December 2007 - January 2008
December 1, 2007

Minister ends high-profile fast for debt relief

The Rev. David Duncombe, a retired UCC minister from Washington State and a leader in the global debt relief movement, ended a 46-day fast on Oct. 16 by breaking bread on Capitol Hill with other jubilee supporters, including U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), Rep. Donald Payne (D-N.J.), Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and

Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), each of whom participated in a one-day fast.

Duncombe, 79, actively lobbied Congress during the fast although, due to weakness, he was confined to a wheelchair during its final days.

The nationwide "Cancel Debt Fast," led by Duncombe and organized by Jubilee USA Network, resulted in 13 additional House bill sponsors and secured a hearing on the Jubilee Act (H.R. 2634) in the House Financial Services Committee.

The Jubilee Act of 2007 would cancel the debts of up to 25 additional countries not currently eligible for debt cancellation, end harmful economic policy conditionality, and establish an audit of past lending and set more responsible lending practices for the future, according to Jubilee USA. Currently, indebted nations spend an average of $100 million each day to service their debts — money they cannot spend on food, education, health services and other necessities. Cancellation of these debts is needed to help reach the U.N. Millennium Development Goal of cutting worldwide poverty in half by 2015.

Encouraged by Duncombe's fast, Bachus — the leading Republican sponsor of the legislation — said he is promoting another round of international debt relief because previous loan forgiveness has improved health care, education and security in developing countries.

The Rev. John H. Thomas, UCC general minister and president, fasted on Sept. 7 in solidarity with Duncombe, as he began his third lengthy fast since 2000. The two, along with others, spent the day meeting with members of Congress, including the offices of Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), Sen. Robert Casey (D-Pa.), Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.), and Rep. Jim Kirk (R-Ill.) to ask for greater support for the debt-forgiveness effort.

"David's courageous witness is helping to draw attention to a pressing issue that keeps getting bumped from the front pages of our newspapers, but remains paramount if the world's impoverished nations and people are ever to enjoy the promise of economic justice," Thomas told United Church News.

'Premiere' civil rights pioneer dies at age 90

The Rev. Edwin R. "Doc" Edmonds, one of the UCC's stalwart justice advocates, died on Nov. 6 of pneumonia-related complications. He was 90.

Edmonds, a former chair of the UCC's Commission for Racial Justice, was the retired pastor of Dixwell Avenue Congregational UCC in New Haven, Conn., where he served for 35 years.

A columnist for the New Haven Register referred to Edmonds as "New Haven's premiere civil-rights figure of the mid-20th century."

A one-time member of New Haven's Board of Education, he led New Haven's Wider City parish and taught sociology at Southern Connecticut State University.

The Rev. John H. Thomas, the UCC's general minister and president, said it was fitting that Edmonds death would come just after the UCC was concluding its 50th anniversary on All Saints Sunday.

"Few have had such a long and profound influence on the shaping of our church and its vocation of public witness for racial, social and economic justice," Thomas said. "Doc's leadership over the years pushed us urgently toward greater faithfulness and helped us become the church we celebrated at our 50th anniversary celebration in Hartford."

Edmonds, who moved to New Haven in 1959, is credited with helping to build a thriving black middle class there. When the Ford Foundation gave the city $1 million to pilot anti-poverty and job-training programs,
Edmonds was appointed to the original board of the project, called Community Progress, Inc.

Edmonds, who was a pastor and civil rights pioneer in Greensboro, N.C., before moving to Connecticut, met the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1958 at an NAACP convention in Detroit and the two corresponded until King was slain, according to the Hartford Courant.

A native Texan, Edmonds attended Sam Houston College, which was co-founded by his grandfather in 1876. He later received a Bachelor of Sacred Theology from Morehouse College and a doctorate in social ethics from Boston University.

Edmonds and his late wife, Maye, had four daughters, Lynette Johnson, Karen Spellman, Cheryl Edmonds and Connecticut State Rep. Toni Walker (D-New Haven).

A public memorial service was held on Nov. 24 at United Church on the Green in New Haven. 'GREAT

'Yankee Saint,' One of UCC architects, dies at 90

The Rev. Nathanael Mann Guptill, who served as co-secretary for the national UCC after its 1957 formation, has died. He was 90.

Guptill went on to serve as Connecticut Conference Minister from 1962 to 1981 and was named Conference Minister Emeritus.

"Dr. Guptill gave himself fully to the creation of this church, and served with distinction in one of its highest offices," said the Rev. Davida Foy Crabtree, Connecticut Conference Minister. "He will forever remain one of those great leaders of the universal Church who has inspired thousands of clergy and laity in their living of the faith."

Crabtree called Guptill one of the UCC's 'great Yankee saints.'

Guptill was known for his no-nonsense New England practicality. At annual meetings, he regularly inspired attendees with addresses that usually included "conversations" with the late Rev. Amos Bassett, a founder of the Missionary Society of Connecticut in 1798, whose portrait hung over his desk.

A graduate of UCC-related Andover Newton Theological School, where he later taught, he was ordained in 1943. He served churches in Maine and Massachusetts, and was the first president of the Christian Conference of Connecticut from 1976 to 1979. He also was moderator of the UCC General Synod from 1979 to 1981.

Sorensen named to lead UCC's Washington office

A veteran public policy advocate was named to lead the UCC's Washington, D.C., office, effective Oct. 15.
Sandy Sorensen, who has served various capacities during her 17 years with the UCC's national setting, is the new minister and team leader for Justice and Witness Ministries in Washington.

The office is located in the historic Methodist Building, an ecumenical office situated just behind the U.S. Capitol and next door to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Sorensen most recently served as JWM's acting minister for communications, dividing her time between Cleveland and Washington.

"Sandy has solid and diverse advocacy and organizing experience which is based in her faithful understanding of justice," said the Rev. Linda Jaramillo, JWM's executive minister. "She has a strong working knowledge of UCC policy issues and has responsibly communicated that policy vision to a wide and varied audience of UCC members and key policy decision makers.  She has a keen ability to understand the intersections of issues and develop respectful and valuable partnerships in the UCC and beyond to more effectively address these issues."

Sorensen received her B.A. in psychology from UCC-related Grinnell College and her M.Div. from Yale Divinity School. She also completed a certificate program in anti-racism and anti-oppression training at the Women's Theological Center of the Episcopal Divinity School in Boston.

"Sandy's extensive education, training, and experience have prepared her well for this key responsibility in Justice and Witness Ministries serving the whole church," said Jaramillo in an email announcement. "However, more importantly, Sandy's faith in God and Jesus' teachings is evidenced in her daily life and work."

Nebraska church adds Jewish Rabbi to staff

In August, First-Plymouth Congregational UCC in Lincoln, Neb., welcomed a rabbi-in-residence to teach courses at the church for one year.

Rabbi Michael Weisser, who served for 14 years at Lincoln's Congregation B-nai Jeshurun, South Street Temple and, more recently, at Beth Shalom Progressive Synagogue in Auckland, New Zealand, will lead congregational studies in Hebrew scriptures and interfaith respect.

"Believing that it is possible to be an authentic Christian church while displaying respect and curiosity for other religions, First-Plymouth hopes Rabbi Weisser will deepen our appreciation for the Jewish roots of Christianity, as well as open our minds to the different manifestations of truth in other religions," said the Rev. Jim Keck, senior minister.

For 11 years, Weisser co-taught a class called "Christian and Jewish Heritage" at Nebraska Wesleyan University. His commitment to interfaith understanding led to him being recognized with an honorary doctorate from Hebrew Union College.

"When I was asked to teach a few classes at First-Plymouth and to lead a community-wide Seder during Passover, I accepted happily," Weisser said. "After all, rabbis are first and foremost teachers and, additionally, I've always had high regard for First-Plymouth Church because of the many good effects it has had, on the Lincoln community."

Just like the ads say

Evangelical UCC in St. Louis, Mo., welcomed an array of new members in October. "Diversity so complete you would think it was staged," says the Rev. Katherine Hawker, pastor. "A brilliant moment of kingdom making."

Hawker appeared on MSNBC's "Countdown with Keith Oberman" when the UCC publicly "welcomed" cartoon-character SpongeBob Squarepants after he became the subject of anti-gay fodder by a right-wing religious leader.

Conference changes

The Rev. Michael O. Denton was called and elected on Oct. 20 to be the UCC's Pacific Northwest Conference Minister. He will begin on January 3. Since 2003, Denton has served as co-minister of the Illinois Conference's Chicago Metropolitan Association. A graduate of Antioch University in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and UCC-related Chicago Theological Seminary, he has served church in Ohio and Illinois.

Pastoral changes

Armster, Michelle to St. Andrew UCC, Lancaster, PA
Armstrong, Andrew W. Hamburg, NY to Cong. UCC, Acton, MA
Asman, Donald to Judd Street UCC, Honolulu, HI
Bray, Eddie A. to St. Paul's UCC, St. Marys, OH
Byrne, Brian C. Grand Rapids, Mich., to Howland Community UCC, Warren, OH
Calhoun, Dennis B. Middlebury, CT to First UCC, Marblehead, MA
Cook, Jack D. Houston, TX to First Church of Christ Cong. UCC, New Britain, CT
Cousineau, Scott Worcester, MA to Federated, Norfolk, MA
Findlay-Chamberlain, Anne A. to Manoa Valley UCC, Honolulu, HI
Fox, Vicky Asheboro, NC to St. Paul's UCC, Bowmansville, PA
Gormbley, Robert W. East Longmeadow, MA to Mittineague, West Springfield, MA
Habetz, Jennifer L. to First Church Cong. UCC, Fairfield, CT
Hamilton, William N. North Deighton, MA to Centre Cong. UCC, Northbridge, MA
Hauke, Letha to interim, St. Paul's UCC, Oshkosh, WI
Heagy, Ronald E. York, PA to Emmanuel UCC, Red Lion, PA
Heckman, Allen L. to Zion UCC, Lehighton, PA
Howell, Teresa M. to UCC, Mukwonago, WI
Knobel, Richard F. Houston, TX to interim, First Cong. UCC, Council Bluffs, IA
Kraner, Eleanor Spencer, MA to Cong. UCC, Brookfield, MA
Lasalle, William J. Linfield, PA to St. Paul's UCC, Manheim, PA
Leader, Patricia A. Quentin, PA to Emmanuel UCC, Hanover, PA
Minasian, Susan A. to St. Andrew UCC, Lancaster, PA
Moyer, Elaine C. to UCC, Ickesburg, PA
O'Connor, Peggy Winchester, MA to interim, Cong. UCC, Melrose, MA
Ott, Thomas J. to First Cong., Battle Creek, MI
Raker, Christopher to Central UCC, New Salem, MA
Stirbens, Barry R. to North Canton, OH to Grace UCC, Massillon, OH
Taylor, Sally to interim, First Cong. UCC, Cornwall, VT
Waldron, Christopher S. Medford, MA to Bethel UCC, Beloit, OH
Information for pastoral changes is provided by the UCC's Parish Life and Leadership Ministry.

Clergy Deaths

Editor's note: Because of technical problems, the UCC Pension Boards was unable to provide United Church News with a listing of clergy deaths for this issue. We will run the list in its entirety in February.



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