Despite some reservations about process, United Church of Christ General Synod delegates passed a resolution on Tuesday that adds the United Samoan Ministries as a historically under-represented group.
Currently, a variety of Samoan ministry groups are included among the denomination’s Pacific Islander and Asian American Ministries (PAAM). The resolution also calls upon the church’s leadership body to add the United Samoan Ministries to membership on the Council of Racial and Ethnic Ministries.
The United Samoan Ministries would join eight other groups with the “historically underrepresented” designation. In addition to PAAM, these include the Council for Hispanic Ministries, the UCC Disabilities Ministry, and the Coalition for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns.
“Such recognition will create a platform to enhance unity among the Samoan churches and expand their pastoral and prophetic presence in their communities,” said Bob Bachelder of Worcester, Mass., and chair of the committee that considered the action.
Those supporting the measure acknowledged the growth of ethnic Samoan congregations and their significant contributions to the current life of some conferences.
“The Samoan churches in this conference are the fastest growing community in the United Church of Christ,” says Felix Villanueva, conference minister for the Southern California Nevada Conference. “They understand what covenant really means.”
Hawai’i Conference Minister Charles Buck also has a vibrant and growing Samoan church community in his conference, but says that “a number of Samoan churches have deep reservations” about the measure. He also suggested that since many Samoan churches have dual affiliation with the UCC and other denominations, conversations are necessary with our church partners.
An attempt to postpone the action to the next General Synod in 2015 failed.
The Rev. James Moos, executive minister of the UCC’s Wider Church Ministries and co-executive of Global Ministries, spoke after the vote to assure delegates that the Collegium will work with church agencies and church partners to implement the action. “We are committed to engaging our partners in global and international partners Samoa and American Samoa in the implementation of this resolution,” he said.