Disciples, like UCC, vote to meet every three years, reelect Terri Hord Owens

Shortly after the 34th General Synod of the United Church of Christ ended in Indianapolis early July, it was the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)‘s turn to pass resolutions, elect leadership and discern its move to a triennial gathering.

Synod lived into its theme of “Making All Things New” with the historic election of the Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson as the first woman and woman of color to serve as UCC General Minister and President, as well as a vote to go from a biennial to triennial Synod. Not long after, the Disciples reelected their own groundbreaking spiritual leader and also chose to switch its gathering from every two years to every three.

The General Assembly, held July 29 to Aug. 1 in Louisville, Ky., was the first in-person national gathering for the Disciples in four years, just like the UCC’s General Synod this year. Among the 3,000 attendees were UCC national staff, including Thompson; the Rev. Mark Pettis, ecumenical and interfaith relations minister for Wider Church Ministries Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations; and Peter Makari, co-executive of Global Ministries for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the UCC. Makari is also serving as transitional executive of Wider Church Ministries and the jointly led Global Ministries until Oct. 31, filling the gap left by Thompson’s election.

“The United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) have a unique relationship which is amplified by our commitment to being full communion partners and our common witness in mission through Global Ministries,” Thompson said. “Being at the Disciples of Christ Assembly is a wonderful opportunity to be present with these partners and foster the many relationships that support this relationship.”

Resolutions and frequency change

The theme of this year’s General Assembly — “Kindom of God Within Us, Among Us” — was a call for Disciples in both the United States and Canada to strengthen relationships with one another and with God for justice work to be done. Among the resolutions passed were some on transgender rights and environmental concerns.

One pertaining to the ongoing conflict in Palestine and Israel, “Compelled to Witness: Answering the Cry of Our Palestinian Siblings,” naming Israeli apartheid, was also adopted. This came on the heels of a statement issued by the UCC and Disciples on July 7 in response to the Israeli aggression witnessed early this summer into the densely populated northern West Bank Palestinian refugee camp in the city of Jenin.

“The resolutions that were adopted at General Assembly related to trans rights and Israel-Palestine are similar to resolutions that we as the UCC have adopted. Their passage affirms that we stand together as denominations on these important issues and strengthens our collective witness,” said Pettis.

In addition to resolutions, the 2023 General Assembly voted to move from meeting every two years to every three years, beginning with the 2028 General Assembly, which aligns with the UCC General Synod’s decision. Among the reasons for the change were the goals of engaging more voices in denominational decision-making, becomming better stewards of financial resources and acknowledging that pre-2020 Assembly attendance was in decline

Hord Owens reelected

While the UCC’s vote to move the frequency of its Synod was narrowly approved by just one vote, the Disciples “overwhelmingly” approved the move to a triennial Assembly, according to Pettis.

The Rev. Teresa “Terri” Hord Owens, Disciples’ General Minister and President, will help make the transition smoother as she was reelected to a second term. Hord Owens, the first African American and second woman to lead the denomination, was installed again Aug. 1.

“We [the UCC] celebrate her re-election,” Pettis said. “The Rev. Hord Owens has been and will continue to be a valued and important partner in our common ecumenical spaces.”

Donna Frischknecht Jackson is communications specialist with Wider Church Ministries.

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Categories: United Church of Christ News

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