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.)
"UCC Faith Community Nurse Network: Linking and Touching Lives for Healing and Wholeness."
An Informational Manual on Faith Community Nurse Ministry Within the United Church of Christ. Revised 2015.
The development of programs of health ministry and the role of the faith community nurse continues to evolve. To provide only a list of specific resources would be limiting since it can very quickly go out of date. For that reason we have provide a combination of both general resources as well as some specifics. It is by no means meant to be an all inclusive list.
Since each of our UCC churches is an independent entity and is populated by individuals with different gifts and needs, each health ministry program has commonality, but it also is by necessity unique to that congregation. As you investigate and then develop a health ministry you may find the following sources of information and resources helpful.
- Health Ministries Association www.HMAssoc.org 800-723-4291
- American Nurse Association www.nursingworld.org 800-274-4262
The faith community nurse bridges two disciplines and as such must be prepared in and responsible to both. Educational offerings in nursing have expanded along a continuum to now range from continuing education programs with extensive contact hours to baccalaureate and graduate level nursing courses.
Some theological schools and universities offer courses or programs of study for nurses that provide education on spiritual and pastoral care. Some educational programs are offered within facilities and others are offered on-line
UCC and Other Educational Programs
- At the Conference and Area levels of the UCC there are educational opportunities. Call your Conference office to learn what is going on and what support they might have for your efforts.
- Contact a FCN from the FCN Leadership Network or someone in your area on Membership List to learn of opportunities.
- Contact the office for your State's Council of Churches to learn of any opportunities.
Professional Nursing Conferences
The Health Ministries Association Annual Conference, The Westberg Symposium, and increasingly nursing research and specialty practice conferences provide opportunities to learn from colleagues in the field.
Educational Resource Centers
Educational resources centers have developed all over the country. One of the first was the International Parish Nurse Resource Center. This center developed a curriculum that is taught in various sites. To learn where these continuing education offerings are available go to the website www.ipnrc.parishnurses.org.
*Please note that although participating in a program may provide you with a certificate, it does not grant you the status of certification/being certified. The certificate you may receive is only a certificate of attendance. The way to become Certified as a Faith Community Nurse is through the American Nurse Credentialing Center.
PUBLISHERS AND OTHER SUPPLIERS OF MATERIALS
Keeping up to date with the release of new books, videos, and manuals that support our work is an ongoing task. The following list of publishers and their current books gives you a sampling of what kind of supports are available both from diverse groups.
United Church of Christ Resources www.uccresources.com
Pilgrim Press www.thepilgrimpress.com
Abingdon Press www.abingdonpress.com
Augsburg/Fortress Press www.augsburgfortress.org
Elsevier / Mosby www.elsevier.com
Haworth Press www.haworthpressinc.com
Health Ministries Association www.HMAssoc.org
International Parish Nurse Resource Center www.ipnrc.parishnurses.org
Jones and Bartlett www.jbpub.com
Judson Press www.judsonpress.com
Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins www.lww.com
Morehouse Publishing www.morehousegroup.com
Prentice Hall www.prenhall.com/nursing
The Partnership Center – Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services http://www.hhs.gov/about/agencies/staff-divisions/iea/partnerships/newsletter/index.html
Health Finder – Live Well. Learn How. http://healthfinder.gov
The UCC Faith Community Nurse Network (formerly the Parish Nurse Network)
aims to promote health ministry through parish nursing in congregations and communities,
as the visible presence and voice of parish nurses in the United Church of Christ.
Full implementation of the resolution "Reclaiming the Church's Ministry of Health and Healing" adopted by the 21st General Synod of the UCC (1997-Columbus).
To inform and engage UCC congregations in ministries of health and healing for the benefit of each congregation and the community it serves.
Goals of the UCC Faith Community Nurse Network
- Serve as a spiritual care resource to the leadership of the UCC by promoting and supporting activities of health, healing, and wholeness within our congregations and the communities served.
- Make available to all UCC FCNs information and opportunities for programming so that congregants learn how to become active health care consumers.
- Inform and engage congregations, associations, and conferences in facilitating individualized and distinct responses to the Resolution.
- Collaborate with the other health focused groups of the UCC National Office to create a synergic effort of information sharing for the benefit of all.
Full members: Professional registered nurses, actively licensed, that serve (or are interested in serving) as a Faith Community Nurse (paid or non-paid) who are members of UCC congregations and/or who serve congregations of the UCC.
Associate members of the Network may include may include other health care professionals, clergy, Christian educators, and others interested in congregational health ministry and supporting the practice of faith community nursing.
- Updating the UCC Faith Community Nurse Network’s Manual on Faith Community Nursing
- Developing posts on the UCC Faith Community Nurse Network’s webpage
- Supporting Faith Community Nurses seeking Commissioning as Authorized Ministers in the UCC
- Supporting Faith Community Nurses seeking Board Certification as Faith Community Nurses from the American Nurse Credentialing Center
- Serving on the working groups that developed the current and previous editions of Faith Community Nursing: Scope and Standard of Practice for the American Nurses Association and Health Ministries Association
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.
- 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
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.
Open and Affirming (ONA) is the United Church of Christ's (UCC) designation for congregations, campus ministries, and other bodies in the UCC which make a public covenant of welcome into their full life and ministry to persons of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions.
Open and Affirming Resources
UCC Resources carries ONA and other LGBT related published by the UCC, Pilgrim Press and the UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns.
Building an Inclusive Church - training and toolkit resources for preparing and facilitating the ONA process
United Church of Christ Office for LGBT Ministries
Health and Wholeness Advocacy, Justice and Local Church Ministries
Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer, Executive and Team Leader
Phone: +1 216-736-3217
HIV & AIDS
Andy Lang, Executive Director
The Rev. Paul H. Sherry
United Church of Christ
"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." (Romans 8.1)
In recent months we have witnessed the continuance of hate crimes against gay, lesbian, and bisexual persons, while in the church discussion about their civil rights and the appropriateness of their membership and ministry in the life of the church has intensified. Several denominations in the United States, as well as some churches and bishops around the world, have adopted or reaffirmed policies that exclude gay, lesbian, and bisexual persons from sharing fully in the ministry of the church. Other Christian leaders have harshly suggested that gay, lesbian, and bisexual persons have no place at all in the life of the church and that their human rights do not deserve the full measure of legal protection. In addition, some political leaders, usually claiming religious support, have vigorously opposed efforts to secure these very rights. Sometimes these anti-gay positions have been justified by flawed scientific understandings of the nature of homosexuality. Underlying many of these convictions is the assumption, frequently untested, that the Bible in general, and Christianity in particular, teach that homosexuality is a sin.
In my role as pastor to the United Church of Christ, and in this season of theological reflection on "The Inclusive Church," I offer this Pastoral Letter to remind all of us that the church is to be a place where all are welcomed, where the gifts of all are recognized and received, and where the rights of all are defended and promoted. When so many in our society would reject and exclude, it is critical that we of the United Church of Christ bear witness to the conviction that it is possible to be deeply faithful to the Bible, profoundly respectful of the historic faith of the church and of its sacraments, and at the same time support the full inclusion and participation of all God's children in the membership and ministry of the church. Likewise, there can be no compromise that all persons in this society must enjoy equal protection under the law.
I write in deep gratitude for the journey of discernment and action that the United Church of Christ has taken over the past several decades. For all our difficulties and challenges, I believe the United Church of Christ is uniquely equipped to take on this complex but crucial vocation both in the public arena and among our ecumenical partners. Informed by the actions of several General Synods, by Biblical and theological reflection, and above all by countless pastoral encounters with members of our church, I am convinced that there must be and will be no turning back from our commitment, especially in the face of the current prejudice and misunderstanding prevalent in both the church and the society.
Contrary to what some assume or allege, the conviction of the General Synod of the United Church of Christ, along with the witness of many conferences, associations, and local churches, is not a superficial response to changing cultural norms or an easy reaction to certain social opinions. At their best, our commitments have grown out of a profound reflection on the meaning of our baptism and our participation in the sacrament of holy communion. Our commitments have grown as we have responded pastorally to the needs of many of our members and their families who have been the victims of prejudice or who have experienced rejection in the church.
We have been confronted and gifted by the presence in our church of gay, lesbian, and bisexual Christians who have been baptized in our sanctuaries, confirmed before our altars, and ordained by our associations. We have been confronted and gifted by men and women faithfully attentive to the Word, diligent in their sacramental life, forthright in their Christian witness and compassionate in their service. We have been confronted and gifted by parents and grandparents, sisters and brothers, daughters and sons, faithful members of our church, whose embrace by a loving God has enabled them to accept a gay, lesbian, or bisexual family member, and who yearn for that same loving embrace to be extended by the church to their child, their grandchild, their brother or sister, their parent. We have been confronted and gifted by faithful, mature, and able members who have experienced God's call to the ordained ministry of Word and Sacrament, who have sought and received the recognition and authorization of the church. We have been confronted and gifted by ordained men and women who have served faithfully and well for many years and who now wish to minister among us with renewed vitality openly affirming their same gender orientation. We have been confronted and gifted by gay, lesbian, and bisexual persons who have found love in the physical, emotional, and spiritual embrace of another, and are living in committed covenantal relationships of fidelity and trust which they yearn for the church to bless and the society to respect and protect. And we have been confronted and gifted by members of our church and those of other churches who have known the pain of rejection, the anguish of exclusion, and the fear of abuse, yet who remain faithful to their baptismal vows, seek to be fed at Christ's Table, and desire to be engaged in the mission of Christ's reconciling love in the world.
Confronted and gifted by these baptized persons, members of the United Church of Christ have been challenged to read the Bible again with new eyes and listen to the Holy Spirit with new ears. We have had to reexamine long held assumptions about those few passages of Scripture that appear to speak about homosexuality in the light of transforming interpretations from widely respected Bible scholars and teachers, and we have begun to recognize how our fears of those who are different, and our society's deeply entrenched bias against homosexual persons has often distorted and nearly silenced the Bible's liberating and inclusive voice. At the same time, encounters with hurting and excluded sisters and brothers have caused us to look to the whole of Scripture which speaks of a God who continually reaches out for those who are cast out for any reason, those who live at the margins of our lives. We have been reminded of our identity as disciples of the One who often ate with those rejected by the religious norms of the day, the One who sets before us all the Table of God's inclusive love, mercy, and grace.
In these encounters, we have remembered our own history, recalling ways we have been led to expand the church's welcome to others who have been excluded. We remembered the Amistad and the story of our forebears, both enslaved and free, who rejected Biblical interpretations that supported slavery and whose new appreciation for the Gospel's mandate led them to fight for freedom for all. We remembered Japanese Americans driven from their homes during the Second World War, and those of our churches who spoke out for their rights. We remembered many women who refused to submit to a misuse of the Bible that denied them places of leadership or that conspired in their abuse, and who found affirmation and encouragement in our churches, our colleges, and our seminaries. We remembered ancestors of our Hungarian sisters and brothers whose witness to the Reformed faith led to their persecution as galley slaves and martyrs, as well as those who fled oppression in 1956 to find safe haven among our churches. More recently we remembered our church's call for self-determination for Puerto Rican people, the championing of the rights of Chicano farm workers, the call for respect for the dignity of Native American people demeaned by caricature and stereotype, the recognition of the rights of Indigenous Hawaiians deprived of their land and culture, and solidarity with those who declared that the apartheid system erected and supported by other Bible reading Christians was idolatry, a denial of the very integrity of the church's confession. All of this has helped us discover that our church's concern for the rights and dignity of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people is not a break from our past, or a departure from Scripture, but is informed by our moments of greatest fidelity to the prophetic voice of the Bible and the Gospel's embrace for those who, with Christ, have been despised.
The encounters in our own church with each other over the subject of sexual orientation have not been easy and, for some, remain profoundly disturbing. We have experienced conflict; the covenants that bind us together have been tested. At times we have felt isolated from and misunderstood by some in the ecumenical community. But we have also experienced marvelous surprises:
- the growth and vitality of many local churches that have declared themselves open to and affirming of the gifts of gay, lesbian, and bisexual persons;
- the gracious perseverance of The United Church Coalition for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns which, for twenty-six years, has been a prophetic presence in our church, clarifying concerns, challenging stereotypes, providing leaders for every setting of the church's life, gently and persistently changing hearts and minds, providing a refuge for those who have suffered wounds of prejudice and exclusion in church and society;
- the gratitude and encouragement of Christians in other churches who have found in our church's journey to new understandings a sign of hope amid discouragement;
- the growing self-esteem of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth in our church who are able to worship in congregations that respect their full humanity, as well as the heterosexual youth in our churches who have found themselves called to confront the anti-gay prejudice so prevalent in their schools;
- the renewal that springs forth as we discover, again, that we are not trapped by the past but are part of a living tradition that is "reformed, yet always reforming," a people whose only comfort in life and in death is that they belong to Christ.
In these days we dare not be arrogant. The story of our pilgrimage with our gay, lesbian, and bisexual members at times has been marked by hesitation, fear, and frequent failures of nerve. At times prophetic voices, whether heard from inside or from outside the church, have been resisted. We have not always been properly respectful, or sought to understand with sincerity, those sisters and brothers among us who do not share our understanding or conviction or witness. At the same time, we have sometimes failed to recognize how the Bible has been used by some to perpetuate prejudice and to justify violence against homosexual persons.
But in these days we dare not be silent, either. I believe our voice among the churches and within our society is urgently needed, bearing witness to the belief that God cherishes all and dignifies all, and to our experience of gay, lesbian, and bisexual persons as gifts of God, called with us by their baptism into the fullest participation in God's mission of reconciliation in the world. I am convinced this voice will have power insofar as it is a voice shaped by the language of faith and the experience of worship, a voice in which the liberating truth of the Bible can be heard, and the courageous spirit of the saints will be echoed. By that voice, I believe, our churches will be renewed. More importantly, in that voice, I believe, the lonely will be called to companionship, the frightened will find comfort, the abused will know safety, and those sisters and brothers in Christ who have lost hope will rediscover the blessing of their baptism: Child of God, disciple of Christ, member of Christ's Church.
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 email@example.com.
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
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.