What Matters includes a variety of resources to connect your questions of faith with the deep faith expressed by the UCC. Discover what matters through reflection, stories from UCC congregations and members, stories from history, Bible study, prayer, worship, and service.
Explore on your own or with others. There are plenty of suggestions for seekers, new member classes, baptism preparation or membership groups, or pastor classes. For ideas about how use What Matters with groups, click here. Discover the questions and insights of those not familiar with the UCC in the article "What Matters to Visitors and Seekers?"
To explore one of the six vital themes, simply click a photo below.
We Are One at Baptism We Thank God by Working We Listen for the
and the Table for a Just and Loving World Still-speaking God
What Matters to You? Matters to Us - Engaging Six Vital Themes of OurFaith by Sidney D. Fowler is a new book for individual or group study based on core themes of
the United Church of Christ.
Also available is What Matters for Children and Families by Frank Proctor based on the same six vital themes.
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- Updated guidelines on how National, International and Regional partners can support Ugandan LGBTI Persons and their allies from the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law (CSCHRCL), a coalition in Uganda.
General Synod Resolution
In July of 2011, the 28th General Synod of the United Church of Christ adopted a resolution, "Supporting International Human Rights Related to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity". The purpose of the resolution is to raise awareness of international instances of systematic discrimination, violence and abuse targeting persons based on their sexual orientation or gender identity (SOGI), and of contexts where such abuse is not prohibited by law but rather legally, politically, socially, and even religiously sanctioned.
The resolution advocates for the Yogyakarta Principles and thus, commits the United Church of Christ to advocate for the fair and equal application of universal human rights principles and laws toward the protection of all persons from sexual or gender status-based abuse, discrimination or criminal prosecution.
In 2006, in response to well-documented patterns of abuse, a group of international human rights experts met in Yogyakarta, Indonesia to outline a set of international principles relating to sexual orientation and gender identity. The result was the Yogyakarta Principles: a universal guide to human rights which affirm binding international legal standards with which all States must comply. They promise a different future where all people born free andequal in dignity and rights can fulfill that precious birthright.
A major insurance company that sought out business from a local United Church of Christ congregation in Michigan has refused to even provide a quote for coverage because it learned the church's denomination supported same-gender marriage equality and the ordination of gay clergy.Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company, based in Fort Wayne, Ind., told West Adrian UCC in Adrian, Mich., that its denomination's gay-affirming stances made it a "higher risk" for property and liability insurance.
"Our company's decision to not submit a quote to your organization arose out of information that was supplied in a supplemental application, indicating that your organization 'publicly endorses or practices the marriage of same-sex couples' and 'publicly endorses or practices the ordination of the homosexual clergy,'" wrote Marci J. Fretz, a regional underwriter for Brotherhood Mutual, in a July 30 letter to the church.
Ironically, the church was fully insured by another company, and happily so, but was sought out by a local agent of Brotherhood Mutual who asked to provide the church a quote and then, subsequently, refused to do so.
"I think Brotherhood Mutual's action is one worth noting," wrote the Rev. John W. Kottke in an Aug. 13 letter to the Rev. Kent J. Ulery, the UCC's Michigan Conference Minister, "if for the sake of warning other churches in our Conference that such prejudice exists within certain sectors of the business community."
Founded in 1917, Brotherhood Mutual claims to be one of the nation's leading insurers of churches and related ministries. It provides insurance to 30,000 congregations in 29 states and the District of Columbia.
"[Brotherhood Mutual has] an obligation to serve as stewards of our policyholder's funds, and to avoid knowingly insuring organizations that are at higher risk of loss based on the controversial positions that they have taken," the company wrote to the church.
Cathy Green, president and CEO of the UCC Insurance Board, which insures about 2,600 UCC and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) congregations, says Brotherhood Mutual is one of its "key competitors."
In contrast to Brotherhood Mutual, Green says, one of UCCIB's core values is inclusivity. "All UCC and Disciples churches are eligible to receive our services without prejudice to a denominational or congregational position on being open and affirming or on being a congregation with a wide diversity of leadership membership," Green said. "We give our best efforts to every church every time."
West Adrian UCC, founded in 1836, has about 100 members. It is not listed among the nearly 700 UCC churches that have publicly adopted an "open and affirming " position with regard to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons.
"I do not believe this company represents the mainstream of insurance providers, but it is good to be aware of how our church's faith perspectives can be misjudged," the church's pastor said. "I hope that none of our churches are drawn into dealings with this company."
The Golden Gate Association ordained the UCC's first gay clergyperson, the Rev. William R. Johnson, in 1972. In 2005, when General Synod affirmed same-gender marriage equality, the UCC became the first and largest mainline Christian denomination to do so.
We live in a culture that is deeply conflicted about sexuality.
Our religious heritage compels and guides us in creating a safe environment where people can come to understand and respond to the challenges facing them as sexual beings. As faith communities, we promote justice for all people and we affirm the dignity of every individual, the importance of personal responsibility, and the essential interdependence of all peoples.
Sexuality and Our Faith is a series of faith-based companion manuals to the Our Whole Lives curriculum. These companion resources are designed to be integrated into each corresponding workshop of the Our Whole Lives Curriculum when used in United Church of Christ, Unitarian Universalist Association or other faith-based settings.
Sexuality and Our Faith puts learning about bodies, families, identity, relationships, and sexuality in the context of worship and our relationship with God and scripture. The goals are to connect faith with identity, relationships, and sexuality issues in ways that lead to informed and healthy decisions, and to empower persons to act responsibly as they seek to unite body and spirit, spirituality and sexuality, alienation and wholeness.
As Christians, we profess that we are created in the image of God. In this image, we make a lifelong journey toward deeper faith, faithfulness, and wholeness. As a church, we seek continually to integrate God's ongoing revelation with new knowledge and understandings of our lives and times. In our religious education, we seek to equip the faithful for this journey in all its possibilities.
As people in the United Church of Christ (UCC), we affirm that sexuality and a spirituality are intricately connected and that both are gifts from God. The actions of our General Synods, conferences, associations, congregations, and councils support this.
The following principles supplement the Our Whole Lives assumptions, goals, and principles, expressing what many in the United Church of Christ believe about faith, spirituality, sexuality, and justice.
Principles Guiding the United Church of Christ Commitment to Sexuality Education
- Sexuality is a God-given gift.
- The purposes of sexuality are to enhance human wholeness and fulfillment, to express love, commitment, delight, and pleasure, to bring new life into the world, and to give glory to God.
- When making decisions about sexuality, the primary guide is God's call to love and justice as revealed in both Testaments.
- From a biblical perspective, sexuality is intended to express mutuality, love, and justice. In judging whether behavior is ethical or unethical, the norms of mutuality, love, and justice are the central criteria.
- From a biblical perspective, sexuality is distorted by unethical behaviors, attitudes, and systems that foster violence, exploitation, infidelity, assertion of power, and the treatment of persons as objects.
- In developing a just sexual morality, we need to avoid double standards and avoid using heterosexual and cisgender people, experiences, and relationships as normative for all people.
- A responsible and mature sexual ethic respects the moral agency of every person. When faced with ethical decisions, each of us needs to be accorded the freedom and responsibility to choose.
- The church, at all levels, ought to be a context for discussion about human sexuality.
- The church ought to encourage and support advocacy with those who society, and even the church itself, have sexually oppressed or made the victims of sexual violence and abuse.
- A Selected Chronology of Sexuality Education in the UCC
- 5 Reasons to Talk about Sex in Church
- Listen to Alive! In Our Sexuality and Faith on Podcast for a Just World
"To offer sexuality education in a congregation is to acknowledge that human sexuality is simply too important too beautiful and too potentially dangerous to be ignored in a religious community." - Rev. Lena Breen, Mt. Vernon, WA
The United Church of Christ was a minority of one 30 years ago when the Rev. William R. Johnson became the first openly gay man ordained to Christian ministry.
The ordination was controversial. Critics wondered if the UCC was taking a risk that endangered its relationship with other churches. Some feared the church would be drummed out of the ecumenical movement if it continued to ordain gays and lesbians.
But that never happened. Instead, a number of Protestant, Anglican and Old Catholic churches have moved in the same direction, including nine of the UCC's partners in the World Alliance of Reformed churches.
The trend started with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Netherlands, which decided soon after Johnson's ordination that lesbians and gays could serve openly as pastors. Since then, the practice has spread to 25 other churches—among them the oldest Protestant churches in Europe.
Sexual orientation is no longer a barrier to ordination in the Evangelical Church of the Union (EKU), the German ancestor of the UCC's Evangelical tradition. Its territory includes the capital city of the Protestant Reformation—Luther's Wittenberg. Homosexuals also can be ordained in the Reformed churches of Germany and Switzerland, the forebears of the UCC's Reformed tradition. The city once known as the "Reformed Rome"—John Calvin's Geneva—is no longer hostile territory for lesbians and gays called to Christian ministry.
Most of the historic Lutheran and Reformed churches in Germany and northern Europe now welcome homosexuals into ordained ministry.
Europe heads the list with 19 churches where homosexuals can be legally ordained. But several denominations in Africa, North America and the Pacific are also joining the trend, including the Anglican church in South Africa formerly led by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the United Church of Canada, the Episcopal Church in the U.S. and the Uniting Church in Australia.
Besides these Protestant and Anglican churches, at least three of Europe's "Old Catholic" churches permit the ordination of gays and lesbians. These are churches in the Roman Catholic tradition that broke with the Vatican in the 19th century.
Many churches have adopted uniform policies that expressly permit homosexuals to serve as priests or ministers. In others, the policy is either neutral or implicit, leaving the decision to a regional or local authority.
Practices are not consistent from church to church, but in all of them church leaders have either ordained openly homosexual candidates for ministry or signaled their willingness to do so.
The issue deeply divides some of the churches where lesbians and gays have been ordained. Open conflict has broken out in the Anglican Communion. The church's international conference of bishops in 1998 rejected "homosexual practice" as "incompatible with Scripture," but defeated a resolution condemning bishops who "knowingly ordain" gays and lesbians. Some Anglican bishops in Asia and Africa, despairing at the trend towards greater acceptance of homosexuals in the Episcopal Church, have threatened to break relations with U.S. bishops. Other churches have lost members and even entire congregations who feel they cannot coexist with openly gay clergy.
But in most churches, the trend is to recognize a diversity of practice—to "agree to disagree." In these churches there is continued debate, but homosexuality is no longer considered a church-dividing issue.
Many Protestant churches are still sorting out unresolved issues, with the result that policies are sometimes ambiguous or contradictory. Celibacy, for example, is generally not required by those German churches that ordain homosexuals, but some forbid gay pastors to live with their life partners in parish housing. That policy, critics say, has the unintended effect of splitting monogamous couples from each other, and sends mixed messages to the gay community about the church's commitment to lifelong fidelity as the ideal for human relationships. While the trend is towards inclusion of lesbians and gays in the ordained ministry, acceptance of homosexual pastors in Germany is often a quiet affair, not a confident proclamation that a consensus exists on the morality of same-gender relationships.
The 26 churches have a total membership of nearly 57 million.
Andy Lang is managing editor of the United Church of Christ website.
|Churches where homosexuals can legally be ordained
Anglican: Church of the Province of Southern Africa*, Episcopal Church (USA)*, Scottish Episcopal Church*; Baptist: Alliance of Baptists (USA)*; Christian: Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)*; Lutheran: Church of Denmark*, Church of Norway, Church of Sweden*, Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession (Austria), Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland*, Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany*; Old Catholic: Old Catholic Church of Austria, Old Catholic Church in the Netherlands*, Old Catholic Diocese of Germany*; Reformed and United: Evangelical Church of the Helvetic Confession (Austria), Evangelical Church of the Union (Germany)*, Evangelical Reformed Church (Germany)*, Evangelical Reformed Churches of Switzerland*, Evangelical Waldensian Church (Italy)*, Netherlands Reformed Church, Reformed Churches in the Netherlands, Remonstrant Brotherhood (Netherlands), Uniting Church in Australia*, United Church of Canada, United Church of Christ (USA)*, United Protestant Church of Belgium*
* These churches have no explicit churchwide policy permitting or prohibiting ordination of gays and lesbians. The decision is left to regional or local bodies, some of which are willing to ordain homosexual candidates. In some churches this amounts to a churchwide practice, since no ordaining bodies discriminate against homosexual candidates for ministry.
In Germany, a majority of Lutheran, United and Reformed Landeskirchen (regional churches) permit the ordination of homosexuals without requiring celibacy. In the United Protestant Church in Belgium, homosexuals generally can be ordained in Dutch, but not in French, congregations. The General Synod of the Church of Norway, voted in 1997 to oppose the ordination of homosexuals living with a partner, but four of the eleven Norwegian bishops have declared that this policy is not binding in their dioceses. The issue is still in dispute. There is no churchwide policy in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, and at least one bishop has declared his willingness to ordain homosexuals. Other Finnish bishops have said they will do so only if the ordinand commits to lifelong celibacy.