Minnesota pastor sees common ties between UCC, WCC

Minnesota pastor sees common ties between UCC, WCC

In the eyes of the Rev. Sarah Campbell, the United Church of Christ is a quintessential part of the World Council of Churches because of the denomination's history and formation, and its movement for justice and peace. She's hopeful that the assembly takes a firm stance on the growing global threat of climate change – just as the UCC has with a bold, public voice – and the global church can find a unified voice for justice on the issue.

Campbell, a pastor at Mayflower United Church of Christ in Minneapolis, is representing the UCC as one of its four voting delegates during the WCC 10th Assembly in Busan, South Korea.

"Climate change is my biggest passion. I hope that some resolutions come out of the WCC that really have teeth," Campbell said. "I would submit that just as we talked about divestment from South Africa and we talked about divestment from Israel, that we talk just as much on divestment from fossil fuels and deforestation – divesting from the companies that profit from climate change.

"My other passion is around LGBT equality, and having as many conversations with people as possible and sharing with them how my congregation is open to that," Campbell said.

While in Korea, Campbell's eyes have opened to how churches around the world view what she sees as important issues, and she's learned that not everyone sees those issues through the same lens.

"My little slice of the world is just that – a little slice of the world," Campbell said. "I had learned about [environmentalist] Bill McKibben and climate change and fossil fuels and thought, ‘OK, this is the big issue.' But to be at this setting where people hadn't heard of that, I realize it's one little slice of the picture."

Campbell was honored During General Synod in 2011 in Tampa, Fla., for her ecumenical and interfaith work, and her congregation has been active in faith-based organizing for the state around ecumenical partnerships. She's been an eager representative of the UCC in Busan by taking part in a conversation on justice and peace in the Middle East as a rapporteur. Campbell also visited Seoul for a weekend visit, and toured the DMZ – the border between North and South Korea – that divides the peninsula.

"We thought that what she brings in her perspective would work well on behalf of the UCC," said Karen Georgia Thompson, UCC minister for ecumenical and interfaith relations.

"I love to be in the world and learn, but the reason I'm in ministry is because of the social gospel. So to be in a setting around the world with people whose faith compels them to work for the reign of God compelled me. It's more important to me to find the common ground of justice – that's where we churches find our power."

A graduate of Macalester College and United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, Campbell also served churches in Grand Rapids, Mich., and Bemidji, Minn. before she and her husband, Gus, came to the Minneapolis area.

Campbell is joined at the WCC Assembly by three other UCC delegates. They are:

  • The Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, UCC general minister and president
  • Kelli Parrish Lucas, a member of  Community Congregational Church in Pacific Beach, San Diego
  • Haley Knapp, a member of Church of the Isles in Indian Rocks Beach, Fla.

The UCC is one of the 345 members of the WCC, with a team of almost two dozen representatives from across the life of the church at this gathering. The WCC assembly, which occurs once every seven years, takes place from Oct. 30 through Nov. 8 in Busan. The assembly is the highest governing body of the WCC, and is a moment when member churches come together for prayer, celebration and to set the future agenda for the council. There are more than 4,000 delegates, visitors, event staff and media members from more than 100 countries in South Korea for the assembly.

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