For all of you are the children of God. —Galatians 3:28
Each person is created in the image of God. But whenever we devise, maintain or perpetuate systems and structures that oppress people based on race and/or ethnicity, we interfere with God's purpose and the opportunity for all God's children to be fully who they are created to be. Racism is an affront to God.
Racism is racial prejudice plus power. It is rooted in the belief that one group has racial superiority and entitlement over others. Its power is manifested in every institution and system, both nationally and internationally, which was historically established and continues to function to benefit one group of people to the disadvantage of other groups. Awareness and education will help us to become anti-racist individuals and foster the development of anti-racist systems and institutions that can eliminate privilege for some and oppression for others.
The United Church of Christ and its predecessor churches have made a priority commitment to supporting policies and structures that make real our Christian commitment to racial justice. The UCC's emphasis means more than simply challenging personal prejudices, but involves a commitment to in-depth analysis of societal policies and structures that either work toward the elimination of racism or perpetuate it.
During General Synod 23 an addendum was added to 1993 Pronouncement calling the UCC to become a Multiracial, Multicultural Church. The addendum called the UCC to also become an "Anti-Racist" denomination. In doing so, we encourage all Conferences and Associations and local churches of the UCC to adopt anti-racism mandates, including policy that encourages anti-racism programs for all UCC staff and volunteers.
In 1989 the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) approved a historic partnership of full communion. The two churches proclaimed mutual recognition of their sacraments and ordained ministry.
Though remaining two distinct denominations, the UCC and Disciples have committed through their partnership to seek opportunities for common ministry, especially where work together will enhance the mission of the church.
The partnership is a unique experiment in U.S. ecumenism. In every setting of the two churches, UCC members and Disciples are serving Christ side by side. There are now more than 30 "federated" congregations affiliated with both denominations, and it is now common for Disciples and UCC ministers to serve congregations of the other denomination. The Common Global Ministries Board, formed by the UCC's Wider Church Ministries and the Disciples' Division of Overseas Ministries, unites the international mission work of the two churches.
|Links to Resources|
Report from Ecumenical Partnership Committee
General Synod: 1989 vote on Partnership
Common Global Ministries Board website
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) website
Partnership Website [unofficial]
Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry -- historic step by divided Christian churches towards a common understanding
In 1982 the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches (WCC) published an historic theological statement titled "Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry" (BEM). The statement represents years of ecumenical study and dialogue on the the church's sacraments and offices of ministry. BEM explores what can be affirmed together by Christian churches of several (and historically separated) traditions—including churches of the Reformed, Lutheran, Methodist, Anglican and Orthodox families. It also recognizes that much more work remains before these traditions as they explore the many different accents in sacramental life and the understanding of ministry in the Body of Christ.
In 1985, General Synod received and committed itself to further study of the BEM statement. Both the BEM text and General Synod's response are available here, along with links to other WCC resources.
|Links to Resources|
Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry Statement [WCC website]
Faith and Order pages [WCC website]
General Synod action on BEM
UCC response to BEM
The UCC's commitment to reconciliation among the separated branches of the Body of Christ includes our relationships of full communion. Among these relationships are the Ecumenical Partnership between the UCC and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the Formula of Agreement (FOA) among the UCC, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Reformed Church in America. Another relationship—which aims eventually to establish full communion among nine Protestant and Anglican churches in the U.S.—is Churches Uniting in Christ (CUIC). For the first time, CUIC offers hope that full ecclesial reconciliation will be possible between historically African American and European American churches.
Full communion means that divided churches recognize each others' sacraments and provide for the orderly transfer of ministers from one denomination to another. For example, Disciples of Christ ministers frequently serve UCC congregations, and UCC ministers can be called by Disciples congregations. While full communion opens up broad possibilities for cooperation among the national and regional ministries of participating churches, it is above all in relationships between local congregations that agreements of full communion become alive.
Some of these relationships are new; others date back to earlier centuries. In 17th-century Holland, the Pilgrims (who later founded the first Congregational churches in New England) were in full communion with the French and Dutch Reformed churches. We have for decades been in full communion with the worldwide Reformed family through the World Alliance of Reformed Churches. In recent years, we have entered into bilateral relationships with the Union of Evangelical Churches (Germany) and the Congregational Christian Church in American Samoa. We are also exploring a closer relationship with the Baptist tradition through dialogue with the Alliance of Baptists.
Links to Resources
A Journey to Full Communion (United Church of Canada)
Ecumenical Partnership (Disciples/UCC)
Formula of Agreement (Reformed/Lutheran)
Alliance of Baptists
Churches Uniting in Christ
Union of Evangelical Churches (Germany)
Congregational Christian Church (American Samoa)
World Alliance of Reformed Churches [WARC website]
Links to Websites of Our Ecumenical Partners
African Methodist Episcopal Church 2
Alliance of Baptists
Armenian Evangelical Union 1
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) 1 2
Christian Methodist Episcopal Church 2
Episcopal Church 2
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America 1
International Council of Community Churches 2
Presbyterian Church (USA) 1 2
Reformed Church in America 1
Union der Evangelischen Kirchen 1
United Methodist Church 2
1 Relationships of full communion
2 Churches Uniting in Christ. The African American Episcopal Zion Church is also a member of CUIC but at present does not have a churchwide website.
Centuries of division between the Lutheran and Reformed branches of Protestant Christianity came to an end in 1997 when three Reformed churches (including the UCC) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America agreed on a relationship of full communion through a "Formula of Agreement." A few years earlier, Reformed and Lutheran churches in Europe—where the division between the two Protestant families dates back to the time of Luther and Calvin—agreed to a similar reconciliation through the Leuenberg Agreement.
acknowledges common historical roots between the two traditions, with a deeply shared theological and liturgical heritage.
moves beyond the historic 16th-century condemnations that divided Lutheran and Reformed Christians.
accepts the reality that there are important theological, spiritual and liturgical differences between the two traditions, but that these are not church-dividing, but rather a gift to each other.
celebrates the potential for shared mission and ministry as the two traditions grow closer.
The United Church of Christ is the only church in the relationship that has roots in both the Reformed and Lutheran heritage. Our "German Evangelical" tradition drew from the wells of both Reformed and Lutheran Christianity. Many UCC congregations of our "German Reformed" tradition—especially in historically German-American communities in Pennsylvania—have lived together with Lutheran congregations as "union churches" since the 18th century.
|Links to Resources|
General Synod: 1997 vote for Formula of Agreement
Text of Formula of Agreement
Orderly Exchange of Ministers of Word and Sacrament
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America [ELCA website]
Presbyterian Church (USA) [PCUSA website]
Reformed Church in America [RCA website]
The Alliance of Baptists, an affiliation of more than 100 Baptist congregations, has been in official conversation with the United Church of Christ since the mid-nineties.
Historically, Baptists and the churches that organized the UCC in 1957 have had a close but at times painful history. Conflict between Congregationalists and Baptists in 17th-century New England resulted in the flight of Baptist dissenters from Massachusetts Bay Colony and their founding of a new colony in Rhode Island dedicated to religious freedom. The growing relationship between the Alliance and the UCC has offered an opportunity for both traditions to explore their their history, but more than that, it has helped both traditions discover a wealth of shared biblical and theological conviction.
UCC and Alliance congregations are beginning to form strong and enduring partnerships. Many of these relationships are growing in the Southeast, where the Baptist tradition is particularly strong.
General Synod in 2001 affirmed the continuing dialogue between the two churches, and invited the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to join the conversation as observers. We hope that in the near future Disciples will be able to enter the dialogue as full partners.
|Links to Resources|
In 1999 General Synod declared a "Partnership in Mission and Ministry" with the Congregational Christian Church in American Samoa (CCCAS) as a way of acknowledging the deepening relationship between the two churches and the rapid growth of Samoan congregations in the United States.
Today, there are more than 60 congregations of the CCCAS in Hawaii, Alaska, California, Washington and Oregon. Many of them related to the UCC through our regional Conferences and local Associations. The partnership seeks to strengthen the ministry of these congregations and the mission of both churches.
In many places, Samoan congregations are actively involved in the life and leadership of UCC Associations. Many UCC clergy and lay leaders have immersed themselves in the life of Samoan communities and have traveled to American Samoa to learn more about its unique and ancient culture.
|Links to Resources|
The United Church of Christ is a founding member of the National Council of Churches, the World Council of Churches and many other ecumenical agencies and projects. The NCC and WCC began to take shape in the late 19th-century in response to the worldwide ecumenical movement.
The UCC is also a member of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches—the worldwide communion of churches in the Reformed, Presbyterian and Congregationalist traditions.
|Links to Resources|
Our commitment to relationship with all the peoples of the earth has led the United Church of Christ has entered into dialogue with other faith traditions.
"What does it mean to profess Christian faith in a world of many faiths?" "How can I be fully a Christian and at the same time respect the faith of others?" "What does it mean to be 'saved'?" "How do I interpret in an interfaith society the Bible verses that understand Jesus as 'the way'?" These are questions with which members of our congregations wrestle every day.
General Synod's commitment to interfaith dialogue is expressed in part through the Interfaith Relations Commission of the National Council of Churches. Through the NCC we have been able to connect with leaders of many non-Christian faiths. Other settings of the church are engaged in countless interfaith dialogues, projects and relationships. In many communities, UCC congregations join other churches in organizing coalitions with members of other faiths on issues of shared concern. Our commitment to understanding among faiths is also international: Many missionaries called called by the Common Global Ministries Board are deeply involved in interfaith relationships—especially in societies where Christians are a minority.
In 1987 and 1989, General Synod adopted resolutions reinforcing our commitment to reconciliation with the Jewish and Muslim communities.
Links to Resources
Resource on Interreligious Relations
National Council of Churches Interfaith Relations Commission
General Synod: 1987 statement on Christian-Jewish relations
General Synod: 1989 statement on Christian-Muslim relations
National Council of Churches: Interfaith Relations [NCC website]
History of interfaith relations [WCC website]
Christian-Jewish relations [WCC website]
Christian-Muslim relations [WCC website]
Links to Websites of Other Faiths
- Marriage Equality and the UCC
- Sign on: "Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Marriage Equality"
- Press Releases
Watch Faith and Morality Play Major Roles in Gay Marriage Debate on PBS.
Aspects of religion and morality have been used as the basis for arguments by both sides of the debate on same-sex marriage. Ray Suarez talks with Michael Schuenemeyer, minister for the United Church of Christ, and Richard Langer, a minister with the Evangelical Free Church of America, to learn how they've approached the topic.
The UCC is part of the United for Marriage Coalition.
Click here to see photos from the Interfaith Service and Rallies at the U.S. Supreme Court for the oral arguments in the two marriage cases: Hollingsworth v. Perry (Prop 8) and Windsor v. United States (Defense of Marriage Act - DOMA), March 26 & 27, 2013.
Marriage Equality and the UCC
Marriage is one of the most significant institutions in our culture. The sacred and civil, church and state dimensions of marriage are complex and often muddled, which makes marriage one of the most challenging issues to discuss in the church and beyond.
On July 4, 2005, at the 25th General Synod of the United Church of Christ in Atlanta, delegates voted to adopt the resolution, "Equal Marriage Rights for All" The resources below are provided to help facilitate conversations and study throughout the church and society on this complex and challenging matter which has important implications for individuals, families and the wider community. They are intended to get people of faith talking about the purposes of marriage, looking more closely at how marriage has evolved and changed through time biblically and socially, exploring the theology of marriage, and critically discerning the appropriate roles for the church and the state in marriage.
The colleagues who worked together to prepare these resources join the Conference Ministers of the United Church of Christ who, in calling us to this important dialog say, "let us explore our faith in relation to these issues: the meaning of Christian marriage, the blessing of unions among same-sex couples, the honoring of diverse expressions of loving and caring human relationships, being guided in all things by the love of Jesus. Above all, may these conversations be ventured in humility and prayer."
General Synod 25 (2005) Marriage Resolution
Reflections by General Minister and President, The Rev. John H. Thomas
Call to Action and Invitation to Dialogue, UCC Executive Council (2004)
Call to Dialogue, UCC Conference Ministers (1996)
Please consider signing-on to the
Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing's "Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Marriage Equality"
Online clergy registry being developed
If you are clergy living in California and you will perform same sex marriages, please register with California Faith for Equality.
To register click here.
Inclusive Liturgy from the UCC Book of Worship
Certificate - An embossed certificate for presentation to a couple at their covenant service (envelope included).
Produced by the UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns. Click here to order online, or call UCC Resources at 800-537-3394800-537-3394.
God Is Still Speaking about Marriage [Newly Revised, June 2008]
Recommended by General Synod 25
- An in depth Christian education study resource on marriage, including marriage equality for same gender loving couples.
Free Download [PDF] or call UCC Resources to order [Item# WCMGSM], 800-537-3394800-537-3394.
Sacred Covenants, Faithful Conversation, a DVD resource for talking about marriage.
This DVD contains two items: a 30 minute video on the question of marriage equality in light of the resolution adopted by General Synod 25 (2005) and the 45 minute floor debate on the marriage equality resolution at General Synod 25. Order from UCC Resourcesor call (toll free) 800-537-3394800-537-3394, Item# WCMSCFC
UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns
Marriage Equality Debate
This is an audio link to a debate on the civil right to marry for same sex couples held at Stanford University School of Law, on April 20, 2005. The participants in the debate were Evan Wolfson, Executive Director of Freedom to Marry and Rev. Lou Sheldon, President of the Traditional Values Coalition.
- Witness for Justice: In defense of... by Bernice Powell Jackson
- Witness for Justice: Defending what? by Bernice Powell Jackson
- Same-Sex Marriage? A Christian Ethical analysis by Marvin Ellison, (Pilgrim Press 2004)
- What God Has Joined Together, A Christian Case for Gay Marriage by David G. Myers and Letha Dawson Scanzoni (Harper San Francisco 2005)
- Gay Unions in the Light of Scripture, Tradition and Reason by Gray Temple (Church Publishing 2004)
- Why Marriage Matters, America, Equality and Gay People's Right to Marry by Evan Wolfson (Simon and Schuster 2004)
- Same Sex Unions in Premodern Europe by John Boswell (Vintage Books 1994)
- Christianity and the Making of the Modern Family by Rosemary Radford Ruether (Beacon Press 2000)
To the faithful who worked to defeat Question 1 in Maine
- To the faithful who worked to defeat Question 1 in Maine
- UCC's Southern California Nevada Conference reaffirms support for same-gender marriage
- Northern California Nevada Conference affirms California Court decision
- California Supreme Court rules for marriage equality, UCC leaders respond
- UCC official applauds Senate vote against Federal Marriage Amendment
- John Thomas calls on senators to 'respect U.S. Constitution' and vote against marriage amendment
- General Synod overwhelmingly calls for "full marriage equality"
- John Thomas publicly endorses marriage equality resolution
- John Thomas' prayer offered after marriage equality vote
- John Thomas press statement after marriage equality vote
- Andrew Young says Synod's affirmation of marriage equality would be prophetic
- National Coalition for the Freedom to Marry
- Lambda Legal
- American Foundation for Equal Rights
- National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF)
- Human Rights Campaign (HRC)
- Claiming the Blessings
- Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD)
- Study Circles Group