April - May 2008

No justice, no shopping

Members of Circle of Mercy (UCC/Alliance of Baptists) in Asheville, N.C., have voted to give away their anticipated economic-stimulus rebate checks.

On Feb. 24, members approved an open letter to President Bush and leaders of Congress, stating their intentions to "give away all or part" of the rebate "to organizations that foster justice."

The letter begins by thanking President Bush and Congressional leaders for their bipartisan work to address the nation's economic crisis, but goes on to speak of the "frightening, and escalating, pattern of economic disparity" both within the U.S. and between nations. "In the language of our faith, this disparity is a sin and the evidence of spiritual distress," it says.

In criticizing the rebate goal of boosting consumer spending, the statement says, "We do not believe that shopping is an appropriate response to our trauma."

The church estimates that its 33 households will collectively receive at least $25,000 from the tax rebate checks.
"That's a significant influx of cash - and an exciting opportunity for us to consider extravagant missions funding," said the Rev. Ken Sehested, co-pastor.

Exceedingly mission minded

The United Black Christians 'South Florida chapter at Church of The Open Door UCC in Miami has exceeded its goal of raising $30,000 to restore the Elende Mission Home that the church's founding pastor and wife, the Rev. and Mrs. Henry Curtis McDowell, built while serving as missionaries in Africa, says church member Dory Lingo.

In 1919, the McDowells served in the former nation of Angola in western Africa, under the auspices of the former American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. They spent more than 40 years there.

Traveling on foot, McDowell was a part of a three-man team that selected the site of the Bunjei Mission in Galangue, Angola, to build a school, hospital and a domestic training school for girls.  However, during the civil war in Angola, much of what they built was destroyed.

In 2004, some of the Angolan converts to Christianity under McDowell's ministry visited Church of the Open Door UCC in celebration of the McDowells' 80th missionary anniversary and the continuing impact of the UCC/Disciples' Global Ministries.

During this visit, UBC members learned of how the mission house had been damaged and became committed to restoring it.
Global Ministries is overseeing the UBC's gift and the restoration effort.

16 reasons to love Jesus

Reason #9? Because Jesus is willing to leave the safety of 99 and seek the salvation of one.

In a sequel to its popular "16 Reasons I Love God" tract - a bestseller according to the Berea, Ohio-based United Church of Christ Resources (UCCR) - the UCC has published two companion pieces, "16 reasons I love Jesus" and "16 reasons I love the Holy Spirit." Both are produced by the Congregational Vitality Initiative and written by the Stillspeaking Writers' Group.

The Trinitarian-complete set is perfect for witnessing to one's UCC faith, but in a theological bent that's likely to be different from the kind of evangelism resources you'll probably find at a Christian bookstore. For starters, they use inclusive language and images.

Other reasons to love Jesus? #14: Because his ideas about who and what matter never stop challenging my own. #10: Because his crucifixion and resurrection show me that death does not get the last word. #3: He ate with sinners and outcasts, the poor and the sick, which means there is room at his table for us. #1: Jesus shows me what God is like in ways I can understand.

The pocket-sized, red-and-black booklets are available in lots of 50 for $6.50. Order from UCCR at 800/537-3394.

A different kind of 'basic training'

Feeling called to a different kind of ministry? Tired of the fact that there's no UCC church in your immediate community? Then maybe you're ready for some "basic training."

The UCC's "New Church Planters Basic Training" will be held Aug. 12-15 at Emory University in Atlanta. It's billed as an intensive training event where you'll learn about the latest theories and tools for planting new churches.

Registration is $550, housing is $450 and if you're wanting seminary credit for attending, that cost is $850. Inquiries about attending should be directed to your appropriate Conference office.

The event is co-sponsored by the evangelism ministry team of Local Church Ministries, the Southeast Conference, UCC-related Lancaster Theological Seminary, and Emory University's Candler School of Theology.

A little mini-Synod

The boards of the UCC's four Covenanted Ministries, as well as the 90-member Executive Council, will meet jointly April 9-15 in Cleveland.

As has now become customary during non-Synod years, the 300-some directors of Local Church Ministries, Wider Church Ministries, Justice and Witness Ministries, Office of General Ministries, and Executive Council will meet together and, at times, separately over the course of six days. The diversity of participants, intertwined meetings, worship services and shared meals make for a mini-Synod feel, some say.

Because of the large number of participants, the joint meetings are being held at Cleveland's Crowne Plaza hotel instead of the UCC-owned Radisson Hotel that sits adjacent to the UCC's national offices.

At this meeting, the five boards will each consider a much-discussed proposal to streamline the UCC's governance structure. In brief, the plan calls for a single group, instead of five distinct ones, to oversee the denomination's work. Although each of the five bodies must approve the same version of the plan in order for it to move forward, any agreed-upon proposal still would require adoption by General Synod and ratification of UCC Conferences.
Read about proposed governance changes and board decisions at


Rev. J. Bennett Guess
Executive Minister, Local Church Ministries
700 Prospect Ave.
Cleveland,Ohio 44115