UCC, Disciples of Christ celebrate 25 years of communion
More than a quarter-century ago, the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) approved a historic partnership of full communion, in which the two churches came together to recognize the other’s sacraments and ordained ministry.
After 20 years of collaboration and discussion, the two churches approved the agreement for a full communion in 1989, and forged a future of common witness. That partnership was celebrated at the end of June during the 2015 UCC General Synod in Cleveland and this week (July 18-22) during the DOC General Assembly in Columbus.
Though the UCC and Disciples remain two distinct denominations after 25 years, the churches have sought opportunities for common ministry that enhances the mission of the church of Jesus Christ. The Rev. Sharon Watkins, general minister of the Disciples of Christ, preached the closing worship at General Synod on June 30, and the Rev. Geoffrey Black, outgoing general minister and president of the UCC, will preach at General Assembly on Tuesday, July 21.
“Our two churches, in all their diversity, are kindred in Christ, members together in the one church of Jesus Christ, have been called by God to labor in unity among all Christians,” Watkins said at General Synod. “God and Christ call us to a fuller communion in service to a world that cries out for justice, healing and peace.”
“Over the first 25 years of the UCC-Disciples of Christ partnership much has happened and much has changed in church life and within and between our denominations,” Black said. “Any number of collaborative initiatives have been taken, and clergy from one denomination serving a local church in the partner denomination. In fact the recently retired pastor of the UCC church where I hold membership is a Disciples clergyperson.”
The denominations have co-hosted General Synod and General Assembly together (in St. Louis in 1993 and Kansas City in 2001, for example). The churches are already thinking of ways in which they can share in work and worship in the future, as they will come together in Florida to co-host National Youth Event 2016 at Walt Disney World.
“There are a growing number of congregations that are dually aligned as UCC and Disciples of Christ,” Black said. “Over time the relationships have grown and there is an increased awareness of those things that we have in common within each church.”
There are now more than 30 congregations affiliated with both denominations, and it is common for Disciples and UCC ministers to serve congregations of the other denomination. Another way the communion between the two churches is noticeable is through the work of Global Ministries, created in 1996. Global Ministries, formed by the UCC’s Wider Church Ministries and the Disciples’ Division of Overseas Ministries, unites the international mission work of the two churches.
The Rev. James Moos of the UCC and the Rev. Julia Brown Karimu of the Disciples of Christ are co-executives of that mission, which traces its roots back 200 years to the Congregationalists in Massachusetts.
“Global Ministries is one of the places that our relationship between the United Church of Christ and the Disciples has been most vigorous,” Moos said. “As an ecumenical agency, it is deeply appreciated by our global partners both for its effectiveness, and as a sign of the unity that the entire church is called to.”
Said Black, “Needless to say, our shared global mission has made a tremendous impact on a broad range of global partners.”
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