At the recent General Synod 25 in Atlanta, a resolution called, "Another World Is Possible: A Peace With Justice Movement in the United Church of Christ," was adopted by the Synod. This resolution lifts up and affirms previous actions of the General Synod which have given the UCC many of its distinctive justice identities, such as being a Just Peace Church.
On the occasion of this important anniversary, local churches are encouraged to offer prayers and times of reflection on the significance of the past sixty years, and to pray and offer witness for peace in the world and the elimination of all stockpiles of nuclear weapons. Another world is possible. It must be possible. A world void of nuclear weapons with their devastating and long lasting affects on the peoples of this world, and on the earth.
A Prayer of Remembrance
O God, tender and just,
the names of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
cut through our denial
that we are capable of destroying the earth
and all that dwell therein.
Forgive us -
and help us to always remember.
We must remember because this must never happen again.
We must remember because you would have us live
in harmony with each other,
seeing the joy of your creation in our
sisters and brothers.
Holy God, God of all the ages,
lead us from death to life,
to the stockpiling of hope, and of possibilities,
and of love
rather than the stockpiling of weapons, or stones to throw,
or of hate.
We pray for the healing of the earth and of its peoples,
especially for our sisters and brothers
upon whom a nuclear rain poured down.
Help us to imagine that another world is possible
and guide our actions towards the peace
you envision, the peace you have already given us.
In the name of the One who came so that we might have life,
and have it abundantly, we pray.
Written by Rev. Loey Powell
There are several activities you and your church might consider taking part in during this time. Organize a local Shadow Project in your community. This project uses the simple technique of drawing the outlines of persons with chalk on sidewalks to symbolize the hundreds of thousands of residents of Hiroshima and Nagasaki who were vaporized in the blasts. Check out the website for the Shadow Project, or call them at 503-274-2720.
Many liturgical ideas and other resources which could be used on Sunday, July 31 or August 7, or at special services of remembrance during the week, are available from the United Methodists.
For more information on these actions, or on organizing a candlelight vigil on August 9 at your city hall, or for downloads of Days of Remembrance action postcards, visit the website of Waging Peace. (The National Council of Churches has endorsed these efforts.)
God is still speaking through and to the United Church of Christ. Members and congregations are claiming and embracing God's call to evangelism. Evangelism is vital for the future of the United Church of Christ. God is saying to the United Church of Christ to be ready and set to grow in witness, outreach and welcome.
Evangelism Ministry proclaims the gospel in the world and the church, as well as, starts, nurtures, strengthens and renews congregations in partnership with Conferences.
Evangelism Ministry works with The Congregational Vitality Initiative to provide resources and workshop for vital congregations to be ready and set to grow in discerning God's mission, understanding community and culture, and nurturing discipleship of witness, outreach and welcome.
The response to The Still Speaking Ministry has shown that Now is the Time for New Church Development in the United Church of Christ. In partnership with Conferences, the Now is the Time Vision and Strategy calls for a growth toward 250 new churches by 2011 and more than 1,600 new churches by 2021. Developing leadership for new churches is necessary. This summer the second Leadership Institute for New Church Planters will be held in Atlanta in August. Potential new church planters can assess their gifts for new church development using an Assessment Tool available through Evangelism Ministry. Evangelism Ministry works in partnership with Local Church Ministries Church Building & Loan to prepare new churches to become Partners in Building. Evangelism Ministry provides funding for new and renewing congregations in partnership with Conferences.
Please browse our listing of resources that you can use to lift up Evangelism in your local congregtion.
As well, take the time to read a brief message from Minister and Team Leader, the Rev. David Schoen.
Churches Growing Churches
On-line resource partners
Visit the links below for additional Evangelism resources:
Blessings as you get ready and set to grow to be the evangelist that God is calling you to be!
Our commitment to the unity of Christ's church is affirmed by the words of our symbol—"That They May All Be One." (John 17:21). Itself a union of several Christian traditions, the United Church of Christ is actively engaged in ecumenical relationships that seek to heal the broken unity of the Body of Christ.
The division of the church is a result of human sin, and all Christians have a responsibility to work for the day when, as Jesus prayed, "they may all be one." Ecumenical relations helps us to learn from the spiritual traditions of other churches. They help us to serve the world more effectively in God's name. They remind us that while we are proud of the diversity of the Protestant traditions that have joined in our united church, there is an even greater diversity in the Body of Christ that can make us whole.
Our ecumenical commitments affect us no matter where we live and worship. They are as near as the neighboring church down the street and as far as the communities of Christians who live the Gospel in the poorest countries of Africa and Asia, the Pacific and the Americas. On these pages you will learn more about these commitments as well as the broader dialogue between Christians and the followers of other religions.
Our commitment to relationships with all the peoples of the earth has led the United Church of Christ to enter 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 verses the Bible that understands 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 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]
Guidance for UCC Committees on Ministry: UMC FAQ Document, 2019
Links to Websites of Other Faiths
Ecumenical Councils and Agencies
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.
UCC-Disciples Ecumenical Partnership
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.
For almost sixty years, thousands of refugees from all over the world have been resettled by hundreds of UCC churches participating in Refugee Ministries. The UCC Refugee Ministries has been reaching out to refugees helping them start anew and advocating for their safety and fair treatment.
Refugees are people who have fled their countries due to war and persecution. Most refugees prefer to return home, but it is often too dangerous because of ongoing conflict and unrest. Some languish in refugee camps for a decade or more. Others remain in neighboring countries. Some seek asylum in the U.S. on their own, taking great risks, facing the dangers and despair of detention or deportation.
There are more than 21 million refugees in the world today. Three-fourths of the world's refugees are women and children. Another 44 million people are internally displaced within the borders of their own countries due to civil war or other conflicts. Less than one percent of refugees have the opportunity to resettle in North America, Australia or Europe.
Through UCC Refugee Ministries, this mass of suffering humanity becomes a name, a face, a person made known to ordinary church folk who have made an extraordinary commitment to help refugees begin a new life in the United States.
In 2007, we invited church folk to share their stories about refugee resettlement with us. We were delighted by the enthusiastic response to our request. In our preparation of the Refugee Journal: Telling the Story of UCC Refugee Ministries we received over 110 stories.
It is now our challenge and joy to find meaningful ways to share these stories as we uplift the rich legacy of UCC Churches faithful action in response to God's call to "welcome the stranger" and love the sojourner. Listen as we share scripture and excerpts from their stories.
"Peace, peace to the far and the near, says the Lord and I will heal them."
"There are millions of people who need our hospitality. A resettlement with us means a new life for refugees and a hope of achieving peace and stability in their lives."
Ed Ballam, First Congregational Church, Haverhill, NH
"We came because for 4 years there was a war in our country. One day, I came home from work and our house was on fire. Semsudin was in a concentration camp for 6 months. We lived in Serb territory and were not safe. We moved to Croatia. In Croatia we contacted refugee ministry."
Suvada Tahirovic, from Bosnia in CT.
"It began with a request one Sunday in the fall of 2002 for people to... help with refugee resettlement. I,[answered the] call and embarked on a journey. Our first task was to acquire, through donations, suitable household goods and furniture. It is a little daunting to attempt to ?decorate' for someone you don't know with donated goods. The prevailing thought was to make it seem like home. After several weeks of planning, sorting and moving we were amazed at what a lovely apartment had been assembled.
Edwina Gower, First Plymouth Congregational, Lincoln, NE.
"The stranger has not lodged in the street; I have opened my doors to the traveler..."
"What a powerful experience for those of us waiting on the other side with open arms and open hearts. The culture shock, stress, and confusion was evident in their tear-stained faces. They had endured so much, and carried the deep burden of not knowing whether their parents had survived. Those stressed faces now carry broad smiles."
Sue Robert, East Congregational, UCC, Grand Rapids, MI.
"There were so many people waiting for us - like family - it was as if they knew us."
Regina Conton from Sierra Leone resettled in CT
"(Naik) and Naseem were very sweet, however so emaciated that I felt like I was hugging skeletons with skin. Their eyes betrayed a sense of unspoken tragedy. Naik was very disoriented and had something wrong with her eye. However, when Naseem smiled it was like watching the sun come out after a rainstorm."
Kate Carmell, St. Paul's UCC, Seattle, WA.
"...for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing..."
"Although refugee resettlement takes time and energy, it is a gratifying way for people to give. Those who resettle refugees form close relationships with each other, strengthening the church."
Rev. David Kratz, Fauntleroy UCC, Seattle, WA.
"It was a joy, the first Sunday after their arrival, having our "family" attend our church to meet all of us who were working to make their beginning here in the U.S. a good experience."
Cliff and Bobbie Burnett, First Congregational, Kent, CT.
"They slip ever so innocently into our very lives. We share clothing, furniture, hopes and dreams with them. We take them for shots, dental appointments, visits to the social security office, the local schools, we find them jobs - we share pictures that are then mailed back to their former homeland. We listen with love as they tell of leaving family and homes behind to begin the frightening venture of starting from square one in adopting a new home. They will be our friends for life."
Rev. Alfred K. Schwerdt, Immanuel UCC, Shillington, PA
"We feel like birds freed from a cage."
Semsudin Tahirovic, Bosnian resettled in CT
"Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it."
"Our lives have truly been blessed as we continue to learn about their Bosnian culture and their Muslim faith. Two different cultures and two different faiths, but we still have a lot in common!!! The world gets a whole lot smaller when you grow to know people from different walks of life. I thank God every day for bringing us the Tahirovic's. We have learned so much from them and are grateful for their lasting friendship."
Betsy Levesque, First Congregational, Kent, CT
"The families are dear to the hearts of sponsors and have taught us valuable lessons never to be forgotten. We are awed by the courage, creativity and determination shown by these once homeless people. Their ability to overcome anxiety and disappointment, the loss of homeland and culture, their sense of fun and joy in special moments speak to us of grace and challenge our faith.
Fran Stiles, Mountain Rise UCC, Rochester, NY
"In two years, this African family which arrived in our country with three duffel bags containing all their belongings, studied English, learned about a vastly different culture, took difficult jobs, learned to drive, bought cars, and their first house! The process comes full circle as the children now attend the same schools as my children and they have become true peers, not "sponsors" and "refugees."
Rae Hunter-Pirtle, First Plymouth Congregational, Lincoln, NE.
"So then you are no longer strangers and aliens but you are citizens with the saints and members of the household of God."
It is our hope and prayer that these powerful stories will stay with you. Please help us to interpret this work with refugees. We have some wonderful new resources to help you do that.
II. One way we invite you to help support and interpret Refugee Ministries, is to share:
The Refugee Journal: Telling the Story of UCC Refugee MInistries, and our new video In the Eyes of a Stranger which is under nine minutes. For youth we have The Uprooted Game. These are available upon request. The video will be available from conference resource centers in February. We encourage you to lift up refugees in connection with the One Great Hour of Sharing offering. Share a minute for mission, using these stories. Share them with Sunday School classes.
III. A Challenge we place before you:
Become an advocate for refugees. Join the UCC Take Action network. Send letters to your representatives about refugees.
Locate a Church World Service affiliate in your area and make contact with them. Learn about refugee resettlement in your community.
The earth is the Lord's and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it. —Psalm 24:1
The creation belongs to God. We have been given responsibility to care for it, lovingly tend it, and responsibly use it. When, in our brokenness, we hoard resources, violate and plunder the earth carelessly and greedily; when we take more than we need at the expense of others, it violates God's intention for the human community.
In an increasingly interdependent world economic order, unfair systems are working to benefit some and hurt others. The global economic order has created an increasing disparity, in which a relative few are hoarding an increasingly large amount of the world's resources, while over two-thirds of the world fall further and further into miserable, grinding poverty. The church has a responsibility to speak on behalf of, and stand with the poor, oppressed and marginalized.
Major economists are, finally, opposing "free trade" agreements.
Lawrence Summers -- former Secretary of the Treasury, President Emeritus at Harvard University, and former free trade supporter -- writes in his blog that the international trading regime must be re-written from the bottom up. "[T]he promotion of global integration can become a bottom-up rather than a top-down project. The emphasis can shift from promoting integration to managing its consequences. This would mean a shift from international trade agreements to international harmonisation agreements, where issues such as labour rights and environmental protection would take precedence over issues related to empowering foreign producers. It would also mean devoting as much political capital to the trillions that escape tax or evade regulation through cross-border capital flows as we now devote to trade agreements. And it would mean an emphasis on the challenges of middle-class parents everywhere who doubt, but still hope desperately, that their kids can have better lives than they did."
Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz has long opposed our current "free trade" efforts. See his Tricks of the Trade Deal: Six Big Problems with the Trans-Pacific Partnership. These six short pieces clearly show why Congress must oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership. You may be especially interested in Why the TPP is a Bad Deal for America and American Workers.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership: the Debate Continues
- Fast Track to the Corporate Wish List by David Dayen, The American Prospect, Summer, 2015
The Text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership is Final:
Congress Must Oppose this "Free-Trade" Agreement
On October 5, 2015, negotiators from 12 countries, including the United States, announced they had reached agreement on a final text of the trade agreement. The text has not yet been released but leaked documents and statements made by negotiators have given us insights into the treaty's provisions. Read more.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership
The U.S. is currently negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement among 12 Pacific-Rim nations. It is being written in secret. While the exact details of the draft agreement are unknown, its general outlines are familiar. Leaked information has revealed that it is based on, and extends, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the 1994 treaty between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico that has harmed all three countries. The TPP, and all other NAFTA-based trade agreements, must be stopped. Read more about the TPP and why we must convince Congress to oppose it.
Fast Track Legislation
Before Congress considers new trade agreements (and two are currently in the works) they will first seek to pass "Fast Track" legislation to markedly curtail the usual oversight process and ease passage of the FTAs. Previous similar trade agreements have harmed, not promoted, the common good. Congress must thoroughly and carefully evaluate these agreements. Congress must not pass Fast Track. See Greasing the Skids to Deeper Economic Distress via Fast Track.
What is Fair Trade
Small farmers produce 70% of the world’s coffee and significant amounts of other food products. Worldwide, this includes over 20 million small farm households, more than 125 million people, who depend on agriculture exports for their livelihoods. Fair Trade contributes to sustainable development and improves the lives of small farmers in the global South. More.
Support Authentic Fair Trade
The fair trade movement is in crisis. The fundamental purpose of fair trade – to support small farmers in ways that are good for them, their communities, the environment, and consumers – is being challenged. One part of the fair trade movement is supporting weaker, broader standards that would allow even plantation-growth coffee to be certified as fair trade. The other part of the movement wants to maintain standards that will preserve the movement’s original purpose of helping small farmers. Read more about the crisis and how you can support authentic fair trade.
Globalization We Can Grasp A web-based curriculum on globalization
Globalization We Can Grasp is a five-week, web-based curriculum package exploring economic globalization. The series is based on the Accra Confession: Covenanting for Justice in the Economy and the Earth which the UCC’s General Synod commended to the church for study, reflection, prayer, and action. The downloadable printed materials and 15-minutes videos examine problems arising from our system of globalization and feature people who are responding to these problems and making a difference. The curriculum was developed by the North American Covenanting for Justice Working Group, affiliated with the World Communion of Reformed Churches. WCRC is a transnational ecumenical body to which the UCC belongs. There are five modules:
Globalization and the Churches' Response;
Global Climate Change: Renewing the Sacred Balance;
Farm workers, Low Wage Jobs, and Living into a New Economy;
Environmental Justice and Human Rights; and
Faithful Purchasing and the Global Sweatshop Economy.
Each module includes background materials, a downloadable video, study questions, Bible study, and closing liturgy. Download the series.
Trade Week of Action
Each year during the Trade Week of Action, usually held during October, people all over the world mobilize in support of fair trade and in opposition to "free" trade. Most recently, the particular focus of the Week's activities was the right to food. Resources including background information, facts, people's experiences with food security and trade are collected in the Trade Week of Action booklet.
The International, Ecumenical Church and Globalization
The Accra Confession
The World Communion of Reformed Churches (formerly the World Alliance of Reformed Churches) has been engaged in a multi-year process of conversation, prayer, study, and discernment around the issues of economic justice, climate justice, and empire. During this Covenanting for Justice in the Economy and the Earth process, member churches from around the world have met together to explore these topics and have issued a number of insightful and moving reports that are available on the WCRC's Covenanting for Justice webpage. In 2004, some 15 years into the process, the 24th General Council of the WARC, meeting in Accra, Ghana, adopted the Accra Confession: Covenanting for Justice in the Economy and the Earth. The full text of the Confession plus background information and a "Letter from Accra" to the churches is available in English. WCRC delegates believe that the economic and environmental injustices of today’s global economy require the family of Reformed and United churches to respond as a matter of faith and engage injustices as an integral part of our churches’ witness and mission.
The Accra Confession declared that working to create a more just global economy is essential to Christian faith: “We believe that the integrity of our faith is at stake if we remain silent or refuse to act in the face of the current system of neoliberal economic globalization.” WARC is composed of 214 denominations and faith bodies of Reformed and United churches, including the United Church of Christ, with a combined membership of some 75 million people in 107 countries.
From the Accra Confession: Covenanting for Justice in the Economy and the Earth
We believe that God is sovereign over all creation. "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof" (Ps. 24.1).Therefore, we reject the current world economic order imposed by global neoliberal capitalism and any other economic system, including aboslute planned economies, which defy God's covenant by excluding the poor, the vulnerable and the whole of creation from the fullness of life. We reject any claim of economic, political and military empire which subverts God's sovereignty over life and acts contrary to God's just rule.
World Council of Churches' AGAPE Process: Poverty, Wealth, and Ecology
The World Council of Churches is engaged in a study/action process about globalization called Poverty, Wealth and Ecology: Impact of Economic Globalization. This process "encourages churches to explore and advocate for alternatives to economic globalization. It is an attempt to bring churches and ecumenical partners from North, South, East and West together to reflect and act together on finding new and creative ways to use global wealth to eradicate poverty."
The WCC process has produced many powerful and informative documents, and sparked important dialogues and action. The AGAPE (Alternative to Economic Globalization Addressing Peoples and Earth) process is particularly important with a focus on issues such as just trade, debt cancellation, financial markets, tax evasion, public goods and services, livelihoods and decent jobs, life-giving agriculture, power and empire, and ecological debt.
The WCC brings together 349 churches, denominations and church fellowships in more than 110 countries and territories throughout the world, representing over 560 million Christians.
General Synod Resolutions and Pronouncements on Globalization, Trade, and Debt
In 2003, General Synod XXIV adopted a major statement on economic globalization: A Faithful Response: Calling for a More Just, Humane Direction for Economic Globalization." This Pronouncement describes the impact of economic globalization on people and countries in both the global North and South and outlines ways that all settings of the UCC can respond. A Study Guide can be used to facilitate a discussion of these issues. The Pronouncement was developed in response to a General Synod XXIII Resolution adopted in 2001.
More General Synod Resolutions and Pronouncements addressing economic justice and immigration
More Educational Resources
The educational resources just below examine various aspects of economic globalization. Each resource provides an informative discussion of a single issue, a short list of related materials, and a prayer.
- What is Economic Globalization provides an overview of this multi-faceted topic.
- Jubilee and the International Debt Crisis addresses the problem of third world debt and the need for debt cancellation.
- Jobs in a Globalizing Economy examines the movement of jobs from the U.S. to the global South, and the impact on workers in the U.S. and around the world.
- Intellectual Property addresses the issues of patents and intellectual property rights within a globalizing economy.
End Sweatshops: Abusive sweatshop working conditions, in the U.S. and abroad, must be eliminated.
- Strong Roots, Fragile Farms - an award-winning DVD hosted by Willie Nelson, describes the impact of globalization and agribusess on family farms in the U.S. and around the world.
- Troubled Waters - hosted by Lynn Redgrave, explores the critical issue of water shortage through the lens of faith and from the perspective of people in Bolivia, Malawi, the Middle East and the United States.
Resolution: Reclaiming the Church's Ministry of Health and Healing
Health is harmony with self and others, the environment, and with God—a continuum of physical, social, psycological, and spiritual well-being. Health ministry is the promotion of healing and health as wholeness as a mission of a faith community to its members and the community it serves. Health partners are many, both paid and volunteer, laity and clergy, all are committed to sharing the compassionate love and grace of Jesus Christ through the health and healing ministries of the UCC.
The health minister/parish nurse serves as a member of the ministry team of the local church. The health minister (a person having a health care background that may or may not be a parish nurse) facilitates the promotion of health and healing via health educational programs, spiritual care, referrals to appropriate health care providers, as well as through support groups and personal health counseling. The parish nurse, a registered profesional nurse, promotes health and wholeness through the practice of nursing as defined by the nurse practice act in the jurisdiction in which he/she practices. Parish nurses function as health counselors, resource persons, spiritual caregivers, health educators, small group facilitators, and coordinators of health ministry volunteers.
WHEREAS, recognizing many illnesses and premature deaths may be prevented by lifestyle choices and belief systems, (i.e. diet, exercise, substance abuse, violence, and risk-taking behaviors), health ministers/parish nurses integrate current medical and behavioral knowledge with the belief and practices of a faith community to prevent illness and promote wholeness; and
WHEREAS, the UCC Statement of Health and Welfare (1985) states that, "Based on our understanding of Shalom—of God's intent for harmony and wholeness within creation—and on the examples of Jesus Christ's ministry which expressed God's intent through acts of love and justice, we must be committed as a church to a mission of Shalom and to a lifestyle compatible with that mission;" and
WHEREAS, essential elements of a health ministry/parish nursing program include (but are not limited to):
- a philosophy of health and wholeness as a part of the faith community's mission;
- a designated person or team to be concerned about health ministry;
- a commitment to continued learning regarding health and wellness issues;
- a process to develop and evaluate health and wholeness goals and objectives;
- health education and programming according to assessed health needs of the congregation;
- awareness of health and wellness celebrations designated in the UCC calendar; and
WHEREAS, General Synod Eighteen (June, 1985) adopted the "Mission Statement on Health and Welfare" which states that: It is clear that the whole church is involved in this mission (in health and welfare). Whether represented in local churches, associations, conferences, or national level bodies the whole church is itself the creation of God's compassionate mercy in Christ, and as such, the instrument of God's intention for all humankind. (II Corinthians 5:13-21); and
WHEREAS, good health is a part of God's intention for all people, health involves the whole person—body, mind, and spirit and healing and health care are valid ways of proclaiming the Gospel and ministering in the name of Jesus Christ; and
WHEREAS, the Gospel prolcaims that health is a relationship to God set forth in Baptism and Holy Communion in which God makes wholeness as the Divine Gift.
The wholeness ascribed by God as a gift recognizes that illness and disability exist, but the presence of these does not define the individual in the sight of God, or limit the ability of such individuals to be in a whole relationsihp with God; and
WHEREAS, the United Church of Christ recognizes that God calls certain of its members to various forms of ministry in and on behalf of the church for which ecclesiastical authorization is recognized by commissioning, licensing, and ordination; health ministers and parish nurses may feel called to one of these authorized ministries; and
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, the Twenty-first General Synod encourages local congregations to develop/include in their mission a commitment to health and wholeness, engage health and wholeness issues through an ongoing health cabinet/health ministry team, and consider the implementation of a health ministry/parish nurse program.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, the Twenty-first General Synod calls upon the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries and Office of Church Life and Leadership, in conjunction with conferences, United Church of Christ seminaries, the Council on Health and Human Services Ministries and local congregations, to begin and/or continue to develop resources that support the development and enrichment of health ministry programs in local churches; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, the Twenty-first General Synod calls upon conferences and associations to:
1. Establish or designate a body to address health and human service issues confronting members and their communities; and
2. Recognize health ministry and parish nursing as a specialized ministry; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, the Twenty-first General Synod calls upon the Office of Church Life and Leadership to recognize and consider including health ministry/parish nursing in the listing of specific church-related ministries qualifying for commissioned ministry, and to consider developing guidelines and educational standards to be included in the United Church of Christ Manual on Ministry.
Subject to the availability of funds.
I weep for the hurt of my people; I stand amazed silent, dumb with grief. Is there no medicine in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why doesn't God do something? Why doesn't He help? —Jeremiah 8:21-22 (Living Bible Translation)
Today many Americans die and are disabled from health conditions that are greatly impacted by lifestyle behaviors. In fact, 54% of our health status is a result of lifestyle choices. These conditions might be prevented or better managed if we 1) knew the risks associated with many health problems, 2) believed that healthy activities could be beneficial, and 3) could receive appropriate health care services and resources. Lifestyle changes that can improve the quality of life have been identified as engaging in consistent moderate exercise; cessation from smoking and other addictions; consuming a diet high in fiber, and low in fat and cholesterol; increasing social support; and actively managing stress.
Today, several of the leading causes of death—Heart Disease, Cancers, Strokes, Injuries, Chronic Lung Disease, Pneumonia/Influenza, Diabetes, Suicide, HIV/AIDS, Homicide, Liver Disease—are considered "lifestyle" diseases because they could be reduced through common sense changes in lifestyle. Oftentimes we speculate on or presume to know the causes of these "lifestyle" diseases and disabilities from specific behaviors exhibited by the individual at risk. For example, the person who suffers a heart attack might consume a diet high in saturated fat, engage in little or no exercise and might smoke. The person involved in a motor vehicle accident might have been speeding or consuming alcohol. Perhaps the person was not wearing a seatbelt. These are examples of things that we observe and speculate on and, when a family member, loved one or friend whose death, disease, disability is caused by a specific behavioral action, we discuss and share with one another our own need to "do better" or admit that we "need to make some changes." Sadly, the time for making needed changes in our own lives gets pushed on the back burner until a crisis hits.
And then there are those diseases that often go undetected until it is too late—sadness, loneliness, hopelessness, helplessness, lovelessness, insecurities, personal guilt and persecution, abandonment, discouragement, low self-esteem and image, stress, depression, and a broken heart (to name a few). These are symptoms of pending disability and serious health change if they continue to go undetected. These are the diseases that we often cannot readily observe. They are masked. People are masking these emotions because they fear rejection if anyone really knew what they were going through—if anyone knew the "real deal". People are masking these emotions because society teaches us to be strong and to "pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps". We are taught to laugh on the outside and not to let anyone see us cry. There is so much pain. Pain so deep that we cannot pull ourselves up or call out for help to anyone. We cry out in anguish "Oh God, help me"!
It is in the context of these often "undetected" diseases that the emotional, mental and spiritual dimensions of health must further emerge. It is in these three dimensions that the church must take the lead role. For many, health is narrowly defined and specifically targeted to one dimension—the physical. Health consists of five dimensions—physical, social, emotional, mental, and spiritual. An individual is considered healthy when all of these dimensions are working together in harmony. Because healing does not necessarily mean curing (as we tend to think), a Health Ministry in a congregation involves emotional, mental and spiritual healing which can occur during illness even when curing of the disease is not present. Galatians 5:15 reminds us to "Love our neighbors, as ourselves". As Christians we are called to love as Jesus Christ has loved. We are called to service, as Jesus Christ served. We have the responsibility to minister to those in need. In the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:37-40) Jesus invites the righteous (the sheep) to receive their inheritance by entering the kingdom which has been prepared for them because of their faithful service and unselfish, compassionate giving. ("I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it for me"). We should strive to be sheep.
Can the church make a difference in reducing disability and death? The church today still represents a natural point of reference for many communities. It is because it is a natural reference point that focusing health promotion and disease prevention activities should be given careful thought. "We are finding that all the 'expert and expensive health care solutions' still do not guarantee better health outcomes and quality of life. It may be that to mobilize, educate, and coordinate resources through congregations works better". It is not a new idea for churches to develop health programs whose purpose is to have an impact upon the most significant health risks and crippling health conditions in congregations. However, it is an increasingly important one as health care funding and services gradually shrink. Local churches can help address the need for more appropriate and accessible health care services and the inadequacy of our health care system. In addition, the local church can bring a holistic perspective to an understanding of health as being in harmony with self, others, the environment, and God. Health is a continuum of physical, social, psychological, and spiritual well-being.
Today, social service and social action are seen as integral and complementary forms of ministry. Church-related social services and institutions serve many needs. Church-related social action and policy formation cover a wide range of contemporary issues which include: urban life, poverty, housing, health care, family life, women's issues, child care, aging, hospice, racial and ethnic concerns, needs of handicapped persons, peace, and refugees and immigration. As both social services and social action ministries remain faithful to God's vision of shalom, they will respond to the changing needs and new possibilities among people and within society, working always toward liberation from life's bondage and reconciliation of the alienated. The development of health ministries within the congregation helps focus the members' awareness on the essential Christian ministry of health and healing.
When health ministries are an essential part of congregational life, the members:
A. Find opportunities to volunteer their help to those who are in the hospital, or those who are home bound or living in residential care centers;
B. Have the opportunity to learn about wellness and disease prevention. Healthy lifestyle choices are promoted through seminar and workshops, giving information in such arease as exercise, nutrition and handling stress;
C. Through health screening, make early detection and treatment possible; and
D. Provide appropriate resources and advocacy to individuals and community.
A health ministry can promote healing and health as wholeness, as a mission of a faith community to its members and the community it serves. This takes a variety of people, paid and volunteer, laity and clergy, all committed to sharing the compassionate love and grace of Jesus Christ.
As we weep for the hurt and pain of each as we stand in amazement, silent, and dumb with grief; as we wonder if there is medicine in Gilead; as we wonder if there is a physician there; as we wonder if God is going to do something or if God will help, God will, for God is the ultimate Balm in Gilead. But, God also wants us to be a Balm, a healing salve. Developing a health ministry does not require vast sums of money. It only requres us to become the body of Christ. We must have the compassion of Christ, the heart of Christ, the soul of Christ, and most importantly, the love of Christ.
The UCC Faith Community Nurse Network is under the auspices of the Health Care Justice Program, Justice and Witness Ministries
Rev. Amos Acree, RN
Wendy Merriman, MA, RN
Rebecca (Becky) Anton, MSN, RN
Linda Morgan, BSN, RN
Alyson Breisch, MSN, RN-BC
Deborah Ringen, MSN, RN-BC
Courtney Holmes, APRN, ANP-BC, RN-BC
Rev. Donna Smith-Pupillo, RN
Peggy Matteson, PhD, RN-BC
Lisa Thomas, RN,
It costs about $35,000 to incarcerate a juvenile. It takes just $7,000 a year to educate one.
Juveniles can be tried as adults in all 50 states, and are vulnerable to adult punishments. They may also be remanded to adult prisons.
The U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child states that crimes committed by a juvenile should not result in execution or life in prison without parole. In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to execute people for crimes they committed as children. As a consequence, a number of young people were released from death row into the general prison population. Five other countries execute people for juvenile offenses: Iran, Yemen, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan.
The Twenty-Third General Synod stated, "We affirm the right of juveniles to an equitable system of justice that respects the life and promise of our youth."
October is National Youth Justice Awareness Month
The United States has more than 60,000 children sitting in jail, lost in a broken system that has led our country to incarcerate more children than any other nation. Why are we turning our backs on the youngest, most vulnerable members of society, locking up 2 out of 3 of those who are convicted of nonviolent offenses? Why are 80 percent of children who are imprisoned black or Hispanic? And why are we punishing these children so harshly, dooming some of them to solitary confinement, where they are left torturously alone, causing severe physical and psychological harm? Voices from all points of the political spectrum, including the faith community are calling for answers and solutions to these and many other issues. They are speaking out and raising awareness for criminal justice and youth justice reform.
The Campaign for Youth Justice (CFYJ) is a national initiative committed to seeking solutions for these troubling questions. It is focused entirely on ending the practice of prosecuting, sentencing, and incarcerating youth under the age of 18 in the adult criminal justice system.
Annually, the Campaign sponsors National Youth Justice Awareness Month (YJAM) which aims to provide people across the country an opportunity to develop action-oriented events in their communities during the month of October. Individuals, communities and organizations can advocate for better juvenile justice policies by elevating the importance of issues such as determining the age that juveniles are classified as adults, housing juveniles with adult offenders, and isolation in solitary confinement. This year President Barack Obama has signed a proclamation observing October as National Youth Justice Awareness Month. Read the President’s Proclamation.
One way that your local congregation can be involved this year is to partner with organizations to get local governments or state Governors to pass resolutions declaring that October is Youth Justice Awareness Month.
- Youth Justice Awareness Month Guide to Passing a Resolution
- How to Host a Film Screening
- Childhood Interrupted (Film | Discussion Guide)
- Stickup Kid (Film | Discussion Questions)
JWM is interested in knowing what activities, actions your local congregation will undertake during National Youth Justice Awareness Month. Email your events, film screenings, discussion, actions, photos, stories, etc. to Barbara T. Baylor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
BIG NEWS: Reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act introduced in Congress
Recently, Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced legislation, S.1169, to reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, which was created in 1974 and has not been updated since 2002.
The legislation would make improvements to the law, including:
- incorporating recent research into adolescent behavior and brain research,
- requiring that the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) identify best practices to serve and protect at-risk youth,
- phasing out remaining circumstances when youth can be detained for status offenses (offenses which would not be a crime if committed by an adult),
- removing youth charged in adult court from placement in adult jails.
The JJDPA is the only federal law that sets national standards for the treatment of youth involved in juvenile justice systems. In the 40 years since it was first enacted into law, the JJDPA has enabled significant improvements to juvenile justice, including reducing youth crime rates and supporting many states in creating fairer approaches that help youth stay connected to their communities and get back on track.
In 2001 the 23rd General Synod of the United Church of Christ affirmed advocacy for fair and appropriate treatment of youth, especially as they are involved with or at risk for involvement in the criminal justice system.
Resources on the JJDPA & the New Senate Bill
- Read the bill text
- Key changes to JJDP Reauthorization Act introduced in 113th Congress
- Major Provisions of Juvenile Justice Reauthorization Act of 2015
- Act4JJ's Resources on the JJDPA
What is AIDS?
Education and prevention
Stigma and discrimination
Condoms and needle exchange
Empowerment of women
HIV testing and counseling
HIV/AIDS staff table
What can we do?
Global AIDS Ministry Fund
HIV/AIDS is the most serious health crisis the world has ever faced. HIV does not discriminate. Whether we realize it or not, all of us are affected: rich and poor, especially the poor; men and women, especially the women; old and young, especially the young; and people of every race, especially people of color.
At the end of 2003, the United Nations estimated that more than 40 million people are living with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Nearly three-fourths of them live in sub-Saharan Africa, one million in the U.S. The current patterns of HIV infection suggest that the pandemic is in its infancy. While the evidence may suggest there is reason for despair, there is also good reason for hope. Everything we need to know about how to prevent HIV infection is known. What is lacking is the dramatic shift in priorities needed to address this disease.
Stephen Lewis, U.N. Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, has called apathy in the face of HIV/AIDS "mass-murder by complacency." Our hope is in our ability to mobilize the full potential of our resources and compassion to address the many facets of HIV/AIDS affecting our families, communities and world. Undergirding all of our work is the Gospel truth that it is God's will to bring healing and wholeness to a world with HIV/AIDS.
The HIV/AIDS and other global health ministries of the Office for Health and Wholeness Advocacy work in partnership with individuals, congregations, Associations, Conferences and other settings of the church, including each of the area offices of Global Ministries. We are also involved with other churches and other faiths.
AIDS is an "autoimmune deficiency syndrome" caused by HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), which is spread through blood, semen, vaginal secretions and breast milk. The most common mode of infection is through unprotected sexual intercourse with an HIV-positive partner. Other routes include use of infected needles and syringes (or other skin-piercing equipment); mother-to-child transmission during pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding; transfusions of HIV-infected blood or blood products; and transplants of infected tissue or organs.
The first step in HIV/AIDS advocacy is education. "Affirming Persons, Saving Lives" is a comprehensive HIV/AIDS curriculum developed by the United Church of Christ. It contains age appropriate materials, preschool—adult. It is available for the cost of shipping/handling through UCC Resources (800-537-3394). There is also a wealth of quality HIV/AIDS information and most of it is easily accessible via the internet. Link to these sites and you will not only access demographic information about the HIV pandemic, but you will also find basic information on how to prevent becoming infected and learn about strategies for addressing the many needs this disease presents.
Stigma and discrimination create and environment of fear and prejudice and are the primary barriers to stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS. It is important to overcome prejudice by addressing the issues which lead to infection and interfere with effective treatment. An important step in this direction is to provide comprehensive sex education, which is abstinence-based for children and youth, and encourages fidelity in all covenanted relationships.
When and with whom a person becomes sexually active is a matter of personal choice. Because of the reality of sexual behavior among adolescents and adults, it is critically important to provide medically accurate information about condoms. When used properly, condoms are shown to significantly reduce the risks of infection among sexually active persons, thus saving lives. And, there is no credible research to indicate that making condoms easily accessible encourages sexual behavior. Similarly, there is no credible evidence that shows that easily accessible injection drug needles encourage illicit injection drug use. However, HIV infection rates decrease where needle exchange programs exist.
Not to be overlooked in any effective HIV-prevention strategy is the empowerment of women. In many places throughout the world there are cultural traditions that place women in jeopardy—especially young women and girls. Prevailing views and practices concerning male masculinity make women more vulnerable to sexual exploitation and violence, placing them at extreme risk for HIV and other STDs (sexually transmitted diseases). Significant efforts must be made to address gender inequality and empower women.
HIV testing and counseling are also important for effective education and prevention. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimate that as many as two-thirds of those who live with HIV in the U.S. do not know they are HIV-positive. While there is no cure for HIV, drug treatment therapies are available that may slow the progress of the disease and extend both the quality and length of life: The earlier the virus is detected, the more effective the treatment. Persons who know and understand their HIV status are more likely to behave in ways that reduce the risk of becoming infected or infecting others. The anonymous data collected from test results contribute to the growing body of information about how and where HIV is spreading. By providing voluntary counseling and testing programs, local churches can raise community awareness and help their loved ones and others living with HIV.
There is an extreme need for medical services and supplies throughout the world, and especially in underdeveloped areas. Among the supplies needed are latex gloves, sterile needles and syringes, HIV testing kits and lab supplies needed to safeguard blood supplies.
Anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs are in very short supply. While costs have been reduced and some patent issues resolved, the need completely overwhelms the demand. As mentioned above, these drugs can increase both the quality and length of life, which is of extreme importance in sub-Saharan Africa where more than 14 million children have lost one or both parents to AIDS. Another important drug in the fight against HIV is Nevirapine, which is proven to reduce the risk of mother-to-child infection during breastfeeding.
Providing adequate nutrition is another important piece in both reducing infection and increasing length and quality of life. However, the World Food Program has identified HIV/AIDS as a major contributing factor to famine conditions in southern Africa. While drought, wars and other problems contribute to famine, in many villages devastated by AIDS there simply are not enough women and men to work the fields to produce food.
Please note: Donations through the Global AIDS Ministry Fund of One Great Hour of Sharing or organizations such as Church World Service are often the most effective and efficient ways to get resources where they are needed most. Before an individual, church or group decides to send supplies, they are strongly encouraged to consult with the appropriate area office of Global Ministries, who will be able to provide assistance in developing a plan to get the resources where they are intended to go.
HIV/AIDS strikes at the heart of community life. By affecting people in the most productive years of life, it undermines economic viability of families and nations and creates the potential for regional instability. In most developing nations, social security is the extended family. HIV/AIDS disrupts this system by the deaths of so many parents. Children are left to be taken care of by the elderly and when they are gone, children are often left to fend for themselves. HIV/AIDS has significantly reduced the numbers of teachers, which debilitates the education system and threatens the future of many nations. The need is great and the challenge is as difficult as anything the world has ever faced.
In the national setting of the UCC, the Office for Health and Wholeness Advocacy of Wider Church Ministries convenes an inter-ministry HIV/AIDS staff table at which each of the four covenanted ministries is represented. With the participation of the COREM (Council of Racial/Ethnic Ministries) related staff of the Office of General Ministries and several Justice and Witness Ministries staff we are developing some key strategies. A priority of the HIV/AIDS Table is addressing the HIV/AIDS issues facing people of color.
The more we communicate with each other about what we are doing, the better we are able to understand both how we can work together and where the gaps in services may be. The Health and Wholeness Advocacy office is a clearinghouse for resources and networking. You are encouraged to communicate with them about any initiatives you are planning and evaluations of your experience. The Local Church Relations office of Global Ministries and our area offices can be very helpful by providing information and guidance on working internationally.
- Communicate your concern that HIV/AIDS should be addressed in your church and community, especially with your elected officials.
- Join the UCC Just Peace Advocacy Network (JPAN) of Justice and Witness Ministries.
- Create or add an HIV/AIDS prevention and education program to your parish nursing program, community health fair or other health-education program.
- Take initiatives to alleviate poverty.
- Advocate comprehensive sex education in public schools.
- Use the "Our Whole Lives" or "Affirming Persons-Saving Lives" curriculum in your congregation. "Our Whole Lives" is a comprehensive sexuality education curriculum developed by the UCC.
- Advocate for easy access to condoms with education materials on their proper use.
- Advocate for a needle exchange program in your community.
- Offer regular HIV testing and counseling in your community.
UCC Global Ministries
Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance
Daily HIV/AIDS reports
Balm in Gilead
Council of Religious AIDS Networks
National Minority AIDS Council
Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS
Centers for Disease Control
The Names Project Foundation
Affirming Persons, Saving Lives
A comprehensive HIV/AIDS curriculum for preschool through adult ages, is available for the cost of shipping (about $12) from United Church Resources at 1-800-537-3394.
DVD Resource: "Coming to Say Goodbye, Stories of AIDS in Africa"
Order the DVD from UCC Resources (1-800-537-3394), get the film and much, much more. "Coming to Say Goodbye, Stories of AIDS in Africa" (Maryknoll Productions) is a documentary about courageous people living with and responding to HIV/AIDS in Kenya and Tanzania. Included in the DVD resource is the film, study helps, the music video "Give Me Hope" as performed by the Sinikithemba HIV Positive Choir of South Africa, and links to a variety of resource-rich web sites. The DVD is produced by AFRUS-AIDS which is a broad-based coalition of global women's networks and faith-based organizations working in partnership with African grassroots women's organizations in the struggle to address the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
The film may also be ordered in VHS format from Maryknoll (film only).
A special disaster fund appeal for HIV/AIDS has been issued from the UCC office of the Global Sharing of Resources (One Great Hour of Sharing) and the Disciples Overseas Ministry (Week of Compassion). This fund is designed to support the HIV/AIDS work of our global mission partners. The area desks of Global Ministries have information on their websites on the significant HIV/AIDS work of our partners and sponsored agencies.