Each year, the second Sunday of October is designated on the UCC church calendar as Access Sunday. It is an occasion when all the UCC will join together in celebrating the gifts of persons with disabilities and the strides that the church has made in being more whole through being more accessible. It is also a day that we, the church, acknowledge the journey yet to be taken with our sisters and brothers with disabilities.
Pastors and lay leaders, invite your congregation to join your UCC friends around the country in celebrating Access Sunday on this day, or on a Sunday more fitting to your church calendar. Find more information and resources via our UCC Disabilities Ministries.
Every June, human rights and faith organizations join together to mark Torture Awareness Month because on June 26, 1987, the nations of the world took a major step against the immoral and abhorrent practice of torture. On that day, the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT for short) entered into force and the United Nations later declared June 26th the “International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.”
Our partners at the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) invite you and your local church to join people of faith throughout the world in commemorating Torture Awareness Month. Check out NRCAT's resources and activity ideas.
If you would like to discuss additional ways for how your local congregation or faith community could mark Torture Awareness Month please call or email T.C. Morrow at 202-547-1920 or firstname.lastname@example.org. They are delighted to assist you with plans and suggestions.
With the start of 2016 we have welcomed two new leaders to our UCC Justice & Witness Ministries Team. It is our great pleasure to introduce you to the Rev. Traci D. Blackmon as acting Executive Minister and Quan Williams as our UCC Advocate for Domestic Policy.Read more
|Congressional web forms require that message fields match their own. Since no uniform standard exists and most offices do not include 'Rev.' as option, such messages would be rendered incomplete and non-deliverable.|
Many clergy express frustration — and rightly so — that the UCC's advocacy forms do not include religious titles, such "the Rev.", in drop-down menu options.
"The problem is not of our making, but rests solely with the requirements of the websites on the receiving end of our messages," explains the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, the UCC's communications director. "Most government offices require that salutation fields be completed — primarily to confirm a constituent's gender — but they often limit the available responses to a few choices, such as 'Mr.', 'Dr.', 'Miss' or 'Mrs.' Anything message that doesn't conform to required fields is rendered 'incomplete' and therefore 'non-deliverable.'"
When a person completes an online advocacy form at ucc.org, Guess says, the email message is delivered in the same way as if the constituent had completed the web form directly on that Congressperson's website. Therefore, the UCC's website hosting company — Convio — has no other option but to configure its clients' prefix titles so that messages will be received by every members of Congress. If the UCC was to include 'the Rev.' as a salutation choice, Guess says, any emails submitted to office webforms that didn't also have "the Rev." as a prefix option would bounce back to the UCC.
"Ironically," Guess says, "members of Congress say they want to hear from religious leaders, but they don't provide a mechanism for clergy to identify themselves as such."
That's why Guess encourages users to alter the suggested email text so that it accurately describes a person's religious affiliation and viewpoints.
United Church of Christ leaders on Thursday (Feb. 12) expressed outrage at the perceived discriminatory treatment of a local UCC pastor by the Oklahoma State House of Representatives.
In what legislators are calling a first, one-fifth of the Oklahoma House voted Feb. 11 to strike from the record a prayer offered on the chamber floor by the Rev. Scott H. Jones, pastor of Cathedral of Hope UCC-Oklahoma City. Jones had been invited to deliver the prayer and serve as chaplain for the day by Rep. Al McAffrey, D-Oklahoma City.
Following the prayer, McAffrey asked that the session vote to include Jones' prayer in the House journal, the official daily record of the chamber. An objection was raised by Rep. John Wright, R-Broken Arrow, who called for a vote on the prayer's inclusion.
"It was a pretty chaotic moment," said Jones of the procedural points of order that ensued following Wright's objection. "My understanding was that [an objection to a prayer] never happens."
The vote took place once order had been established, with 64 representatives voting to include the prayer, 20 opposing it and 17 abstentions.
Jones is a constituent of McAffrey's Oklahoma City district. Both believe the objection was raised because of their sexuality. Jones leads the largest predominantly LGBT congregation in Oklahoma City and is himself gay. McAffrey is Oklahoma's only openly gay legislator.
"As the leader of Rev. Jones' denomination, I am deeply offended by the treatment he received from the legislature and dismayed by the message of intolerance it sends to the citizens of Oklahoma and beyond," said the Rev. John H. Thomas, General Minister and President of the UCC. "It is comforting, however, to remember that our prayers are judged at the throne of grace and not in the halls of petty principalities."
"The Oklahoman" newspaper quoted McAffrey on Wednesday, saying that "because most of Scott's congregation are gay people and Scott is gay himself, I'm sure that's the reason why there were negative votes on it."
But Wright sees it differently. In the same Oklahoman article, he stated his objection was procedural - that prayers were only entered into the official record on Thursdays - but later said his "actions were motivated by the faith."
Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, was among those who voted to strike the prayer from the record. Kern is on record as calling homosexuality "the biggest threat our nation has, even more so than terrorism and Islam."
The Rev. Gordon R. Epps, conference ministry coordinator for the UCC's Kansas-Oklahoma Conference, delivered a letter to Speaker of the House Rep. Chris Benge, R-Tulsa, on Thursday (Feb. 12). Epps commended Benge "for the democratic way you led the house when an unusual challenge was made to vote on whether or not to enter into the record the opening prayer given by the Rev. Scott Jones."
Responding in support of Jones, the UCC's Executive for Health and Wholeness Advocacy, the Rev. Michael Schuenemeyer, said, "Once again, bigotry infects the Oklahoma statehouse by the vote of 20 legislators to reject the prayer offered by the Rev. Scott Jones. In this mean-spirited vote, they have demonstrated profound disrespect to a gifted pastor and a congregation dedicated to faithfully serving its community through a robust and vibrant ministry."
Schuenemeyer sees the proceedings as a clear indication of discrimination. "The action of these legislators has dishonored the core American values of freedom of religion and freedom of expression," he said. "The citizens of Oklahoma and this nation deserve better and ought not to tolerate such behavior from their fellow citizens, much less their elected officials."
The United Church of Christ is a denomination of 1.2 million members in 5,600 autonomous local churches that are joined together in Christian mission through local associations, regional conferences and the biennial all-church General Synod.
At their 2005 General Synod in Atlanta, UCC delegates voted overwhelmingly in support of a resolution calling for marriage rights to be extended to same-gender couples. The resolution, In Support of Equal Marriage Rights for All, "affirms equal marriage rights for couples regardless of gender and declares that the government should not interfere with couples regardless of gender who choose to marry and share fully and equally in the rights, responsibilities and commitment of legally recognized marriage."
Cathedral of Hope UCC-Oklahoma City began in 2000 as a church plant of Cathedral of Hope UCC in Dallas. In January 2007, they became a fully autonomous congregation within the United Church of Christ.