I weep for the hurt of my people; I stand amazed silent, dumb with grief. Is there no medicine in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why doesn't God do something? Why doesn't He help? —Jeremiah 8:21-22 (Living Bible Translation)
Today many Americans die and are disabled from health conditions that are greatly impacted by lifestyle behaviors. In fact, 54% of our health status is a result of lifestyle choices. These conditions might be prevented or better managed if we 1) knew the risks associated with many health problems, 2) believed that healthy activities could be beneficial, and 3) could receive appropriate health care services and resources. Lifestyle changes that can improve the quality of life have been identified as engaging in consistent moderate exercise; cessation from smoking and other addictions; consuming a diet high in fiber, and low in fat and cholesterol; increasing social support; and actively managing stress.
Today, several of the leading causes of death—Heart Disease, Cancers, Strokes, Injuries, Chronic Lung Disease, Pneumonia/Influenza, Diabetes, Suicide, HIV/AIDS, Homicide, Liver Disease—are considered "lifestyle" diseases because they could be reduced through common sense changes in lifestyle. Oftentimes we speculate on or presume to know the causes of these "lifestyle" diseases and disabilities from specific behaviors exhibited by the individual at risk. For example, the person who suffers a heart attack might consume a diet high in saturated fat, engage in little or no exercise and might smoke. The person involved in a motor vehicle accident might have been speeding or consuming alcohol. Perhaps the person was not wearing a seatbelt. These are examples of things that we observe and speculate on and, when a family member, loved one or friend whose death, disease, disability is caused by a specific behavioral action, we discuss and share with one another our own need to "do better" or admit that we "need to make some changes." Sadly, the time for making needed changes in our own lives gets pushed on the back burner until a crisis hits.
And then there are those diseases that often go undetected until it is too late—sadness, loneliness, hopelessness, helplessness, lovelessness, insecurities, personal guilt and persecution, abandonment, discouragement, low self-esteem and image, stress, depression, and a broken heart (to name a few). These are symptoms of pending disability and serious health change if they continue to go undetected. These are the diseases that we often cannot readily observe. They are masked. People are masking these emotions because they fear rejection if anyone really knew what they were going through—if anyone knew the "real deal". People are masking these emotions because society teaches us to be strong and to "pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps". We are taught to laugh on the outside and not to let anyone see us cry. There is so much pain. Pain so deep that we cannot pull ourselves up or call out for help to anyone. We cry out in anguish "Oh God, help me"!
It is in the context of these often "undetected" diseases that the emotional, mental and spiritual dimensions of health must further emerge. It is in these three dimensions that the church must take the lead role. For many, health is narrowly defined and specifically targeted to one dimension—the physical. Health consists of five dimensions—physical, social, emotional, mental, and spiritual. An individual is considered healthy when all of these dimensions are working together in harmony. Because healing does not necessarily mean curing (as we tend to think), a Health Ministry in a congregation involves emotional, mental and spiritual healing which can occur during illness even when curing of the disease is not present. Galatians 5:15 reminds us to "Love our neighbors, as ourselves". As Christians we are called to love as Jesus Christ has loved. We are called to service, as Jesus Christ served. We have the responsibility to minister to those in need. In the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:37-40) Jesus invites the righteous (the sheep) to receive their inheritance by entering the kingdom which has been prepared for them because of their faithful service and unselfish, compassionate giving. ("I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it for me"). We should strive to be sheep.
Can the church make a difference in reducing disability and death? The church today still represents a natural point of reference for many communities. It is because it is a natural reference point that focusing health promotion and disease prevention activities should be given careful thought. "We are finding that all the 'expert and expensive health care solutions' still do not guarantee better health outcomes and quality of life. It may be that to mobilize, educate, and coordinate resources through congregations works better". It is not a new idea for churches to develop health programs whose purpose is to have an impact upon the most significant health risks and crippling health conditions in congregations. However, it is an increasingly important one as health care funding and services gradually shrink. Local churches can help address the need for more appropriate and accessible health care services and the inadequacy of our health care system. In addition, the local church can bring a holistic perspective to an understanding of health as being in harmony with self, others, the environment, and God. Health is a continuum of physical, social, psychological, and spiritual well-being.
Today, social service and social action are seen as integral and complementary forms of ministry. Church-related social services and institutions serve many needs. Church-related social action and policy formation cover a wide range of contemporary issues which include: urban life, poverty, housing, health care, family life, women's issues, child care, aging, hospice, racial and ethnic concerns, needs of handicapped persons, peace, and refugees and immigration. As both social services and social action ministries remain faithful to God's vision of shalom, they will respond to the changing needs and new possibilities among people and within society, working always toward liberation from life's bondage and reconciliation of the alienated. The development of health ministries within the congregation helps focus the members' awareness on the essential Christian ministry of health and healing.
When health ministries are an essential part of congregational life, the members:
A. Find opportunities to volunteer their help to those who are in the hospital, or those who are home bound or living in residential care centers;
B. Have the opportunity to learn about wellness and disease prevention. Healthy lifestyle choices are promoted through seminar and workshops, giving information in such arease as exercise, nutrition and handling stress;
C. Through health screening, make early detection and treatment possible; and
D. Provide appropriate resources and advocacy to individuals and community.
A health ministry can promote healing and health as wholeness, as a mission of a faith community to its members and the community it serves. This takes a variety of people, paid and volunteer, laity and clergy, all committed to sharing the compassionate love and grace of Jesus Christ.
As we weep for the hurt and pain of each as we stand in amazement, silent, and dumb with grief; as we wonder if there is medicine in Gilead; as we wonder if there is a physician there; as we wonder if God is going to do something or if God will help, God will, for God is the ultimate Balm in Gilead. But, God also wants us to be a Balm, a healing salve. Developing a health ministry does not require vast sums of money. It only requres us to become the body of Christ. We must have the compassion of Christ, the heart of Christ, the soul of Christ, and most importantly, the love of Christ.
The earth is the Lord's and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it. —Psalm 24:1
The creation belongs to God. We have been given responsibility to care for it, lovingly tend it, and responsibly use it. When, in our brokenness, we hoard resources, violate and plunder the earth carelessly and greedily; when we take more than we need at the expense of others, it violates God's intention for the human community.
In an increasingly interdependent world economic order, unfair systems are working to benefit some and hurt others. The global economic order has created an increasing disparity, in which a relative few are hoarding an increasingly large amount of the world's resources, while over two-thirds of the world fall further and further into miserable, grinding poverty. The church has a responsibility to speak on behalf of, and stand with the poor, oppressed and marginalized.
Major economists are, finally, opposing "free trade" agreements.
Lawrence Summers -- former Secretary of the Treasury, President Emeritus at Harvard University, and former free trade supporter -- writes in his blog that the international trading regime must be re-written from the bottom up. "[T]he promotion of global integration can become a bottom-up rather than a top-down project. The emphasis can shift from promoting integration to managing its consequences. This would mean a shift from international trade agreements to international harmonisation agreements, where issues such as labour rights and environmental protection would take precedence over issues related to empowering foreign producers. It would also mean devoting as much political capital to the trillions that escape tax or evade regulation through cross-border capital flows as we now devote to trade agreements. And it would mean an emphasis on the challenges of middle-class parents everywhere who doubt, but still hope desperately, that their kids can have better lives than they did."
Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz has long opposed our current "free trade" efforts. See his Tricks of the Trade Deal: Six Big Problems with the Trans-Pacific Partnership. These six short pieces clearly show why Congress must oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership. You may be especially interested in Why the TPP is a Bad Deal for America and American Workers.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership: the Debate Continues
- Fast Track to the Corporate Wish List by David Dayen, The American Prospect, Summer, 2015
The Text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership is Final:
Congress Must Oppose this "Free-Trade" Agreement
On October 5, 2015, negotiators from 12 countries, including the United States, announced they had reached agreement on a final text of the trade agreement. The text has not yet been released but leaked documents and statements made by negotiators have given us insights into the treaty's provisions. Read more.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership
The U.S. is currently negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement among 12 Pacific-Rim nations. It is being written in secret. While the exact details of the draft agreement are unknown, its general outlines are familiar. Leaked information has revealed that it is based on, and extends, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the 1994 treaty between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico that has harmed all three countries. The TPP, and all other NAFTA-based trade agreements, must be stopped. Read more about the TPP and why we must convince Congress to oppose it.
Fast Track Legislation
Before Congress considers new trade agreements (and two are currently in the works) they will first seek to pass "Fast Track" legislation to markedly curtail the usual oversight process and ease passage of the FTAs. Previous similar trade agreements have harmed, not promoted, the common good. Congress must thoroughly and carefully evaluate these agreements. Congress must not pass Fast Track. See Greasing the Skids to Deeper Economic Distress via Fast Track.
What is Fair Trade
Small farmers produce 70% of the world’s coffee and significant amounts of other food products. Worldwide, this includes over 20 million small farm households, more than 125 million people, who depend on agriculture exports for their livelihoods. Fair Trade contributes to sustainable development and improves the lives of small farmers in the global South. More.
Support Authentic Fair Trade
The fair trade movement is in crisis. The fundamental purpose of fair trade – to support small farmers in ways that are good for them, their communities, the environment, and consumers – is being challenged. One part of the fair trade movement is supporting weaker, broader standards that would allow even plantation-growth coffee to be certified as fair trade. The other part of the movement wants to maintain standards that will preserve the movement’s original purpose of helping small farmers. Read more about the crisis and how you can support authentic fair trade.
Globalization We Can Grasp A web-based curriculum on globalization
Globalization We Can Grasp is a five-week, web-based curriculum package exploring economic globalization. The series is based on the Accra Confession: Covenanting for Justice in the Economy and the Earth which the UCC’s General Synod commended to the church for study, reflection, prayer, and action. The downloadable printed materials and 15-minutes videos examine problems arising from our system of globalization and feature people who are responding to these problems and making a difference. The curriculum was developed by the North American Covenanting for Justice Working Group, affiliated with the World Communion of Reformed Churches. WCRC is a transnational ecumenical body to which the UCC belongs. There are five modules:
Globalization and the Churches' Response;
Global Climate Change: Renewing the Sacred Balance;
Farm workers, Low Wage Jobs, and Living into a New Economy;
Environmental Justice and Human Rights; and
Faithful Purchasing and the Global Sweatshop Economy.
Each module includes background materials, a downloadable video, study questions, Bible study, and closing liturgy. Download the series.
Trade Week of Action
Each year during the Trade Week of Action, usually held during October, people all over the world mobilize in support of fair trade and in opposition to "free" trade. Most recently, the particular focus of the Week's activities was the right to food. Resources including background information, facts, people's experiences with food security and trade are collected in the Trade Week of Action booklet.
The International, Ecumenical Church and Globalization
The Accra Confession
The World Communion of Reformed Churches (formerly the World Alliance of Reformed Churches) has been engaged in a multi-year process of conversation, prayer, study, and discernment around the issues of economic justice, climate justice, and empire. During this Covenanting for Justice in the Economy and the Earth process, member churches from around the world have met together to explore these topics and have issued a number of insightful and moving reports that are available on the WCRC's Covenanting for Justice webpage. In 2004, some 15 years into the process, the 24th General Council of the WARC, meeting in Accra, Ghana, adopted the Accra Confession: Covenanting for Justice in the Economy and the Earth. The full text of the Confession plus background information and a "Letter from Accra" to the churches is available in English. WCRC delegates believe that the economic and environmental injustices of today’s global economy require the family of Reformed and United churches to respond as a matter of faith and engage injustices as an integral part of our churches’ witness and mission.
The Accra Confession declared that working to create a more just global economy is essential to Christian faith: “We believe that the integrity of our faith is at stake if we remain silent or refuse to act in the face of the current system of neoliberal economic globalization.” WARC is composed of 214 denominations and faith bodies of Reformed and United churches, including the United Church of Christ, with a combined membership of some 75 million people in 107 countries.
From the Accra Confession: Covenanting for Justice in the Economy and the Earth
We believe that God is sovereign over all creation. "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof" (Ps. 24.1).Therefore, we reject the current world economic order imposed by global neoliberal capitalism and any other economic system, including aboslute planned economies, which defy God's covenant by excluding the poor, the vulnerable and the whole of creation from the fullness of life. We reject any claim of economic, political and military empire which subverts God's sovereignty over life and acts contrary to God's just rule.
World Council of Churches' AGAPE Process: Poverty, Wealth, and Ecology
The World Council of Churches is engaged in a study/action process about globalization called Poverty, Wealth and Ecology: Impact of Economic Globalization. This process "encourages churches to explore and advocate for alternatives to economic globalization. It is an attempt to bring churches and ecumenical partners from North, South, East and West together to reflect and act together on finding new and creative ways to use global wealth to eradicate poverty."
The WCC process has produced many powerful and informative documents, and sparked important dialogues and action. The AGAPE (Alternative to Economic Globalization Addressing Peoples and Earth) process is particularly important with a focus on issues such as just trade, debt cancellation, financial markets, tax evasion, public goods and services, livelihoods and decent jobs, life-giving agriculture, power and empire, and ecological debt.
The WCC brings together 349 churches, denominations and church fellowships in more than 110 countries and territories throughout the world, representing over 560 million Christians.
General Synod Resolutions and Pronouncements on Globalization, Trade, and Debt
In 2003, General Synod XXIV adopted a major statement on economic globalization: A Faithful Response: Calling for a More Just, Humane Direction for Economic Globalization." This Pronouncement describes the impact of economic globalization on people and countries in both the global North and South and outlines ways that all settings of the UCC can respond. A Study Guide can be used to facilitate a discussion of these issues. The Pronouncement was developed in response to a General Synod XXIII Resolution adopted in 2001.
More General Synod Resolutions and Pronouncements addressing economic justice and immigration
More Educational Resources
The educational resources just below examine various aspects of economic globalization. Each resource provides an informative discussion of a single issue, a short list of related materials, and a prayer.
- What is Economic Globalization provides an overview of this multi-faceted topic.
- Jubilee and the International Debt Crisis addresses the problem of third world debt and the need for debt cancellation.
- Jobs in a Globalizing Economy examines the movement of jobs from the U.S. to the global South, and the impact on workers in the U.S. and around the world.
- Intellectual Property addresses the issues of patents and intellectual property rights within a globalizing economy.
End Sweatshops: Abusive sweatshop working conditions, in the U.S. and abroad, must be eliminated.
- Strong Roots, Fragile Farms - an award-winning DVD hosted by Willie Nelson, describes the impact of globalization and agribusess on family farms in the U.S. and around the world.
- Troubled Waters - hosted by Lynn Redgrave, explores the critical issue of water shortage through the lens of faith and from the perspective of people in Bolivia, Malawi, the Middle East and the United States.
For almost sixty years, thousands of refugees from all over the world have been resettled by hundreds of UCC churches participating in Refugee Ministries. The UCC Refugee Ministries has been reaching out to refugees helping them start anew and advocating for their safety and fair treatment.
Refugees are people who have fled their countries due to war and persecution. Most refugees prefer to return home, but it is often too dangerous because of ongoing conflict and unrest. Some languish in refugee camps for a decade or more. Others remain in neighboring countries. Some seek asylum in the U.S. on their own, taking great risks, facing the dangers and despair of detention or deportation.
There are more than 21 million refugees in the world today. Three-fourths of the world's refugees are women and children. Another 44 million people are internally displaced within the borders of their own countries due to civil war or other conflicts. Less than one percent of refugees have the opportunity to resettle in North America, Australia or Europe.
Through UCC Refugee Ministries, this mass of suffering humanity becomes a name, a face, a person made known to ordinary church folk who have made an extraordinary commitment to help refugees begin a new life in the United States.
In 2007, we invited church folk to share their stories about refugee resettlement with us. We were delighted by the enthusiastic response to our request. In our preparation of the Refugee Journal: Telling the Story of UCC Refugee Ministries we received over 110 stories.
It is now our challenge and joy to find meaningful ways to share these stories as we uplift the rich legacy of UCC Churches faithful action in response to God's call to "welcome the stranger" and love the sojourner. Listen as we share scripture and excerpts from their stories.
"Peace, peace to the far and the near, says the Lord and I will heal them."
"There are millions of people who need our hospitality. A resettlement with us means a new life for refugees and a hope of achieving peace and stability in their lives."
Ed Ballam, First Congregational Church, Haverhill, NH
"We came because for 4 years there was a war in our country. One day, I came home from work and our house was on fire. Semsudin was in a concentration camp for 6 months. We lived in Serb territory and were not safe. We moved to Croatia. In Croatia we contacted refugee ministry."
Suvada Tahirovic, from Bosnia in CT.
"It began with a request one Sunday in the fall of 2002 for people to... help with refugee resettlement. I,[answered the] call and embarked on a journey. Our first task was to acquire, through donations, suitable household goods and furniture. It is a little daunting to attempt to ?decorate' for someone you don't know with donated goods. The prevailing thought was to make it seem like home. After several weeks of planning, sorting and moving we were amazed at what a lovely apartment had been assembled.
Edwina Gower, First Plymouth Congregational, Lincoln, NE.
"The stranger has not lodged in the street; I have opened my doors to the traveler..."
"What a powerful experience for those of us waiting on the other side with open arms and open hearts. The culture shock, stress, and confusion was evident in their tear-stained faces. They had endured so much, and carried the deep burden of not knowing whether their parents had survived. Those stressed faces now carry broad smiles."
Sue Robert, East Congregational, UCC, Grand Rapids, MI.
"There were so many people waiting for us - like family - it was as if they knew us."
Regina Conton from Sierra Leone resettled in CT
"(Naik) and Naseem were very sweet, however so emaciated that I felt like I was hugging skeletons with skin. Their eyes betrayed a sense of unspoken tragedy. Naik was very disoriented and had something wrong with her eye. However, when Naseem smiled it was like watching the sun come out after a rainstorm."
Kate Carmell, St. Paul's UCC, Seattle, WA.
"...for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing..."
"Although refugee resettlement takes time and energy, it is a gratifying way for people to give. Those who resettle refugees form close relationships with each other, strengthening the church."
Rev. David Kratz, Fauntleroy UCC, Seattle, WA.
"It was a joy, the first Sunday after their arrival, having our "family" attend our church to meet all of us who were working to make their beginning here in the U.S. a good experience."
Cliff and Bobbie Burnett, First Congregational, Kent, CT.
"They slip ever so innocently into our very lives. We share clothing, furniture, hopes and dreams with them. We take them for shots, dental appointments, visits to the social security office, the local schools, we find them jobs - we share pictures that are then mailed back to their former homeland. We listen with love as they tell of leaving family and homes behind to begin the frightening venture of starting from square one in adopting a new home. They will be our friends for life."
Rev. Alfred K. Schwerdt, Immanuel UCC, Shillington, PA
"We feel like birds freed from a cage."
Semsudin Tahirovic, Bosnian resettled in CT
"Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it."
"Our lives have truly been blessed as we continue to learn about their Bosnian culture and their Muslim faith. Two different cultures and two different faiths, but we still have a lot in common!!! The world gets a whole lot smaller when you grow to know people from different walks of life. I thank God every day for bringing us the Tahirovic's. We have learned so much from them and are grateful for their lasting friendship."
Betsy Levesque, First Congregational, Kent, CT
"The families are dear to the hearts of sponsors and have taught us valuable lessons never to be forgotten. We are awed by the courage, creativity and determination shown by these once homeless people. Their ability to overcome anxiety and disappointment, the loss of homeland and culture, their sense of fun and joy in special moments speak to us of grace and challenge our faith.
Fran Stiles, Mountain Rise UCC, Rochester, NY
"In two years, this African family which arrived in our country with three duffel bags containing all their belongings, studied English, learned about a vastly different culture, took difficult jobs, learned to drive, bought cars, and their first house! The process comes full circle as the children now attend the same schools as my children and they have become true peers, not "sponsors" and "refugees."
Rae Hunter-Pirtle, First Plymouth Congregational, Lincoln, NE.
"So then you are no longer strangers and aliens but you are citizens with the saints and members of the household of God."
It is our hope and prayer that these powerful stories will stay with you. Please help us to interpret this work with refugees. We have some wonderful new resources to help you do that.
II. One way we invite you to help support and interpret Refugee Ministries, is to share:
The Refugee Journal: Telling the Story of UCC Refugee MInistries, and our new video In the Eyes of a Stranger which is under nine minutes. For youth we have The Uprooted Game. These are available upon request. The video will be available from conference resource centers in February. We encourage you to lift up refugees in connection with the One Great Hour of Sharing offering. Share a minute for mission, using these stories. Share them with Sunday School classes.
III. A Challenge we place before you:
Become an advocate for refugees. Join the UCC Take Action network. Send letters to your representatives about refugees.
Locate a Church World Service affiliate in your area and make contact with them. Learn about refugee resettlement in your community.
Our commitment to the unity of Christ's church is affirmed by the words of our symbol—"That They May All Be One." (John 17:21). Itself a union of several Christian traditions, the United Church of Christ is actively engaged in ecumenical relationships that seek to heal the broken unity of the Body of Christ.
The division of the church is a result of human sin, and all Christians have a responsibility to work for the day when, as Jesus prayed, "they may all be one." Ecumenical relations helps us to learn from the spiritual traditions of other churches. They help us to serve the world more effectively in God's name. They remind us that while we are proud of the diversity of the Protestant traditions that have joined in our united church, there is an even greater diversity in the Body of Christ that can make us whole.
Our ecumenical commitments affect us no matter where we live and worship. They are as near as the neighboring church down the street and as far as the communities of Christians who live the Gospel in the poorest countries of Africa and Asia, the Pacific and the Americas. On these pages you will learn more about these commitments as well as the broader dialogue between Christians and the followers of other religions.
Our commitment to relationship with all the peoples of the earth has led the United Church of Christ has entered into dialogue with other faith traditions.
"What does it mean to profess Christian faith in a world of many faiths?" "How can I be fully a Christian and at the same time respect the faith of others?" "What does it mean to be 'saved'?" "How do I interpret in an interfaith society the Bible verses that understand Jesus as 'the way'?" These are questions with which members of our congregations wrestle every day.
General Synod's commitment to interfaith dialogue is expressed in part through the Interfaith Relations Commission of the National Council of Churches. Through the NCC we have been able to connect with leaders of many non-Christian faiths. Other settings of the church are engaged in countless interfaith dialogues, projects and relationships. In many communities, UCC congregations join other churches in organizing coalitions with members of other faiths on issues of shared concern. Our commitment to understanding among faiths is also international: Many missionaries called called by the Common Global Ministries Board are deeply involved in interfaith relationships—especially in societies where Christians are a minority.
In 1987 and 1989, General Synod adopted resolutions reinforcing our commitment to reconciliation with the Jewish and Muslim communities.
Links to Resources
Resource on Interreligious Relations
National Council of Churches Interfaith Relations Commission
General Synod: 1987 statement on Christian-Jewish relations
General Synod: 1989 statement on Christian-Muslim relations
National Council of Churches: Interfaith Relations [NCC website]
History of interfaith relations [WCC website]
Christian-Jewish relations [WCC website]
Christian-Muslim relations [WCC website]
Guidance for UCC Committees on Ministry: UMC FAQ Document, 2019
Links to Websites of Other Faiths
Ecumenical Councils and Agencies
The United Church of Christ is a founding member of the National Council of Churches, the World Council of Churches and many other ecumenical agencies and projects. The NCC and WCC began to take shape in the late 19th-century in response to the worldwide ecumenical movement.
The UCC is also a member of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches—the worldwide communion of churches in the Reformed, Presbyterian and Congregationalist traditions.
UCC-Disciples Ecumenical Partnership
In 1989 the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) approved a historic partnership of full communion. The two churches proclaimed mutual recognition of their sacraments and ordained ministry.
Though remaining two distinct denominations, the UCC and Disciples have committed through their partnership to seek opportunities for common ministry, especially where work together will enhance the mission of the church.
The partnership is a unique experiment in U.S. ecumenism. In every setting of the two churches, UCC members and Disciples are serving Christ side by side. There are now more than 30 "federated" congregations affiliated with both denominations, and it is now common for Disciples and UCC ministers to serve congregations of the other denomination. The Common Global Ministries Board, formed by the UCC's Wider Church Ministries and the Disciples' Division of Overseas Ministries, unites the international mission work of the two churches.
- Marriage Equality and the UCC
- Sign on: "Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Marriage Equality"
- Press Releases
Watch Faith and Morality Play Major Roles in Gay Marriage Debate on PBS.
Aspects of religion and morality have been used as the basis for arguments by both sides of the debate on same-sex marriage. Ray Suarez talks with Michael Schuenemeyer, minister for the United Church of Christ, and Richard Langer, a minister with the Evangelical Free Church of America, to learn how they've approached the topic.
The UCC is part of the United for Marriage Coalition.
Click here to see photos from the Interfaith Service and Rallies at the U.S. Supreme Court for the oral arguments in the two marriage cases: Hollingsworth v. Perry (Prop 8) and Windsor v. United States (Defense of Marriage Act - DOMA), March 26 & 27, 2013.
Marriage Equality and the UCC
Marriage is one of the most significant institutions in our culture. The sacred and civil, church and state dimensions of marriage are complex and often muddled, which makes marriage one of the most challenging issues to discuss in the church and beyond.
On July 4, 2005, at the 25th General Synod of the United Church of Christ in Atlanta, delegates voted to adopt the resolution, "Equal Marriage Rights for All" The resources below are provided to help facilitate conversations and study throughout the church and society on this complex and challenging matter which has important implications for individuals, families and the wider community. They are intended to get people of faith talking about the purposes of marriage, looking more closely at how marriage has evolved and changed through time biblically and socially, exploring the theology of marriage, and critically discerning the appropriate roles for the church and the state in marriage.
The colleagues who worked together to prepare these resources join the Conference Ministers of the United Church of Christ who, in calling us to this important dialog say, "let us explore our faith in relation to these issues: the meaning of Christian marriage, the blessing of unions among same-sex couples, the honoring of diverse expressions of loving and caring human relationships, being guided in all things by the love of Jesus. Above all, may these conversations be ventured in humility and prayer."
General Synod 25 (2005) Marriage Resolution
Reflections by General Minister and President, The Rev. John H. Thomas
Call to Action and Invitation to Dialogue, UCC Executive Council (2004)
Call to Dialogue, UCC Conference Ministers (1996)
Please consider signing-on to the
Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing's "Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Marriage Equality"
Online clergy registry being developed
If you are clergy living in California and you will perform same sex marriages, please register with California Faith for Equality.
To register click here.
Inclusive Liturgy from the UCC Book of Worship
Certificate - An embossed certificate for presentation to a couple at their covenant service (envelope included).
Produced by the UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns. Click here to order online, or call UCC Resources at 800-537-3394800-537-3394.
God Is Still Speaking about Marriage [Newly Revised, June 2008]
Recommended by General Synod 25
- An in depth Christian education study resource on marriage, including marriage equality for same gender loving couples.
Free Download [PDF] or call UCC Resources to order [Item# WCMGSM], 800-537-3394800-537-3394.
Sacred Covenants, Faithful Conversation, a DVD resource for talking about marriage.
This DVD contains two items: a 30 minute video on the question of marriage equality in light of the resolution adopted by General Synod 25 (2005) and the 45 minute floor debate on the marriage equality resolution at General Synod 25. Order from UCC Resourcesor call (toll free) 800-537-3394800-537-3394, Item# WCMSCFC
UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns
Marriage Equality Debate
This is an audio link to a debate on the civil right to marry for same sex couples held at Stanford University School of Law, on April 20, 2005. The participants in the debate were Evan Wolfson, Executive Director of Freedom to Marry and Rev. Lou Sheldon, President of the Traditional Values Coalition.
- Witness for Justice: In defense of... by Bernice Powell Jackson
- Witness for Justice: Defending what? by Bernice Powell Jackson
- Same-Sex Marriage? A Christian Ethical analysis by Marvin Ellison, (Pilgrim Press 2004)
- What God Has Joined Together, A Christian Case for Gay Marriage by David G. Myers and Letha Dawson Scanzoni (Harper San Francisco 2005)
- Gay Unions in the Light of Scripture, Tradition and Reason by Gray Temple (Church Publishing 2004)
- Why Marriage Matters, America, Equality and Gay People's Right to Marry by Evan Wolfson (Simon and Schuster 2004)
- Same Sex Unions in Premodern Europe by John Boswell (Vintage Books 1994)
- Christianity and the Making of the Modern Family by Rosemary Radford Ruether (Beacon Press 2000)
To the faithful who worked to defeat Question 1 in Maine
- To the faithful who worked to defeat Question 1 in Maine
- UCC's Southern California Nevada Conference reaffirms support for same-gender marriage
- Northern California Nevada Conference affirms California Court decision
- California Supreme Court rules for marriage equality, UCC leaders respond
- UCC official applauds Senate vote against Federal Marriage Amendment
- John Thomas calls on senators to 'respect U.S. Constitution' and vote against marriage amendment
- General Synod overwhelmingly calls for "full marriage equality"
- John Thomas publicly endorses marriage equality resolution
- John Thomas' prayer offered after marriage equality vote
- John Thomas press statement after marriage equality vote
- Andrew Young says Synod's affirmation of marriage equality would be prophetic
- National Coalition for the Freedom to Marry
- Lambda Legal
- American Foundation for Equal Rights
- National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF)
- Human Rights Campaign (HRC)
- Claiming the Blessings
- Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD)
- Study Circles Group
God is still speaking through and to the United Church of Christ. Members and congregations are claiming and embracing God's call to evangelism. Evangelism is vital for the future of the United Church of Christ. God is saying to the United Church of Christ to be ready and set to grow in witness, outreach and welcome.
Evangelism Ministry proclaims the gospel in the world and the church, as well as, starts, nurtures, strengthens and renews congregations in partnership with Conferences.
Evangelism Ministry works with The Congregational Vitality Initiative to provide resources and workshop for vital congregations to be ready and set to grow in discerning God's mission, understanding community and culture, and nurturing discipleship of witness, outreach and welcome.
The response to The Still Speaking Ministry has shown that Now is the Time for New Church Development in the United Church of Christ. In partnership with Conferences, the Now is the Time Vision and Strategy calls for a growth toward 250 new churches by 2011 and more than 1,600 new churches by 2021. Developing leadership for new churches is necessary. This summer the second Leadership Institute for New Church Planters will be held in Atlanta in August. Potential new church planters can assess their gifts for new church development using an Assessment Tool available through Evangelism Ministry. Evangelism Ministry works in partnership with Local Church Ministries Church Building & Loan to prepare new churches to become Partners in Building. Evangelism Ministry provides funding for new and renewing congregations in partnership with Conferences.
Please browse our listing of resources that you can use to lift up Evangelism in your local congregtion.
As well, take the time to read a brief message from Minister and Team Leader, the Rev. David Schoen.
Churches Growing Churches
On-line resource partners
Visit the links below for additional Evangelism resources:
Blessings as you get ready and set to grow to be the evangelist that God is calling you to be!
What is AIDS?
Education and prevention
Stigma and discrimination
Condoms and needle exchange
Empowerment of women
HIV testing and counseling
HIV/AIDS staff table
What can we do?
Global AIDS Ministry Fund
HIV/AIDS is the most serious health crisis the world has ever faced. HIV does not discriminate. Whether we realize it or not, all of us are affected: rich and poor, especially the poor; men and women, especially the women; old and young, especially the young; and people of every race, especially people of color.
At the end of 2003, the United Nations estimated that more than 40 million people are living with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Nearly three-fourths of them live in sub-Saharan Africa, one million in the U.S. The current patterns of HIV infection suggest that the pandemic is in its infancy. While the evidence may suggest there is reason for despair, there is also good reason for hope. Everything we need to know about how to prevent HIV infection is known. What is lacking is the dramatic shift in priorities needed to address this disease.
Stephen Lewis, U.N. Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, has called apathy in the face of HIV/AIDS "mass-murder by complacency." Our hope is in our ability to mobilize the full potential of our resources and compassion to address the many facets of HIV/AIDS affecting our families, communities and world. Undergirding all of our work is the Gospel truth that it is God's will to bring healing and wholeness to a world with HIV/AIDS.
The HIV/AIDS and other global health ministries of the Office for Health and Wholeness Advocacy work in partnership with individuals, congregations, Associations, Conferences and other settings of the church, including each of the area offices of Global Ministries. We are also involved with other churches and other faiths.
AIDS is an "autoimmune deficiency syndrome" caused by HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), which is spread through blood, semen, vaginal secretions and breast milk. The most common mode of infection is through unprotected sexual intercourse with an HIV-positive partner. Other routes include use of infected needles and syringes (or other skin-piercing equipment); mother-to-child transmission during pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding; transfusions of HIV-infected blood or blood products; and transplants of infected tissue or organs.
The first step in HIV/AIDS advocacy is education. "Affirming Persons, Saving Lives" is a comprehensive HIV/AIDS curriculum developed by the United Church of Christ. It contains age appropriate materials, preschool—adult. It is available for the cost of shipping/handling through UCC Resources (800-537-3394). There is also a wealth of quality HIV/AIDS information and most of it is easily accessible via the internet. Link to these sites and you will not only access demographic information about the HIV pandemic, but you will also find basic information on how to prevent becoming infected and learn about strategies for addressing the many needs this disease presents.
Stigma and discrimination create and environment of fear and prejudice and are the primary barriers to stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS. It is important to overcome prejudice by addressing the issues which lead to infection and interfere with effective treatment. An important step in this direction is to provide comprehensive sex education, which is abstinence-based for children and youth, and encourages fidelity in all covenanted relationships.
When and with whom a person becomes sexually active is a matter of personal choice. Because of the reality of sexual behavior among adolescents and adults, it is critically important to provide medically accurate information about condoms. When used properly, condoms are shown to significantly reduce the risks of infection among sexually active persons, thus saving lives. And, there is no credible research to indicate that making condoms easily accessible encourages sexual behavior. Similarly, there is no credible evidence that shows that easily accessible injection drug needles encourage illicit injection drug use. However, HIV infection rates decrease where needle exchange programs exist.
Not to be overlooked in any effective HIV-prevention strategy is the empowerment of women. In many places throughout the world there are cultural traditions that place women in jeopardy—especially young women and girls. Prevailing views and practices concerning male masculinity make women more vulnerable to sexual exploitation and violence, placing them at extreme risk for HIV and other STDs (sexually transmitted diseases). Significant efforts must be made to address gender inequality and empower women.
HIV testing and counseling are also important for effective education and prevention. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimate that as many as two-thirds of those who live with HIV in the U.S. do not know they are HIV-positive. While there is no cure for HIV, drug treatment therapies are available that may slow the progress of the disease and extend both the quality and length of life: The earlier the virus is detected, the more effective the treatment. Persons who know and understand their HIV status are more likely to behave in ways that reduce the risk of becoming infected or infecting others. The anonymous data collected from test results contribute to the growing body of information about how and where HIV is spreading. By providing voluntary counseling and testing programs, local churches can raise community awareness and help their loved ones and others living with HIV.
There is an extreme need for medical services and supplies throughout the world, and especially in underdeveloped areas. Among the supplies needed are latex gloves, sterile needles and syringes, HIV testing kits and lab supplies needed to safeguard blood supplies.
Anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs are in very short supply. While costs have been reduced and some patent issues resolved, the need completely overwhelms the demand. As mentioned above, these drugs can increase both the quality and length of life, which is of extreme importance in sub-Saharan Africa where more than 14 million children have lost one or both parents to AIDS. Another important drug in the fight against HIV is Nevirapine, which is proven to reduce the risk of mother-to-child infection during breastfeeding.
Providing adequate nutrition is another important piece in both reducing infection and increasing length and quality of life. However, the World Food Program has identified HIV/AIDS as a major contributing factor to famine conditions in southern Africa. While drought, wars and other problems contribute to famine, in many villages devastated by AIDS there simply are not enough women and men to work the fields to produce food.
Please note: Donations through the Global AIDS Ministry Fund of One Great Hour of Sharing or organizations such as Church World Service are often the most effective and efficient ways to get resources where they are needed most. Before an individual, church or group decides to send supplies, they are strongly encouraged to consult with the appropriate area office of Global Ministries, who will be able to provide assistance in developing a plan to get the resources where they are intended to go.
HIV/AIDS strikes at the heart of community life. By affecting people in the most productive years of life, it undermines economic viability of families and nations and creates the potential for regional instability. In most developing nations, social security is the extended family. HIV/AIDS disrupts this system by the deaths of so many parents. Children are left to be taken care of by the elderly and when they are gone, children are often left to fend for themselves. HIV/AIDS has significantly reduced the numbers of teachers, which debilitates the education system and threatens the future of many nations. The need is great and the challenge is as difficult as anything the world has ever faced.
In the national setting of the UCC, the Office for Health and Wholeness Advocacy of Wider Church Ministries convenes an inter-ministry HIV/AIDS staff table at which each of the four covenanted ministries is represented. With the participation of the COREM (Council of Racial/Ethnic Ministries) related staff of the Office of General Ministries and several Justice and Witness Ministries staff we are developing some key strategies. A priority of the HIV/AIDS Table is addressing the HIV/AIDS issues facing people of color.
The more we communicate with each other about what we are doing, the better we are able to understand both how we can work together and where the gaps in services may be. The Health and Wholeness Advocacy office is a clearinghouse for resources and networking. You are encouraged to communicate with them about any initiatives you are planning and evaluations of your experience. The Local Church Relations office of Global Ministries and our area offices can be very helpful by providing information and guidance on working internationally.
- Communicate your concern that HIV/AIDS should be addressed in your church and community, especially with your elected officials.
- Join the UCC Just Peace Advocacy Network (JPAN) of Justice and Witness Ministries.
- Create or add an HIV/AIDS prevention and education program to your parish nursing program, community health fair or other health-education program.
- Take initiatives to alleviate poverty.
- Advocate comprehensive sex education in public schools.
- Use the "Our Whole Lives" or "Affirming Persons-Saving Lives" curriculum in your congregation. "Our Whole Lives" is a comprehensive sexuality education curriculum developed by the UCC.
- Advocate for easy access to condoms with education materials on their proper use.
- Advocate for a needle exchange program in your community.
- Offer regular HIV testing and counseling in your community.
UCC Global Ministries
Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance
Daily HIV/AIDS reports
Balm in Gilead
Council of Religious AIDS Networks
National Minority AIDS Council
Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS
Centers for Disease Control
The Names Project Foundation
Affirming Persons, Saving Lives
A comprehensive HIV/AIDS curriculum for preschool through adult ages, is available for the cost of shipping (about $12) from United Church Resources at 1-800-537-3394.
DVD Resource: "Coming to Say Goodbye, Stories of AIDS in Africa"
Order the DVD from UCC Resources (1-800-537-3394), get the film and much, much more. "Coming to Say Goodbye, Stories of AIDS in Africa" (Maryknoll Productions) is a documentary about courageous people living with and responding to HIV/AIDS in Kenya and Tanzania. Included in the DVD resource is the film, study helps, the music video "Give Me Hope" as performed by the Sinikithemba HIV Positive Choir of South Africa, and links to a variety of resource-rich web sites. The DVD is produced by AFRUS-AIDS which is a broad-based coalition of global women's networks and faith-based organizations working in partnership with African grassroots women's organizations in the struggle to address the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
The film may also be ordered in VHS format from Maryknoll (film only).
A special disaster fund appeal for HIV/AIDS has been issued from the UCC office of the Global Sharing of Resources (One Great Hour of Sharing) and the Disciples Overseas Ministry (Week of Compassion). This fund is designed to support the HIV/AIDS work of our global mission partners. The area desks of Global Ministries have information on their websites on the significant HIV/AIDS work of our partners and sponsored agencies.
- Creates resources for HIV education and prevention
- Provides technical assistance to local congregations and other settings to build and develop HIV/AIDS Programs
- Participates in public policy advocacy
- Works in partnership with individuals, congregations, associations, conferences, and other settings of the church, including Global Ministries, in addition to other churches and faiths.
Global AIDS Ministry Fund
Global Ministries Responds to Uganda's Bill on Sexual Discrimination
Currently on the table in the Ugandan Parliament is the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009, which would discriminate against and outlaw homosexuality. This would also in turn, hinder HIV prevention efforts. This letter was sent on behalf of Global Ministries in response to this legislation. Global Ministries is a partnership between the United Church of Christ and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
Rev. Anthony Hollins a hard-working, inspirational leader and devoted member of the UCAN Leadership Team, died on November 25, 2007. Our prayers are with Anthony, his family and all who knew him. He leaves a legacy of love, care and compassion in the struggle for justice and healing.
UCAN, the United Church of Christ HIV and AIDS Network, is the UCC's national non-profit charitable organization for response to the HIV and AIDS pandemic.
UCAN Stop AIDS E-News is the occasional electronic newsletter of UCAN. Receive updates on what the UCC office for HIV and AIDS Ministries is doing and what UCAN and Global Ministries' partners are doing, as we work together in response to the global AIDS pandemic.
UCAN News, a print newsletter, is published twice each year with articles, resources and information for HIV and AIDS ministries from the United Church of Christ HIV and AIDS Network (UCAN).
UCAN is on Facebook - JOIN TODAY!
- UCAN Facebook Group - to connect to information, news and friends
- UCAN Facebook Cause - to join others in building capacity for this mission
UCC HIV/AIDS Curriculum:
Affirming Persons, Saving Lives
A comprehensive HIV/AIDS curriculum for preschool through adult ages.
Why Give Out Condoms?
A resource addressing the importance of making condoms available in faith settings.
A Great Gift for a Great Cause!
Honey: Reach Out for Me
a CD of South African inspirational and instrumental music of love and faith
Hanelien is the lead singer who, at 31, is living with AIDS. She created this CD to raise funds for a religious organization affiliated with Global Ministries that supports and cares for families affected byHIV/AIDS in South African communities.
Price: $15.00, to order: 800-537-3394
sponsored by Global Ministries
DVD Resources (to order call: 800-537-3394)
Courage to Hope: Responding to AIDS in Rural China
Among the 3,300 people who live in Shuangmiao Village, more than 500 are living with HIV. This village has suffered hundreds of AIDS related deaths, leaving scores of orphaned children. "Courage to Hope" shares the stories of people in Shuangmiao Village. Through it, viewers will discover ways to join the reponse efforts of Global Ministries.
Coming to Say Goodbye, Stories of AIDS in Africa
This (Maryknoll Productions) documentary is about courageous people living with and responding to HIV/AIDS in Kenya and Tanzania. Included in the DVD resource is the film, study helps, the music video "Give Me Hope" as performed by the Sinikithemba HIV Positive Choir of South Africa, and links to a variety of resource-rich web sites. The DVD is produced by AFRUS-AIDS which is a broad-based coalition of global women's networks and faith-based organizations working in partnership with African grassroots women's organizations in the struggle to address the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The film may also be ordered in VHS format from Maryknoll (film only).
World AIDS Day is celebrated every year on December 1st. Inlcuded here are worship resources, fact sheets, and more for you to use in planning your celebration.
Global HIV and AIDS projects and stories from Global Ministries. Global Ministries is the common witness of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ responsible for nurturing relationships with international partners on behalf of Disciples and the UCC.
Global AIDS Ministry Fund
A special disaster fund appeal for HIV/AIDS has been issued from the UCC office of the Global Sharing of Resources (One Great Hour of Sharing) and the Disciples Overseas Ministry (Week of Compassion). This fund is designed to support the HIV/AIDS work of our global mission partners. The area desks of Global Ministries have information on their websites on the significant HIV/AIDS work of our partners and sponsored agencies.
In recent years more and more churches, both denominations and local churches, have been engaged in helping members do planned giving—the giving of gifts of accumulated assets either in the giver's lifetime or after death. Often when a church begins exploration to establish a planned giving fund, or endowment fund, there is debate among members as to whether a church should be accumulating assets. Should a church establish an endowment fund?
Yes, there are faithful reasons for doing so. The first reason is that God has called those of us who follow Jesus Christ to be stewards. Douglas John Hall, Canadian theologian, in his book The Steward; A Biblical Symbol Come of Age, writes that stewardship "describes the whole posture called 'Christian.' Being stewards we have a relationship first of all to God, the creator, then to other human beings, then to nonhuman creatures, and towards Earth, our common home. Assets, whether they be land, money, stocks, or real estate are a part of what God has called us to relate to in a faithful way so that we can relate to the other aspects of creation more faithfully.
Yes, the assets can be spent as soon as they are given, but a well-organized and thoughtthrough plan for receiving such assets and for the use of the income provides the opportunity for the mission of the church to continue through many years to come. A man came to his minister when she had first come to his church and said, "Do you know anything about endowments? I will be giving a great deal of money to this church when I die and I would like to see our church plan for receiving such assets as I plan to give so that our church can widen its ministry and mission to others. I would like to see the assets I give to the church go on in perpetuity to serve those in need." Generous as he was in life, he was concerned that a good plan be put into place.
Some people are concerned that an endowment fund will choke off regular, faithful and proportionate giving by members because "we have all that money." If the assets are invested wisely, and guidelines are established that direct the income to new mission, mission only for others, or in some cases major capital projects, then this kind of giving does not "choke off' regular annual giving to the church. A well-planned endowment policy enables members of churches who have considerable assets to give to their church in a way that is faithful and will further the realm of God on earth.
The church that has concern for socially responsible investments can invest its endowment assets through United Church Funds ensuring that their investments are socially responsible. As stockholders in corporations, church members can exert influence on those corporations so that they are socially responsible.
The income from endowments enables many churches to reach far beyond what they would be able to do through the yearly pledges of their members and the annual budget. Churches have begun retirement homes, sponsored children in other countries, resettled refugees, started youth centers, given scholarships to people who wish to receive seminary training, begun a new program with "start up" money from the investments, made their church building accessible to persons who are differently abled, supported mission schools in countries where women rarely receive education, and a host of other important and needed ministries. One church with a relatively small amount of money endowed to it in the early 1900's sent over fifty people to seminary.
We live in a country and society in which money and other assets are the base of the economy. In recent years people have accrued valuable assets. These people need their churches to provide the opportunity for them to give of those assets in a way that builds up the body of Christ and serves the world.
The Reverend Anne D. Kear
Rocky Mountain Conference
These graduate schools and programs in theology play an important role in the preparation of pastoral leaders for the United Church of Christ:
- The six seminaries of the United Church of Christ have been recognized by the General Synod for their special commitment to the UCC.
- The historically related seminaries, some engaging as members of the UCC Council for Higher Education, continue to serve the church in ecumenical settings.
- The Regional Theological Education Consortium, a hub for multiple models of theological education, connects UCC conference and association based programs which have as part of their goals the formation of Members in Discernment toward authorized ministry, as well as a commitment to lay theological education.
Seminaries of the United Church of Christ
Andover Newton Seminary at Yale Divinity School
New Haven, CT
Chicago Theological Seminary
Eden Theological Seminary
St. Louis, MO
Lancaster Theological Seminary
Pacific School of Religion
United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities
New Brighton, MN
Historically Related Seminaries of the United Church of Christ
Harvard University Divinity School
Howard University School of Divinity
Interdenominational Theological Center
Seminario Evangélico de Puerto Rico
San Juan, PR
Union Theological Seminary
New York, NY
Vanderbilt University Divinity School
Yale University Divinity School
New Haven, CT