Congregations determined the politics and social organization of communities. Only church members could vote at town meetings, and until 1630, one could become a church member only by the minister's endorsement. Most colonists were not church members. The majority of immigrants came for social, political, and economic reasons, not to found a more perfect Christian society. Nevertheless, Puritanism was dominant. Biblical injunctions were specific guides for spiritual life and church organization; biblical law was common law. Puritans undertook a holy mission to demonstrate the "right way" to order church and society.
John Cotton (1584-1652), considered the leading Puritan pastor in England, joined the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1633. His True Constitution of a Particular Visible Church, describing Congregational life and polity (organization and government), was read widely in England and influenced John Owen, chaplain to Oliver Cromwell, to embrace Congregationalism. As a result of reading Cotton's work, five members of the Presbyterian Westminster Assembly, "the Dissenting Brethren," would sign, in 1643, what was to become the manifesto of all Congregationalism, An Apologeticall Narration. Thus, through Cotton's writing, New England affected the growth of Congregationalism in England. Quite the opposite of the vigorous and variable Puritans of England, many of the American Puritans become intolerant of alien ideas.
In 1634, Anne Hutchinson, daughter of a nonconformist minister from north of London, arrived. Described by critics as a "woman of haughty and fierce carriage ... of voluble tongue," she would influence Congregational practice and theological thought, such that the rigidly righteous shell of Massachusetts Puritanism, already damaged by Roger Williams (soon banished to Rhode Island), would be irreparably cracked. Opposing a doctrine of the elect, she held that anyone might receive the truth by direct revelation from God, and that the Bible was not its sole source. These ideas were greatly feared by the church because they easily could lead to irresponsible excesses. This "woman of ready wit and bold spirit," wife of gentle William Hutchinson, the mother of fifteen children, interrupted preachers with whom she disagreed. She gathered women regularly in her own home, where she preached to as many as 50 people at a time, often including men.
Hutchinson's criticism of Puritan sermons stirred up a frenzy of concern in Massachusetts Bay Colony. John Cotton, sent to stop her, merely warned her; but by that time, men of stature had taken her side, and the town of Boston was divided. John Winthrop believed that if Anne Hutchinson could not be reformed, she must be exiled.
Winthrop called a Synod of the Bay Colony churches in 1637, that once and for all "the breeder and nourisher of all these distempers, one Mistress Hutchinson," be silenced. She was charged with joining a seditious faction, holding conspiracies in her house, seducing honest people from their work and families and, worst of all, breaking the fifth commandment. Hutchinson exclaimed that Winthrop was neither her father nor her mother, to which Winthrop replied that "father and mother" meant anyone in authority. In the spring, John Cotton betrayed her trust by banishing her from the Colony. Mary Dyer was a friend who walked beside her through it all. She was later hanged for her Quaker faith on Boston Common. Anne Hutchinson settled with her children and husband in the Rhode Island Colony of Roger Williams, where laws were passed to ensure jury trials, to end class discrimination, and to extend universal suffrage and religious tolerance. This democracy was short lived, for Rhode Island was soon annexed to the Bay Colony.
The colonists displaced Native Americans and invaded their ancestral territories. At first, because of their nature and because land was abundant, many Indians received the newcomers with charity and shared with them land and survival skills. Later, the proprietary aggression of some settlers kindled fear in the hearts of Indians.
The colonists brought not only their religion, government, and social patterns, but also diseases against which Indians had little or no immunity. During the 17th century, New England Indians were plagued by a smallpox epidemic. There followed further decimation of their numbers in wars and skirmishes for possession of land. Distressed by wanton disregard for human beings, convinced that their mission was peacefully to carry the good news of Christ to their Indian neighbors, there were others like John Eliot, who was ordained as a pastor so that he might pastor and teach Indians. His concern for Indian neighbors was not only for their conversion to Christianity, but to raise their standard of living to a level enjoyed by the settlers. For 30 years, Job Nesutan, a Massachusetts Indian, was employed by Eliot as a language tutor and chief assistant in the ministry to Indians. With his help, the Bible was translated into the Indian language and Indians were taught to read.
By 1646, John Eliot drew increasingly large congregations each time he spoke. Churches in the colony were encouraged to support Eliot's work and Oliver Cromwell urged Parliament to help the movement financially. The "Corporation for the Promoting and Propagating of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in New England" was the result. A sum of £5,000 was sent to the colonies, much of this given to John Eliot for his work. Many Indian converts returned to the practices of their indigenous faiths, but others were filled with Christian missionary zeal and prepared the way for Eliot with the New England tribes. The chiefs and councils tried to discourage the spread of the gospel, and his aides used underhanded tactics to retain "converts." As a result, Eliot's work suffered. Finally, the Massachusetts General Court passed a law prohibiting the use of threats or force to ensure Indians' conversion to Christianity, but at the same time, required all Indians living within the colony to refrain from worshiping "false gods" and from conducting native religious services. Roger Williams became the advocate of Indian freedom to worship as they saw fit.
Thomas Mayhew and his clergyman son, Thomas, Jr., were instrumental in leading the eastern Cape Cod Indians to Christianity. By 1652, Mayhew had opened a school for Indian children.
Christian theology induced ferment and continued to challenge the essentially closed social patterns and purposes of the Puritans. There were blacks in Boston as soon as there were whites, and slavery was legal in New England until after the Revolutionary War. A certain number of blacks were admitted to membership in the churches when they were able to meet all the conditions for full communion, tests which did not include skin color, wealth, or social status. While slavery in New England had been dying out in the years prior to the Revolution, blacks felt keenly the reservations to their acceptance in the churches by the Puritans, who treated them as slaves outside the church, while within, members were called upon to regard one another as equal under the covenant of grace and united by God to one another. Under such ambivalence, many blacks withdrew from the churches in the late 18th century to form their own congregations for separate worship.
By 1789, the Boston selectmen allowed blacks to use a school for public worship on Sunday afternoons. Eventually, the black congregation built its own church, called the African Church, on the back slope of Beacon Hill and worshiped there from 1806 until mid-century when it became a center for abolitionist meetings for blacks and whites. Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth were among the speakers at the church.
Religious exclusion was not confined to blacks or Catholics; Presbyterians had felt unwelcome as well. The Westminster Confession of 1646, the design for Presbyterian church government and an expression of Reformed faith and doctrine, was revised for church polity and discipline at the Cambridge Synod of 1648. Called the Cambridge Platform, it enabled a reconciliation between Presbyterians and Congregationalists and was highly venerated into the 19th century.
The Platform interpreted the church catholic as all those who are elected and called to salvation. A "militant visible church on earth" was understood to exist in particular congregations as "a company of saints by calling, united into one body, by a holy covenant for the public worship of God and the mutual edification of one another." Christ was head of the church; the congregation, independent of outside interference, had the right to choose its own officials. The office of the civil magistrate was subject to recognition by the church. Churches were to preserve communion with one another in mutual covenant with Christ. Such covenants stabilized churches establishing themselves under disparate leadership.
A remarkable succession of educated clergy provided strong leadership. Despite the circumstances that cast him in the role of villain in the excommunication and banishment of Anne Hutchinson, no Puritan teacher was more respected in England and in America than the gentle intellectual, John Cotton, minister of First Church, Boston. His colleague from days in England was the plainspoken master of rhythmic rhetoric and the effective metaphor, Thomas Hooker (1586-1647). Hooker, committed to democracy and constitutional free government, was minister across the Charles River at Newtowne (Cambridge).
Concerned for human rights, Hooker became disenchanted with the elitism of the Boston hierarchy. He led over 100 followers to migrate on foot to Hartford in 1636. There, buoyed by his Christian conviction and liberating ideas of democracy, he established a colony. Conservative puritan minister, John Davenport, founder of the New Haven Colony, was so offended by Hooker's willingness to secularize, even to a limited extent, civil government, that he went to Boston when New Haven was gathered into the Connecticut Colony.
All these men were well educated, had high standards for church membership, and were clergy of the English establishment. Except for Cotton, their Reformed covenant theology had been nurtured on the continent. Hooker, who had been with the dissenters in Holland, diverged from the orthodox Puritan view that voting rights should be conferred only with church membership. He saw no justice in disenfranchising nine-tenths of the population, a proportion that included women, children, servants and apprentices, the unchurched who had migrated from England as non-land owners, as well as the sons of "the elect" who could not pretend to such a claim.
Under Hooker's leadership, the Connecticut Colony gave up the religious qualification for the franchise. New requirements were still restrictive. They gave the town meeting vote to "admitted inhabitants," "men" who could prove capable of "an honest conversation" and could swear that they were not "a Jew, a Quaker or an Atheist," and to "free men who were Trinitarians, land owners and of godly deportment." Nevertheless, Hooker is regarded by many as the father of democracy in America, for many of his ideas were embodied in the United States Constitution.
Later, Massachusetts adopted the controversial Half-Way Covenant of 1662, permitting children to be baptized whose grandparents had been members of the church, but whose parents were not. Males baptized under the Covenant could vote at town meeting when they came of age, but were not admitted to the Lord's Supper or allowed to vote for a pastor. Full church membership came with confession of faith. Its requirement to sit in judgment upon a person's Christian credentials would go to the extreme of the witchcraft delusion in Salem Village b) 1692.
Later, Cotton Mather (1663-1728), John Cotton's grandson sought to bring some authority to bear upon the waywardness of Congregational independence. He proposed that minister in association with one another examine and license candidate for the ministry, and that a consociation of ministers and la) men have judicatory standing over the churches. A minister unpopular among his peers, Mather's proposal was at first unacceptable. In 1705-6, Massachusetts finally adopted his plan for the examination of ministers. Connecticut issued the Saybrook Platform in 1708, making both of Mather's proposals binding colonywide. The establishment in 1701 of Yale College assured high educational standards for ministers and leaders alike.
Until the Saybrook Platform of 1708, upheld by the Connecticut General Court, imposed upon the independent, voluntary fellowship of the churches an obligation of "consociation," the Congregationalists drifted toward spiritual decline and anomaly. The consociation provided mutual aid and outside assistance in handling disputes. A penalty was provided for churches or pastors refusing consociation, a "sentence of non-communion," with less intent to control than to provide orderly procedures and mutual support. The new shape would enable Congregationalism as a denomination in the centuries to come, to maintain its integrity in the face of the American Revolution, religious revivals, the scandal of slavery, the challenge of cultural pluralism, and a call to mission that would carry the faith westward and world-wide.
The morality of Pietism, and the warm heart of England's Wesleyan revival that gave birth to the Methodist Church, helped to energize the American Great Awakening. Itinerant preachers of various denominations swept across religious America during the mid-18th century, winning Christian converts and planting hundreds of new churches. While the Coetus of Pennsylvania was giving nurture and support to a continuing influx of German settlers, over 150 new Congregational churches were formed from 1740 to 1760.
Yale-educated Jonathan Edwards (1703-58) of Northampton, Massachusetts, Congregational minister of keen philosophical intellect, believed that the Awakening was breathing new life into the churches. It replaced a view of the church as a group of people who covenanted together to lead a Christian life, with one that insisted upon individual conversion as the accepted way to the kingdom of God. Emotions ran high, and the spiritual climates, that had in many communities fallen into despair, were transformed.
In 1750, Edwards was dismissed from the Northampton church. He tangled with the congregation on issues of church discipline and tact. For example, he read the names of both the convicted and merely indicted ("bad book controversy") aloud in church as a single list. The final issue surrounded a difference in his interpretation of the Half-Way Covenant (he rejected it as too lax a standard of church membership) from that of his grandfather, Solomon Stoddard, whose associate Edwards had first been at Northampton. Edwards was convinced that admission to communion should include the requirement of a conversion experience. Although a strict Calvinist, Jonathan Edwards had become a "New Light" revivalist puritan sympathizer. He disagreed with the narrow conservatism of the "Old Light" ministers such as Increase Mather and his son, Cotton, and stood firmly against liberal "Arminians," whose moral righteousness he saw as dangerously smug. Nevertheless, he believed that turning to God required a decision, a disavowal of selfishness and the adoption of the life of "disinterested benevolence." Edwards was joined in his position by a large group of New England clergy who supported the Awakening and opposed the more staid, rational, liberal movement in eastern Massachusetts. A group of moderates stood between both extremes. The Boston advocates of free will against Calvinism opposed the revivals, and the path they took would lead in the next century to the Unitarian separation from Congregationalism.
Jonathan Edwards, foremost of American philosophers, was responsible for a far broader synthesis of science, philosophy, and religion in Congregational and Presbyterian theology and practice than had been present in "Old Light Puritanism. He integrated with Reformed theology the worldview of Isaac Newton, John Locke's emphasis upon human experience, and Augustine's spiritual enlightenment, as well as Plato's idealism and the Neo-Platonic idea of emanation from the Divine Intellect to the soul. His ideas would cohere in his followers to give life to a "New England Theology." They would check the anti-intellectual tendencies of the revivalists and the decline of religious vitality during the Revolutionary period. They would give a theological framework to the recovery of intellectual leadership and a new morality in post-Revolutionary America. Edwards' writings inspired and informed the missionary movement of the 19th century as America expanded westward and looked once again to the lands across the sea. His influence rivaled Hooker's in developing the separation of church and state.
United Church of Christ Special Mission Offerings sponsor vital ministries that bring hope to people in the U.S. and around the world. Our church has identified four areas where critical human needs exist:
• in places lacking health and educational resources and/or where disaster has struck;
• within systems of injustice which oppress daily life and opportunity;
• in the lives of church leaders without sufficient resources to live with dignity;
• in the nurture of youth and congregations just beginning their lives of faith.
We believe these Special Mission Offerings collectively serve to lift people closer to the abundance and wholeness to which Jesus Christ has called us to work together to bring about.
Channels resources for international programs in health, education and agricultural development, emergency relief, refugee ministries, and both international and domestic disaster response, administered by Wider Church Ministries, Global Sharing of Resources.
This offering is received on the Fourth Sunday of Lent.
Re-imagines and builds the future of the UCC. Shared at the conference and national levels, STC largely supports youth ministries and full-time leaders for new churches in parts of the country where the UCC does not have a strong presence. Its also provides support for existing church's new initiatives.
This offering is received on Pentecost Sunday.
Supports ministries of justice and compassion throughout the United States, including the Council for American Indian Ministries (CAIM), justice and advocacy, and direct service projects supported by Justice and Local Church Ministries.
This offering is received on First Sunday of October as part of World Communion Sunday.
The Christmas Fund for the Veterans of the Cross and the Emergency Fund is a Special Mission Offering that congregations have been supporting for over 100 years. The offering is administered through the United Church Board for Ministerial Assistance, the charitable arm of the Pension Boards. Funds provide direct financial support to those who serve the church and are facing financial difficulties. Active and retired clergy, lay employees, and their surviving spouses may be eligible for the Supplementation of Small Annuities, Supplementation of Health Premiums, Emergency Grants, and/or Christmas “Thank You” Gift Checks.
This offering is received on the Sunday before Christmas.
To order additional Special Mission Offering materials call United Church of Christ Resources at 800.537.3394 or to place or change a standing order call the Office of Philanthropy and Stewardship at 866.822.8224.
The United Church of Christ is the church the world needs today.
The world needs a church that proclaims, “No matter who you are, wherever you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.” The world needs a church bold enough to say, God is still speaking.
We believe the UCC is such a church.
In Christ we are invited to be transformed and to work with God to make a more peaceful, just, and loving world. Our Still-Speaking God invites us to be bold, to think creatively, and to be innovative in our ministries.
Our covenant with one another in the United Church of Christ means learning to be United even when we disagree, Church together even when we worship in different ways, and to see Christ revealed in beloved community. As over 5,000 local congregations across the country, together with the wider movement of UCC agencies and international partners, we strive to be a faith-forming, multi-racial and multicultural, open and affirming, globally minded movement to transform ourselves and our world.
In isolation, no single UCC congregation can be the church the world needs today. To be that world-changing church, we work together through Our Church’s Wider Mission to support and inspire each other.
Our Church’s Wider Mission Basic Support
Together we are stronger, our reach is wider,
A Guide to Authorizing Ministry in the United Church of Christ
The role of the Manual on Ministry (MOM) in the United Church of Christ is to serve as a living guide, a grounding perspective, and a resource for shared expectations in the essential ministry of Committees on Ministry.
The Manual on Ministry is maintained by the Ministerial Excellence, Support, and Authorization (MESA) Team. The 2018 edition of MOM is available in PDF, and hard copies of the new edition can be purchased through UCC Resources.
The Manual on Ministry includes the following sections and articles:
Section 1: Theological Grounding
Theology of Ministry and Ordination
Marks of Faithful and Effective Authorized Ministers
Ministry of Committees on Ministry
Section 2: Ministerial Authorization
Article 1: Members in Discernment
Article 2: Ordained Ministers from Ecumenical Bodies
Article 3: Ordained Ministerial Standing
Article 4: Lay Ministerial Standing
Article 5: Calls, Covenants, and Endorsements
Article 6: Accountability and Support
Section 3: Resources for Committees on Ministry
Glossary of Terms
Letter from the Habakkuk Group
As of February 2019, the following resources are regularly being published and uploaded. MESA anticipates that all Section 3 resources for the 2018 Manual on Ministry will be available on this site by Summer 2019.
The following resources, templates, and best practices of the Manual on Ministry’s Section 3 are updated, amended, added to or subtracted from, by the MESA Team in order to support faithful and effective Committees on Ministry. These resources are dated and identified specifically as MESA- or MOM-related resources. Additional materials that are not specific to MESA may be linked as relevant references for understanding the Manual on Ministry and the polity of the United Church of Christ.
The suggested offering date is Pentecost Sunday, June 9th, 2019.
The Strengthen the Church offering supports the expansion of ministry and growth of UCC local congregations. Your support of this offering will help the UCC fulfill on its commitment to creating a just world for all by investing in new ministries and practices that meet the emerging needs of local communities.
As God calls our congregations to be the church in new ways, your generosity will plant new churches, awaken new ideas in existing churches and develop the spiritual life in our youth and young adults. Most congregations will receive the STC offering on Pentecost Sunday, June 9th, 2019.
Promotional items for the 2019 offering
- 2019 Strengthen the Church Worship Insert
- 2019 Strengthen the Church Announcement Letter Template
- 2019 Strengthen the Church Facebook Post
- 2019 Strengthen the Church Instagram Post
- 2019 Strengthen the Church Twitter Post
- 2019 Strengthen the Church Social Media Banner
Note: All UCC churches that have given to the Strengthen the Church offering in the past four years should receive a supply of worship bulletins and offering envelopes in their automatic shipment. If you need more of these, please contact UCC Resources at 1.800.537.3394 or order online at uccresources.com.
Build sustainable communities. OGHS supports self-help programs in more than 80 nations to build sustainable communities that enable people and communities to stand against and rise above hunger, disease, illiteracy, and other forces of injustice that deny and destroy dignity.
Respond to disaster. OGHS provides emergency and long-term assistance to people in the aftermath of hurricanes, tornados, storms, floods, tidal waves, fires, explosions, technological disasters, civil strife, war, or other natural or human-caused events. On average, OGHS responds to a disaster once every 2.5 days.
- Minister to refugees. OGHS responds with advocacy and help, hope and hospitality for people who have been uprooted from their home of origin. More than 30 million of the world's people are uprooted at any given time.
In cooperation with Global Ministries, Church World Service, Action by Churches Together, Interchurch Medical Assistance, Foods Resource Bank, Oikocredit, Freedom from Hunger and hundreds of local partners around the world, One Great Hour of Sharing is part of a remarkable network of service and caring that is efficient, effective and faithful. Administrative costs are typically less than eight percent annually.
The United Church of Christ unites with Christians in eight other Protestant denominations and Church World Service in One Great Hour of Sharing, thus multiplying the effectiveness and extent of our witness many times over.
The partnership we share with nearly 6,000 United Church of Christ congregations across the United States and Puerto Rico is where this remarkable miracle connecting UCC members to the world truly begins. The UCC annually channels more than $3 million dollars through One Great Hour of Sharing to humanitarian needs in the world.
The One Great Hour of Sharing offering is administered through Wider Church Ministries of the United Church of Christ.
To support this Ministry:
or give a generous gift at your local UCC church
or send your gift by mail, made payable to:
One Great Hour of Sharing
United Church of Christ
700 Prospect Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44115-1100
All gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing are tax deductible and 100% of designated gifts go to the designated area of response. Non-designated funds are encouraged. They allow One Great Hour of Sharing to address future hidden and forgotten emergencies around the world.
The Rev. Dr. John C. Dorhauer is the Acting Executive Minister of the United Church of Christ's Local Church Ministries.
The Rev. John C. Dorhauer, former conference minister of the Southwest Conference of the UCC, is the ninth general minister and president of the United Church of Christ.
Prior to his role at the Southwest Conference, Dorhauer served as associate conference minister in the Missouri Mid-South Conference, and also served local churches in rural Missouri. He has a Master of Divinity degree from Eden Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Ministry degree from United Theological Seminary, where he studied white privilege and its effects on the church.
Dorhauer is passionate about justice. Two statements that shape his theology are: "God is love. God is just." Along with his passion for justice, Dorhauer has a passion for and love of baseball – specifically the St. Louis Cardinals – music, literature and poetry. He has been married to his wife for nearly 31 years and they have three children.
Dorhauer was chosen as the GMP candidate by an 18-member search committee in February 2015. His candidacy was confirmed by the UCC Board of Directors by a two-thirds vote in March. He was elected at the 30th General Synod, which met June 26-30, 2015 in Cleveland.
Local Church Ministries is one of four Covenanted Ministries in the United Church of Christ. Our purpose is to encourage and support the church's congregations in the fulfillment of God's mission. Local Church Ministries' specific thematic areas can be found below:
These teams support local congregations in their concerns about growth, finances, liturgy and education; support ordained and lay ministers in their vocations; and manage with the Office of General Ministries, the UCC's publishing houses and distribution services.
To inspire donors, through purposeful engagement about the importance of philanthropy and stewardship within the UCC and its churches, to be active participants in transforming the world around us!
To create a culture of philanthropy that invites people to grow in generosity, in faith and in relationship with God and the United Church of Christ.
• Purposeful teaching on the importance of the stewarding of all resources.
• Fostering trust with internal and external stakeholders.
• Modeling what it means to reimagine the gifts of God – lived out through joyful engagement, efficient management of resources, and excellent stewardship of relationships and resources – equipping others to serve, to ask, and to give.
Together, lets re-imagine the gifts of God.
Please call us with any questions concerning gifts you have made, gifts you would like to make, the impact of your gift in the life of the church, and other gift reporting. We encourage you to call on us as a resource for congregational giving, stewardship planning and education.
700 Prospect Ave.
Cleveland, OH 44115