Brueggemann, Young to be honored by General Synod

Brueggemann, 72, and Young, 73, both long-time members of Atlanta-area UCC congregations, are emblematic of the Southeast Conference’s historical commitment to working on behalf of justice, according to Southeast Conference Minister Tim Downs.
“The Southeast Conference is the smallest conference in terms of numbers in the UCC,” Downs said. “But by selecting people like Walter and Andy Young, what we are showing is that while we are small in numbers we have voices in our midst and we have witnesses that come out of this Conference that are powerful and which have shaped not just the UCC but the entire Christian church.”
Brueggemann retired in 2003 as the William Marcellus McPheeters professor of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta. Recognized as the preeminent interpreter of ancient texts in relation to questions posed by a variety of academic disciplines, Brueggemann is the heir to the theological and intellectual tradition of Reinhold and Richard Niebuhr.
The son of a pastor in the Evangelical and Reformed Church, which, along with the Congregational Christian Church merged to form the UCC in 1957, Brueggemann says the UCC has been “my home and a significant point of reference for me.”
“One is always glad to be acknowledged by the Church after you have spent a part of your life trying to serve it,” he said. “So in that regard, this is very significant.”
A graduate of Elmhurst College and Eden Theological Seminary, Brueggemann earned a Doctor of Theology degree from Union Theological Seminary in New York and a Ph.D. from St. Louis University.
Young, a product of the UCC’s American Missionary Association (AMA) tradition whose first pastorate was at the AMA-founded Bethany Congregational Church in Thomasville, Ga., served at one time as the Executive Director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).
Young’s salary while he was with the SCLC was paid by the UCC’s Board of Homeland Ministries.
“I think it is fair to say that the United Church of Christ has been my life,” Young said. “Everything about my life I owe to the church and to the progressive and visionary traditions of the church.”
A graduate of Howard University and Hartford Theological Seminary, Young said he views his being honored by the denomination not so much as an opportunity to be celebrated, but a chance for him to celebrate and thank the church.
“The way I view it is whatever successes I have had I owe to to the church for having helped create me,” he said. “The church’s influence on me is so deep that all of my foreign policies while I was at the U.N. came more from our UCC missionaries than from the State Department. I was constantly fighting with the CIA and the National Security Council because of our differing views of the world. They were paying for intelligence and i was getting intelligence from friends who were living in those situations.”
Young was the first African American since reconstruction to serve in the House of Representatives from Georgia, he served two terms as mayor of Atlanta and, in 1977, was confirmed by President Jimmy Carter as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.
“When Carter decided to run for President and he asked me to help him formulate his positions on Africa, I sent him the statements of our church,” Young said. “And it was largely because of those positions which I think rang true in the early campaigns in Iowa and New Hampshire – places where the UCC is strong – that he realized the importance of Africa and human rights.”Honoring someone like Young, Downs said, is a way of affirming someone who represents the very best of the Church’s long tradition of working for equality and the social good.

“I think what this says about us is that we have a long history that extends back to our very beginnings of making a deeply prophetic witness to justice,” Downs said. “But even more than that, the AMA churches were doing the work of justice and offering a hand up and not a hand out. They were the voice and presence of something that was viewed with great hostility in the South and Andy comes out of that tradition.”
Categories: United Church of Christ News

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