Despite Synod's celebratory tone, a few business items await delegates
June - July 2007
July 1, 2007

Despite Synod's celebratory tone, a few business items await delegates

Like it or not, no General Synod would feel complete without a few spirited debates over proposed resolutions.

The same is true in Hartford, where General Synod delegates will make that sometimes-awkward attempt to "speak to, not for" the whole of the church. However, the final word — as always — will come from the UCC's 5,600 local congregations which will then receive, study, react — and perhaps overreact — to the Synod's decisions.

Despite the celebratory tone of this year's 50th Anniversary bash, 12 proposed resolutions have been introduced. Each has been reviewed by the Committee of Reference and recommended by the UCC's 90-member Executive Council for consideration by delegates in Hartford.

Like always, the range of topics is broad.

Two proposals, submitted separately by the Indiana-Kentucky Conference's Western and Eastern Associations, explicitly call for the Synod to rescind its controversial 2005 decision to affirm support for same-gender marriage equality.

Two items address U.S. policy in relationship to immigration and border control, while another calls for legalization of physician aid in dying.

One proposes significant changes in General Synod composition, while another asks for more support for the denomination's small, rural churches.

The Rev. John H. Thomas, the UCC's general minister and president, tells United Church News that this year's proposals — while fewer in number than in years past — still "reflect a balance between concern for overcoming alienation within the life of the church and commitment to overcoming injustice in the larger society."

There is a complementary desire, he says, in all of the proposed resolutions "to seek the health and wholeness of the church as well as the health and wholeness of the human community."

Given the near-equal number of items that speak to the church as well as speak to the wider world, Thomas says that balance is a fitting tribute to a church that 50 years ago claimed Jesus' prayer as its motto: "that they may all be one that the world may believe."

"If diversity within covenant is one common theme among many of the resolutions,' Thomas says, "the dignity and integrity of human persons is the common theme among those resolutions that address public concerns."

Thomas thinks it is unlikely that this year's resolutions will have the same degree of public impact as those approved two years ago in Atlanta, where same-gender marriage equality and the issues related to the Middle East attracted significant media attention.

"Nevertheless, the issues posed by the resolutions being proposed are important and reflect enduring themes," he says. "How can we balance conviction and communion, the need to speak a clear word on challenging moral issues while at the same time tending to the fragile relationships of churches and members within our common life?"ike it or not, no General Synod would feel complete without a few spirited debates over proposed resolutions.

The same is true in Hartford, where General Synod delegates will make that sometimes-awkward attempt to "speak to, not for" the whole of the church. However, the final word — as always — will come from the UCC's 5,600 local congregations which will then receive, study, react — and perhaps overreact — to the Synod's decisions.

 Concerns GS26 delegates will address include

"A call to end migrant deaths and the U.S. blockade strategy of border enforcement."
—Submitted by the Central Atlantic Conference.

Calls for end to current border tactics by U.S. government, asks for greater legalized opportunities for migrants and challenges current global economic system that fuels massive migration.

"Against depleted uranium weapons."
—Submitted by the Illinois Conference.

Calls for public discussion about the impact of use of depleted uranium weapons and public acknowledgment by the U.S. government that such weapons are being used in war.

"A reaffirmation of marriage based on the word of God."
—Submitted by the Indiana-Kentucky Conference's Western Association.

Calls upon Synod to reaffirm the definition of marriage "to be exclusively between one man and one woman."

"A reaffirmation of the historic and ecumenical Christian perspective on marriage."
—Submitted by the Indiana-Kentucky Conference's Eastern Association.

Calls upon Synod to reaffirm "the historical, ecumenical Christian position that God ordained marriage to be between one man and one woman," but recognizes that many of the legal benefits of marriage "can and should be addressed [to same-gender couples] through the legislative process without changing the basic definition of marriage." Seeks Holy Spirit's guidance and calls for end to "vitriol or personal attack" when discussing this issue.

"Call for a more-humane U.S. immigration policy."
—Submitted by the Illinois Conference.

Calls upon the church to study reasons for human migration and to respond more humanely to the economic circumstances of the poor.

"Changing the composition of General Synod."
—Submitted by the Ohio Conference's Central Southeast Association.

Calls for each church to have a delegate, provided the church has contributed a minimum of $1 per member to Our Church's Wider Mission during the past two years. Churches above 400 members would get an additional delegate per each 400. Also, all authorized ministers would be voting delegates. Covenanted Ministry delegations would remain unchanged.

"In support of immigrant communities."
—Submitted by Southern California — Nevada Conference.

Calls for UCC bodies to support immigration reform and calls upon the U.S. government to end further militarization of borders.

"Legalization of physician aid in dying."
—Submitted by Northern California — Nevada Conference.

Calls for greater advocacy by church bodies for legalized physician aid in dying.

"Reaffirming our faith to retain our churches."
—Submitted by Corinth Reformed UCC in Hickory, N.C., and 25 other churches affiliated with the Faithful and Welcoming Movement.

Calls upon Synod to "address the concerns of congregations that may be considering withdrawing from the UCC by reaffirming our classical and centrist theological heritage." Calls for an "extravagant welcome" to members and churches with an "evangelical, conservative, orthodox or traditional" theological outlook.

"Regarding the Tar Creek superfund site."
—Submitted by the Kansas-Oklahoma Conference.

Calls for Synod to urge swifter government action on Tar Creek mining cleanup in Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri, ranked 22 years ago by the Environmental Protection Agency as the first and worst toxic site in the United States. River, soil and air contamination have negatively affected American Indian communities throughout the region.

"Renewing the covenant with the rural church."
—Submitted by Northern Plains Conference.

Calls for greater denominational support and resourcing for rural, small-member churches.

"Returning to unity and diversity in the UCC."
—Submitted by Penn Central Conference.

Urges dissenting churches not to leave the UCC and calls for "an end to rhetoric that fuels hostility or misunderstanding" by churches that may disagree with Conference or General Synod resolutions.

Full texts of proposed resolutions online at  ucc.org/synod.

 

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CONTACT INFO

Rev. J. Bennett Guess
Executive Minister, Local Church Ministries
700 Prospect Ave.
Cleveland,Ohio 44115
216-736-3801
guessb@ucc.org