Written by Andrew G. Lang
A few years ago the Ramsey Colloquium—a group of Christian and Jewish scholars—published a sharp critique of "the gay and lesbian cause" which they titled "The Homosexual Movement." 1 As they predicted, their declaration was denounced as "a display of homophobia." "Such dismissals have become unpersuasive and have ceased to intimidate," they wrote. "Indeed, we do not think it a bad thing that people should experience a reflexive recoil from what is wrong." This "reflexive recoil" from homosexual behavior is not homophobia, they said, but the instinctive reflex of those who know that homosexuality violates God's natural law.
Among the authors were several academics at liberal strongholds like Amherst, Princeton, Oberlin, Yale and Hebrew Union College. It hardly needs to be said that entering the debate in this way exposed the Ramsey Colloquium to angry denunciation and was, for some of its members, an act of courage.
My purpose is not to criticize the declaration's reasoning but to draw your attention to one paragraph as the starting point for our conversation:
We believe that any understanding of sexuality, including heterosexuality, that makes it chiefly an arena for the satisfaction of personal desire is harmful to individuals and society. Any way of life that accepts or encourages sexual relations for pleasure or personal satisfaction alone turns away from the disciplined community that marriage is intended to engender and foster. [Italics added.]
This is a profoundly counter-cultural vision of human sexuality and one that can be helpful as we struggle with the moral question that is before us: should the church affirm faithful relationships between same-sex partners?
Calls Sexual Revolution into question
The Ramsey Colloquium, rightly in my opinion, calls into question the ethic of "sexual liberation." Thirty years after the Sexual Revolution, our culture still understands sexual freedom as freedom from constraint, namely, from the boundaries of discipline, order and structure. And who could be opposed to freedom? We always live in the tension between personal freedom and social discipline, so we want to liberate ourselves from this tension and live in the light of a pure freedom that never says "no" to human possibility. Defined in this way, freedom is the doctrine of personal sovereignty, the private property of the ego that has to be seized and defended. So words like "discipline," "order" and "structure" also provoke a "reflexive recoil"—the recoil of the individual ego when we encounter boundaries that limit our freedom of action. Naturally, in a culture that defines individuality as self-determination and self-assertion, discipline is at best suspect, at worst oppressive.
But this is not the church's traditional vision of freedom or individuality. Freedom, according to Christian tradition, is not only freedom from but also freedom for. Karl Barth saw it as "freedom for obedience" to the Word of God. Particularly in the witness of the Reformed churches, freedom cannot be understood as my self-liberation but only as the sovereign gift of God who, despite my opposition, rushes to my side and creates the right order that I have abandoned. So God places me in "disciplined community," as the Ramsey Colloquium puts it, or in a "community of disciples" who follow Christ as their Lord and whose lives are oriented towards this Lord as the source of their freedom and the measure of their behavior. It is in this community, and nowhere else, that God meets me through Word and Sacrament, and where I learn the boundaries and, paradoxically, the unlimited possibilities of the freedom that is mine only as gift, and never as self-determination.
The tradition defines God's sovereign gift of freedom in words that are familiar to all of us: covenant, election, justification, vocation, and sanctification. These are words I want to explore as we attempt to understand the morality of same-sex relationships among members of our church.
What is God's word on this subject? To begin with, I need to understand with you what we mean when we say that a "word" is addressed to the church, because there are many words to which you or I could appeal for authority. There are the words of psychology, sociology and genetics. There are the words of natural law and tradition. But all of these words are subject to the one Word whom we worship as Lord and to whom we owe obedience. So, in the familiar text of the Barmen Declaration:
Jesus Christ, as he is attested for us in Holy Scriptures, is the one Word of God which we have to hear and which we have to trust and obey in life and in death. We reject the false doctrine, as though the Church could and would have to acknowledge as a source of its proclamation, apart from and beside the one Word of God, still other events and powers, figures and truths as God's revelation. 2
Jesus Christ is the one Word of God! Belonging to this Word, according to the Heidelberg Catechism, is our "only comfort, in life and in death." But what do we need to know, the Catechism asks, to "live and die in the blessedness of this comfort?" Three things:
First, the greatness of my sin and wretchedness. Second, how I am freed from all my sins and their wretched consequences. Third, what gratitude I owe to God for such redemption. 3
"Sin"—another counter-cultural word! But without the consciousness of sin the Gospel itself makes no sense. There can be no productive discussion of marriage and homosexuality, or really of any other moral question, unless we can agree that "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God."
Sin threatens our relationships with death. In the self-assertion of the ego against God not only our relationship with God but also every human relationship is brought into disorder. There is, in fact, no human covenant that is not wounded by our collective and individual rebellion against God's sovereign claim on our lives. This is certainly so in all the greater and lesser injuries that we inflict on each other—in heterosexual marriage, in celibate life, and in the partnerships formed by gays and lesbians. Sin distorts our life together as the Body of Christ, so that no contentious issue in the church can possibly be discussed without anger and mutual recrimination—particularly an issue like sexual morality, which exposes our deepest fears of alienation, loneliness and chaos. Sin distorts all of our relationships. Left on our own, we cannot live together as God intended.
But—thanks be to God!—God does not leave us alone. The Heidelberg Catechism affirms that we do have this "comfort, in life and in death," that we belong not to ourselves but to our "faithful Savior, Jesus Christ, who at the cost of his own blood has fully paid for all my sins and has completely freed me from the dominion of the devil."
Covenant: God's bridge to humanity
This brings us to covenant, defined by the Westminster Confession as God's "voluntary condescension" which bridges "[t]he distance between God and the creature." 4 "Covenant" is a critical concept in Reformed ethics, as you all know, and I cannot possibly say much about it a few minutes. But I agree with Max Stackhouse that "it is likely that nothing less than an understanding of and a commitment to covenantal mutuality under God can bring moral and spiritual coherence to what is otherwise experienced as a seething, chaotic mass of dominations and arbitrariness." 5
Moral and spiritual coherence! These are not empty words! We all sense that the scattered and broken pieces of our lives (and our relationships) belong together but we simply don't know how to re-build the structure we have demolished. But the Reformed tradition affirms that the coherence that eludes our best efforts has already been established definitively in Jesus Christ. How? Through the covenant of Baptism, our primal covenant, in which Christ's obedient "Yes" to God becomes our own "Yes"—and this is the starting point for our lifelong journey from chaos to coherence.
The self-disclosure of God in the covenant of Baptism reveals that God's being itself is covenant. In the reciprocal relationship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we learn that God's nature is not solitude, but communion. God's inherent nature is to be with others. The Roman Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar says it better than I can:
God is not a sealed fortress, to be attacked and seized by our engines of war (ascetic practices, meditative techniques, and the like) but a house full of open doors, through which we are invited to walk. In the Castle of the Three-in-One, the plan has always been that we, those who are entirely "other," shall participate in the superabundant communion of life. Whatever we regard as the ultimate meaning of human life, be it giving, creating, finding or being given, being created and being found; all this is fulfilled in the original prototype: in the life of the eternal "With." 6
The triune being of God is therefore the primal form of all of our covenants. Here, God chooses not to be alone but with and for the humanity God created. Here, God elects humanity to be God's covenant partner. Here, God's love cannot be contained but pours itself out with incomprehensible majesty into the creation and reconciliation of humanity. Christian covenants must participate in this Trinitarian structure, so that the order broken by sin and restored by God's sovereign decision in Christ becomes an order of being "with" others.
The form of covenant
From our participation in this divine self-disclosure—as Christians who have been incorporated into God's Trinitarian being through Baptism and who meet the Triune God again and again through Word and Sacrament—we can begin to describe the form of Christian covenant:
First, God chooses each of us for covenant, calls us into covenant life and uses covenant to complete God's work of conversion and sanctification in our lives. Election, vocation, conversion and sanctification! Nothing less is at stake in Christian covenant than the overcoming of our opposition to God! So every Christian covenant is a means of grace that draws us into the covenantal life of the Trinity. God works through covenants to convert us to a life with God and with others.
Second, Christian covenants are accountable to the community, and therefore must be sealed by public vows. In contrast to the secular theory of "contract," in which two independent persons with equal rights enter into an agreement, Christian covenants are accountable to the Lord who comes to us in Word and Sacrament, that is, in the realized life of the Body of Christ in the Christian community. Jesus Christ is the Lord of every covenant, but the Covenant Lordship of Christ is mediated through his Body, the church. Therefore, covenant promises cannot be a private contract between two solitary persons but always a public demonstration of vows in the presence of the community.
Third, the community is accountable to the covenants made by its members. Because we are sinners, our covenantal relationships are always threatened by moral disorder. Covenant partners will turn again and again to the church which, as the Body of Christ, will call us back into relationship.
Fourth, Christian covenants create new life. Just as the triune life of God is not enclosed within itself but creates life in all of its forms, human covenants must also be creative. This is seen most clearly in the covenant of marriage, where (if it is God's will) a woman and a man extend life through the birth and care of children. But this creative vocation must be seen in all of our covenants. In some way, every Christian covenant must extend the boundaries of life. Every Christian covenant must be generative and generous. Every Christian covenant must say "Yes" to life.
Marriage: the oldest of human covenants
Heterosexual marriage is the oldest of human covenants, and every other relationship descends from this encounter of a man and woman in marriage. This is obviously so because we are born in families and we owe our existence to heterosexual parents. But the tradition also says that in the marriage of a man and a woman we have a type, or an image, of the covenantal love of God for Israel and Christ for the church.
There is much discussion about whether same-sex relationships also should be called "marriage," and, as you all know, this is a subject on which the church is deeply divided. There can be no question, however, that the Jewish and Christian traditions set heterosexual marriage apart from all other covenants. In my view, the confusion of marriage with other relationships can obscure the priority of heterosexual marriage in God's creative design and the Bible's orientation towards marriage as an analogy of God's passionate and faithful love for creation. And although I intend to argue that the church must grant equal dignity to same-sex relationships lived under vows—an argument I will save for the end of this paper, if you will be patient with me—I am not yet convinced that "equal dignity" is the same as "objective equality." In other words, heterosexual marriage and same-sex relationships are not objectively the same thing but each has its own inherent moral dignity.
In any case, the marriage rites of all Christian churches testify to the tradition that marriage is a covenant between heterosexual partners. So does the only gay and lesbian denomination, the Metropolitan Community Churches, whose rite for blessing same-sex couples is called "union," not "marriage." In its "Order for Marriage," the Book of Worship of the United Church of Christ reflects this ecumenical consensus:
The scriptures teach us that the bond and covenant of marriage is a gift of God, a holy mystery in which man and woman become one flesh, an image of the union of Christ and the church. 7
As the first human covenant revealed in scripture and the only human covenant present at the origin of the human race, I believe marriage has a privileged claim on the ministry of the church. Through the tradition's use of marriage as an analogy of God's covenant with humanity, marriage is prior to all other covenants but one—our primal covenant of baptism.
But although heterosexual marriage is unique, it also participates in the Trinitarian structure that is common to all Christian covenants. Marriage, if I may borrow from St. Benedict's well-known image of the monastery as a "school for sinners," is the school where those called into this covenant learn how to be with another and not alone. It is a means of grace, through which God calls a man and a woman away from the terrible solitude of the alienated self into a life of self-giving love. Like other covenants, marriage is not closed in on itself but open to others, first, to the gift of children and family, second, to the church whose liberating boundaries encompass every Christian marriage. Like other covenants, marriage is accountable to Christ, who is the Covenant Lord of the married partners and of their family.
The covenant of celibate community
Marriage is also a vocation, which means that to be a Christian marriage, God must summon a man and a woman into this relationship. But throughout its history, the church has also held an honored place for women and men who were called into a different covenant, but one by which they nevertheless were liberated by God to live a life with and for others. That covenant is celibacy, and to this we will now turn.
We are immediately in trouble here because most of us in this room are Protestant and we have had virtually no tradition of organized celibate community for more than 400 years—with a few exceptions, including one Augustinian monastery in Germany that transferred its allegiance to the Lutheran Reform in 1558 and somehow survived until 1675. 8
The disappearance of vocational celibacy, along with the organized structures without which any covenantal life is impossible, ought to be a serious concern among us. Luther's reaction to the abuse of monastic vows was so extreme that at one point he wrote that chastity is impossible outside of marriage. Calvin was equally contemptuous of the monastic way of life, writing that "the cloisters, the cells, the holes of the monkeries smell of nothing but excrement." 9 So there was no reform of celibate community in Protestant Europe, only a relentless attack on the monasteries that led to their dissolution.
Our break with 1,400 years of vocational celibacy has led us to believe that marriage is normative for all men and women, that is, the only vocation of relationship to which Christians can aspire. But it was not so in the apostolic church, as Karl Barth reminds us:
It is obvious that in the New Testament community marriage can no longer be an obligation. . . . This is the fact, too lightly ignored by Protestant ethics in its glad affirmation of marriage . . . , that Jesus Christ himself, of whose true humanity there can be no doubt, had no other beloved, bride or wife, no other family or domestic sphere but this community. Certainly, He expressed Himself very definitely about the divine basis, the indissolubility and the sanctity of marriage (Mk. 10:1-12, Mt. 5:27-31.) He did not command anyone to abstain from it in practice as He Himself did. . . . [But] there are those for whom entrance into the married state is not only not commanded but temporarily or even permanently forbidden. We certainly cannot say, in the light of these sayings [of Jesus], that entrance into marriage is universally the higher way, the better possibility. . . . Our true point of departure is that for Paul marriage is always a way (beside which he knows another and better) by which the Christian, becoming one body with his wife, does not deny the truth that he is one spirit with the Lord, but in his own way maintains and expresses it just as much as he who chooses a different path. 10
This "different path" is celibacy. So it is a mistake for us to see celibacy as either a compromise or a curse for those who, because of their sexual orientation or their situation in life, are unable to enter into the covenant of heterosexual marriage. Celibacy is a gift in which the person called into this life becomes fully human. Those who hear God's call to this life are not half-human. We cannot say they are incomplete because they have not fulfilled themselves in a union between a woman and a man. Nor should we understand celibacy as "asexuality" or merely as "abstinence" from a sexual relationship. Instead, celibacy is a particular disciplining of sexuality that liberates sexual energy for communion with others. We only have to look at the ecstatic visions of Roman Catholic mystics like St. John of the Cross or St. Therese of Avila, or the extraordinary creative energy of the Shaker communities, to see how sexual identity was not negated by celibacy but channeled into an intensely unitive relationship with Jesus Christ.
Celibacy therefore conforms to the Trinitarian structure of covenant. It is a life with and for, not a life apart from others. Like the covenant of marriage, it should be sealed by vows. We have no time to examine the arguments of Luther and Calvin against monastic vows, but by definition there should be no Christian covenant—including baptism, marriage and ordination—in which public promises are not witnessed by the community. By abolishing the vow of celibacy, the Reformers also abolished the possibility of celibate life as a normative vocation alongside heterosexual marriage. The result impoverished the church and denied any structured expression for those Protestants who were not called into marriage. A church without a covenantal vocation to celibacy is a church that is not fully oriented towards Jesus Christ—who, as Karl Barth reminds us, lived his life for others but not in the covenant of heterosexual marriage! Barth cannot be ignored when he writes that in Jesus "[t]he great example of a powerfully exercised freedom for celibacy is before us all." 11
On the other hand, the Protestant revolt against priestly and monastic celibacy was not groundless. Men and women like the monk Martin Luther and his future wife, the nun Katherine of Bora, were living under the burden of an enforced celibacy to which they were not truly called by God. We will take up this point again in a few minutes, because it will be a critical one in our discussion about same-sex relationships.
Are same-sex relationships a means of grace?
Do same-sex relationships conform to the Christian tradition of covenant? Can they become a means of grace through which God calls homosexual men and women to a life of conversion and holiness?
It is important to begin by acknowledging that homosexuality is most often experienced as inherent, as a "given," not a "choice." I know that some of us do not believe that the "givenness" of homosexuality is at all self-evident. But even the Ramsey Colloquium concedes—although rather reluctantly—that "some scientific evidence suggests a genetic predisposition for homosexual orientation," although it argues that there is no moral distinction between homosexuality and a predisposition towards "alcoholism or violence." The official Roman Catholic teaching on homosexuality is somewhat more generous. According to the U.S. bishops' Committee on Marriage and Family:
[I]t seems appropriate to understand sexual orientation (heterosexual or homosexual) as a fundamental dimension of one's personality and to recognize its relative stability in a person. . . . Generally, homosexual orientation is experienced as a given, not as something freely chosen. By itself, therefore, a homosexual orientation cannot be considered sinful, for morality presumes the freedom to choose. 12
But basing its argument on natural law, the Roman Catholic church prohibits the expression of love in a homosexual relationship because "only within (heterosexual) marriage does sexual intercourse fully symbolize the Creator's dual design as an act of covenant love with the potential of co-creating new human life." In the Roman Catholic view, a homosexual relationship is therefore "disordered" because it does not express the sexual encounter of a man and a woman and because it cannot be open to the procreation of children. For these two reasons, the church requires that gays and lesbians remain celibate.
The Roman Catholic teaching, in my opinion, is a reasonable attempt to struggle with a difficult problem in a way that does not dishonor or condemn the gay and lesbian members of the church. We can be grateful that the Church of Rome has broken decisively with the now widely-discredited model of homosexuality as a "disease." Instead, the church accepts that homosexual orientation is, at least generally, an inherent dimension of the human personality of gays and lesbians. The Roman magisterium therefore implicitly calls into question the ethics of so-called "transformation ministries" or "restorative therapies" that promise to convert or "cure" homosexuals into heterosexuals.
But the implications of the Roman Catholic teaching go deeper. Before 1975, Roman Catholic ethics assumed that homosexuality was a vicious choice. It did not acknowledge the concept of "sexual orientation." Since the only right expression of sexuality was either in heterosexual marriage or in celibate vocation, then every sexual relationship between two women or two men must have been a conscious act of rebellion against the will of the Creator—a rebellion, in other words, of persons who were naturally heterosexual but chose same-sex partners in violation of nature. This is clearly what Paul has in mind when he writes in Romans that "their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another." (Rom. 1:27 NRSV). Note the verbs "exchanged" and "giving up!" Paul clearly is condemning men and women who have a choice. The Romans described by Paul had freely chosen to "give up" what was natural to them for what was unnatural. 13
But Paul is not describing the homosexuals who are the subject of Roman Catholic ethics. Here, sexuality is not "chosen," but "given." One therefore has to ask who "gave" this orientation, and what is the nature of the gift?
One gift of homosexuality, from the Roman Catholic viewpoint, could be a consecrated life of celibacy. Since that church continues to maintain an entire infrastructure of organized celibate communities, it can at least offer this alternative with some credibility. But Protestants have less credibility when we impose celibacy on our gay and lesbian members. Our churches support virtually no institutional forms of celibate life and seem to have returned to the idea of permanent celibacy merely as a backdoor solution to the disturbing presence of openly homosexual Christians in the ordained ministry. Confronted with the ecumenical consensus that homosexuality is not chosen, some Protestant churches have rediscovered the vocation of celibacy several centuries after it was abandoned by Luther and Calvin. But the rediscovery lacks moral conviction, and the spectacle of married bishops and ministers—who have no personal experience of vocational celibacy and have never considered this vocation valid for themselves—imposing permanent celibacy on others is problematical, at least.
But enforced celibacy for homosexuals is equally problematical in the Roman Catholic tradition. Fundamentally, it violates the dignity of celibate life as vocation. There is no evidence in either scripture or tradition that God created an entire class of human beings who sui generis must enter into covenants of celibate community. Celibacy in the Catholic tradition is always seen as a gift, a way of life to which God elects and calls some, but not most, men and women. As any Roman Catholic vocation director will tell you, to live a life of enforced celibacy when that man or woman does not clearly hear the divine calling to this covenant is almost always destructive. Celibacy in the absence of God's call to celibate community is not necessarily a moral choice.
Protestants should know this well enough from our own history! One of the motors that drove thousands of Catholic priests, monks and nuns into the arms of the Reformation was the legal requirement of celibacy in the absence of a real vocation to this way of life. Eberlin von Gônzburg, a Franciscan friar who converted to Lutheranism in 1522, was speaking for the generation of Luther and Calvin when he described the moral agony of a celibate life divorced from vocation. Celibacy, he wrote, was
. . . a daily nagging of conscience and unrest of mind, by which all joy becomes suffering, all consolation saddening, all sweetness bitter. . . . [It] dulls and deadens the human senses, hardens the heart, and restrains natural honesty, leaving one in the end in so uncivil and inhumane a state, and so guilt-ridden and remorseful, that one hates salvation and the good in one's life and longs for misfortune. 14
Protestants should remember the spiritual and mental anguish of our own celibate ancestors before legislating permanent celibacy for lesbians and gays who may not be called to this exceptional (and demanding) way of life. Nevertheless, some homosexuals are called to the covenant of celibate community, and so are some heterosexuals. The Roman Catholic church acknowledges the presence of both sexual orientations in its ordained ministry. But we should recognize with Karl Barth that celibacy is a "special vocation" and it would be a serious error to prescribe it when the vocation is absent. When celibacy is imposed not by God's call but by ecclesiastical discipline on gays and lesbians, the result is precisely what Gônzburg described: the senses are dulled, the heart is hardened, honesty is restrained so that, in the end, one is left is "so incivil and inhumane a state, and so guilt-ridden and remorseful, that one hates salvation . . . and longs for misfortune." Today, we would describe this condition as a state of deep melancholy, depression or despair—and why should we be surprised? What else could be the result when a man or a woman who is capable of giving himself or herself to another in love is sentenced by the church to a life of solitude? This was obvious enough to the Reformers 475 years ago and it should be equally obvious to the church today.
The vocation of gays and lesbians in the church
So, if not celibacy, then what? Is there a vocation for those gays and lesbians God has not called to either heterosexual marriage or celibate community?
Like all other women and men, lesbians and gays are called by God to live a life not for ourselves, but for others. We are called to covenantal relationships in which our lives correspond to the inner life of God who is self-in-community, who in God's own being is self-for-others.
Gay and lesbian unions are covenantal relationships if they conform to this Trinitarian structure. Like heterosexual marriage and celibate community, these relationships are "schools for sinners," in which two partners learn how to live in the paradox of freedom that is unlimited precisely because it is limited by the other. The partner in a same-sex relationship is truly "other"—not through the complementarity of a man and woman, of course, but in the mutuality of two persons who in freedom choose each other and delight in being chosen. God creates these relationships because within the limits of our given sexuality we are always called out of isolation into community. Always. Always! Through these relationships we learn what it means to be truly human, to care for another as much as we care for ourselves, to learn that a life enclosed on itself is death, but a life opened to other lives is God's gift and command to those who believe.
Neither same-sex relationships nor celibate community are objectively "equal" to heterosexual marriage. The marriage between a man and a woman has its own distinctive and privileged character. But neither are they "second-class" marriages. They are moral relationships and they have a specific claim on the ministry of the church.
Same-sex relationships are broken by the same powers of evil that threaten heterosexual marriage. All relationships are wounded by sin. That is why God gave us covenants and why Christ is the Lord of each covenant. When the church offers its ministry to same-sex partners it is affirming the reality of sin and therefore saying "no" to the false doctrine that there was no fall from grace and no need for the Cross. We often speak about "affirming" or "celebrating" same-sex unions but I am convinced the real pastoral need in the gay and lesbian community is the ministry of the church when our relationships are broken by sin. Like heterosexual couples, we are adrift in the ethical chaos of a society that exalts freedom over commitment, selfishness over self-sacrifice, and the fulfillment of personal "needs" over mutual responsibility. The church needs to be a safe harbor for these relationships—encompassed by ethical boundaries, discipline, accountability and tradition. In other words, gay and lesbian couples need structure, and we need just as much structure as heterosexual couples.
Same-sex couples therefore have a claim on the pastoral care of the church. The church must not abandon us to the moral disorder of a fallen world that is in rebellion against God. But the church's pastoral concern for these couples necessarily requires the public, liturgical expression of the vows that bind them together. Pastoral care without the public recognition of their vows would undermine the moral accountability of same-sex couples to each other and to the church. The congregation cannot legitimately expect conformity to ethical norms for same-sex partners if it is unwilling to witness the vows in which those partners commit themselves—in the presence of the community—to fidelity and mutual obedience. If a congregation permits pastoral care but denies the public rite of union it is saying, in effect, "we expect you to honor your covenant but we don't want to hear about it outside the pastor's office." "Don't ask, don't tell" is a cruel way of life for same-sex couples and if that constraint were imposed on heterosexual partners, I doubt many marriages could survive. "Private" promises of fidelity apart from the community are like New Year's resolutions, easy to break. Moreover, the alienation of same-sex unions from the liturgical life of the community plays into the hands of the secular ideology that covenants are only private contracts between individuals who are accountable to no one but each other.
Conversion and sanctification
Ultimately, the purpose of same-sex covenants, like the covenants of heterosexual marriage and celibate community, is conversion and sanctification. Through these relationships we cooperate with God's design for human life. They are a means of grace, and we could not be fully human without them. St. Irenaeus, who heard God's call to the covenant of celibacy, says this about God's work of sanctification:
If you are the handiwork of God, await the Artisan's hand patiently. He does everything at a favorable time, favorable, that is, to you, whom He made. Offer Him your heart, pliant and unresisting. Preserve the form in which the Artisan fashioned you. Keep within you the Water which comes from Him; without it, you harden and lose the imprint of His fingers. By preserving the structure, you will ascend to perfection; God's artistry will conceal the clay within you. His hand formed your substance; He will coat you, within and without, in pure gold and silver; He will adorn you so well that "the Sovereign will delight in your beauty" (Ps. 44:12). But if you harden and reject His artistry, if you show Him your displeasure at being made a human being, your ingratitude to God will lose you both His artistry and His life. Making is the property of God's generosity; being made is a property of human nature. 15
What a glorious vision, for all of us! God is an artisan who will adorn our lives "in pure gold and silver." But you and I cannot ascend to this perfection alone. Not alone. Not alone. God takes us by the hand and leads us through the terrors of life, giving us companionship so we can learn how to live not for ourselves, but for others. Through these relationships of community and family, of heterosexual marriage, celibate love and homosexual partnership, God converts us towards the "life for others" that is the primal nature of the Trinity, towards the majestic generosity and creative power of the Three-in-One into whom we were incorporated through Baptism, and we know this is true because Jesus Christ has been revealed to us as the first of many chosen, justified, called and sanctified by God.
2. "The Theological Declaration of Barmen," United Church of Christ Web site at http://www.ucc.org/believe/barmen.htm.
3. "The Heidelberg Catechism," in The Living Theological Heritage of the United Church of Christ, v. 2 (Cleveland: The Pilgrim Press, 1997), 329.
8. François Biot, The Rise of Protestant Monasticism (Baltimore and Dublin: Helicon Press, 1963), 65-67. At this point the vocation of celibacy-in-community disappears from Protestant history until the first deaconess community was founded in 1836. Crossing the Atlantic with German Reformed and Lutheran immigrants, the deaconess movement spread to the United States, and its memory is preserved in the many "Deaconess Hospitals" affiliated with the United Church of Christ and the Lutheran churches. But today the deaconess movement in North America is only a memory. In Europe, there has been a modest revival of Protestant monasticism—most notably the ecumenical Taizé community in France. Unlike the deaconess movement, Protestant monks have met a cool reception in the United States, at best. The only alternative for North American Protestants called to this vocation are the small Anglican communities that are closer in spirit to Rome than to Wittenberg or Geneva.
12. Committee on Marriage and Family, National Conference of Catholic Bishops, "Always Our Children: A Pastoral Message to Parents of Homosexual Children and Suggestions for Pastoral Ministers" (Washington, D.C.: National Catholic News Service, Oct. 1, 1997).
13. Karl Barth at one time shared with Paul the belief that homosexuality is a choice, not a "given" condition. The two or three pages he wrote in Church Dogmatics on homosexuality assumed that gays and lesbians despise the opposite sex and choose partners of the same sex as a substitute for the woman or man they have rejected. Barth nowhere addressed the issue of sexual orientation or proposed an ethical response to it. Barth's assumptions were not unusual in the late 1940s and early 1950s, when he wrote his brief comments on homosexuality, and could have been a response to a pre-war homosexual movement in Germany that exalted the male as superior to women—not a popular motif in the male homosexual movement today. But it is not widely known that Church Dogmatics was not Barth's last word on the subject. "In light of conversations with medical doctors and psychologists," writes Barth scholar George Hunsinger, "Barth came to regret that he had characterized homosexuals as lacking in the freedom for fellowship. In the end he, too, found it necessary to interpret the plain sense of Scripture in light of advances in modern knowledge." George Hunsinger, "Thinking Outside the Box, Part 4: The Voice of 'Progressive Traditionalists'," The Presbyterian Outlook, March 13, 2002, online journal at www.pres-outlook.com/hun031302d.html.
About the author
Andrew G. Lang, who is a homosexual, is the theological reporter for the Proclamation, Identity and Communication Team, Office of General Ministries, United Church of Christ, and manager of the UCC's website at www.ucc.org. This paper was presented at a conference May 6, 1998, at the Acton, Mass., Congregational Church sponsored by the Massachusetts chapter of Confessing Christ. The views are those of the author. Copies of this paper are available at the United Church of Christ website, or call the UCC at 216-736-2173.
Last revision: Oct. 24, 2002
On May 6, 1998, the Massachusetts chapter of Confessing Christ sponsored a colloquy at the Acton (Mass.) Congregational Church on same-sex unions and the Christian faith. The event centered on papers presented by Andy Lang for and by Max Stackhouse against the proposition that the Christian church should support monogamous, vowed relationships between same-sex couples. We present both papers here, plus a list of links to other resources on the subject.
Find information here about the Holy Joe's Cafe Coffee House Military Chaplain Ministry
The UCC Fair Trade Project (formally the UCC Coffee Project) allows your congregation to partner with the UCC and Equal Exchange in building fair trade for small farming communities by serving fairly traded coffee, tea and cocoa, and chocolate, snacks, and olive oil for justice at fellowship hour on Sundays.
The UCC Fair Trade Project is a way for your congregation to join hands with communities in the developing world. As Christians we can address a consumer dilemma by buying coffee and other commodities that are fairly traded. Through the project, small farmers and their families gain more control over their lives, earn a fairer share of income, have access to credit and technical support, and gain a trading partner they can trust, a fair trade organization called Equal Exchange. (See the video Equal Exchange: Who We Are and What We Believe In.) And, through the project, members of your congregation can learn about consumption habits that support small scale farmers and workers throughout the world and encourage careful stewardship of God's creation. At fellowship hour, you will be taking action in a spirit of love.
How to Be Part of the UCC Fair Trade Project
- Serve fair trade coffee, tea cocoa and snacks at fellowship hour, church events, in the office and at home.
- Design congregational fund raising projects featuring fairly traded coffee, tea, snacks, chocolate and olive oil. Give fair trade gift baskets as thank you gifts.
- Order educational resources along with your coffee and make space and time in your congregation for conversation about justice in the global economy.
- Encourage other places of worship or businesses in your community to partner with Equal Exchange's Interfaith Coffee Project.
At Equal Exchange's webstore, remember to log-in as part of the Interfaith Program and the UCC Fair Trade Project. This will ensure you are offered wholesale pricing! For more information about the UCC Fair Trade Project, go on line to Equal Exchange's Interfaith Fair Trade Program at equalexchange.com/interfaith, e-mail email@example.com, or call 774-776-7366.
Kids love to get chocolate for Halloween. But for children in cocoa-growing countries in Africa, chocolate often means child labor and family poverty. Equal Exchange, our partner in the UCC Fair Trade Project, participates in a fair-trade program to help end the problems of child labor, poverty, and environmental destruction in the African cocoa industry. Buy fair-trade chocolate mini-bars to give on Halloween. You can also order wholesale to sell to members of your congregation; a youth or women’s group could sell the mini-bars as a fundraiser.) Order now. Help end child labor.
Learn More from Equal Exchange
Equal Exchange shares ideas for serving fairly traded coffee.
Explore educational resources about particular fairly traded products:
Your Purchase Counts Twice: UCC Small Farmer Fund
Equal Exchange contributes $0.15 to the UCC Justice & Witness Ministries Small Farmer Fund for every pound of fairly traded products sold through the UCC Coffee Project. Since the Coffee Project began in 2004, Equal Exchange has nearly $100,000 to the UCC Justice & Witness Ministries Small Farmers' Fund.
Small Farmer Fund contributions totaled $7,309.32 in 2014. This money is used to support the Small Farm Project at the UCC Franklinton Center at Bricks. This is one component of the Just Food Project which supports a farmers' market held at FCAB where local small farmers sell their produce and local residents purchase affordable fresh vegetables and fruits. FCAB is located in eastern North Carolina in an area where many people are in poor health, experience food insecurity, and have poor access to healthy foods. The Small Farm Project is part of a comprehensive approach to comm unity economic development, environmental education, social justice, and health.
A Bitter Cup? Facts about Coffee and the Importance of Fair Trade
Coffee is one of the most heavily traded commodities in the world. Americans drink approximately 320 million cups of coffee every day;20 percent of the world's total coffee production. Some 20 million people near the equator depend on coffee for their livelihood, but for many the coffee trade keeps them trapped in poverty. With little access to markets, farmers often sell through middlemen who offer the lowest price possible. With world coffee prices in constant flux, farmers have no guarantee of how much they will receive for their crop.
Equal Exchange is a worker-owned fair trade company, founded in 1986, that offers consumers fairly traded gourmet coffee direct from small-scale farmer co-ops in Latin America, Africa and Asia. Equal Exchange seeks to establish an alternative model of trade, one that benefits small farmers directly through the following fair trade standards that apply to all Equal Exchange products:
- Always pay a guaranteed minimum price to the farmer.
- Work directly with democratic cooperatives of small scale farmers.
- Provide vital advance credit to farmers.
- Encourage ecologically sustainable farming practices.
- Develop long-term trade relations based on trust and respect.
- Offer consumers the finest gourmet, certified organic, shade-grown coffees.
Small Farmers. Big Change, a blog from Equal Exchange
Equal Exchange posts up-to-date resources to inform your congregation about Fair Trade. Check them out.
Fair World Project publishes For a Better World, a twice-yearly publication filled with articles and graphics that examines the issues and challenges in fair trade. It is a free publication with all past issues posted on-line.
Keep Plantations Out
TransFair USA, long a major certifying body for fair trade products, has changed its name to FairTrade USA and withdrawn from FLO International, the International Fair Trade Certifying body. Transfair USA has ceased to practice the original Fair Trade mission—to support small farmer organizations by helping them gain access to the international market. Equal Exchange, our partner in the UCC Coffee Project, left Transfair in the summer of 2010, to affiliate with another certification agency, IMO, the Institute of Market ecology, because, for example, Transfair USA had increasingly permitted products from large plantations to be certified as Fair Trade.
Here is the page on the UCC's economic justice web pages that explains the issues: Keep Fair Trade: Don't Weaken Standards.
Here is the World Fair Trade Organization's response to the Fair Trade USA (formerly TransFair)/FLO split.
Advocacy is hard work!
Luckily, Justice and Witness Ministries has a multitude of resources to help you out. If you can't find what you're looking for, contact JWM at firstname.lastname@example.org; 216.736.3700. We may be able to locate something you need from one of our many ecumenical advocacy partners. We want you to be equipped for peace and justice work!
Check out our resources below!
Getting to the Root of It
We’ve asked our staff to help us unpack the complex justice issues that we’re working on. Using our General Synod pronouncements as the basis for these reflections, we hope to provide insights into the issues you care about that are rooted in our shared faith, and can inform your advocacy efforts.
Witness for Justice
Witness for Justice (WFJ) is a weekly editorial opinion column for public distribution which identifies timely or urgent justice issues. WFJ is a theologically based perspective founded on historic commitment to justice and peace of the United Church of Christ.
Podcast for a Just World
Podcast For a Just World invites listeners to engage complex realities grounded in faith and considers what it means to build a just world for all. The weekly podcast includes a regular segment, "reading the story of God in the streets," reflecting on lectionary readings, weekly news and updates from Justice and Witness Ministries. Weekly guests include artists, activists, ministers and people along the way. PFJW is a podcast of the United Church of Christ.
Stream on Soundcloud or iTunes.
- Justice Bible Studies
Public Policy Advocacy Guide
The Public Policy Advocacy Guide provides tips, tools and theological insights for understanding our call to advocacy, engaging in organizing, and getting your message heard by decision makers are included. This is your one-stop tool for engaging in faith-based advocacy!
To request hard copies of this resource contact Helga Mingione at 216-736-3700.
What is advocacy? Why should I care? What difference can I make? Get an overview of the basics and learn how to form your advocacy strategy.
Biblical Foundations for Advocacy
Two central themes run through the Bible concerning justice. The first is God's all-encompassing love, concern, and mercy for all human beings. The second is our responsibility to love God's earth and to care for God's people. Learn more about our biblical call to engage in advocacy and promote the common good.
Capitol Hill Basics
The key to working with your members of Congress is to remember that they owe their position to votes from your district and state. They are in office to represent your views, which means that members of Congress do pay attention to their constituents, and you can have an impact. Learn how.
Does Advocacy Make a Difference?
Yes! It certainly does. Read more about being an effective advocate.
Think of the media as an opportunity to educate people in your community about the issues you care about and experience firsthand. Local media forums, such as newspapers, radio, or TV cable-access programs, reach many people and are very significant in shaping opinions. People learn from and listen to people they know – people from their communities.
Visit our UCC Washington Office
The goal of our UCC Washington office is to make a better world possible by addressing the systemic problems that we face as a country and as part of the world. Hunger, poverty, peace and security, racism, care for the earth. These are among the types of justice issues that we work to improve through federal policies.
Join the Network
The Justice and Peace Action Network (JPANet) is our electronic grassroots advocacy network. It's composed of individual members and local UCC congregations across the country. The JPANet both educates and engages its members in shaping public policy in keeping with God's vision of a just and loving society and includes:
- Weekly Legislative Action Alerts:
Brief email synopsis of pending legislation or current justice issues, and a call for action each week. Perfect for taking personal action on the justice issues you care about and suitable for posting in newsletters and bulletins.
- Monthly Newsletter:
Includes invitations to regional and national gatherings, resources and opportunities for witness.
a reading list of best books
Order from United Church of Christ Resources by calling 800-325-7061.
Barna, George. How to Increase Giving in Your Church. Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1997. To order call 800-446-7735 and ask for trade paperbacks.
Barrett, Wayne C. The Church Finance Idea Book: Hundreds of Proven Ideas for Funding Your Ministry. Nashville: Discipleship Resources, 1995. To order call 800-685-4370.
Bell, Perry. Effective Approaches to Growth and Stewardship in the Small Church, Congregations. September/October 1994. Vol. XX, No. 5, page 9f. An Alban Institute Publication. To order call 800-486-1318, ext. 4.
Borreson, Glenn L. A Step at a Time: Growing Givers through Stewardship Letters. Lima, Ohio: CSS Pub., 2001.
Burkett, Larry. Giving & Tithing. Chicago: Moody Press, 1991.
Callahan, Kennon L. Giving and Stewardship in an Effective Church: A Guide for Every Member. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.
Coles, Romand. Rethinking Generosity: Critical Theory and the Politics of Caritas. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1997. (excellent but technical)
Chaves, Mark, and Sharon L. Miller, editors, Financing American Religion. Walnut Creek, California: Altamira Press, A Division of Sage Publications, Inc., 1999. *
de Soto, Hernando. The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else. New York: Basic Books, 2000.
Dick, Dan R. Revolutionizing Christian Stewardship for the 21st Century: Lessons from Copernicus. Nashville: Discipleship Resources, 1997. To order call 800-685-4370.
Dunham, Laura. Graceful Living: Your Faith, Values, and Money in Changing Times. Grand Rapids: RCA (Reformed Church in America) Distribution Center, 2002. Replaces Christians Doing Financial Planning (1984). To order call 800-968-7221.
Durall, Michael. Creating Congregations of Generous People. An Alban Institute Publication, 1999. To order call 800-486-1318, ext. 4.
Foster, Richard J. Money, Sex, and Power: The Challenge of the Disciplined Life. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985.
Godfrey, Neale S., Caroline Edwards. Money Doesn't Grow on Trees: A Parent's Guide to Raising Financially Responsible Children. New York: Simon & Schuster?Trade Paperbacks, 1993.
with Tad Richards. A Penny Saved: Teaching Your Children the Value and Life Skills They Will Need to Live in the Real World. New York: Simon & Schuster? Trade Paperbacks, 1996.
Grimm, Eugene, edited by Herb Miller. Generous People: How to Encourage Vital Stewardship. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1994.
Hacker, Andrew. Money: Who Has How Much and Why. New York: Simon & Schuster/ A Touchstone Book, 1997.
Hargus, Clark. Stewardship in the Small Membership Congregation (now includes two previously separate pieces, "Biblical Principles of Stewardship", with a "flexible worksheet", and "Faithful-Hopeful-Loving: A Three-Week Stewardship Program". Indianapolis: Ecumenical Center for Stewardship Studies (now Ecumenical Stewardship Center), 2000. To order call 800-835-5671.
Hadaway, Kirk. Behold, I Do a New Thing: Transforming Communities of Faith. Cleveland: The Pilgrim Press, 2001. *
Hammond, Dawn. A Handbook for Church Treasurers and Trustees. Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ, 1998. Available on the Massachusetts Conference web site www.macucc.org., or by calling 508-875-5233.
Hinze, Donald W. To Give and Give Again: A Christian Imperative for Generosity. New York: The Pilgrim Press, 1990.
Hoge, Dean, and Patrick McNamara, Charles Zech. Plain Talk About Churches and Money. An Alban Institute Publication, 1997. * To order call 800-486-1318, ext. 4.
Hoge, Dean R., and Charles Zech, Patrick McNamara, Michael J. Donahue. Money Matters: Personal Giving in American Churches. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1996.
Joiner, Donald W., and Norma Wimberly. The Abingdon Guide to Funding Ministry: An Innovative Sourcebook for Pastors and Church Leaders. Volumes 1, 2, 3. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1995, 1996, 1997.
Klainer, Pamela York. How Much is Enough? Harness the Power of Your Money Story and Change Your Life. New York: Basic Books, 2001.
Levan, Christopher. Living in the Maybe: A Steward Confronts the Spirit of Fundamentalism. Manlius, New York: REV/Rose Publishing, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998.
McFague, Sally. Life Abundant: Rethinking Theology and Economy for a Planet in Peril. Minneapolis: Augsburg/Fortess Press, 2000.
Mead, Lorin B. Financial Meltdown in the Mainline? An Alban Institute Publication. To order call 800-486-1318, ext. 4.
Meeks, M. Douglas. God the Economist: The Doctrine of God and Political Economy. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1989.
Moore, R. Laurence. Selling God: American Religion in the Marketplace of Culture. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.
Needleman, Jacob. Money and the Meaning of Life. New York: Doubleday, 1991.
Otfinoski, Steve, with Kelly Kennedy (illustrator). The Kid's Guide to Money: Earning It, Saving It, Spending It, Growing It, Sharing It. New York: Scholastic, Inc., 1996.
Rodin, R. Scott. Stewards in the Kingdom: A Theology of Life in All Its Fullness. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2000.
Roehlkepartain, Eugene C., and Elanah Delyah Naftali, Laura Musegades. Growing Up Generous: Engaging Youth in Giving and Serving. An Alban Institute Publication, 2001. To order call 800-486-1318, ext. 4.
Ronsvalle, John L., and Sylvia Ronsvalle. Behind the Stained Glass Windows: Money Dynamics in the Church. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996. Out of print; available in seminary libraries, or at www.bakerbooks.com, phone 606-957-3110.
with U. Milo Kaufmann. At Ease: Discussing Money and Values in Small Groups. An Alban Institute Publication, 1998. To order call 800-486-1318, ext. 4.
Schwarzentraub, Betsy. Afire with God: Spirit-ed Stewardship for a New Century. Nashville, Tenn.: Discipleship Resources, 2000.
Smith, Kenwyn K. MANNA In the Wilderness of AIDS: Ten Lessons in Abundance. Cleveland: The Pilgrim Press, 2002. *
Vallet, Ronald E., and Charles E. Zech. The Mainline Church's Funding Crisis: Issues and Possibilities. Manlius, New York: REV/Rose Publishing, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995.
Webb, Stephen H. The Gifting God: A Trinitarian Ethics of Excess. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996. (excellent but technical)
Wuthnow, Robert. The Crisis in the Churches: Spiritual Malaise, Fiscal Woe. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. *
Unknown. God and Mammon in America. New York: Free Press, 1994.
Order these resources from UCC Resources or calling 800-325-7061
Annual Stewardship Theme Materials
Newly designed every year, these colorful, coordinated materials based on scripture can greatly help your congregation with its annual stewardship effort. Materials include full-color poster, four motivational bulletin inserts (including giving chart), worship folder, letterhead and envelope, note card, and commitment cards. Check out these NEW materials: 2019 Stewardship Theme Materials & Supplemental Campaign Resources
Not Your Parent's Offering Plate: A New Vision for Financial Stewardship, a completely revised edition of J. Clif Christopher’s classic. Written with the needs of pastors and stewardship teams in mind, Not Your Parents’' Offering Plate provides immediate, practical guidance to all who seek to help God’s people be better stewards of their resources.
Stewardship for Vital Congregations, by Anthony B. Robinson Theologically and biblically informed, it offers particular strategies and "how-to's" relating to money and giving. Stewardship for Vital Congregations includes questions for reflection, discussion, and action in each chapter.
Are You Ready to Talk about Money in Your Church? is a humorous quiz that takes a light approach to the serious subject of money. A great ice-breaker for stewardship conversations! Format is small, 8-page pamphlet, suitable for distribution in pews or to groups. From the Stillspeaking Writers' Group.
The Gratitude Path: Leading Your Church to Generosity, by Kent Millard. A new approach for local church giving that is accessible, achievable, and effective.The Gratitude Path is a five-session study designed for use by churches, leadership teams, and small groups. This step-by-step guide helps congregations grow in generosity by focusing on gratitude for God's blessings.
Local Church Planned Giving Manual, 4th edition. From wills seminars to church endowments and more, you and your church can explore theological, rational, and hands-on worksheets enhancing your ministry through the stewardship of planned giving.
Funding Your Future: A Capital Campaign Manual from the United Church of Christ
A capital or major fund campaign can be the greatest faith-raising experience in the life of your church!The more challenging the campaign goal, the the more heightened the experience for your congregation.
God's Gifts, My Gifts
Teaches that God is the source of who we are and what we have, and is our model for being generous and faithful. Elementary-age children will have fun in class or at home using these five colorful and snappy foldout sheets with individual and group activities, including scriptural texts and prayers to reinforce the church; personal decisions, loving God, self, and others. Use for confirmation and new member classes. Set includes five active lessons: Share Love With Your Offering (available as a single sheet for $.75 each), Seek God with Your Whole Heart, Rooted in Love, Love is the Greatest, Dare 2BU. Set of all five activity sheets plus stickers: 1-10 sets, $5.00 each; 11-25 sets, $4.50 each; 26 or more sets, $4.00 each.
A Stewardship Resource for the Local Church
This resource looks at ways to understand and approach money and mission realistically, given the changing conditions in congregations of the United Church of Christ today. Intended for use by lay leaders as well as clergy, it includes the theological background on the motivation for giving, as well as four programmatic approaches to fundraising in the church.
The Gifting God
This compact, 5-session group study based closely on the Bible will break open the subject of giving for everyone-no matter how much or how little they are currently giving. Excellent for small groups, for ysing one session at a time with committees (especially stewardship or finance committees, and trustees). Also very effective as a personal Bible study/devotion. Available in print or as downloadable PDF, $1.50 each.
What Scripture Says about Giving
This brief brochure for distribution to all church members looks at the question of how much to give to the work of the church and why. Also available in Spanish. $3.00/50.
SEPTEMBER 2019 - AUGUST 2020
Designed especially for UCC congregations, these high-quality bulletins include a special UCC mission story on the back of each cover.
- Every Sunday
- Special occasions: Advent, Christmas, Lent/Easter, Thanksgiving, Confirmation, Communion, Wedding, Funeral.
- Two convenient sizes: 8.5" x 11" and 8.5" x 14"
- Ordered in lots of 25 or just $6.75 per 100 (8.5" x 11") and $7.00 per 100 (8.5" x 14”). Special occasion bulletins just $8.50 per 100 (8.5" x 11") and $8.75 per 100 (8.5" x 14").
- Delivered to you on a quarterly basis
Click HERE for samples of all bulletin covers.
Special Service Sundays - Extra Quantities
Bulletins for the following Sundays are included in your subscription:
- 4th Sunday of Advent
- Palm Sunday
- Sunday before Thanksgiving
Do you need extra quantities for these Sundays? See chart below and call 844-639-0240 to order.
|Quarter||Deadline for Changes/Cancellations||Ship By|
|1st Qtr. Fall||June 18, 2019||July 31, 2019|
|2nd Qtr. Winter||September 9, 2019||October 31, 2019|
|3rd Qtr. Spring||December 13, 2019||January 31, 2020|
|4th Qtr. Summer||March 18, 2020||April 30, 2020|
CALL 844-639-0240 OR EMAIL SALES@WORSHIPBULLETINSERVICE.ORG
TO ORDER OR CHANGE YOUR EXISTING ORDER.
Justice and Witness Ministries responds to the call of Christ through public witness, policy advocacy, issue education, and grassroots empowerment to build a more just, compassionate and inclusive world. The UCC Justice and Peace Action Network (JPANet) is our denomination’s grassroots advocacy network composed of individual members and local UCC congregations across the country. Our work is grounded in General Synod resolutions, and formed by a biblical understanding of prophetic ministry.
Join the network and you will start recieving weekly action alerts, like the ones below.
Justice for Arthur Tyler on Death Row
Arthur Tyler is an innocent man on Death Row. Please help!
Week of Witness for Troy Davis
Please join Amnesty International and the NAACP for a week of witness for Troy Davis, to be held June 19-26.
Written by William G. Chrystal
Congregationalism was ideally suited to the frontier, and Missionary Superintendent Julius Reed, one of Iowa Congregationalism's "sacred seven," thought it could provide German immigrants with a well-anchored religious life. According to George Eisenach, premier historian of the German movement, Reed "secured a number of German ministers and missionaries from Germany and Switzerland and from denominations in this country which had German preaching." He also petitioned the American Home Missionary Society (AHMS) for financial support. 
The AHMS, organized by four denominations in 1826 but funded and directed mainly by Congregationalists and Presbyterians, supported a variety of German pastors and churches, including Lutheran, Reformed, Presbyterian, and Evangelical, in addition to Congregationalists. For example, no fewer than twenty-one pastors of the Kirchenverein des Westen (later the German Evangelical Synod of North America) received half their salaries from the AHMS between 1841 and 1862. 
Members of the AHMS had grown uneasy about aiding pastors and churches with lax membership standards. They abhorred the custom of admitting to full communion anyone who had a confirmation certificate, although this was a common practice in Germany.
That the membership of the German churches, in many instances, is made up without what appears to American Christians sufficient evidence of regeneration by the Spirit of God, there is no longer reason to doubt. . . . To aid in building up churches on such a foundation.., would lower the standard of godliness, encourage formality, and prepare the way for a religion of external display, and thus produce the very state of things which our pious fathers crossed the ocean to escape. 
Congregationalism among the Germans, as championed by Reed, offered a form of church organization that was ideally suited to frontier communities. It also emphasized vital personal religion growing out of an experience of conversion. Yet the preaching of repentance and conversion was almost unknown to those who were raised in the German Landeskirche (State Church). Congregationalism's first missionary to the Germans, Peter Fleury, recruited by Reed in 1846, was told by one, "In our country, thieves, murderers, and such people, have to do repentance, but we are Christians, by birth, baptism, and confirmation." 
Not simply a polity, Congregationalism spoke a religious language as foreign to most Germans as English was. Although pastors labored with zeal, the numbers remained small. In 1883 there were twenty-seven churches, with a total of 1,006 members.  They were "unaided, alone, divided among themselves, the prey of religious tramps from other churches." 
Viewed suspiciously by those who were affiliated with traditional German churches, German Congregational pastors were culled from many sources. The "Mission Houses" of Germany and Switzerland supplied a number of them, particularly St. Chrischona in Basel. Even though these missionaries had an ecumenical outlook, they failed to dispel the popular fear that being Congregational meant deserting the faith of one's ancestors. Peter Fleury told of a man who wanted to join a Congregational church being pulled from the room by his wife, who said, "You must not forsake the Lutheran faith." Another man, who, when asked if he liked Fleury's sermon, said, "Very much, it is all very good if it were but Lutheran." 
Germans in Prussia
If it were not for the influx of large numbers of German-speaking natives of Russia into the United States and Canada in the decades before and after 1900, the history of German Congregationalism could be presented in these few paragraphs, highlighting a small band of Reiseprediger (traveling preachers) and the congregations they gathered in the Middle West.  The immigration of these Germans from South Russia and the Volga region, beginning in 1872-73, brought a new urgency to the German work. Although foreign to most native Germans, Congregationalism appealed to Protestant Russlanddeutschen (Russia Germans), particularly those from Lutheran parishes. They had been raised in a milder Lutheranism than was often encountered in the United States, and some had actually experienced revival and regeneration in Russia. Mid-nineteenth century American Congregationalism offered a style of church life that was seemingly designed for them—a fact made clear when one looks at their unique social and religious development.
"A German is like a willow tree; stick it anywhere and it will take." This old Russian saying was a tribute to the industriousness of the thousands of Germans who immigrated to Russia beginning in the mid-eighteenth century, first to the north, or Volga region, around the city of Saratov, and later to the Ukraine and to Bessarabia, in the south.  The Russia Germans had transformed barren steppes into rich farmland, creating tidy communities that preserved their German heritage in unique ways.
Religion was at the center of their lives. A pledge of "unhindered freedom of worship" by Catherine the Great, in 1763, helped lure the Volga Germans from their homeland. Yet the colonists brought their own religious backgrounds. Of the 104 colonies established on the Volga from 1764 to 1768, for example, 29 were Catholic. Of the remaining colonies, three fourths were Lutheran and the rest, Reformed. 
A chronic shortage of clergy existed from the beginning. Priests sometimes ministered to Protestants, and theological differences between Lutherans and adherents of the Reformed faith were often minimized.  Although Russia German Lutherans embraced the Konkordienbuch (Book of Concord), as did Lutherans everywhere, one observer nonetheless noted: "The confessional status of the colonies is unclear."  Provincial in many ways, Russia German Protestants heard good sermons. Sometimes, however, the sermons were read by the local schoolteacher from a predigtbuch, or book of sermons, because the large parishes and scarcity of pastors made it impossible for all places to have a minister to officiate each Sunday.
Russian pastors were well trained, even by German standards. Many pastors, however, did affect one Russian Orthodox decoration. A number of pastors' pictures show them wearing the traditional pulpit gown and linen tabs, with a large crucifix suspended from a chain around the neck. 
A theological seminary had been founded at the University of Dorpat, in 1833, to train pastors for the Protestant colonies.  Some of Germany's best theologians taught there, including Luther scholar Theodosius von Harnack, who himself had attended Dorpat and whose son Adolf, one of Protestantism's most famous scholars, also studied there. The elder Harnack and church historian Moritz von Englehardt, who made a lasting impression on young Adolf, grappled with modern theology's weightiest themes. A strict Lutheran, Theodosius Harnack had even written a book condemning Herrnhut (Moravian) influence on the Lutheran church in Livonia, and Englehardt, teaching textual and source criticism almost radically, had reportedly known Herrnhut Pietism in his youth. Without doubt, Dorpat's seminary offered a theological spectrum as broad as any found in Germany. 
Pastors of Russia German churches, like all who deal in practical theology, spoke to concerns and temptations of everyday life: Aware that most parishioners owned only three books—the Bible, either Luther's catechism or the Heidelberg Catechism, depending on whether one was Lutheran or Reformed, and a gesangbuch (hymnal)—pastors illustrated sermons biblically and exhorted people to live their faith. They preached in irenic terms, appealing to the Bible rather than the symbolic books of the Reformation.
People wishing to scoff at us call us "Lutherans." Now, we are not ashamed of Luther's name. But when people mean our Lutheran church was built by Luther, so we say with Luther himself: That is untrue. Not Luther but Christ is the ground and cornerstone of our faith. 
Pastor C. Blum, of Krasnojar on the Volga, author of the sermon from which the above excerpt was taken, included it in Gnade um Gnade (Grace upon Grace), a book of sermons intended for church use in the pastor's absence. This book offered a sermon for each Sunday of the church year and for special days, opening and closing with a hymn selected from the Wolga Gesangbuch. Each sermon was built around a biblical text, which was quoted. The emphasis in the predigtbuch is uniform. Blum urged his hearers to live holy lives. On Reformation Sunday he sounded his theme plainly enough: "We Evangelical Christians are clever enough at debate, but are lazy at a holy way of Life." 
Despite strong faith in many homes, enough people turned their backs on the church to be noticed.
If the pastor's exceptionally sensitive
Singing and drinking arouse his anger.
He thunders and he threatens;
Has done so many years;
But in our village
It's like it's always been. 
Heinrich Peter Ehlers, a Volga villager, liked to amuse his friends by imitating clergy. However, he was eventually brought to his knees and conversion. Ehlers became a leader of the Brotherhood, a lay movement outside the church proper that introduced prayer meetings in many villages, effecting the kind of regeneration the AHMS looked for in frontier German-American churches. About the same time a similar movement began in South Russia, but more pastors took part there than in villages along the Volga. 
The Brotherhood gained special prominence during the Great Revival of 1872 (which continued until the early 1890s). It owed its origin to a number of influences, including various Anabaptist and millenarian neighbors: Moravians, Mennonites, and Stundists. Prayer meetings held in private homes by itinerant members of such groups, coupled with the irenic Pietism already prevailing in the village churches, quickly spread a new personal religion. In lay meetings, always attended by church members—sometimes without the pastor's blessing—people sang, read scripture and offered testimonials that spoke of fellowship with God in Jesus Christ. 
Life in America
Although confirmation remained important for Russia Germans who joined Congregational churches in the United States—a catechism was written for that purpose—prayer meetings stayed at the center of their religious lives. They honored the German tradition of religious education while maintaining the prayer meetings of Russia, which had brought them closer to God than they had imagined possible.
Were it not for the Brotherhood, Russia Germans would not have joined Congregational churches after their immigration to the United States. Participation in the Brotherhood required membership in a church, and Congregationalism's emphasis on the autonomy of the local church and the priesthood of all believers appealed to them. Because so many members of the Brotherhood belonged to Congregational churches, in some towns the church was called die Brüderschaft der Kirche. 
Unlike in Russia, where there was only one church in a village, many denominations wooed the Russia Germans in the United States, confusing them with competing claims. Among the denominations that organized congregations made up of Russia Germans were the Missouri Synod, American Lutheran Church, Reformed Church in the United States (German Reformed Church), German Evangelical Synod of North America, German Methodists, German Baptists, and Adventists. Roughly 45 percent of those from Protestant churches in Russia remained Lutheran, 20 percent were divided among Methodists and Baptists, and 5 percent joined the Reformed Church. Yet 30 percent of the Russia German Protestants in the United States by the 1930s had joined Congregational churches. 
The immigration of Russia Germans to the United States re-sulted from several causes. The most significant was Czar Alexander II's revocation, in 1871, of one of the guarantees made to the first Volga colonists by Catherine the Great: freedom from military service. In 1892 Alexander III curtailed land acquisition by non-Orthodox citizens in the west. To land-starved colonists who had established many new colonies and who doubtless had plans to start more, such a policy seemed to aim at their freedom of religion, which Catherine had also guaranteed.
Many families did send sons off to the army and navy. Even today pictures of young Germans in Russian uniforms are found in the homes of their American offspring. An anti-German wind was blowing across the steppes, however, and the colonists felt it. They had lost faith in the manifesto that brought their ancestors to Russia. Consequently, many sought new homes, some going to the United States and Canada and others journeying to South America.
Beginning with a few scouts who located cheap land in the early 1870s, Russia German immigration eventually reached massive proportions. By 1920, 303,532 first- and second-generation Russia Germans resided in the United States.  They constituted the third and final great wave of German immigration; the first arrived in colonial times and the second, in the mid-nineteenth century.
The Russia Germans were different from earlier German immigrants. Their speech was laced with Russianisms, and German-Americans considered it archaic. Along with their English-speaking neighbors, German-Americans referred to them as "Russians" and to their settlements as "Russiatown."  They were at the bottom of the social ladder and did jobs that others avoided. Women were domestics; men worked on railroad construction or farmed. All who encountered them, however, admired their ability to work. 
The prejudice felt by most Russia Germans made Congregationalism even more attractive. The Congregational Church— which came out "congraese" when they tried to pronounce it—was made up of people just like them. Eventually, the church was being served by Russian-born pastors or by pastors whose parents were Russian-born.
The first Russia German ordained to the Congregational ministry was Emmanuel Jose, who founded many churches in Nebraska and the Dakotas. Jose traveled widely, establishing and maintaining contact with little groups, because there were few resident pastors. A pastor who accompanied Jose on one such trip described a visit with a group of Russia Germans living in a remote part of Nebraska.
Isolated, these people live in their sod-houses, scattered all over the prairie. Here they pray and sing praises to the Lord. Brother Jose, who resided in Sutton, served these people once in about three months. They are as sheep, having no fold and no shepherd. Not a church of any kind did I see in that whole region of country.
After supper we had prayer meeting ... to which all the German railroad hands working there were invited. The house was filled, and we had a blessed time. The next evening a number of the brethren and sisters gathered for another prayer meeting.... The people were not satisfied with an hour and a half; they remained until about 11 o'clock that night, singing their accustomed German-Russian melodies, intermingled occasionally with prayer.
The Sabbath was a glorious and blessed day. The house was packed full. Brother Jose preached with great effect.... At 2 p.m. the house was overfilled again, and with much joy and freedom of heart I delivered the Lord's message, which was gladly received.... After the people were dismissed they requested us to have another meeting at night, to which we gladly agreed. 
Large groups of Russia Germans settled in Nebraska, the Dakotas, Kansas, Colorado, Washington, and California. They responded eagerly to the ministrations of Congregational Reiseprediger, who gathered them into small congregations, but the shortage of pastors presented a major stumbling block. The pastors supplied by the "Mission Houses" were not Russia German and sometimes had difficulty ministering to the people. Occasionally, however, particularly able Russia Germans were brought into the ministry. For example, Johannes Koch, an evangelist in Russia, was examined for ordination by several English-speaking Congregational ministers through an interpreter and went on to found a number of Pacific Northwest churches.  And in South Dakota, John Lich, a country schoolmaster, was ordained in 1885 and served many years in Lincoln, Nebraska. 
Organizing a denomination
On October 3, 1883 a small group of German pastors met in Crete, Nebraska, and organized Die Allgemeine Evangelische Kirchenversammlung der Deutschen Kongregationalisten (The General Evangelical Church Assembly of German Congregationalists). The new organization dealt with four items of business. One centered around theological education, another discussed the appointment of a general superintendent for the work, and the other two dealt with the publication of a newspaper and church manual.
George E. Albrecht, a native German who graduated from Oberlin College and served an English-speaking congregation in Ohio, was appointed superintendent in 1883, just after completing a stint with the AHMS in Davenport, Iowa, where he directed the Sunday school efforts. Albrecht himself was a product of regeneration.
I was working in a machine shop in Ohio, as far from God and Christ as the East is from the West, as much lost in sinful pleasures as any of my shopmates. A young Englishman, member of a Congregational church, who worked near me and heard my godless speech, began to pray for me, and with kind words induced me to go to church, afterwards to Sunday School. After a few weeks I was in his pastor's study on my knees beseeching God to have mercy on me, and since then the Lord has led me on with marvelous love.
He provided a solid organizational base on which the German movement could grow. "God seemed to have called the Congregational church to a new work, and the voice was obeyed," he wrote in a report.
Old and erroneous ideas pertaining to various methods by which the Germans should be approached were cast aside, and the pastors simply went to the Germans with the plain Gospel. It was this method that bore the most fruit. 
By 1885 German Congregational churches had been established in nine states. The churches were no longer only in rural areas. Although the going was tougher in cities, persistence paid off, as one pastor demonstrated.
When I began to call upon the people to invite them to gospel services I often had the pleasure (?) to see the door shut on me, instead of inviting me to come in and call again. I generally left my card of invitation behind me, telling the hours of service and Sunday School, and also a tract or two. In a week I went again to the same places, taking my wife with me. I hoped they would not shut the door on her; but found only a few who did not. Some braced themselves in the door and listened to the inviting words; then remarked: "If we find time, we may come once." The next time I went I took my wife and daughter. I went every two or three weeks. Now, thank God, there is a great change. The doors are open to us, and we can have a Christian conversation, and sometimes even reading the Word of God and prayer. I opened the Sunday School in a fire engine hall, which I fixed up with a stand, seats, chairs, stove, etc., also books far the service at my own expense. I began with three children and six teachers. The teachers were my wife, three sons and two daughters, the youngest being fifteen years old. In a short time we had twenty-seven scholars and three visitors, and from that time continual growth. We now have sixty-eight scholars and the same six teachers. 
In 1886 Albrecht explained that the work now had "a good start," but the dangerous shortage of pastors hampered its growth. "We need money," he wrote, "in order to get men; not to buy men, nor to coax them, but to pay them living salaries, and above all to train them for lasting work." Albrecht held a special conference with Prof. Samuel Ives Curtiss, who was on the faculty at the Chicago Theological Seminary (CTS); several American ministers; and representatives of some German churches. Sometime later Albrecht wrote:
Nothing is more trying and discouraging to a home mis-sionary than to see the doors swinging wide open in scores of places, and to call and write in vain for men to enter them. Golden opportunities are lost. Important fields pass into the hands of others, or, what is worse, remain wholly uncared for. The whole work is dragging heavily for want of workers. 
Albrecht resigned as general superintendent in 1887 to be-come a foreign missionary.  He was succeeded the following year by Civil War veteran Moritz E. Eversz, also a native German and Oberlin College graduate. Eversz had been converted while serving in the 20th Wisconsin Volunteers and throughout the war had participated in a small prayer group. During his superintendency "centers of influence" began to be identified, and "people who longed for more spiritual life and for freedom from arbitrary domination of stricter denominations" discovered Congregationalism. 
Lutheran in name only, some Russia Germans found the kind of spirituality they had known in Russia in the small Congregational churches. By 1890 the pastors who were trained in CTS's German department had begun serving in local churches. Russia Germans, they understood the people and their ways. Revivals broke out in many places. New churches were founded. In 1895 there were 110 churches with a combined membership of 4,728. Fifteen years later the numbers had grown to 202 churches with 11,435 members. 
The growth of German Congregationalism spawned associations and state conferences in areas where churches were concentrated. The first German association was organized in Iowa, in 1862, and the first state conference, in Nebraska, in 1879.  Although German Congregational associations and conferences were separate from their English-speaking counterparts, they did maintain relations with them, to a greater or lesser extent, depending on local leadership.
A similar relationship existed between the General Conference of German Congregational Churches of the United States and the National Council of Congregational Churches of the United States. Superintendent Albrecht attended the sixth session of the National Council, which met in Chicago in 1886,  but it was not until 1927 that the Council officially recognized the General Conference of German Congregational Churches as having "parity" with state conferences.  This move was undoubtedly influenced by the 1925 "recognition" of the Evangelical Protestant Conference, a group of twenty-two "union" churches (Lutheran and Reformed), some dating back to the colonial period. Interestingly, some of those churches were served by German Congregational pastors. 
After Superintendent Eversz retired, in 1920, Herman Obenhaus became superintendent, serving until 1936, when Russian-born Jacob Hirning was appointed. Hirning was the first Russia German to head the German work. In the first year of his superintendency the state conferences numbered six and the state associations, three, representing 197 churches with a total membership of 22,166.  By this time many churches no longer functioned only in German. Native-born young people rapidly became Americanized. At the end of World War II most worship services were in English—a trend reflected by the publication in 1952 of an English-language hymnal. Only the Brotherhood clung to German, their prayer meetings offering a window into an increasingly distant past.
In 1878 a seminary was founded in Crete in conjunction with Doane College. Too few students and a lack of money kept it from taking hold. In 1882, however, it began serving as a feeder school, or proseminar, for the newly organized German department of CTS. This department flourished because of the efforts of Professor Curtiss.
Curtiss, who had earned a Ph.D. in Germany, was a gifted scholar and pastor. He started several Chicago mission churches and the Chicago Congregational City Missionary Society. "Throughout his career at the seminary," Arthur Cushman McGiffert Jr. wrote, "Curtiss did the work of three men." One of the three took a particular interest in the German work, seeing to it that two German faculty members were appointed. His influence and that of colleague Hugh Macdonald Scott helped CTS become a "polyglot seminary," whose foreign department trained not only Germans but also Danes, Norwegians, and Swedes.  As German-trained church historian Scott put it:
With immigrants landing in this country at the rate of 750,000 a year, ignorant of American life, strange in speech, not a few opposed to our civilization and our Christianity, the eyes of the most obtuse have at last been opened to the need of thorough Gospel work among this part of our population. Until very recently our Congregational churches paid no attention to this field. 
Growth led to more stable educational institutions. In 1894 the Crete proseminar was moved to Wilton, Iowa, and reconstituted the Wilton German English College. The poorly financed, two-building college merged with Redfield College, in Redfield, South Dakota, in 1904, forming "a Christian institution of learning under the general supervision of the German Congregational churches of the United States of America," with the mandate "specifically to provide an academic and college course for all German young men looking toward a German Congregational ministry."
Redfield was a good location, because most of Wilton's students had been Russia Germans from the Dakotas. Although finances remained a problem, Redfield College survived, and in 1916 the German Institute at CTS moved there, becoming the Redfield College Seminary. The depression signaled an end to Redfield, but the School of Theology moved to Yankton College in 1932  and later became one of the institutions that formed the United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities.
At the founding of the general conference, in 1883, two of the four items of business centered on publication. Zionsfreund, an eight-page newspaper founded by Prof. Theo. Falk of Crete Seminary in 1880, had a two-year run before folding. Der Kirchenbote (Church Messenger), which followed Zionsfreund, was published by Henry Hess until 1888, when the Congregational Publishing Society, at the instigation of Prof. Curtiss, purchased it and placed it under the editorship of Gustav Zimmermann, who taught in CTS's German department. A semimonthly until 1897, when it became a weekly, Der Kirchenbote was avidly read by most German Congregational families. It contained devotional articles as well as denominational news and along with the Illustrierter-Kirchenbote-Kalendar&151;a daily devotional with scripture lessons, a brief message and prayer, and sometimes a hymn— was standard reading.
The German Congregational publishing operation was located in Chicago from 1888 until 1895, when it was moved to Michigan City, Indiana. In 1905 it was moved back to Chicago. The German Congregational Publishing Society—as it was officially known—printed works bearing an illustration of a Pilgrim and the name "The German Pilgrim Press." 
The first Gesangbuch was authorized by the General Conference that met in Chicago in 1896 and was in use by 1898. Both the first and second editions were ohne Noten—without music—requiring someone to lead the singing who had memorized all the melodies.  The third and final edition contained the music and all the words. This edition was the preferred hymnal of most church members, who proudly carried the books to worship services and prayer meetings.
Two supplementary hymnbooks were used in prayer meetings. Social Gospel theologian Walter Rauschenbusch and Ira Sankey, who had accompanied Dwight L. Moody on so many of his tours, produced a collection of American gospel songs in German translation—Evangeliums-S?nger—that was popular. Der K?stliche Schatz was prepared for Brotherhood use by a Russia German Evangelical Synod pastor in Portland, Oregon, Elias Hergert, who had been an Eden Seminary classmate of theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. It contained some Brotherhood songs from Russia as well as recent compositions by Hergert and others, a few of which were in English. 
A Catechism for the German Congregational churches first appeared in 1904. Attempting to include the basic teachings contained in Luther's Small Catechism and the Heidelberg Catechism, it had 150 questions and answers and 50 questions to be answered by confirmands during a final oral examination before the entire congregation. The Catechism was divided into five sections: the Apostles' Creed, the Ten Commandments, the Uses of the Law, the Lord's Prayer, and the Sacraments.
Unlike Luther's catechism or the Heidelberg Catechism, the German Congregational Katechismus began by asserting the centrality of scripture.
How can one discern that Holy Scripture is God's Word?
a) The divine strength of so many souls in life and death has proven it already;
b) because it has been confirmed through divine prophecy and miracles, and
c) because it was written by holy men of God at the impulse of the Holy Spirit 
Rather than beginning with the Law as did Luther's Catechism, or with humanity's delight in belonging to Christ, as did the Heidelberg Catechism, the Katechismus started by establishing the place of the Bible in people's lives.
After World War II, English-language materials became widely available. In 1947 the General Conference of German Congregational Churches, meeting in Lodi, California, elected a hymnal committee to select songs and hymns that "could be used with both our own German Hymnal and the Wolga Gesangbuch."  The resulting Pioneer Hymnal, which came out in 1952, included many familiar American hymns as well as translations of some better-known German hymns.
The Pioneer Press of Yankton, South Dakota, publishers of the new hymnal, succeeded the Redfield College Press, which had taken over The German Pilgrim Press in 1923. The Pioneer Press remained in operation until 1968, publishing hymnals, catechisms, and church and Sunday school materials in both English and German. 
The Katechismus was first translated into English in 1928 and was revised and reissued in 1955. Instead of 150 questions, as in the original version, there were 119 questions plus an appendix of 14 questions and answers on "The Congregational Fellowship." One question asked: "What institutions and projects do our churches especially sponsor through the General Conference?" The answer: "The Yankton College School of Theology, the Pioneer Press and our South American Mission." 
The mission to Argentina was the second foreign field tended by German Congregationalists. (In Canada, the first foreign field, thirty-one churches that had been affiliated with the General Conference became part of the United Church of Canada when that denomination came into being, in 1925.) 
The work in South America began in 1921, when four Argentinean churches urgently requested that denominational recognition be given George Geier, who was serving them. The Illinois Conference licensed Geier, who worked among Russia Germans who were alike in every way to those in the United States and in Canada. In 1924 general missionary John Hoelzer, in Argentina for a brief visit, organized six churches.
The South American Germans from Russia had learned about Congregationalism in letters from relatives in the United States. Despite attacks from the Missouri Lutheran La Plata Synod, the Congregational mission grew. By 1937 thirty-six churches had been established with a total of 3,015 members—all served by five ministers.  The need for a trained ministry was acute, and eventually a theological school was founded. Even today, the South American churches are in contact with the United Church Board for World Ministries, although they, like their American cousins, have adapted to the surrounding culture.
In the United Church of Christ
Most German Congregational churches became affiliated with the United Church of Christ (UCC), which came into being in 1957 with the merger of the Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Church. Itself a merged denomination, the Evangelical and Reformed Church represented the 1934 union of the Reformed Church in the United States and the Evangelical Synod of North America—two groups that had labored among Russia German immigrants. Since then a number of former German Congregational churches have withdrawn and many more are served by pastors of other denominations.
The descendants of the Russia Germans who embraced Congregationalism are often troubled by the UCC's emphasis on social action. To them, the UCC seems too political and not grounded enough in scripture. This reaction is characteristic. The unique heritage of the Russia Germans laid great stress on the Bible, religious experience, and sanctified living. It was an individual gospel, expressed in prayer meetings, worship, and performing kind deeds among one's neighbors.  Although prayer meetings have almost disappeared and revivals are no longer a feature of church life, such piety remains powerfully latent. German Congregationalism has made a unique contribution to the United Church of Christ. Even though its outward form is changed, the inner spirit continues to radiate.
William G. Chrystal is pastor of the Trinity Evangelical and Reformed Church, UCC, Adamstown, Maryland. He is a doctoral student in American Religious History at Johns Hopkins University and is the author of A Father's Mantle: The Legacy of Gustav Niebuhr (1982) and Young Reinhold Niebuhr: His Early Writings, 1911-31 (1977). Chrystal is also a member of the UCC Historical Council.
1. George J. Eisenach, A History of the German Congregational Churches in the United States (Yankton, SD, 1937), p. 3. 2. Carl E. Schneider, "The Home Mission Zeal of an Immigrant Church,' in Missionary Trails: The Story of Missions in the Evangelical Synod of North America as told by missionaries and friends of missions (St. Louis, 1934), p. 5.
3. Home Missionary, January 1851. Reprinted in Carl E. Schneider, The German Church on the American Frontier (St. Louis, 1939), p. 494.
4. Eisenach, op. cit., p. 7.
5. Ibid., p. 51.
6. In Arthur Cushman McGiffert Jr., No Ivory Tower: The Story of The Chicago Theological Seminary (Chicago, 1965), p. 60.
7. Eisenach, op. cit., p. 7
8. The oldest congregation still in existence is Sherrill United Church of Christ in Sherrill, Iowa, which was organized by Peter Fleury in 1849.
9. The saying is quoted in Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, 1918?1956, V?VII (New York, 1979), p. 400.
10. George J. Eisenach, Pietism and the Russian Germans in the United States (Berne, IN, 1948), p. 31, and Adam Giesinger, From Catherine to Khrushchev: The Story of Russia's Germans (Battleford, Saskatchewan, 1974), p. 156. Giesinger places the Lutheran and Reformed mix at 80%-20%.
11. Eisenach, Pietism, op. cit., p. 31, quotes Catholic priest Gottlieb Beratz, Die deutschen Kolonien an der Unteren Wolga in ihrer Entstehung and ersten Entwicklung (Saratov, 1915), p. 230, regarding the clergy shortage.
12. "Russland" in Real-Encyklopadie fur protestantische Theologie und Kirche, zweiter Auflage, Dreizhenter Band (Ritschl bis Scotus) (Leipzig, 1884), p. 126.
13. Photos of pastors wearing crucifixes may be found in 80th Anniversary of The Free Evangelical Lutheran Cross Church, 1892? 1972 (Fresno, CA, 1972], pp. 14, 16, and Karl Stumpp, "Verzeichnis der ev. Pastoren in den einzelnen deutschen und gemischten Kirchenspielen in Russland bzw. der Sowjetunion, ohne Baltikum und Polen" in Joseph Schnurr, ed., Die Kirchen und das Religi?se Leben der Russlanddeutschen, Evangelischer Tell (Stuttgart, 1978), pp. 120?82.
14. See Harry Anderson, "Die Universit?tsgemeinde in Dorpat und ihre Kirche" in Schnurr, op. cit., pp. 310-15.
15. See G. Wayne Glick, The Reality of Christianity: A Study of Adolf von Harnack as Historian and Theologian (New York, 1967), pp. 23?34, for a glimpse of Dorpat and its influence on Adolf.
16. C. Blum, Gnade urn Gnade. Evangelien-Predigten f?r dos ganze Kirchenjahr (Jurjew [Dorpat], 1901), p. 613. Stumpp, op. cit., p. 198, lists Blum as "Johannes Nikolaus Blum."
17. Blum, op. cit., p. 615.
18. Quoted in Eisenach, Pietism, op. cit., p. 64.
19. Ibid., p. 81.
20. Some pastors forbade such meetings in their parishes; in other places meetings were broken up and Elders were punished. See Eisenach, Pietism, op. cit., pp. 174?76.
21. The church in Endicott, Washington, was one. See Anna B. Weitz, A Century of Christian Fellowship: Evangelical Congregational Church, Endicott, Washington, 1883?1983 (Colfax, WA, 1983], p.6.
22. Richard Sallet, Russian-German Settlements in the United States, trans. Lavern J. Rippley and Armand Bauer (Fargo, ND, 1974), p. 90.
23. Ibid., p. 17.
24. See S. Joachim, Toward an Understanding of the Russia Germans (Moorhead, MN, 1939), for a contemporary attempt to explain faulty impressions of the Germans from Russia.
25. Roland Bainton, in his biography of his father, Herbert Bainton, who served the Congregational Church in Colfax, Washington, noted that the only domestic help available to his mother "were some German-speaking immigrants lately come from Russia whose women would come sometimes for half a day." See Roland Bainton, Pilgrim Parson: The Life of James Herbert Bainton, 1867? 1942 (New York, 1958), p. 74.
26. Eisenach, History, op. cit., pp. 45?48.
27. Koch was a moderator of the Brotherhood conference in Russia, working with Ehlers. Gottfried Graedel, in an undated newspaper article entitled "German Congregational Churches in the State of Washington," in the possession of Richard Scheuermann, states: "It was in 1888 when our own Atkinson, Walters and Jonathan Edwards met in Endicott. Johannes Koch represented the Ger-mans. He used to be an evangelist in the old country. The three former ministers informed themselves about the condition of things and found it advisable to ordain Mr. Koch. As Mr. Koch before that had organized two churches, Ritzville and Endicott, the two were accepted into Congregational fellowship with their pastor, and so the Pacific German Congregational church was established."
28. Eisenach, History, op. cit., p. 60.
29. Ibid. pp. 49, 57?58.
30. Ibid., p. 59.
31. Ibid., pp. 64, 70.
32. William E. Strong, The Story of the American Board (Boston, 1910), p. 362, reveals that Albrecht served in Tokyo, Japan, where he helped translate many works into Japanese.
33. Eisenach, History, op. cit., p. 75.
34. Ibid., p. 123.
35. See Henry Vieth, "A History of German Congregationalism in Nebraska" in A History of the Churches and of the Present Conference, Nebraska Conference, United Church of Christ, vol. 1, 1976, pp. 114-42.
36. E. Lyman Hood, The National Council of Congregational Churches of the United States (Boston, n.d.), p. 125, lists Albrecht as being from "the Nebraska phalanx." This session of the Council commended the attempt to create a German Academy at Crete, Nebraska. See Eisenach, History, op. cit., p. 172.
37. Louis H. Gunnemann, The Shaping of the United Church of Christ (New York: Pilgrim Press, 1977), p. 161.
38. Eisenach, History, op. cit., p. 145.
39. Ibid., p. 161.
40. McGiffert, op. cit., pp. 54-64.
41. Eisenach, History, op. cit., p. 175.
42. Ibid., pp. 183?202.
43. Ibid., pp. 204-7.
44. Family tradition recalls the author's grandmother was a song leader.
45. Walter Rauschenbusch and Ira D. Sankey, eds., Evangeliums-S?nger (Kassel, n.d.), and Elias Hergert, ed., Der K?stliche Schatz (Portland, OR, N.D.). Both books went through many editions.
46. Katechismus der biblischen Heilswahrheiten fur die evangelischen Kongregational-Gemeinden von Nord-Amerika (Chicago, 1919), p. 10. English editions omit this question.
47. "Preface," The Pioneer Hymnal (Yankton, 1952), p. 3.
48. Walter Kranzler, "German Congregationalism." in Edward C. Ehrensperger, ed., History of the United Church of Christ in South Dakota, 1869-1976 (Freeman, SD, 1977), pp. 199-200.
49. Congregational Catechism of Religious Instruction (Yankton, 1955), p. 46.
50. Eisenach, History, op. cit., p. 213.
51. Ibid., p. 217.
52. An exception to this pattern was the massive relief effort to Volga Germans in the post-Revolutionary War period, bankrolled by Russia Germans in the United States. See Emma D. Schwabenland, A History of the Volga Relief Society (Portland, OR, 1941).
(Revised Edition 1929)
The Evangelical Catechism was the product of Evangelical unionist efforts on the early Missouri frontier, successfully combining Lutheran and Reformed themes to express the ecumenical theology of German Evangelicals. It went through two major revisions in its history. In the 1860s, it was reorganized to shorten it from 219 questions to 137 questions and to make it more useful for instruction. (See vol. 4:53.) In the 1890s, Daniel Irion wrote a commentary on the 1867 revision (see vol. 4:54), and then in 1929 the catechism was revised again.
Walter Brueggemann notes that for most of its history the "catechism served an immigrant church in a particular cultural context." But as time went on the church changed along with its context and u adapted a very different notion of its relation to its cultural setting." Brueggemann suggests that we need to "value the catechism as our rootage without being subservient. It is a delicate matter to celebrate it faithfully without being locked in" (Walter Brueggemann, "The Evangelical Catechism Revisited: 1847-1972" [St. Louis, Mo.: Eden Publishing House, 1972], 13).
In the twentieth century, as the German Evangelical Church left its immigrant identity behind, the catechism finally changed. In 1929 a committee revised it to reflect more social action versus personal salvation perspectives. Although many of the scriptural citations and questions remained the same, the 1929 version changed the structure slightly, placing the Decalogue under the first article, on God's attributes. New answers were written for new questions (92-95 and 112-14) stressing a new perspective on God's dominion and a new explanation of why prayers are necessary and how we should pray.
The revisions, overall, were conservative—following the desire of the church to avoid unnecessary disturbance of those who had learned the old catechism, to avoid useless and time-robbing theological controversy, and to remain as faithful as possible to the highest values in Evangelical traditions.
1. What should be the chief concern of man?
Man's chief concern should be to seek after the Kingdom of God and his righteousness. Matt. 6:33, Matt. 16:26.
2. How do we obtain righteousness?
We obtain righteousness through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we are saved. Acts 16:31.
3. What then must we do to be saved?
We must believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. John 6:40.
4. Where are we told what we must do to be saved?
God has told us what we must do to be saved in his Word, the Holy Bible, which was written by men who were moved by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter. 1:21; 2 Tim. 3:15-17; Ps. 119:105.
5. In what two ways has God in the Bible revealed his will toward man?
In the Bible God has revealed his will toward man by the Law and by the Gospel.
PART I: GOD AND HIS ATTRIBUTES
6. What has God revealed about himself in the Bible?
In the Bible God has revealed to us that he is One God, that he is Spirit, and that he is Life, Light, and Love. Deut. 6:4; John 4:24; 1 John 5:20; 1 John 1:5; 1 John 4:8.
7. What do we mean when we say: God is Life?
"God is Life" means that he is eternal, unchangeable, and ever present. God is eternal: Ps. 90:1-2; Rev. 1:8; Isa. 26:4. Unchangeable: Mai. 3:6. Jas. 1:17. Ever present: Jer. 23: 3-24; Acts 17:27-28; Ps. 139:7-10; Ps. 23:4.
8. What do we mean when we say that God is Light?
"God is Light" means that he is true, all-knowing, all-wise, holy, almighty, and just. God is true: Num. 23:19; 1 John 5:10; Ps. 119:89-90. All-knowing: Ps. 139:1-4; 1 Sam. 16:7; Matt. 6:8. All-wise: Isa. 55:8-9; Ps. 104:24; Rom. 8:28; 1 Pet. 5:7; Jas. 1:5. Holy: Lev. 19:2; Isa. 6:3; Rev. 15:4; 1 Pet. 1:15-16. Almighty: Gen. 17:1; Luke 1:37; Ps. 38:8-9; Isa. 40:26. Just: Ps. 145:17; Ps. 103:6; Ps. 5:4; Rom. 2:6. Isa. 41:10; Ps. 37:25.
9. What do we mean when we say: God is Love?
"God is Love" means that he is blessed, good, gracious, and merciful. God is blessed: 1 Tim. 6:15-16. Good: Ps. 145:9; Ps. 107:1; Ps. 36:5. Gracious and merciful: Ps. 103:8-10; Ps. 103:13; Ps. 103: 17-18; Lam. 3: 22- 23; 2 Chron. 30:9; Luke 6:36.
10. What mystery concerning God does the Bible reveal?
The Bible reveals to us the mystery that in the one God there are three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and that these three are one. Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14; Matt. 3:16-17; Num. 6:24-26.
PART II: THE THREE ARTICLES OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH
11. In what creed does the Christian Church confess its faith in the Triune God?
The Christian Church confesses its faith in the Triune God in the Apostles' Creed.
THE APOSTLES' CREED
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth: And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord: who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate: was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit; the one holy universal Christian Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.
THE FIRST ARTICLE OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH
12. What is the First Article of the Christian Faith?
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
13. Of \vhat does the First Article of the Christian Faith treat?
The First Article of the Christian Faith treats of God the Father and of the work of creation.
14. What do we mean when we say, "God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth" ?
In the beginning God created heaven and earth by the power of his Word. Gen. 1:1; Ps. 33:6; Heb. 11:3.
15. How does God constantly prove himself to be the Creator?
God constantly proves himself to be the Creator by his fatherly providence, whereby he preserves and governs all things. Gen. 8:22. Ps. 145:15-16. Deut. 8:10. Matt. 6:25. Ps. 121:3-4. Gen. 50:20. Prov. 16:9.
16. What has God done for you?
I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that he has given me and still preserves my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses also food and clothing, home and family, and all my possessions.
17. What does God still do for you?
God daily and abundantly provides me with all the necessaries of life, protects and preserves me from all danger.
18. Why does God do this for you?
God does all this out of sheer fatherly and divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness on my part.
19. What do you owe God for all this?
For all this I am duty bound to thank, praise, serve, and obey him.
20. What are the angels?
The angels are ministering spirits who are sent forth by God to do his will. Ps. 103:20. Heb. 1:14. Ps. 91:11-12. Ps. 34:7. Luke 15:10.
21. Have all the angels always obeyed the will of God?
No; for many of the angels once sinned against God and were banished to hell as enemies of God and man. The chief among the evil spirits is called the devil, or satan. 2 Pet. 2:4. Eph. 6:12. 1 Pet. 5:8. Jas. 4:7.
22. What is the principal creature on earth?
The principal creature on earth is man, created in the image of God, so that we could know him and live in blessed fellowship with him. Gen. 1:27. Gen. 1:31.
23. Did man remain as he was created?
No; for our first parents fell away from God when they permitted satan to lead them into unbelief and disobedience. Read Genesis 3.
24. What were the sad consequences of this fall of man?
By this fall man lost the strength and beauty of God's image and came under the power of satan, sin, and death. This corruption has been transmitted from Adam to all mankind. Gen. 2:17. Gen. 3:17-19. Rom. 5:12. Rom. 7:14. 1 John 3:8.
25. What is man's condition since the fall?
Since the fall, man is not prepared to do good, but inclined to do evil. This inherited corruption is called original sin. Gen. 8:21. John 3:6. 1 John 1:8.
26. What is sin?
Sin is unbelief and disobedience in thought and desire, word and deed, whereby evil is done or good is neglected, whether thoughtlessly or willfully. Ps. 19:12. Matt. 15:18. Jas. 4:17. Luke 12:47. 1 Tim. 5:22.
27. What is the punishment of sin?
The punishment of sin is death, as it is written—Romans 6:23.
28. How manifold is this death?
This death is threefold: physical, spiritual, and eternal. Ps. 90:7-8. Matt. 10:28. Matt. 25:41. Eph. 2:1.
29. What did God in his mercy resolve to do to save mankind from sin and its punishment?
God in his mercy resolved from all eternity to save fallen mankind through his only begotten Son. 2 Tim. 1:9.
30. How did God prepare mankind for the coming of the Saviour?
God prepared mankind for the coming of the Saviour by the promises given in Paradise and to the patriarchs of Israel, by the Law delivered to Moses, by forms of worship in the Old Covenant, and by the preaching of the prophets. Gen. 3:15. Gen. 22:18. Gen. 49:10. Jer. 33:15-16. Mic. 5:2. Isa. 9:6. Acts 10:43.
THE LAW OF GOD
31. Where do we find the law of God in brief form?
We find the law of God briefly given in the Ten Commandments. (Exod. 20:1- 17; Deut. 5:6-21.)
32. What is the First Commandment?
"I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me."
33. What is meant by the First Commandment?
God forbids all idolatry and requires that we fear, love, and trust in him above all things. Eccles. 12:13. 1 John 5:3.
34. What is the Second Commandment?
"You shall not make yourself a graven image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the father upon the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments."
35. What is meant by the Second Commandment?
God forbids us to worship him in any image; He requires us to worship him as he has taught us in his Word and revealed himself to us in his Son Jesus Christ. Isa. 42:8. Isa. 40:18. John 1:18.
36. What is the Third Commandment?
"You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain."
37. What is meant by the Third Commandment?
God forbids that we profane or abuse his name by cursing, false swearing, witchcraft, or unnecessary oaths, and requires that we use his holy name with fear and reverence. Jas. 3:10. Lev. 19:12. Rom. 10:13. Ps. 50:15. Matt. 10:32-33. Ps. 92:1.
38. What is the Fourth Commandment?
"Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your manservant, or your maidservant, or your cattle, or the sojourner who is within your gates; for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it."
39. What is meant by the Fourth Commandment?
God requires that we hallow the Lord's Day by resting from worldly employment, by diligently going to church, and by using the day for the welfare of ourselves and others, and thus to the honor of God. Ezek. 20:20. Col. 3:16-17. Ps. 26:6-8. Heb. 10:25. Eccles. 5:1. Luke 11:28. Exod. 20:24.
40. What is the Fifth Commandment?
"Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the LORD your God gives you."
41. What is meant by the Fifth Commandment?
God requires that I always honor father and mother by loving, obeying, and serving them, and caring for them in sickness, need, and old age; likewise, that I should respect all who, in God's providence, are my superiors. Prov. 1:8. Eph. 6:1-3. Prov. 19:26. Prov. 30:17. Heb. 13:17 Rom. 13:1. Eph. 6:5-7. Acts 5:29.
42. What is the Sixth Commandment?
"You shall not kill."
43. What is meant by the Sixth Commandment?
God forbids not only murder, but every deed, word, and thought, whereby my own life or the life of my fellow-man is shortened or embittered; God requires that I help my fellow-man in every need and seek his welfare for this life and the life to come. Gen. 9:6. Rom. 12:19. Matt. 5:21,22.1 John 3:15. Matt. 5:44- 45. Eph. 4:32. Isa. 1:17. Matt 5:7. Prov. 24:1-2.
44. What is the Seventh Commandment?
"You shall not commit adultery."
45. What is meant by the Seventh Commandment?
God forbids the breaking of the marriage vow and requires all of us to be chaste in thought, word, and deed. Matt. 5:8. 1 Cor. 6:19-20. Prov. 4:23. 1 Cor. 3:17. Eph. 5:3-4. 1 Cor. 15:33.
46. What is the Eighth Commandment?
"You shall not steal."
47. What is meant by the Eighth Commandment?
God forbids not only robbery and theft, but all unfair and dishonest dealings, and requires that we should help to improve and protect our neighbor's possessions and livelihood. Hab. 2:9. Deut. 25:13-15. Deut. 27:17. Ps. 37:21. Jer. 22:13. Eph. 4:28. 1 Thess. 4:11-12. 2 Cor. 9:7.
48. What is the Ninth Commandment?
"You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor."
49. What is meant by the Ninth Commandment?
God forbids perjury, slander, and all manner of falsehood, and requires not only that we should be truthful and sincere in our lives, but also that we should protect the honor and good name of our fellow-man. Prov. 19:5. Ps. 34:13-14. Eph. 4:25. Lev. 19:16. Luke 6:37. Isa. 5:20. Phil. 4:8.
50. What is the Tenth Commandment?
"You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or his ass, or anything that is your neighbor's."
51. What is meant by the Tenth Commandment?
God forbids all evil lusts and desires for wrongful possession or enjoyment, and requires that we seek our joy in him and in his loving care for us. Jas. 1:14-15. Rom. 6:12. 1 John 2:15-17. Ps. 37:4.
52. What is the summary of the Ten Commandments?
"You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might." (Deut. 6:5.) "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Lev. 19:18.) "On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets." (Matt. 22:40.)
53. What does God declare concerning these Commandments?
God says: "Cursed be he who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them." (Deut. 27:26; Gal. 3:10.) "You shall therefore keep my statutes and my ordinances, by doing which a man shall live: I am the LORD." (Lev. 18:5; Luke 10:28.)
54. What is meant by this declaration?
God threatens to punish all who break his Commandments, but to those who keep them he promises grace and blessing. We should therefore fear to do wrong and seek to do God's will.
55. Have you, or has anyone, ever perfectly kept the Law of God?
No man has ever perfectly kept the Law of God. By nature we are inclined to evil and have in many ways disobeyed God's Commandments and therefore well deserve the curse of the Law. Ps. 130:3. Ps. 143:2. Rom. 3:20.
56. Can we in any way escape the curse of the Law and be saved?
We can escape the curse of the Law and be saved through the grace of God, by which the Gospel of Jesus Christ is given to us.
57. What has God in his grace and mercy done to save us?
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16.) But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. (Gal. 4:4-5.)
THE SECOND ARTICLE OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH
58. What is the Second Article of the Christian Faith?
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only begotten son, our Lord: who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried, he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
59. Of what does the Second Article of the Christian Faith treat?
The Second Article treats of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and of the work of redemption.
60. Who is Jesus Christ?
Jesus Christ is true God and true man in one person, my Saviour, Redeemer, and Lord.
61. How does the Bible testify that Jesus Christ is true God?
In the Bible Jesus Christ is called God; furthermore, the Bible testifies to his divine nature and works, and demands divine honors for him. John 1:1-3. John 10:30. John 20:28. John 17:5. John 8:58. Matt. 11:27. John 5:21,26. Matt. 9:6. John 5:22-23. Col. 2:9. John 9:35-37.
62. How does the Bible testify that the Son of God became true man?
Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary; he thereby entered into human nature and became in all things as we are, yet without sin. Luke 1:35. John 1:14. Luke 2:52. Matt. 4:2. John 19:28. John 4:6. Luke 19:41. John 11:35. John 19:30.
63. How did Christ reveal himself as the Saviour before his death?
Christ revealed himself as the Saviour before his death by his holy life, in which he perfectly fulfilled the Law of God; by his preaching the forgiveness of sin through faith in him; by his miracles, which are all works of life. John 4:34. John 8:46. Mark 1:15. Luke 19:10. Acts 10:38. John 5:36.
64. Whereby did Christ accomplish our redemption?
Christ accomplished our redemption by his suffering and death, in which he endured, in our stead, the wrath of God against sin, thereby redeeming us from sin, satan, and death. Isa. 53:4. 2 Cor. 5:19. 2 Cor. 5:20. 2 Cor. 5:21. 1 Pet. 1:18-19. Titus 2:14. 2 Tim. 1:10. Col. 1:13-14. 1 John 3:16. 1 John 4:10.
65. Why was the death of Christ necessary for our redemption?
The death of Christ was necessary for our redemption because we, lost sinners, could be redeemed neither by teaching nor by example, but only by the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ in his suffering and death. 1 Cor. 2:2.1 Cor. 1:23- 24. John 1:29. Heb. 7:26-27. John 15:13.
66. Of what importance is Christ's burial?
Christ's burial is a testimony that he had really died.
67. What is meant when we say, "He descended into heir ?
This statement means that Jesus went to the place of departed spirits and brought them the message of salvation. 1 Pet. 3:18-20.
68. What does it mean to us that Jesus Christ arose from the dead?
The resurrection of Jesus Christ proves that he is the Son of God; that he is our Redeemer, in whom we have newness of life; and that we also shall be raised from the dead. Rom. 4:25. Rom. 1:4. 2 Cor. 5:15. 1 Cor. 15:17-18. 1 Cor. 15:20-21. Rom. 8:11. Rom. 6:4. John 11:25-26.
69. What does it mean to us that Christ ascended into heaven?
Forty days after his resurrection, Christ was visibly taken up into heaven, there to prepare a place for us. John 14:2-3. John 17:24. Read Acts 1:1-11.
70. What do we confess by the words "He sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty" ?
By these words we confess that the risen and ascended Christ is in heaven in the full power and glory of God. Ps. 110:1. Eph. 1:20-23. Rom. 8:33-34.
71. What do we confess with the words "From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead" ?
With these words we confess that Christ will come again on the last day with great power and glory to take into eternal life those who believe, and to deliver into eternal death those who do not believe. Acts 1:11. Luke 21:27-28. Matt. 25:31-32. 2 Cor. 5:10.
72. In which passage of Holy Scripture do we find the humiliation and the exaltation of Christ briefly described?
We find the humiliation and the exaltation of Christ briefly described in the passage Philippians 2:5-11.
73. A Summary of the Second Article of the Christian Faith.
1. Who is Jesus Christ?
I believe that Jesus Christ—true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary—is my Lord.
2. What did Christ do for you?
He has redeemed, purchased, and delivered me, a lost and condemned creature, from all sins, from death and from the power of satan.
3. How did he redeem you?
Not with silver or gold, but with his holy, precious blood, and with his innocent suffering and death.
4. To what purpose did he redeem you?
That I might be his own, live under him in his kingdom, and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, even as he is risen from the dead, lives and reigns in all eternity.
THE THIRD ARTICLE OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH
74. What is the Third Article of the Christian Faith?
I believe in the Holy Spirit; the one holy universal Christian Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.
75. Of what does the Third Article of the Christian Faith treat?
The Third Article of the Christian Faith treats of God the Holy Spirit and of the godly life which he makes possible.
76. What do we believe about the Holy Spirit?
We believe that the Holy Spirit is the third person in the Holy Trinity, with the Father and the Son, true and eternal God, a Lord and distributor of all gifts, who enables us to come to Christ, our Lord, and to remain with him forever.
77. By what means does the Holy Spirit do his work?
The Holy Spirit works through the Word of God and the Holy Sacraments, which are the means of grace. Jas. 1:21. Acts 2:38. 1 Cor. 10:16.
78. In what manner does the Holy Spirit lead us to Christ?
The Holy Spirit makes known to us the call of God to come to Christ; he teaches us how, because of our sin, we need Christ; he leads us by repentance and faith to accept and follow Christ; he enables us thus to begin and live the new life of a child of God. Heb. 3:7-8. John 15:26. John 14:26. Rom. 8:9, 14.
79. What is repentance?
True repentance consists in conviction of sin, sorrow for sin, confession and renunciation of sin, and longing for grace. Ps. 38:4. 2 Cor. 7:10. Matt. 5:4. Ps. 51:17.1 John 1:8-9. Jas. 5:16. Prov. 28:13. Isa. 55:7. Luke 19:8. Luke 15:18-19. Luke 18:13. Matt. 5:6.
80. What is faith?
Faith is complete trust in God and willing acceptance of his grace in Jesus Christ. Heb. 11:1. Heb. 11:6. Him. 1:15. John 6:40. John 6:68-69. Acts 16:31.
81. What does God do for us when we come to him in repentance and faith?
When we come to God in repentance and faith, he forgives us our sins for Jesus' sake, counts the merit of Christ as belonging to us, and accepts us as his children. This is justification. 1 John 3:1. Gal. 3:26. Rom. 3:23-24. Rom. 3:28. Eph. 2:8-9.
82. How does the Bible speak of the change in our life brought about by repentance and faith?
The Bible speaks of this change as being born again, or as being converted.
83. What does it mean to be born again?
To be born again means the beginning of the new life within us by the power of God's word and the sacrament of baptism. This is regeneration. John 3:3. John 3:5. Gal. 3:27. 1 Pet. 1:23.
84. What does it mean to be converted?
To be converted means to turn from the broad way of the sinful life and to enter the narrow way of the godly life. (This is conversion.) Matt. 7:13-14. Ezek. 33:11. Ezek. 18:21. 1 Pet. 2:25.
85. Whereby are we assured of our justification?
We are assured of our justification by the testimony of the Holy Spirit, as it is written Romans 8:15-16: For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, "Abba! Father!" It is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God.
86. What is necessary for us to continue in the godly life?
In order that we may continue in the godly life, the Holy Spirit must daily transform and renew us in all our thoughts and actions and make us acceptable to God. This is sanctification. 1 John 5:4. 2 Cor. 5:17. 2 Pet. 3:18. 1 Pet. 2:1-2. Eph. 4:22-24. Phil. 3:12. Heb. 12:14. 1 Thess. 5:23.
87. What is meant by "Church" in the Apostles' Creed?
By the one holy universal Christian Church we mean the entire body of true Christians. John 17:20-21.
88. Why is the Church called "one" Church?
The Christian Church is called the "one" Church because it has one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, as it is written Ephesians 4:3-6.
89. Why is the Church called holy?
The church is called holy because the Holy Spirit works mightily in it by Word and Sacrament to the end that all its members shall be made holy. Eph. 5:25- 27. 1 Pet. 2:9.
90. Why is the Church called universal?
The Church is called universal because God has meant it for all men, and because everyone finds in it what he needs. John 10:26. Mark 16:15.
91. Why is the Church called the "Christian" Church?
The Church is called Christian because Christ alone in its foundation, its head, and its ideal. 1 Cor. 3:11. Col. 1:18. Eph. 4:13. Eph. 4:15.
92. What is the mission of the Church?
The mission of the Church is to extend the Kingdom of God, that is, to lead men to Christ and to establish Christian principles in every relation of life. Acts 1:8. Isa. 52:7. Rom. 10:14. Luke 9:2. Matt. 24:14. Luke 13:19. Matt. 13:33.
93. What is the Kingdom of God?
The Kingdom of God is the rule of God established in the hearts and lives of men. Luke 17:20-21. John 18:36. Luke 6:31. Luke 6:44-45. Matt. 5:16. Matt. 5:44^5.
94. Where did Christ set forth the principles of his Kingdom?
Christ set forth the principles of his Kingdom in the Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew, chapters 5-7. Luke, chapter 6, verses 20-49.)
95. Has the Church already become all that we confess concerning it?
The Church has indeed existed at all times as the true Church, but has frequently erred and been corrupted; its future perfection, however, is certain, according to God's promise. Matt. 16:18. Matt. 13:24-26.
96. What do we understand by the communion of saints?
By the communion of saints we understand that all Christians, as members of one body, should love and help one another in all things. 1 Cor. 12:12-13. Phil. 2:2^k 1 Cor. 12:26.
97. What do we mean by the words "I believe in the forgiveness of sins" ?
The forgiveness of sins is present in Christ for all mankind, and is offered by the grace of God to all sinners. Luke 24:46-47. Mark 3:28. 1 John 2:1-2. Isa. 1:18.
98. What do we understand by the resurrection of the body?
On the last day Christ will raise up all the dead, as it is written in John 5:28-29. 1 Cor. 15:42-44. Phil. 3:20-21. John 17:24. 2 Cor. 5:10.
99. What do we mean by the life everlasting?
By the life everlasting we mean that in the resurrection all children of God shall receive the glory of Christ in body and soul and shall abide with him forever. 1 John 3:2. 1 Cor. 13:12. Matt. 25:34. Isa. 35:10. Rev. 21:3-4.
100. A summary of the Third Article of the Christian Faith.
1. How do you become a true Christian?
I believe that I can not by my own reason or strength believe in my Lord Jesus Christ, or come to him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, sanctified and preserved me in the true faith.
2. Through what institution does the Holy Spirit work?
The Holy Spirit calls, gathers, enlightens, and preserves the whole Christian Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.
3. What do you receive in the Church through the Holy Spirit?
In the Christian Church the Holy Spirit daily and abundantly forgives me and all believers all sins.
4. What is your hope for the future?
On the last day Christ will raise up me and all the dead and will give to me and all believers everlasting life. This is most certainly true.
PART III: PRAYER
101. What is prayer?
Prayer is the conversation of the heart with God for the purpose of praising him, asking him to supply the needs of ourselves and others, and thanking him for whatever he gives us. Ps. 19:14. Ps. 34:3. Ps. 103:1-4. Matt. 6:6. Matt. 7:7- 8. Matt. 18:19-20. Matt. 21:22. Ps. 92:1. 1 Tim. 2:1-2. 1 Thess. 5:17.
102. In what prayer has the Lord Jesus taught us how to pray?
Jesus taught us to pray in the Lord's Prayer: "Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; And forgive us our debts, As we also have forgiven our debtors; And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil." For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen. (Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:1^4.)
103. What is the meaning of "Our Father who art in heaven" ?
Our heavenly Father desires us and all his children to call upon him with cheerful confidence, as beloved children entreat a kind and affectionate father, knowing that he is both willing and able to help us. Matt. 7:9-11. John 16:27. Rom. 10:12. Ps. 121:1-2.
104. What do we pray for in the first petition: "Hallowed be thy name" ?
We pray in this petition that God's name may be kept holy among us as it is holy in itself. This is done when the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity, and we as the children of God lead a holy life in accordance with it. Ps. 72:18-19. Matt. 5:16.
105. What do we pray for in the second petition: "Thy kingdom come" ?
In the second petition we pray that we and all others may share in the Kingdom of God which was established by the redemption through Jesus Christ, and that its rule may be extended over all the world. Luke 17:20-21. Rev. 11:15. Compare Matt. 13:44, the parable of the mustard seed, and Matt. 13:45, the parable of the leaven.
106. What do we pray for in the third petition: "Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" ?
In the third petition we pray that God's good and gracious will may be done by us and all men as cheerfully as it is done by the angels in heaven. 1 John 2:17. Rom. 12:2. Heb. 13:20-21.
107. What do we pray for in the fourth petition: "Give us this day our daily bread"?
In the fourth petition we look to God as the One who supplies the needs of our body as well as of our soul, and we ask him to make us truly thankful for these his gifts. Matt. 5:45. Ps. 145:15-16. Prov. 30:8-9. Matt. 6:34. Ps. 127:1-2. 2 Thess. 3:10. Deut. 8:10. Matt. 4:4.
108. What do we pray for in the fifth petition: "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors" ?
In the fifth petition we ask God for gracious forgiveness of our sins, and for willingness and strength to forgive others. Ps. 51:1-3. Matt. 6:14-15. Matt. 18:21-22.
109. What do we pray for in the sixth petition: "Lead us not into temptation" ?
In the sixth petition we pray that whenever we are tempted by satan, the world, and our flesh to do evil, God may protect and keep us from sinning. Jas. 1:13.1 Cor. 10:13. 1 Pet. 2:11. 1 John 5:4-5.
110. What do we pray for in the seventh petition: "But deliver us from evil" ?
In the seventh petition we pray that the heavenly Father may deliver us from every evil of body and soul; and finally, when our last hour has come, graciously take us from this world of sorrow to himself in heaven. John 17:15. 2 Tim. 4:18. Rom. 8:23.
111. What is the meaning of the closing words: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever?
By these closing words we mean to express our confidence that God will hear and answer our petitions; for he himself has commanded us thus to pray and promised that we shall be heard. Amen: That is, Yea, yea, it shall be so. 2 Cor. 1:20. Eph. 3:20.
112. Why is prayer necessary?
Prayer is necessary because God will give his grace and his Holy Spirit only to those who earnestly and without ceasing ask them of him and render thanks unto him. Luke 18:7-8. Luke 11:13. Ps. 55:16-17. Jas. 5:16.
113. How should we pray?
We should pray humbly because of our need and unworthiness; and yet with faith, believing that for the sake of Jesus Christ, our Lord, God. will certainly hear our prayer. Dan. 9:18. Matt. 21:22. John 15:7. Jas. 1:6.
114. Are all our prayers answered?
All prayers are answered either in the way we expect God to answer them or in the way God knows will be best for us. 2 Cor. 12:8-9. Ps. 40:1. Hab. 1:2. Gen. 32:26. Ps. 10:17.
PART IV: THE SACRAMENT OF HOLY BAPTISM
115. What is a sacrament?
A sacrament is a holy ordinance of the Church instituted by Christ himself in which by visible signs and means he imparts and preserves the new life.
116. How many sacraments has Christ instituted?
Christ has instituted two sacraments, Holy Baptism and the Lord's Supper.
117. With what words did Christ institute the sacrament of Holy Baptism?
Christ instituted the sacrament of Holy Baptism with words in Matthew 28:18-20.
118. What does God do for us in Holy Baptism?
In Holy Baptism God imparts the gift of the new life unto man, receives him into his fellowship as his child, and admits him as a member of the Christian Church.
119. What does Holy Baptism require of us?
Holy Baptism requires of us that we by daily repentance renounce all sinful longings and desires, and by faith arise to a new life. Rom. 6:3-4. Col. 3:9-10.
120. Why should little children be baptized?
Little children should be baptized because the new life is a gift of God's love, which little children need as much and are as able to receive as adults, for the Lord Jesus has promised unto them his Kingdom. Acts 2:39. Mark 10:13, 14, 16.
121. What does the baptism of children require of the parents?
The baptism of children requires of the parents that they help their children to grow in godly life by Christian teaching and training, by prayer and example. Matt. 28:20. Eph. 6:4.
122. What is confirmation?
Confirmation is the renewal of the baptismal covenant. The baptized children, having been instructed in the Christian faith, publicly confess their faith in their Saviour Jesus Christ, promise obedience to him until death, and are received by the Church into active membership.
PART V: THE SACRAMENT OF THE LORD'S SUPPER
123. With what words did Christ institute the sacrament of the Lord's Supper or Holy Communion?
The Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, "Take, eat; this is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." In the same way also he took a cup, after supper, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, "Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." Matt. 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20;! Cor. 11:23-25.
124. What are the visible signs and means of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper?
The visible signs and means of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper are bread and wine, partaken of by the communicant.
125. What is the Lord's Supper?
The Lord's Supper is the sacrament by which we receive the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ as the nourishment of our new life, strengthen the fellowship with Christ and all believers, and confess that he has died for us.
126. What blessings do we receive as we eat and drink in the Lords Supper?
As we eat and drink in the Lord's Supper we receive forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. For so it is written: Broken and shed for you for the remission of sins. John 6:51. John 6:55-56. Eph. 5:30. 1 Cor. 10:17.
127. On what condition do we receive the blessings of the Lords Supper?
We receive the blessings of the Lord's Supper only as we eat and drink with heartfelt repentance and true faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Cor. 11:28.2 Cor. 13:5. Ps. 139:23-24. 1 Cor. 11:27. 1 Cor. 11:29-30. Matt. 5:23-24.
128. What does our communion daily require of us?
Our communion requires that we daily keep in remembrance the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus, and that we consider well how hard it was for our Saviour to bear our sins and the sins of the whole world, and to gain eternal salvation for us by offering up his life and shedding his blood. And since our sins caused the Lord Jesus the greatest sufferings, yea bitter death, we should have no pleasure in sin, but earnestly flee and avoid it; and being reclaimed by our Saviour and Redeemer we should live, suffer and die to his honor, so that at all times and especially in the hour of death we may cheerfully and confidently say:
Lord Jesus, for thee I live,
for thee I suffer,
for thee I die!
Lord Jesus, thine will I be in life and death!
Grant me, 0 Lord, eternal salvation! Amen.
SOURCE: Evangelical Synod of North America, Evangelical Catechism, rev. ed. (St. Louis, Mo.: Eden Publishing House, 1957).