News Briefs
January - February 2003

D.C. Disciples church allows commitment ceremony

In a unanimous vote, the elders of National City Christian Church in Washington, D.C., have agreed to allow the Rev. Alvin O. Jackson to perform a commitment ceremony for two members of the congregation.

"For National City Christian Church this is not a matter of political correctness, but theological correctness," said the church?s news release.

"It is a matter of standing up for what we believe about the gospel. We believe that we cannot ask people to check at the door a significant part of their identity before they enter the church. All we can require of people is a confession of faith in Jesus Christ and a willingness to live a life of commitment."

Within the Disciples tradition, individual congregations make policy decisions that govern their expressions of ministry.

Lilly Endowment announces Clergy Renewal Program

Ministers and their congregations are invited to participate in the 2003 National Clergy Renewal Program offered by the Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment Inc. For the fourth year, the program will fund congregations whose pastors and parishioners, working together, produce compelling plans for an extended sabbatical time for the minister and a complementary set of activities for congregational renewal. For information, go to; e-mail; phone 317-916-7302, or write Lilly Endowment, Religion Division, 2801 N. Meridian St., P.O. Box 88068, Indianapolis, IN 46208.

Synod resolutions available online

For the second General Synod in a row, local church members will be able to use the UCC website to share their opinions about any proposed resolution or pronouncement. Texts of Synod resolutions will be posted at on April 1. A "feedback form" will be included to llow local church members to express their opinions about each proposal. The research department of the Office of General Ministries will compile the results and make them available to delegates. At the same time, resolutions will be discussed in the forums area of

Synod cities chosen

Atlanta and Hartford, Conn., will be the sites of the next two UCC General Synods, to be held respectively in 2005 and 2007. The UCC?s Executive Council selected the sites at its October 2002 meeting.

Advocacy Days set for Africa and the Middle East

A gathering in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 23-26, will offer two learning/ advocacy tracks, one on Africa and the other on the Middle East, with speakers, issue briefings, advocacy training workshops, visits to Capitol Hill and an ecumenical worship service. The event is cosponsored by the Washington Office on Africa, Africa Faith and Justice Network, the Stand with Africa Campaign of the Lutheran community, Churches for Middle East Peace, and Church World Service. Contact> or call Anna Rhee (301-384-3615); e-mail

WOW 2003 dates, place set

"God?s Deliverance is for All" is the theme of "Witness Our Welcome (WOW) 2003," an ecumenical gathering of sexually- and gender-diverse North American Christians set for Aug. 14-17 at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Preachers will include the Rev. Yvette Flunder, City of Refuge UCC in San Francisco; Virginia Ramey Mollenkott, lesbian feminist author; the Rev. Troy Perry, founder of Metropolitan Community Churches; and the Rev. Janie Spahr, national evangelist of That All May Freely Serve. For more information, visit

U.S. peace activist priest dies

Philip Berrigan, a former Roman Catholic priest remembered for a lifelong commitment to peace activism, died of cancer on Dec. 6 at a communal home for pacifists he helped found in Baltimore. He was arrested more than 100 times and spent more than a decade of his 79-year life in prison for various acts of civil disobedience protesting U.S. military policy. Berrigan was perhaps best known for his leadership of the "Catonsville 9," a group of nine peace activists that included his brother, the Rev. Daniel Berrigan.

JUSTICEWORKS to be held in St. Louis

Five hundred youth, seminarians and justice advocates are expected to attend "JUSTICEWORKS, Renewing the Church?s Social Witness," an interfaith gathering of justice advocates, on March 28-30 in St. Louis. The event will be convened by Protestant Justice Action, a network of social justice advocates in seven denominations that includes the UCC?s Christians for Justice Action. Eden Theological Seminary will offer free housing and the meetings will be at Union Avenue Christian Church and Pilgrim Congregational UCC. To register, go to html> or contact Nancy Engel, Eden Theological Seminary, 475 E. Lockwood Ave., St Louis, MO 63119;

UCC minister to preach on ?Day 1? radio program, online

The Rev. J. Bennett Guess, minister for communication and mission education for the UCC?s Justice and Witness Ministries, is the featured speaker for three programs on "Day 1," formerly known as "The Protestant Hour," a nationally broadcast radio program also accessible via streaming audio at Guess will preach and participate in interviews for "Day 1" broadcasts on Jan. 26, Feb. 23 and March 16 on more than 150 radio stations nationwide and on the American Services Network to U.S. service men and women worldwide. "Day 1" is produced cooperatively by the UCC, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Episcopal Media Center, United Methodist Church and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

'Choose Life' plate debate

Senior U.S. District Judge William Bertelsman has ruled that the South Carolina specialty plates with the slogan "Choose Life"—approved by the state legislature in 2001—violate the First Amendment because they provide a forum for abortion foes that abortion rights supporters do not have. The state says it will appeal. The decision conflicts with a ruling by a federal appeals court that said abortion rights advocates could not sue the State of Louisiana over its antiabortion license plates. In December, the U.S. Supreme Court opted against hearing a challenge to the Louisiana plates from abortion-rights supporters. Opponents contended that the plate?s message reflects a religious viewpoint, in violation of the separation of church and state required by the U.S. Constitution. Alabama, Florida, Hawaii, Mississippi and Oklahoma also have authorized such plates, prompting lawsuits by opponents.