The UCC Washington office works to project the vision of change that is offered by UCC members in the halls of congress. Every two years our members come from across the country to gather for General Synod - to pray, reflect and discern a faithful response to God’s vision through resolutions and pronouncements on the issues facing our world.
It is through the actions of General Synod that we prioritize our advocacy.
Our staff monitor and seek changes in legislation at local, state and federal levels through a variety of coalitions and working groups. Through these coalitions we lobby and send letters to our elected officials advocating for changes if public policy.
While we work hard to represent and promote the views expressed at General Synod on Capitol Hill, it is you - as constituents - who make the best advocates.
How can the DC office help you engage in advocacy?
constituency Education and Mobilization - E-Advocacy through the Justice and Peace Action Network, Petitions, Rallys and more
Direct Capitol Hill Advocacy - Advocacy training, meetings with government officials and their staff
What is the Justice and Peace Action Network?
The UCC Justice and Peace Action Network is common action arm of the four covenanted ministries of the United Church of Christ that is charged with mobilizing UCC members for concentrated action as issues emerge.
Our vision is a just, compassionate and peaceful world that honors all of God's creation. In keeping with this vision the JPANet seeks to equip its members through issue education and weekly opportunity for public policy advocacy. By joining the JPANet you have access to resources that are beneficial to advocates of any experience level. they include:
An electronic Public Policy Briefing Book at the beginning of each two year Congressional session as an overview of policy priorities and work in all areas.
Weekly electronic actions emailed to your inbox with direct "take action" links to key decision makers.
A monthly electronic newsletter with notices about upcoming events, new resources and opportunities for action.
Using these tools you can begin basic advocacy or expend your current work. Our resources make it easy to engage or to engage your congregation in advocacy. Sign up here!
In responding faithfully to God’s call for abundant life for all people, a common life in which no one is left behind, we are drawn inevitably to engage in public policy advocacy and decision-making.
This is the goal of the UCC JWM Washington office; to make a better world possible by addressing the systemic problems that we face as a country and as part of the world. Hunger, poverty, peace and security, racism, care for the earth. These are among the types of justice issues that we work to improve through federal policies.
“If a single decision in the halls of the U.S. Congress can either enhance or undo literally millions of acts of Christian caring, I should try to influence such decisions?"
The UCC Washington Office was called into being by a resolution at General Synod 10 in 1975. This predecessor body to Justice and Witness Ministries, then called the Office for Church in Society, was created to assume a leadership function for social action concerns in the UCC and to provide resources to the national, conference and local churches.
Foremost among the tasks assigned to the office was identifying, analyzing and forecasting emerging social issues which call for the attention of the denomination.
Today the UCC Justice and Witness Ministries staff in Washington, DC, in partnership with UCC staff, Conferences, Associations, congregations and individual UCC members, continues this mission by monitoring and seeking changes in legislation at local, state and federal levels through a variety of coalitions and working groups.
The policies that guide our work are crafted by UCC members who gather for General Synod to pray, reflect and discern a faithful response to God’s call through resolutions and pronouncements on the issues facing our world.
Want to learn more?
Your vote is your voice – don’t give it up!
The problems in our world often seem too big to confront. We see injustice every day and feel that change can’t or won’t happen. But our faith is infused with hope and built on a foundation of action. By serving the vulnerable, feeding the hungry, and standing in solidarity with the oppressed, we serve as God’s hands.
Voting is a natural extension of faithful action. The decisions made by our representatives have a wide reaching impact. We have enormous potential to make positive change. We must engage our legislators, vote, and encourage everyone in our communities to do the same.
Our faithful voice is needed. It is tempting to disengage from the political process. As people dedicated to creating a just world for all, we know we must be involved.
Join the Our Faith, Our Vote campaign. Discover how your congregation can participate in the electoral process through faithful, nonpartisan engagement. The United Church of Christ can help with resources on civic engagement, voter registration information, issue education, and voter mobilization.
This election season it is essential that people raise their voices and vote. Will you join us?
Lift Every Voice - An Invitation from Rev. Traci Blackmon
In Hebrew Scripture the word most often translated “voice” is “qol.” This is also the word translated as noise, or sound, or vote. In a broader sense, I would say the Hebrew word, qol, simply means letting oneself be heard.As people of faith, what is the noise we want to make in the 2018 election cycle? Read more.
Our Faith Our Vote Tips & Resources
Director of Washington Office
100 Maryland Avenue, NE
Washington, DC 20002
Voting is at the heart of the democratic process. It is the most fundamental access point for individuals to engage in the public dialogue and have a voice in the public policy decision-making process that can shape the future of our local, regional, national and global collective life.
Justice cannot be achieved unless the rules for governing the democratic process are fair to all, yet voter rights have been significantly undermined in recent years. We have seen state efforts to restrict voter rights through stringent voter identification laws and rollbacks in early voting, and last year’s Supreme Court decision eliminated key provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
The UCC General Synod has long supported voting rights and addressing obstacles to participation in the electoral process within the broader context of the civil rights struggle.
UCC Speaks Out
General Synod adopts statement on Supreme Court voting rights ruling
The United Church of Christ’s General Synod decisively adopted a statement brought to the floor July 2 calling on the church to publicly support voter’s rights through public statements, advocacy and actions. The approved resolution was in response to the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down part of the Voting Rights Act as unconstitutional. Read more.
Learn More About Voting Rights
Race and Voting Rights
Police in riot gear, fire hoses and police dogs. These are some compelling images of what advocates faced when marching for the right to vote and an end to racial discrimination, in the streets of the 1950-60s Civil Rights Era. Today, the threats of voter suppression impacting communities of color remain real and present. (Read more.)
You shall appoint judges and officials throughout your tribes, in all your towns that the Lord your God is giving you, and they shall render just decisions for the people. You must not distort justice; you must not show partiality; and you must not accept bribes, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of those who are in the right. Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, so that you may live and occupy the land that the Lord your God is giving you. - Deuteronomy 16:18-20
In this passage from the Scriptures, we hear the call to carefully tend to the ways we order our collective life. A right relationship with God means the practice of right relationship in human community. We are all entrusted, particularly those with power, to make decisions that impact our life together as society.
The call is to act equitably, with impartiality and integrity, and with justice as a guiding value for the common good.
The standard of justice, found over and over in the Scriptures, is the wellbeing of the most vulnerable members of our community. It is the standard by which we discern whether the laws and measures for the order of our society are just and fair.
In our public life together today, where would you say that we are according to such a standard? What are the challenges before us? What might we need to change?
On December 14th, 2012, the community in which I serve was plunged into trauma and grief by the events at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The cries of a heartbroken world rose up as twenty children and six educators were lost in a horrific event of gun violence. Many UCC clergy and congregations reached out to our congregation here in Newtown offering spiritual, emotional and various forms of tangible support.
One UCC laywoman who telephoned me soon after the event commented, “Things like this just should not happen.” But Sandy Hook happens every week in America. In fact, it happens several times over. Every week in the United States more than 50 of our children and youth die due to gun violence and many dozens more are injured. Most of us just aren’t paying attention.
That’s why I want to invite you, my fellow UCC brothers and sisters, to help one another and our nation to “pay attention.” Please join me in taking part in the Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath sponsored by Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence, which is scheduled for the weekend of December 14-18. Commit yourself and your community to pray about, learn about and act upon an issue that is claiming far too many of our fellow citizens.
On that weekend, please remember my beloved Newtown community but also remember and honor all of the precious lives lost to gun violence. (Since President John F. Kennedy was shot, more US citizens have died in our homes, in our schools and on our streets than have died in ALL of our wars - Revolutionary through Afghanistan/Iraq - combined.)
Friends, this issue of justice reaches to the very core of our faith. According to a recent Gallup poll, 60% of all people who have recently purchased a gun listed “personal safety” as the reason for their purchase. However, statistics from the Center for Disease Control tell us that a gun in the home is 22 times more likely to be used in a homicide, injury, assault or suicide than to be used to defend oneself. The gun promises safety but far more often delivers grief.
For people of faith this is not Second Amendment issue, it is a Second Commandment crisis.
The near infatuation with the gun is moving dangerously close to becoming a full-blown worship of a false idol. We live in a time when common sense gun safety legislation - like the strengthening of our national background check system cannot pass Congress – even through nearly 90 percent of our citizens support such a law. We have allowed fear and apathy to rule when it comes to guns in America. We have allowed the status quo to become perfectly acceptable. As a result, every year 30,000 precious lives - each one created in God’s image - are added to a tally that is already far too high.
On the weekend of December 14-18 let us commit ourselves to another way of living – let us trust that “perfect love casts out all fear.” And let us follow in the way of the One we call the Prince of Peace.
Rev. Matt Crebbin
Newtown Congregational Church, UCC
Members of the faith community have long advocated for sensible, responsible policies to end gun violence. In 1995, The UCC 20th General Synod passed a resolution entitled “Violence in Our Society and World,” in which it recognized the complicated and interwoven layers at the root of violence.
That same General Synod also passed a resolution entitled “Guns and Violence,” inviting UCC members and congregations to advocate for legislation to strengthen licensing and registration of gun sales, strengthen regulations of gun dealers and ban semiautomatic assault weapons and high capacity ammunition clips.
The faith community has come together many times in the aftermath of gun tragedies to urge lawmakers to pass laws that prevent gun violence. Tested by our grief, resolute in our faith we remain committed to continuing this drumbeat.
- There is a lot you can do to advance gun safety legislation from home. Download our two-page guide for advocacy ideas.
- Take Action: Contact your Senators and urge them to support the passage of S.42, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019.
- Prayers addressing Gun Violence
- Faith vs. Fear Bible Study. A faith response to gun violence
- Want to be a voice for change? Need help? Check out this guide written for faith and lay leaders to help them answer the tough questions and speak effectively about gun violence prevention!
Traci Blackmon: How are the children?
February 16, 2018
The Rev. Traci Blackmon asks, "How are the children?" A question that seeks to reframe the conversation around serious gun control.
UCC leaders grieve, urge activism after another deadly school shooting in South Florida
February 15, 2018
UCC leaders believe it's past time to stand up to the gun lobbies and advocate for Jesus’ way of peace after another deadly school shooting in South Florida.
UCC general minister and president responds to grief of a community, nation, after Las Vegas shooting
October 02, 2017
The leader of the United Church of Christ, saddened and sickened over the loss of life in a mass shooting Sunday night in Las Vegas, offers prayers for those killed, the injured, their families, the first responders, and those who continue to provide physical and pastoral care in that community.
At General Synod 2017 - Youth voices lead the way on gun violence resolution
July 04, 2017
Guided in large part by the voices of youth, General Synod 2017 enthusiastically passed a resolution of witness urging the recognition of gun violence as a public health emergency deserving of federal funding for scientific research.
Money still talks loudest in gun violence debate
Op-ed by Rev. Matt Crebbin, Newtown Congregational UCC
Commentary: Why We Can't Give Up on Preventing Gun Violence
It is time to reclaim our streets, schools, and workplaces from the threat of gun violence, and it is time to reclaim the power of our vote from narrow special interests that seek to block even modest, common-sense measures to prevent gun violence.
Commentary: Every day is an anniversary
Aurora and Oak Creek made headlines, but the painful truth is that every single day on the calendar is the anniversary of the terrible toll of gun violence, somewhere in America, whether or not it makes the nightly news.
Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence
The UCC's former General Minister and President, the Rev. Geoffrey Black, joined 42 other faith leaders in writing a a letter asking President Obama and members of Congress to, "do everything possible to keep guns out of the hands of people who may harm themselves or others." The letter supports background checks for those who intend to buy a gun and demands legislation outlawing high capacity weapons and ammunition clips. The letter also declares that gun trafficing should be made a federal crime.
General Synod Policy on Gun Violence
An average election in the United States has around 60% of the eligible voting population turning out at the polls. There are a variety of reasons why people don’t get out and vote: their job schedule does not allow it, they are away and didn’t apply for an absentee ballot, disillusionment with the political atmosphere, among others. With the rise in popularity of suppressive voting legislation, we may see an even lower turnout than normal in this election. What can we do to get out the vote?
Tell your neighbors
Remind your friends, neighbors, family members, and congregations to vote on November 6th. Let them know that voting is one of the best ways to make our voices heard. If the political system is not what they’d like it to be, they can change it through voting. Remind them that Election Day involves voting far more than the presidency - important local issues are also at stake. A group of you and your friends can get together and organize a night of phone banking before the election to call the families in your church directory and remind them to vote.
Some people you know may not be able to make it to the polls. If you know of someone who does not drive, offer them a ride to their polling place on Election Day. If you know many people who don’t drive, ask a few friends to volunteer. Single parents or working parents may not be able to leave their children alone to go to the polls. Offer to babysit. If you have a teenager who is not old enough to vote but can watch younger children, ask them if they’d be willing to volunteer to babysit so parents can go out and vote.
Know your laws
With the rise of restrictive voting legislation, people may not vote because they aren’t sure what identification they will need at the polls, or they feel it will be too much of a hassle. Find out the requirements in your state for registering, voting, early voting and more via the Election Protection web site.
Teach your kids
The largest block of eligible voters who don’t turn out at the polls are young people. Start talking to your children (and nieces, nephews, friends’ children, and grandchildren) about voting. Explain to them why you believe it’s important to vote, and get their ideas on why some people may not vote. Let your children know that their political opinions and their vote matters so future generations will turn out at the polls.
Spread the word about Election Protection Resources
The national, nonpartisan Election Protection coalition of which the United Church of Christ is a member, was formed to ensure that all voters have an equal opportunity to participate in the political process. Made up of more than 100 local, state and national partners, Election Protection works year-round to advance and defend the right to vote.
Election Protection provides Americans from coast to coast with comprehensive voting information on how they can make sure their vote is counted. If you have any questions about voting or encounter difficulty when attempting to cast your ballot call the Voter Helplines
- 866-OUR-VOTE (administered by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law)
- 888-Ve-Y-Vota (administered by the NALEO Educational Fund),
- 888-API-VOTE (administered by APIAVote & Asian Americans Advancing Justice-AAJC)
Throughout the election, our volunteers collect information to paint a picture of election irregularities. Election Protection focuses on the voter - not on the political horse race - and provides guidance, information and help to any American, regardless of who that voter is casting a ballot for.
One: God of Love, God of Relationship,
All: God of Community,
One: When you created the world, you said, “Let Us...”
All: You modeled how to be, and who to be, together.
One: Your Holy Spirit was there:
All: The life-giving “wind from God.”
One: Your Wisdom was there:
All: “Delighting” in all the diversity of creation.
One: You are one,
All: You are many.
One: You are unity,
All: You are community.
One: You are “Us.”
Teach us to value your image of relationship.
All: Teach us to act in your image of community.
One: Re-create in us your “Us” image.
All: Let us create a safe space for shared existence and dialogue,
One: For hearing and being heard.
All: Let us create a safe space for considering the issues,
One: And for casting votes.
All: Let there be light.
One: The light of access to, and for, all.
All: Let us seek You out: In each other. For each other. In Community.
Rev. Dr. Frederick W. Weidmann, Senior Minister
Hillcrest Congregational Church UCC
Pleasant Hill, CA
Going back to UCC Office of Commuication Inc.'s founding, we have focused on holding broadcasters accountable to the communities they serve. We made more progress this June when the Federal Communications Commission ruled that information about political advertisements, including those placed by the new Super PACs, must be made available online. These records, which are currently public but housed in filing cabinets at TV broadcast stations, should start to become available in time for the 2012 fall election season. In April, leaders of OC Inc. and the UCC's Our Faith, Our Vote initiative celebrated this important victory. In addition, UCC OC Inc. is collaborating with the Sunlight Foundation and Free Press with a pilot project in Wisconsin to ensure this information is available to everyone. The Rev. Andrew Warner of Plymouth Church UCC in Milwaukee preached a sermon asking Wisconsin residents to come together across partisan divides to support campaign advertising disclosure and seeking volunteers to help with this endeavor.
A few months ago I heard Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, former Speaker of the House, address a crowd. Speaking of the fall Presidential election she said, “This is the most important election in our lifetime,” and then in a moment of honesty she added, “Of course we politicians always say the next election is the most important; and in fact I may be back here saying the same thing again before another election.”
Tuesday, whether the candidate we personally supported won or lost, was but one election; there will be more, and with each one we may tell ourselves, “this is the most important election.” Each election does matter; and a loss in one election can have decades long effects. I still grieve the 2006 election, which wrote a prohibition against marriage equality into our state constitution. An election victory or an election loss can shape our state and nation significantly.
But there shall be more elections. And so while I have an opinion about the outcome of this last election, I am more reflective about the landscape of our state and our nation after the series of elections past and those coming in the future. How shall we move forward?
In looking across the landscape of our country, I’m struck by the ways our society is changing. My observations are not unique. Three trends catch my eye. First, the gap between the rich and poor grew every year since 1980, so that the wealthiest Americans now control a quarter of the wealth in our country, the same as in 1929. Second, increasing numbers of Americans opt out of religious communities and instead identify with no religious community; a trend especially apparent among young adults. Lastly, a broad political consensus that existed between political parties eroded as liberals became more liberal and conservatives became more conservative.
After this election I am particularly mindful of the way the third trend - partisan polarization - affects us all. On Wednesday the Pew Research Center released its study on American values. Pew surveyed American values, as it has since the 1980’s, on a variety of questions. It found political differences now divide Americans more than race, income, religion, education, or sex.
Think about that finding: in a country which enslaved people on the basis of race for 200 years, then denied basic rights for another 100, and even now practices an unspoken segregation, we are more divided by politics than by race. At one time you could predict how someone would feel about welfare programs or immigration or birth control if you knew their religion, or their economic class, or their race. But now the best way to predict their views comes down to one question: who do you support for president. Pew found that divisions according to race and class and religion are now superseded by partisan divisions.
With the recall and of these trends in mind, we turn to our reading from 1 Samuel 8. The Prophet Samuel spoke against the request of the elders of Israel for a king. Our tradition often focuses on Samuel’s critique of the accumulation of power in the hands of a king, but the debate between Samuel and the elders is what can best inform our understanding of our political situation today.
As you may recall, the Prophet Samuel lived through the tumultuous transition of the people of Israel from an collection of loosely organized tribes led by occasional charismatic leaders into a nation state governed by a monarchy. Samuel began as an apprentice to the Prophet Eli. Eli had several sons he hoped would follow him as prophets to the people of Israel; but God saw the corruption of Eli’s sons, so Samuel took over from Eli. Now the situation appeared ready to repeat itself: aged Samuel’s sons based their judgments on the bribes they received.
The elders of Israel came to Samuel upset with the situation. They said to Samuel, “You are old and your sons do not follow in your ways; appoint for us, then, a king to govern us, like other nations.” The elders wanted justice: the sons of Samuel were corrupt, abused their power, mocked the idea of the impartial judge. “We want a king to judge us instead of your corrupt sons,” they pleaded.
If Samuel remembered the corruption of Eli’s sons, he didn’t let on to it. Instead, Samuel complained to God and the elders about the request for king. At the heart of Samuel’s critique was the charge, spoken by God, that the request for a king displaced God. Samuel presented himself as someone aggrieved by the elders’ suggestion, as someone whose only interest was in protecting God’s authority. But Samuel continually overlooked the concern of the elders about the corruption of his sons. He spoke for God’s dignity but ignored justice.
God told Samuel to listen to what the people said. Instead, Samuel tried to dissuade them by cataloguing all the ways a king would abuse them, suggesting in this way that his own corrupt sons would be better than a king. The king would conscript their sons into battles, redistribute wealth, and tax the people. His words reverberated with the word take. “The king,” Samuel warned, “will take and take and take and take until you are all slaves.”
Samuel’s strong warning fell on deaf ears. The elders remained adamant, “we want a king to fight our battles.” And perhaps the people were so insistent because of the corruption of first Eli’s sons and then Samuel’s sons. The people already knew what it was like to have their property taken and taken; that was what it was like to live with the prophets’ sons.
It strikes me that Samuel and the elders were locked into a partisan battle. Samuel claimed to speak for God and tradition, but ignored his own sons’ corrupt ways. The elders denounced corruption but were blind to the dangers of their own solution. Both seemed to talk past each other.
Samuel and the elders do not line up with our political parties today. But there debate feels familiar. We’re increasingly locked in partisan debates in our country; but do we miss some truth in what the other is saying just as Samuel and the elders missed what was true because of the intensity of their argument?
Lost in their debate was the real question of justice. Who would protect the poor from corrupt judges? Who would protect people from the seizure of their property? Who would protect workers from mistreatment? Who would keep the sons and daughters from conscription in foreign wars?
Our tradition commonly takes the point of view of Samuel - kings are bad - but I wonder if we ought to pay more attention to the odd role God plays in the story. God seemed to share Samuel’s analysis of kings - “they have rejected me” - but doesn’t seem perturbed by it - “listen to the people.” Perhaps God saw what Samuel didn’t - the corruption of the prophets’ sons, the corruptions of the kings. What mattered to God was not who would rule but who would speak for justice.
This concern for justice reminded me of a favorite line in one of James Madison’s Federalist Papers. “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.” And by that Madison meant to remind us that neither people nor governments were angels.
Madison devised several solutions. Most famously, Madison drafted the Bill of Rights in order to protect people from the abuse of power. But he also remained focused on justice. In the Federalist papers he wrote, “Justice is the [purpose] of government. It is the [purpose] of civil society. It ever has been and ever will be pursued until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit.” One of Madison’s clearest measures of a just government was the extent to which a minority was guarded against oppression by the majority. I think James Madison might have a definition of justice we could agree on regardless of party.
Every election matters. It mattered for the people of Israel that the elders convinced Samuel to appoint Saul king. It matters who wins. But regardless of who rules, we need people who will speak up for justice.
Over the last few decades our Christian movement, the United Church of Christ, raised its voice for justice regardless of who ruled. Many of the ways we’ve done so remain unknown even in our movement. One of those stories concerns the Office of Communication. The Office of Communication was formed during the civil rights era to deal with discrimination against African-Americans in the news media. At that time southern television stations would drop the national news feed whenever it turned to the civil rights movement. One would see the briefest clip of Martin Luther King speaking and then a sign would appear, “Sorry, Cable Trouble.”
The situation was particularly bad in Jackson, Mississippi, where the local television station maintained a KKK bookstore on its property. Needless to say, their only stories about African- Americans involved crime.
The Office of Communication trained monitors to record exactly what happened on the television station, documenting all of its coverage to prove discrimination. The study became the heart of a landmark legal challenge in which the United Church of Christ sued to take away the television licence of the station. And we won. The shock of this victory altered the media landscape because no other stations wanted to lose their licence.
The Office of Communication continues to speak up for justice today. This April it achieved another victory. As we’ve all seen in the recall election, millions of dollars poured into our state, flooding our airwaves with advertisements from unknown super pacs like “Wisconsin Citizens for a Better Tomorrow” and “A Better Tomorrow for Wisconsin” and a hundred other previously unknown groups of mysterious origin. The FCC only required television stations to make information on advertizers available in file cabinets at the station. The Office of Communication successfully changed the rule. The FCC will require stations to make the information available electronically, which will allow us to begin to gain transparency to the advertising.
But the FCC plans to delay the implementation of this rule. So now the Office of Communication needs volunteers to help monitor, much as it needed them decades ago. In this case it involves taking a couple of hours to visit a television station, photocopy their files, and turn them in to the UCC. Its a small, practical way to raise a voice for justice, transparency, and fairness.
We’re often divided along partisan lines - could we come together around issues of transparency and fair debate? Could we find a common voice for justice? There will be another election; may ours always be a voice for justice. Because what will move our state forward, regardless of who rules, is people united in raising a voice for justice. Alleluia and Amen.
Contact Cheryl Leanza of OC Inc. if you live in Wisconsin and want to help with this effort.