? What issues concern you? Which presidential candidate do you think best represents your views? Why?
- Become media watchdogs and examine election coverage. Use our Media Monitoring guide.
Justice and Witness Ministries is one of four Covenanted Ministries in the UCC, helps local congregations and all settings of the church respond to God's commandments to do justice, seek peace and effect change for a better world. The work of JWM is guided by the pronouncements and resolutions approved by the UCC at General Synod.
|Who We Are|
Our Mission: To speak and act prophetically through community mobilization, leadership training, issues education, public witness, and public policy advocacy.
Guiding Principles - JWM is:
- Inspired by God's grace and through the prayerful discernment and courageous witness of God's people.
- Grounded in biblical and theological understandings of God's mission and the justice and compassion to which the gospel calls us.
- Rooted in the conviction that all forms of oppression and injustice can be overcome.
- Committed to full inclusion and to creating institutional structures and practices that support the self-determination of those who have been marginalized and silenced.
- Called by God to have a transforming impact on local, national, and global communities.
- Encouraged by the prophetic witness of the United Church of Christ in the past and present, and dedicated to sustaining this witness into the future.
- Convinced that God's vision of "Another World is Possible"
Created to live with God; created to Be In Community With One Another
I'm often asked, "Why does everything boil down to race?" It seems that the issue of racism is one which intersects all aspects of our being. Issues of privilege and advantage, inclusion and exclusion impact our relationships with each other and to the goods, services and opportunities of society. Our present racial/ethnic group relationships are informed by our histories and shaped by the realities of living in a racialized society. As people of faith, we are called to recognize racism?s impact on our relationships with each other and with God. The resource entitled, Transformative Justice: Being Church and Overcoming Racism, acknowledges racism as a sin and states the following:
Churches have declared that racism is a sin
Racism is a sin because it:
* denies the very source of humanity ? the image of God in humankind;
* destroys God?s likeness in every person and thus repudiates creation and its goodness;
* assumes that human beings are not equal before God and are not part of God?s family;
* is contrary to biblical teaching;
* denies basic justice and human dignity;
* is a blatant denial of the Christian faith;
* is incompatible with the Gospel;
* is a flagrant violation of human rights;
* separates us from God and from other human beings;
* makes us blind to the reality of people?s suffering and
* perpetuates racist attitudes, practices and institutional racism.
We have confessed that racism is a sin, not only as individual Christians, but also as churches. To affirm that racism is a sin has a radical implication for the churches: the radical commitment to overcome it.
—Transformative Justice: Being Church and Overcoming Racism, Resource Guide, World Council of Churches 2004
This is our prayer Dear God, Creator of the universe and all that inhabit it, we come as your Church, and as individuals, in humble submission to Your Word and Your Way. God, you who are Alpha and Omega, The Almighty Judge and The Forgiver of All Sins, we come with bowed heads and contrite hearts on behalf of generations past, present and those yet unborn. We now ask that you forgive us and create in us a new spirit. Bind our hearts and send forth the healing power that You and You alone can give to us and this sin sick world. Bring us into reconciliation with one another and restore us to thy path. Amen.
Adaptation of Alter Prayer, Acknowledging The Breach, from Reparations: A Process for Repairing The Breach: A Study and Discussion Guide for Local Congregations, Associations and Conferences of the United Church of Christ.
This is our covenant
O God, as people of faith, we covenant with you, with one another and our churches to:
* become better informed about people of other races and cultures, that we may overcome the fears and misconceptions that exist;
* consider how issues of racial prejudice and privilege affect each person with whom we come in contact;
* discover and acknowledge practices and structures that are racist in our churches and communities;
* work to erase the sins of racism and injustice where they exist in our churches and communities and
* prayerfully heed Your call to embrace people of all colors, faiths, economic and social backgrounds as our brothers and sisters.
—Submitted by Dismantling Racism Task Force, St. Louis Association, Missouri Mid-South Conference, United Church of Christ
Un diálogo inteligente y una postura independiente a veces le ha significado a la Iglesia Unida de Cristo (UCC) y sus 1,4 millones de miembros/as ser llamados/as "una mezcla temeraria y provocadora". La UCC tiende a ser la denominación más progresista que libre de tapujos une el corazón y la mente. Y es así que la UCC logra balancear la autonomía congregacional con un fuerte compromiso de unidad entre sus casi 6.000 congregaciones –a pesar de las múltiples diferencias entre muchas de las congregaciones locales sobre una variedad de temas.
Aún cuando importantes elementos de la herencia e historia que se remontan al siglo XVI se mantienen, la UCC y sus antecesores/as se han demostrado a sí mismos/as que son capaces de avanzar, uniendo la fe a la justicia social y concibiendo una teología y servicio que va más allá en un mundo que está en constante cambio. Reafirmando que Jesucristo es la cabeza de la Iglesia, la UCC reclama como propia la fe de la iglesia histórica expresada en los credos ancestrales y reivindicada en los conocimientos elementales de los reformistas protestantes. Sin embargo, la UCC también afirma la responsabilidad de la iglesia en cada generación y comunidad de hacer de la fe algo propio en cada realidad de adoración, con honestidad a través del pensamiento y la expresión, y en pureza de corazón ante Dios. Mira a la Palabra de Dios en las Escrituras, y a la presencia y el poder del Espíritu Santo para prosperar su trabajo creativo y redentor en el mundo. Una de las características que distingue a la UCC es su tendencia a creer que... Dios todavía nos habla...aún cuando nos deja ahí solos/as. La historia muestra que, las más de las veces, sólo estamos solos/as por un momento. Además, recibimos tantos regalos de parte de nuestros/as hermanos/as ecuménicos/as, que estar "adelantados/as" parece ser uno/a de los nuestros/as.
La UCC reconoce dos sacramentos: el Bautismo y la Cena del Señor o la Santa Comunión.
¿Quiere saber más? Para más información y aprender sobre la rica historia de la UCC visite ucc.org
|Rev. John H. Thomas|
El Alma de Nuestra Identidad
Tercer sábado después de Pentecostés
20 de junio, 2004
Desde nuestra fundación, la Iglesia Unida de Cristo ha luchado por articular su identidad. Los nombres de denominaciones antepasadas identifican elementos importantes: Evangélico evoca una piedad moldeada por un encuentro personal con el Evangelio. Congregacional nos recuerda lo medular de la iglesia local para el discipulado y la misión. Reformada nos enseña que la iglesia y la sociedad son sujetas al pecado y deben, por lo tanto, ser reformadas de acuerdo a la palabra profética. Cristiana nos conecta con aquellos/as que aman la simplicidad de un compromiso con Jesús quien nos invita a la Mesa.
Desde 1957 otras frases nos han ayudado a articular nuestra vocación característica: Somos una iglesia "unida y unificante" en busca de la renovación a través de la visión de la oración de Cristo "que todos sean unos/unas para que mundo crea". Nosotros somos una iglesia de "paz justa" con un compromiso para terminar con la violencia y opresión. Somos una "iglesia multirracial, multicultural" que anhela el día en que nuestras congregaciones reflejen de manera más integral la visión de Pentecostés. Somos una iglesia "abierta y afirmante" donde a nadie se le niega su identidad bautismal debido a su identidad sexual. Somos una iglesia "accesible" que valora los dones de todos/as sin importar sus habilidades físicas o mentales. Recientemente hemos estados pensando sobre lo que significa llamarnos a nosotros mismos "la iglesia del Dios que todavía habla", una iglesia que cree que Dios tiene aún mucha más luz y verdad que compartir en Su Palabra.
Cada una de estas frases captura una dimensión importante de nuestra vida juntos/as. Sin embargo, Pablo también nos dice que centro de nuestra identidad trasciende las categorías humanas. En Cristo somos hijos/as de Dios a través de la fe, herederos/as de acuerdo a la promesa de Dios. Al final la identidad tiene que ver con pertenencia, y nosotros/as pertenecemos A Cristo antes que a ningún partido o agenda. Mientras celebramos esta semana el cumpleaños de la Iglesia Unida de Cristo, agradecemos aquellos dones que nos distinguen que marcan nuestra contribución exclusiva al testimonio cristiano en el mundo. Más aún, agradecemos que a través de esta iglesia hemos recibido nuestra herencia junto a todos/as quienes son uno/a en Cristo.
Reverendo John H. Thomas
Ministro General y Presidente
Iglesia Unida de Cristo
Racial profiling is the targeting of particular individuals based on the erroneous assumption that persons of a particular race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion are more likely to engage in certain types of unlawful conduct.
It is the impermissible use of personal characteristics when there is no reliable information that links a person of a particular race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion to a specific incident, scheme, or organization.
Why is it an issue of faith?
In honor to our Creator God, we honor all human beings as being created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:27). As people of faith, we are called to be in solidarity with all people, because God shows no partiality (Acts 10:34-35).
What does that really mean in real life?[i]
Nationally, Black drivers are twice more than White drivers to be arrested. Hispanic drivers are more likely than White drivers to receive a ticket. White drivers are more likely to receive a written warning than Hispanic drivers. White drivers are more likely than Black drivers to be verbally warned by police. Statewide data also confirm this pervasive phenomenon of “Driving While Black or Brown.”
In addition, minority pedestrians are often subjected to suspicion-less stops-and-frisks, as shown in data collected through the NYPD and LAPD. Street-level law enforcement authorities are provided with wide discretion in community policing, which is often exercised to racially profile minorities who are perceived to be a threat to public safety even if they have done nothing wrong.
Religious profiling is sometimes used as a proxy for race, ethnicity or national origin.
Muslims and Arabs in the U.S. are being singled out for question and detention, on the basis of religion and national origin, by federal programs such as the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), which requires certain individuals from predominantly Muslim countries to register with the federal government, be fingerprinted, photographed and interrogated.
79% of targets investigated by the federal covert program OFL, Operation Front Line to “deter terror operations” were immigrants from Muslim majority countries. In our nation’s airports, individuals wearing Sikh turbans or Muslim head coverings are often profiled for higher security at Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoints.
- Immigration law enforcement
Vast numbers of Hispanics – most of whom U.S. citizens or legal residents, are racially profiled. State and local agencies target Hispanic individuals and entire Hispanic communities in a broad way to enforce federal immigration law, when several problematic collaborative programs with ICE are supposedly to be narrowly focused.
In addition, some state lawmakers undertake initiatives of their own that further encouraged racial profiling. For example, Arizona’s S.B. 1070 turns mere civil infractions of federal immigration law, such as not carrying registration papers, into state crimes, and gives private citizen the right to sue Arizona law enforcement authority if they believe that the law is not being fully enforced.
What kind of legislation is proposed in regard to racial profiling?
The End Racial Profiling Act (S. 1670) has been introduced to the 112th Congress in 2011-2012, and heard by the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. ERPA will create a federal prohibition against racial profiling, provide funding to train officials on how to end this practice, and hold law enforcement officials and agencies that continue to use racial profiling accountable.
[i] Restoring a National Consensus: The Need to End Racial Profiling in America by The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights (Washington, DC), March 2012.
Affirmative action is a policy or a program promoting the representation in social institutions of groups of people who have been traditionally and systematically discriminated against.
As people of faith who strive to cultivate the Beloved Community, our General Synod supports affirmative action, because our nation cannot be completely free without all people’s sharing the same rights and equal access to opportunities for advancement and equitable treatment. It is about more than diversity, for it is in fact a moral obligation to racial equity.
Why is it an issue of faith?
All people are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). The history and legacy of discrimination in our social institutions denies honor to God. We are called to do justice, love kindness and work humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). We are called to repentance and reconciliation by remedying the destructive impacts of systematic and compounded discriminations accumulated across generations.
Aren’t we “post-racial” yet?
The term "post-racial" may be used by individuals to express their sincere intention and desire that there is no more racism in our society. However, it does not describe the reality of racial disparities found in education, employment, housing, health and so on. It does not speak to the destructive impact of institutional rules, policies and structures that appear on the surface to be race-neutral in discrete entities (e.g. schools, districts). Structural racism is the cumulative effect of racial inequity in multiple institutions over time, and that is what Affirmative Action seeks to remedy.
UCC Social Policy Statements
The UCC historic policy based for Affirmative Action can be found in the General Synod resolutions regarding racial justice in 1971; racial and economic justice, women in church and society in 1975, implementation in the UCC, the church and persons with handicaps in 1979. The commitment to Affirmative Action in Church and Society was reaffirmed in 1981, and in 1995 in light of Supreme Court decisions.
1. Doesn’t affirmative action reward unmotivated people to get ahead in life?
Affirmative action only provides equal access and the fair chance to achieve success for underrepresented groups. It cannot guarantee that they will succeed, only that they are given the same opportunities that the White majority has. In reality, many underrepresented people can testify that they have to work twice as hard to prove themselves.
2. Doesn’t affirmative action justify the hiring or admission of under-qualified candidates?
Among qualified candidates, school should be allowed to choose based on their institutional goal of increasing diversity. At a deeper level, the history and legacy of systematic discrimination means that our society is not purely based on individual merit. People of color, women and the disabled have been put in positions by institutions that have not allowed them to maximize their full potential, and it would be unfair to judge people solely by their individual qualifications.
3. Doesn’t affirmative action punish Whites today for what happened hundreds of years ago?
While Whites today and virtually all of their ancestors never owned slaves, they benefit directly and indirectly from systematic racial discrimination. They have less competition for school admission, jobs and government programs, which helped propelled many Whites and their descendants into the middle and upper classes.
Many non-Whites and their descendants were and still are systematically left behind and denied the same basic educational, economic, and other opportunities. The wide gap created by a racialized system which promoted the dominant culture, mostly White male, for several hundred years unfortunately would take time to be closed adequately, so that eventually all candidates can be judged soley on their individual merit.
Multiracial and Multicultural Church
Resolution "Statement of Christian Conviction of the Proposed Pronouncement Calling the United Church of Christ to be a Multiracial and Multicultural Church"
93-GS-33 VOTED: The Nineteenth General Synod adopts the "Statement of Christian Conviction of the Proposed Pronouncement Calling the United Church of Christ to be a Multiracial and Multicultural Church."
Statement of Christian Conviction of the Proposed Pronouncement Calling the United Church of Christ to be a Multiracial and Multicultural Church
IV. STATEMENT OF CHRISTIAN CONVICTION
A. The Nineteenth General Synod calls upon the United Church of Christ in all its settings to be a true multiracial and multicultural church. A multiracial and multicultural church confesses and acts out its faith in the one sovereign God who through Jesus Christ binds in covenant faithful people of all races, ethnicities and cultures. A multiracial and multicultural church embodies these diversities as gifts to the human family and rejoices in the variety of God's grace.
B. The Nineteenth General Synod recognizes the following as marks of a multiracial and multicultural church:
1. CONFESSIONAL: A multiracial and multicultural church is called by God through Jesus Christ to acknowledge and confess its sins of racism and to repent and refrain from all acts of racial discrimination and bigotry.
2. THEOLOGICAL: A multiracial and multicultural church affirms Christian unity while celebrating the theological and liturgical richness that arises from its racial and ethnic diversity.
3. MISSION: A multiracial and multicultural church is called to participate in God's mission of doing justice, loving kindness and walking humbly with God through Christ in all communities with all peoples in all places.
4. INCLUSIVE MINISTRY: A multiracial and multicultural church uses an inclusive and equitable procedure for the calling, placement and standing of ministers in the church while providing equal access to employment in all settings of the church: locally, regionally, nationally, globally and ecumenically.
5. RACIAL JUSTICE STRUCTURE: A multiracial and multicultural church has a full-time national racial justice agency that seeks to coordinate programmatic strategies and involve the entire membership of the church in making racial justice a reality in church and society.
6. MONITORING BODY: A multiracial and multicultural church has a racial and ethnic body to monitor all settings of the church on issues of racial and ethnic inclusivity in the ministry, mission and programs.
7. PROPHETIC ADVOCACY: A multiracial and multicultural church engages in effective prophetic advocacy and public policy development on the issues of racial, social, economic and environmental justice with particular concern as to how these issues impact the quality of life of people of color communities.
8. MULTILINGUAL: A multiracial and multicultural church supports the development and dissemination of multilingual resources for use throughout the church and facilitates the translation of all official church documents such as the constitution and bylaws, creeds or statements of faith into languages that are spoken fluently in the local churches.
9. AFFIRMATIVE ACTION COMMITMENT: A multiracial and multicultural church affirms acommitment to accomplish specific affirmative action goals and objectives.
10. CHRISTIAN EDUCATION, EVANGELISM, AND NEW CHURCH DEVELOPMENT: Amultiracial and multicultural church develops, supports and implements strategies concerning evangelism and new church development in racial and ethnic communities; challenges and invites every member of local congregations to move beyond traditional comfort zones in living out God's multiracial and multicultural mandate; and prepares Christian education resources relevant to the diversity of racial and ethnic Christian faith traditions and cultures within the church.
11. SEMINARY TRAINING: A multiracial and multicultural church encourages related seminaries knowledge concerning the diversity of cultural heritages and theological traditions of the racial and ethnic constituencies of the church.
12. FAITHFUL AND EQUITABLE STEWARDSHIP: A multiracial and multicultural church plans and implements strategies to help ensure and promote a faithful and equitable stewardship and sharing of the financial resources of the church in regard to the empowerment of all local churches, and in particular the empowerment of local racial and ethnic congregations that have been marginalized due to racial discrimination in society.
15. RECOMMENDATIONS REGARDING A PROPOSAL FOR ACTION ON CALLINGTHE UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST TO BE A MULTIRACIAL AND MULTICULTURALCHURCH
Assistant Moderator Malaski asked Ms. Bagley to continue with the report of Committee One. Ms. Bagley asked the delegates to find the appropriate materials in Report Pack C. She explained that, in addition to the Pronouncement, the Committee was assigned the Proposal for Action and the resolution entitled Resolution of "Affirmation of Previous Declarations, Pronouncements, Resolutions and Proposals for Action Pertaining to Institutional Racism and a Request to Implement the Recommendations of the Pastoral Letter on Contemporary Racism Throughout the United Church of Christ." Ms. Bagley stated that many of the issues the Committee discussed were contained in both the Resolution and the Proposal for Action. Consequently, after contacting the submitters of both pieces of business, the Resolution was consolidated into the Proposal for Action. She then spoke to the recommendations.
The Rev. Ronald Kurtz proposed a friendly amendment to add the Stewardship Council to #11 of the directional statement. The committee accepted the amendment.
Mr. Robert Sandman (OH) proposed the following amendment to the directional statement: To insert a paragraph after paragraph 2, section 3, Directional Statement. The paragraph to read: Believes furthermore that when each member and setting of the United Church of Christ acknowledges and confesses the sins of racism, God does forgive us and does love us still. God's forgiveness, however, is no license to go and sin again. Instead, this state of forgiveness and love is the beginning of the journey toward learning to become a multiracial and multicultural church.
Mr. Sandman spoke to the amendment. A discussion and vote followed.
93-GS-34 VOTED: The Nineteenth General Synod defeats the amendment.
There was more discussion regarding the original recommendation, and some questions of clarification were asked.
93-GS-35 VOTED: The Nineteenth General Synod adopts the "Recommendations Regarding a Proposal for Action on Calling the United Church of Christ to be a Multiracial and Multicultural Church." as amended.
A PROPOSAL FOR ACTION ON CALLING THE UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST TO BE A MULTIRACIAL AND MULTICULTURAL CHURCH
Ill. DIRECTIONAL STATEMENT
Whereas the Nineteenth General Synod has adopted the Pronouncement on Calling the United Church of Christ to be a Multiracial and Multicultural Church, and whereas General Synod in the Statement of Christian Conviction recognized the marks of a multiracial and multicultural church, the Nineteenth General Synod:
1. Calls upon the United Church of Christ in all its settings to be a true multiracial and multicultural church and to affirm a commitment to achieve this goal;
2. Calls upon all members, congregations, associations, conferences, instrumentalities, other national bodies, and related institutions of the United Church of Christ to acknowledge and confess faithfully their sins of racism, to repent and refrain from all acts of racial discrimination and bigotry, to confront indifference, ignorance and neglect, and to participate in deliberate study and action to stem the resurgent tide of racism in American society by identifying the root causes of racism as well as other forms of discrimination and oppressive acts that preclude our fulfillment of our covenant with God and each ocher;
3. Calls upon all members, congregations, associations, conferences, instrumentalities, other national bodies and related institutions of the United Church of Christ to affirm consistently the necessity of Christian unity while celebrating the theological and liturgical richness that arises from the racial and ethnic diversity of the United Church of Christ; and to participate actively in God's mission of doing justice, loving kindness and walking humbly with God in all communities with all peoples in all places;
4. Calls upon all congregations, associations, conferences, instrumentalities, other national bodies, related institutions and future General Synods of the United Church of Christ consciously to elect, now and evermore, significant numbers of persons of all races, ethnicities and cultures to policy- making positions throughout the church;
5. Calls for an ethic of accountability in our relationships with each other in all settings of the church by empowering the national instrumentalities to collaborate and work collectively to develop and implement the study and action process of the "Pastoral Letter on Contemporary Racism" throughout the United Church of Christ; to incorporate the concern for institutional racism in all future plans and program implementation, and to request Council of Racial and Ethnic Ministries (COREM) to monitor continually the implementation of this Proposal for Action throughout the United Church of Christ, reporting to each General Synod through the Executive Council on the church's efforts, progress, and status in eradicating intentional and unintentional acts of racism in church and society;
6. Calls upon the Office for Church Life and Leadership, associations, conferences, and all other pertinent local, regional and national bodies to use an inclusive and equitable procedure for the recognition of calling, determination of placement and standing of ministers in the United Church of Christ; and to ensure equal access to employment in all settings of the United Church of Christ;
7. Calls upon the Commission for Racial Justice, in close consultation with COREM and its constituent bodies, to continue to coordinate the implementation of programmatic strategies in all settings of the UCC to challenge racial injustice, discrimination, and bigotry; and to provide leadership in helping to mobilize and involve the entire membership of the UCC to make racial justice a reality for all peoples in church and society;
8. Calls upon the Office for Church in Society, Commission for Racial Justice, Coordinating Center for Women, United Church Board for Homeland Ministries, United Church Board for World Ministries, other national bodies and all other settings to engage in effective prophetic advocacy and public policy development on the issues of racial, social, economic and environmental justice, in particular as to how these issues impact the quality of life of people of color communities in the United States and throughout the world; and that these bodies seek new creative opportunities toexperience the multiracial and multicultural realities of our world;
9. Calls upon all settings of the United Church of Christ to support the development and dissemination of multilingual resources for use throughout the UCC and where appropriate tofacilitate the translation of all official church documents such as the UCC Constitution and Bylaws, Statement of Faith and Statement of Mission into languages that are being spoken fluently in UCC local churches;
10. Calls upon the Executive Council and all settings of the United Church of Christ to reaffirm a commitment to accomplish the affirmative action goals and objectives that have been adopted by the General Synod; and to conduct a church-wide affirmative action audit to ascertain the current status of affirmative action within the life of the UCC;
11. Calls upon the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries, the Stewardship Council, associations and conferences, in close consultation with COREM and its constituent bodies, to develop, support and implement new programmatic strategies concerning evangelism and new church development in racial and ethnic communities across the nation, particularly in those areas undergoing rapid demographic changes with increased populations of communities of color;
12. Calls upon the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries, in close consultation with COREM and its constituent bodies, to prepare and make available Christian Education resources and materials relevant to the diversity of racial and ethnic Christian faith traditions and cultures within the United Church of Christ;
13. Calls upon the colleges and seminaries related to the United Church of Christ to expand curriculum development and educational programs to include awareness and knowledge concerning the diversity of cultural heritages and theological traditions of our multiracial and multicultural world;
14. Calls upon the Stewardship Council, Commission on Development, United Church Foundation, Pension Boards and other national bodies of the United Church of Christ to plan and implement a strategy to help ensure and promote a faithful and equitable stewardship and sharing of the financial resources of the UCC in regard to the empowerment of all local churches and in particular the empowerment of local racial and ethnic congregations that have been marginalized due to racial discrimination in society;
15. Calls upon the Office of Communication to communicate the United Church of Christ's multiracial and multicultural diversity policy and the multiracial and multicultural realities of the United Church of Christ and to promote the transition of the United Church of Christ into a truly multiracial and multicultural church; and
16. Calls upon the President of the United Church of Christ, the Secretary, the Director of Finance and Treasurer, the Executive Council, Council of Conference Ministers, Council of Instrumentality Executives, pastors and lay leaders of local congregations of the United Church of Christ to provide leadership, nurture and support towards the fulfillment of the Pronouncement and the implementation of this Proposal for Action Calling the United Church of Christ to be a Multiracial and Multicultural Church.
The Nineteenth General Synod directs the Commission for Racial Justice and the Office for Church in Society to coconvene an Implementation Committee which will coordinate the implementation of this Proposal for Action and requests a report to be made to all subsequent General Synods. The Office of the President, the Commission for Racial Justice, the Office for Church in Society. Stewardship Council, United Church Board for Homeland Ministries, United Church Board for World Ministries, the Office for Church Life and Leadership, Coordinating Center for Women, Council of Racial and Ethnic Ministries and the Council of Conference Ministers are to have representatives on the Implementation Committee.
Subject to the availability of funds.
UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST CALLED TO BE AN ANTI-RACIST CHURCH
ADOPTED 2003 GENERAL SYNOD MULTIRACIAL/MULTICULTURAL ADDENDUM TO 1993 PRONOUNCEMENT AND PROPOSAL FOR ACTION
WHEREAS, racism is rooted in a belief of the
superiority of whiteness and bestows benefits,
unearned rights, rewards, opportunities,
advantages, access, and privilege on Europeans
and European descendants; and
WHEREAS, the reactions of people of color to
racism are internalized through destructive
patterns of feelings and behaviors impacting
their physical, emotional, and mental health and
their spiritual and familial relationships; and
WHEREAS, through institutionalized racism,
laws, customs, traditions, and practices
systemically foster inequalities; and
WHEREAS, the United Nations World
Conference against Racism, Racial
Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related
Intolerance affirmed that racism has historically
through imperialism and colonization created an
unequal world order and power balance with
present global implications impacting
governments, systems, and institutions; and
WHEREAS, the denomination has shown
leadership among many UnitedChurch of Christ
conferences, associations, and local
congregations by initiating innovative antiracism
programs, by developing anti-racism
facilitators, and in general have made
dismantling racism a priority, there is still much
to be done. As we continue in this effort, the
work we do must reflect the historical and
present experiences and stories of all peoples
impacted by racism. We must work from a
paradigm reflective of the historical
relationships of racial and ethnic groups and
racial oppression within the UnitedChurch of
Christ and society; and
WHEREAS, the United States finds itself in
increased racial unrest during this period after
the tragedy of September 11, 2001. New studies
show that hate crimes and blatant acts of racial
violence doubled in number during the last half
of 2002 and are continuing to rise. These
outward acts, combined with continued
institutional racism, emphasize the need for antiracism
mobilization within church and society as
we seek to do justice; and
WHEREAS, there are growing movements of
peace that have people of all races, backgrounds,
and ages involved, urging us to expand our
knowledge of what racism is and study its
ramifications on all people; and
WHEREAS, General Synods of the United
Church of Christ have, since 1963, voted eleven
resolutions, statements, and pronouncements
denouncing racism, and it is time to honor
mandates and expectations of this body and of
THEREFORE LET IT BE RESOLVED, that the
United Church of Christ is called to be an antiracist
church and that we encourage all
Conferences and Associations and local
churches of the UnitedChurch of Christ to adopt
anti-racism mandates, including policy that
encourages anti-racism programs for all United
Church of Christ staff and volunteers; and
LET IT BE FURTHER RESOLVED, that
Conferences and Associations and local
churches facilitate programs within their
churches that would examine both historic and
contemporary forms of racism and its effects and
that the programs be made available to the
LET IT BE FURTHER RESOLVED, that
Justice and Witness Ministries provides
leadership in the development and
implementation of programs to dismantle
racism, working in partnership with the
Collegium, Covenanted Ministries, Affiliated
Ministries, Associated Ministries, Conferences,
Associations and local churches in developing
appropriately trained anti-racism facilitators; and
LET IT BE FURTHER RESOLVED, that the
Covenanted Ministries of the United Church of
Christ work in concert to dismantle racism in
church and in society and partner with
Conferences and Associations in sharing
resources and costs associated with doing antiracism
LET IT BE FINALLY RESOLVED, that the
Justice and Witness Ministries will report the
progress of the development and implementation
of these programs at the Twenty-fifth General
Funding for the implementation of this
resolution will be made in accordance with the
overall mandates of the affected agencies and
the funds available.