The United States is in danger of abandoning two long-held commitments – welcoming the stranger and struggling for civil rights – and replacing them with fears of immigrants and people of color. The church should be a leader in preventing that. Those were the central messages from the Rev. John Dorhauer, general minister and president of the United Church of Christ, in recent speeches to two partner-church audiences in Germany.Read more
Entrepreneurs came to First Congregational United Church of Christ in Janesville, Wis., and found soil for their seeds of community hope on Saturday, Oct. 19, during a Love Your Neighbor Social Innovation Challenge – something its local, Conference and national organizers hope will spread throughout the UCC.Read more
If you belong to the United Church of Christ, you can now apply for membership in a credit union, thanks to an ecumenical partner denomination.Read more
Calling climate change an emergency, representatives of Christianity and other world religions will gather in New York City Sept. 24 to create an action plan for faith communities. Four United Church of Christ leaders will be there.Read more
Members of the United Church of Christ’s ecumenical partner, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), spoke out on immigration, refugees and poverty at their July assembly.Read more
In a way, the United Church of Christ and its sisters and brothers in Puerto Rico never parted. But there was a pause in their partnership, more than a decade ago. Now that breach is formally on its way toward healing.Read more
For the sake of children, the World Council of Churches wants to redouble its efforts to fight climate breakdown. Empowering young people as activists will be part of that strategy, aided by a $25,000 environmental prize the WCC has won and by educational materials co-developed by the United Church of Christ.Read more
One enduring way the United Church of Christ tries to live out its motto, "that they may all be one" (John 17:21), is by working for Christian unity with other denominations through ecumenical bodies like Churches Uniting in Christ. The work can be challenging as well as joyful, especially given the diversity of churches in the ecumenical movement. CUIC has decided to focus on three areas for the next three years.Read more
Six delegates from the United Church of Christ will spend three days in Toronto this week working with ecumenical colleagues from the United Church of Canada to continue bringing the denominations closer together. This first discussion toward full communion underscores the United Church of Christ’s promise of a General Synod 2013 resolution that calls for strengthening the relationship between the United Church of Christ and the United Church of Canada.
The church representatives gather from Feb. 12 through Feb. 14 as a 12-member committee to begin laying a foundation for a full communion agreement.
"This meeting in Toronto is the first of a series of meetings that follow the General Synod resolution regarding the ecumenical relationship with the United Church of Canada," said the Rev. Karen Georgia A. Thompson, United Church of Christ ecumenical officer and one of six people from the United Church of Christ on the trip.
"The hope is that this group of 12 persons will be able to bring back a common document that will go to the United Church of Canada’s General Council and the United Church of Christ’s General Synod, both of which will be held in 2015," Thompson said, adding that General Council takes place every three years compared to every two for General Synod.
While in Toronto, the 12-person Joint Full Communion Committee (sometimes referred to as the United Ecumenical Partnership Committee) will reflect on what a full communion agreement might mean for the two related, but nationally distinctive, denominations.
"We have to come to mutual terms to how we know ourselves and understand ourselves," Thompson said.
|Joint Full Communion Committee for each denomination|
|United Church of Canada||United Church of Christ|
|Prof. Mark Toulouse||Rev. Sue Davies|
|Rev. Daniel Hayward||Rev. David Greenhaw|
|Rev. Danielle Ayiana James||Rev. Bernice Powell Jackson|
|Rev. Cheryl-Ann Stadelbauer-Sampa||Rev. Campbell Lovett|
|Rev. Bruce Gregersen||Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson|
|Ms. Nora Sanders||Rev. Geoffrey Black|
The United Church of Christ has a full communion with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), a Formula of Agreement with the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Reformed Church in America and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and a "Kirchengemeinshaft" with the Union of Evangelical Churches in Germany (UEK).
The partnership with the United Church of Christ would be a first for United Church of Canada. The Rev. Michael Blair, executive minister of Church Mission for the United Church of Canada, said after the resolution was approved in July that it was "a first for us because we work in partnership with many denominations, but no formal relationships like this resolution would produce."
The United Church of Christ and the United Church of Canada began a formal conversation in April 2012, when the United Church of Christ made a historical visit to the United Church of Canada offices in Toronto. The denominations met again in April 2013 at the United Church of Christ's National Offices in Cleveland.
The General Synod 2013 resolution on the ecumenical relationship outlined that each church would form a team of five members, in addition to the general secretary of the United Church of Canada and general minister and president of the United Church of Christ serving as ex-officio members of the committee. Each committee includes a seminary representative, a theologian, a conference representative, a pastor, a staff member and the head of communion.
There are likely two more meetings ahead this year between the United Church of Christ and United Church of Canada to have a communion agreement in place by the end of 2014. Thompson said that dates and locations of future meetings will be set this weekend "with respect to the timelines necessary to get the documents to General Synod and General Assembly." Later in the process, the United Church of Christ committee will find a way to hear from various constituents in the church.
Culminating nearly seven years of study and discourse, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) voted Nov. 16 during its fall general assembly in Baltimore to approve the "Common Agreement on Mutual Recognition of Baptism."
By a 204-11 vote, the agreement – among the USCCB, the United Church of Christ, Presbyterian Church-USA, Reformed Church in America and Christian Reformed Church – is being hailed as a "milestone on the ecumenical journey," says Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta, chairman of the USCCB Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.
"Together with our Reformed brothers and sisters, we Catholic bishops can affirm baptism as the basis of the real, even if incomplete, unity we share in Christ," says Gregory. "Our conference looks forward to seeing all four of the authoritative bodies of the Reformed communities approve the common agreement as we have today."
The Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, general minister and president of the UCC, says the church will discuss the USCCB's landmark vote with the entire denomination.
"My expectation is that we the issue will be placed before the Executive Council or the General Synod for official action," says Black, referring to the UCC's biennial conference, to be held next July in Tampa, Fla. "At this point, my preference would be to place it before the General Synod in order to give it maximum visibility in the life of the UCC."
The agreement has been ratified by the Presbyterian Church. The Reformed Church in America and the Christian Reformed Church are expected to consider the agreement at their national meetings.
"It was quite the journey – seven years," says the Rev. Sidney F. Fowler, Interim Senior Minister of Westmoreland Congregational UCC in Bethesda, Md. "I think it offers an opportunity for an amazing conversation among UCC folks who have deep ecumenical commitments."
"There were some rather tough moments," says Fowler, who has worked for the national settings of both the UCC in worship and spiritual formation, and has extensive experience developing lectionary-based and international ecumenical resources.
The two primary roadblocks to the agreement centered on language used during the baptismal rite and the manner in which water is used.
"At a moment of significant impasse, Geoffrey brought fresh eyes and asked crucial questions that helped the process move forward so all parties could sign off on the common agreement," says Kimberly Whitney, UCC minister for community life and assistant to the UCC's five-member Collegium. "Our general minister and president looks forward to charging us as a denomination toward continued groundbreaking and visionary connections – both interfaith and ecumenical – that are ahead of us."
Research found that nearly 20 percent of UCC churches were using alternative language for "the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit" for baptismal formula, says Fowler. "Catholics don't recognize baptism other than 'in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.' "
Gregory says the agreement, after approval by the four Reformed denominations, will "allow Catholic ministers to presume that baptisms performed in these communities are 'true baptism' as understood in Catholic doctrine and law."
"The presentation of a baptismal certificate by Reformed Christians who wish to come into full communion with the Catholic Church, or to marry a Catholic, assures Catholic ministers that the baptism performed by a Reformed minister involved the use of flowing water and the biblical invocation of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit," says Gregory.
The agreement encourages local Christian communities to keep baptismal records, a practice already held in the Catholic Church.
The press release stated that other bishops' conferences worldwide have entered into similar agreements with local Protestant communities, but this document is "unprecedented" for the Catholic Church in the United States.