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.
When the alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.
In a world becoming increasingly globalized, more people are leaving their homelands to seek better lives and opportunities in new countries. Their reasons for leaving are diverse and complex: economic necessity, war, or persecution. The U.S. has long been a nation of immigrants and we have consistently been conflicted about this. We gratefully welcome immigrants and their contributions, and we exclude them, discriminate against them and, at times, inflict grave harm upon them.
As Christians, we are called to love our neighbors. The Bible is unambiguous in calling us to welcome aliens and strangers in our land, and to love them as we love ourselves. In these times, let us listen to the voice of the still-speaking God. We will learn how to respond to these new sisters and brothers residing among us.
Download the toolkit for Communities Supporting Central American Families Seeking Asylum by Rev. Randy J. Mayer
Week of Faithful Witness at the Border
United Church of Christ churches, clergy and congregants are reaching out with hope and in faith to migrants at our borders and immigrants across the country. Many more are asking what they can do to respond to the government policies that detain and separate families. The Southwest Conference UCC, acting with Justice and Local Church Ministries, has issued two calls to action, one for a faithful witness AT the border, in Arizona at United States border with Mexico August 26-30, and another for a faithful witness FOR the border this fall, in cities and towns across America.
Faithful Witness AT the Border
The Southwest Conference is calling for a week of Faithful Witness at the Border, August 26 – 30, 2018 that will include:
- A humanitarian mission to the Mexican side of the border to visit and take supplies to asylum-seekers in shelters and camped out at the ports of entry due to a slowdown in applications being received.
- Solidarity actions at the detention facilities in Eloy and Florence where parents of kids separated from their families are being held.
- Training and strategy sessions around ‘Being an Immigrant Welcoming Congregation’ and ‘Acting as an Advocate and Ally’ with members from the UCC Washington office
- Conversations with local ministry partners in Arizona - The Samaritans and other immigration ministry groups.
- A visit to Operation Streamline immigration court where parents whose children were taken away are appearing in the hope of finding their kids.
Faithful Witness FOR the Border
We also call congregations and conferences to host their own local Faithful Witness for the Border events that might include:
- Begin the process for becoming an Immigrant-Welcoming Congregation
- Organize and attend town halls and candidate forums and ask questions about how candidates would approach immigration policy. Set up in-district visits with your members of Congress to share your UCC faith witness on immigration. Submit letters to the editor and editorials in your local and regional papers.
- Raise money and collect supplies for humanitarian relief at the border—PLEASE USE THIS VERY SPECIFIC LIST OF SUPPLIES.
- Write letters of welcome IN SPANISH that can be distributed to asylum seekers as missives of love and welcome, an alternative message to the government.
- Fundraise to support living expenses of migrants seeking asylum and who are prohibited by law from holding employment in the US while their case is processed.
- Participate in an immigrant detention visitation program in your area
- Partner with local immigrant rights groups to join/organize a rally at an immigrant detention facility for adults, ICE office, or border patrol station nearby.
- Host a fellowship event with a local migrants/an immigrant group in your community to get to know one another and listen to their stories.
- Contribute to the UCC Neighbors in Need appeal
Keep Families Together
The Administration continues to take significant and dangerous steps that are eroding the foundations of the immigration system and the international law that upholds access to asylum for those fleeing danger and violence. These practices of separating families, increasing immigrant detention, and redefining access to asylum are abhorrent and undermine our values. The Administration recently issued updated policies routinely separating children from their parents. In the past three months more than 2,200 children were forcibly and cruelly taken from their parents. This dehumanizing process puts children at risk and sets our country up to willingly participate in human rights violations on a mass scale. The Executive Order signed by Mr. Trump does not alleviate the problem. The Administration has no plan for reuniting separated families and the zero-tolerance policy remains firmly in place, meaning as more parents are deported more families will be broken apart.
- Act - Tell Congress that, as a person of faith, you oppose the forcible detention and separation of families and want them to support polices that protect and unite immigrant and refugee families. Looking for other ways to act? Download the Interfaith Immigration Coalition's toolkit.
- Give - Donate to the UCC Neighbors in Need appeal
- March - If you are participating in a rally, vigil or witness in your community, download this free art work for your signs, shirts and banners.
- Reflect - Condemning the unconscionable assertion that migrant children should be separated from their parents because of ‘orderly and lawful processes that protect the weak and lawful,' — a Biblical statement used to justify U.S. immigration policies — United Church of Christ National Leadership has issued a pastoral letter, urging the people of the denomination's almost 5,000 congregations to take action now!
- Hear voices on the ground - Rev. Bill Lyons, conference minister for the Southwest Conference UCC, shares a powerful update and call for help from our southern border.
- Pray - Download our Litany for Families Separated at Border by Rev. Tracy Howe Whispelway
- Watch a recording of the webinar: Keep Families Together: UCC Webinar on Family Separation at the Border (June 21, 2018)
United Church of Christ emphatically affirmed an Immigrant Welcoming Church
Underscoring the love of neighbor, with several speakers proclaiming that no human is illegal, delegates to General Synod 2017 overwhelmingly declared itself an Immigrant Welcoming Denomination in July of 2017 and called on all settings of the United Church of Christ to do the same.
'Love will triumph someday' – California pastor opens up about immigrating to U.S.
July 03, 2018
The Rev. Rhina Ramos knows all too well the fear and the struggle facing migrants coming to the United States, hanging on to the hope of building a better life. She lived it.
At DC immigration rally, Traci Blackmon calls on people of faith to live by moral law of love
July 02, 2018
The Rev. Traci Blackmon brought greetings from the UCC to 30,000 people gathered at Lafayette Square across from the White House, site of the "Families Belong Together" rally in Washington, D.C. on June 30, urging them to keep fighting for love.
Voices at DC immigration rally speak up, speak out against family separations
July 02, 2018
People across America, young and old, lifted up their voices at more than 700 'Families Belong Together' rallies on June 30, calling for change in the government immigration policies, and the immediate reunion of migrant families separated at the border.
Heeding the sacred call to give sanctuary to the vulnerable
By Rev. Traci Blackmon and Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner | April 18, 2018
(RNS) — Our immigration enforcement agencies are becoming agents of family separation. Read more.
Dream Act - Stand with Immigrant Youth
- Observe the Dream Sabbath 2017 : Join us to Stand in Solidarity with Immigrant Youth
- Action Alert: Stand with Immigrant Youth
President Trump has announced that he will end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Our immigrant neighbors deserve dignity, welcome, and the opportunity to flourish. As an immigrant welcoming denomination, we are called to speak out now. Tell Congress to protect dreamers!
Building Sanctuary For All... All of Us
"Shouldn’t our sanctuaries offer this same kind of Sanctuary...to anyone? Wouldn’t we want this grace, and do we not call upon this kind of love every Sunday?" Read more of Rev. Julian DeShazier's reflection on Immigrants Rights Sunday and intersectionality.
The resurgence of the Sanctuary Movement works to provide protection in our houses of worship for those facing violence, discrimination, and deportation. We organize as people of faith and moral courage accompanying the most marginalized among us targeted by President-elect Trump's hateful rhetoric and policy proposals. We lift up the prophetic and moral witness of communities of faith against the unjust systems of power and privilege that keep our communities from living with the safety and dignity they deserve as human beings.
Now, more than ever faith communities from different traditions are coming together to take a bold and prophetic stand against President-elect Trump's harsh immigration proposals and threats to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival.
- Sanctuary FAQ - Webinar via UCC Insurance Boards - Heather Kimmel, General Counsel for the United Church of Christ, addresses the current interest of faith communities in operating as sanctuary churches, the legal risks, and ways churches can minister to undocumented persons. Watch the recording. (Note: Although you have to enter your email address and name, the webinar can be viewed by anyone.)
- Sign the Most Recent Pledge - We Pledge to Resist Deportations and Discrimination through Sanctuary
- Learn more about how to engage in this sanctuary movement and download the rapid response toolkit via SanctuaryNotDeportation.org
- For churches offering sanctuary to refugees and immigrants, the ACLU has compiled an FAQ sheet.
Raids Rapid Response: Toolkit for Faith Allies
"As faith allies, we are called to be in solidarity through rapid response mobilization to stop these raids, stop these deportations and support impacted communities. In the face of President Trump's extremist anti-immigrant agenda we must respond with a prophetic and bold voice." Download the toolkit via SanctuaryNotDeportation.org.
UCC advocates put 'bodies on the line' at border wall with Mexico
The push for humane immigration reform brought veterans, clergy, activists and UCC advocates to the border wall dividing the Nogales, Arizona, and Mexico communities, as part of a joint rally calling for a new model of border justice that builds bridges and relationships instead of walls and policies that create fear and division. (Read more.)
115 UCC Leaders Send Letter to Congress
The United Church of Christ works to offer an extravagant welcome to all of God’s children regardless of their national origin or citizenship status. Many of our congregations are working to become Immigrant Welcoming Congregations because we understand we have a moral imperative to welcome the most vulnerable in our midst. Together 115 UCC leaders sent a letter to Congress, urging all members to speak out in support of deferred action for families and pursue commonsense immigration reform; asking them to tell the Administration to stop the raids and end Operation Border Guardian;and calling on them to respect current U.S. asylum law, honor existing protections for victims of human trafficking, and expand legal assistance. Read the letter.
Blood on our hands: Stop the raids - The Hill
By Rev. John C. Dorhauer, General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ
Over the last several months, discussions around immigration policies have devolved to extremist sound bytes, with political candidates creating a new wave of anti-immigrant rhetoric to further their own agendas. Sadly, these hateful words have manifested themselves in how the United States treats immigrants. The actions of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are endangering the lives of thousands of asylum seekers fleeing violence, persecution, and devastating poverty in Central America. (Read more.)
UCC Supports Sanctuary Cases to Stop Deportations
In Tucson and Tempe Arizona United Church Congregations Good Shepherd UCC, First Congregational of Phoenix and Shadow Rock United Church of Christ have all offered letters of support to help immigrants facing deportations to stay with their families. Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson has offered Rosa Robles Loreto Sanctuary allowing her to live at the church for proection from immigration authorities while she seeks to win deferred action to stop her deportation order. You can stand with Rosa by signing the Groundswell petition here. Earlier this summer, Shadow Rock UCC had offered Sanctuary to Marco Tulio which helped him win an order of supervision to stay with his family.
Letters of support for Rosa Robles Loreto and Southside Presbyterian Church:
- Shadow Rock United Church of Christ in Phoenix AZ
- First Congregational United Church of Christ, Phoenix
- The Good Shepherd United Church of Christ
Our work on this issue is rooted in policy voted on by our UCC General Synod. You can find General Synod Resolutions on immigration from GS XXXI (2017) GS XXVIIII (2013) GS XXVI (2007), GS XIII (2001), and GS XXII (1999).
Become an immigrant welcoming congregation. The Journey toward becoming an Immigrant Welcoming Congregation involves multiple study and reflection sessions. Download this wonderful toolkit created by our UCC Southwest Conference.
No Longer Strangers: The Practice of Radical Hospitality, a book by UCC pastor Rev. Wendy J. Taylor, explores the lonely and difficult lives of migrant farm workers in Northern California and follows one woman’s compassionate response to their plight.
Behind the Wall
Video by Rev. Art Cribbs. Made possible through a grant by Neighbors in Need.
A Community Resource on Anti-Deportation Education and Organizing - revised May 2010 is a curriculum prepared by the Detention Watch Network, Families for Freedom, the Immigrant Defense Project of the National Lawyers Guild.
Understanding the DREAM Act
The education of immigrant children is not only a smart investment; as an expression of the call to love our neighbors ad ourselves, it is also a moral imperative. The issues of immigration and immigration enforcement affect the children in immigrant families and the public schools that serve those children.
You shall not withhold the wages of poor and needy laborers, whether other Israelites or aliens who reside in your land in one of your towns --Deuteronomy 24:14
We know that our loving God cares about all aspects of our lives, including our work lives. Conditions and events at work absorb our energy, occupy our minds, and impact our psyches when we are both at work and home. Our work situations can be fulfilling and empowering, or demeaning and humiliating. For many of us, our job is the main factor determining the size of our income, whether we have health insurance and a pension, whether we live in a big house or any house at all, and whether we send our children to college or to bed with an empty stomach.
|Low-wage workers across the country are courageously putting themselves and their jobs at risk by seeking better pay and working conditions.
Locate worker organizations in your community that welcome your support.
How the American South Drives the Low Wage Economy by Harold Meyerson, The American Prospect, Summer 2015. The low wages, no union jobs of the south are moving north.
Hard Work, Hard Lives by Oxfam America describes the difficult reality faced by millions of workers in the U.S.
How Crowdworkers Became the Ghosts in the Digital Machine by Moshe Z. Marvit, The Nation, February 4, 2014. The exploitation of Amazon's workforce.
The Workers Who Bring You Black Friday: My life as a temp in California’s Inland Empire, the belly of the online shopping beast by Gabriel Thompson, The Nation, December 16, 2013.
Among American workers, poll finds unprecedented anxiety about jobs, economy by Jim Tankersley and Scott Clement, Washington Post, November 25, 2013.
Serving up justice: the movement for restauant workers' rights heats up. The Nation, Sept 2/9, 2013
In New Wave of Walkouts, Fast-Food Strikers Gain Momentum, August 29, 2013.
A Day's Strike Seeks to Raise Fast-Food Pay by Steven Greenhouse, New York Times, July 31, 2013. Fast-food employees across the country engage in brief strikes in an effort to boost their pay.
Fighting Back Against Wretched Wages by Steven Greenhouse, New York Times, July 27, 2013. Workers are organizing for better pay and working conditions; employers push back.
Alt Labor by Josh Eidelson, The American Prospect, January 29, 2013.
Some workers confront particularly unjust situations such as extremely low pay, unsafe conditions, racism, or sexism. All workers, whatever their position in the hierarchy of jobs, may suffer from indignities, large and small, that cripple their spirit and hinder their journey to greater wholeness.
One-quarter of all jobs in the U.S. pay wages so low that a full-time worker cannot keep a family out of poverty. For some, the biggest problem is no job at all. Even when the economy is considered to be "strong," millions of people who want to work cannot find a job or can only find a part-time one.
God's reign does not stop at the door to the workplace. The Church, the body of Christ, is called to seek out and accompany people wherever they are. So the church must also be in our offices, factories, stores, farms, schools, and all the places where people work.
Every worker deserves a living wage. We must raise the minimum wage and ensure that every job pays a living wage.
Labor unions are an important way that workers can improve their wages and working condtions, and gain greater dignity on the job. Traditional labor unions continue to organize and struggle to improve workers’ lives. But forming a traditional union is nearly impossible in the current political and legal climate, even though the right to do so is an internationally-recognized human right. So workers are creating alternative worker organization. For an overview see Alt-Labor by Josh Eidelson in the February 2013 issue of The American Prospect; the article describes and tells the stories of some of these alternative labor organizations and the couragous workers who are behind them. These groups, which welcome our supprt, are active in multiple locations around the country. Please find one near you and lend your support to strengthen their efforts.
Women continue to be paid less than men for doing similar work. We need pay equity.
Young workers face special challenges: higher rates of unemployment and falling wages over the last decade for those with high school diplomas and college degrees.
Safety on the Job is critical for all workers.
Labor Sunday, the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, is an excellent time for congregations to lift up workers and issues of justice in the workplace.
Economic globalization is impacting workers, jobs, and the U.S. economy. How do we respond?
Immigration is an issue surrounded with much misunderstanding and confusion. Don’t Be Fooled: Immigration is NOT the Real Problem explains that the shortage of good jobs in the U.S. is not due to immigration but lax enforcement of worker protections in the workplace.
Labor trafficking, also called modern-day slavery, refers to the use of force, coercion, fraud, or abduction to exploit a person for profit.
Work to end wage theft, the illegal practice of paying workers less than they earn.
Abusive sweatshop working conditions, either in the U.S. or abroad, must be eliminated.
Low-paying jobs are too common in the U.S. today
Some 28% of jobs in the U.S.(over one in four) pay poverty-level wages, so low that a full-time worker cannot support a family above our nation's extremely meager poverty line. A job should lift everyone out of poverty, not keep them there. Poverty jobs can be changed into life-enhancing jobs if we work to make this happen.
Jesus was a Low-Wage Worker is a resource describing low-wage work, the workers in these jobs, and how we can make low-wage jobs into living-wage ones. All workers are made in God's image and deserve living wages and respect. Request free buttons in English and Spanish (see image, bottom of page) from Annie at email@example.com or 866-822-8224, ext 3720.
In addition to low pay, low-wage jobs often have other disadvantages:
• few benefits such as health insurance, a pension or retirement plan, or paid sick leave;
• inconvenient hours such as nights, weekends, rotating shifts, or part-time hours;
• few opportunities for advancement; and
• too often, exceptionally dirty or hazardous work.
Women and people of color are more likely to hold these jobs than white males.
There are many types of low-wage jobs. They can be found in any industry or occupation. Some of the more common low-wage jobs are in health care (nursing homes, cleaning hospitals), hospitality (cleaning hotel rooms), restaurants and fast food, child care including early childhood education, farm work, meatpacking and poultry processing, retail sales, and security guard. Many of these industries are growing rapidly which means the number of low-wage jobs will grow in the future.
Note that much of this work cannot be moved overseas. The jobs performed by these workers -- cleaning, caring for children and elders, selling items to customers -- need to be done in our local communities. If people of faith stand with low-wage workers who are seeking to improve their wages and working conditions, then poverty-wage jobs can be changed into living-wage jobs.
The UCC's General Synod Resolution Affirming Democratic Principles in an Emerging Global Economy (General Synod 21, 1997)
Deeply connected to the recently renewed dialogue about the criminal justice system and the pressing need to address the reality of mass incarceration are issues at the core of our faith tradition. Our understandings of justice, healing, restoration, reconciliation, redemption and transformation are important spiritual resources for us as we wrestle with these issues. Indeed, as people of faith, we are called to this conversation in a significant way, on multiple levels of systemic change, public policy change and individual change.
The teachings of the Gospel particularly challenge us to engage these realities in ways that take us beyond the surface and into true encounter with Jesus. In Matthew we hear Jesus proclaiming, “When I was in prison, you visited me.” It is easy to glide past these words, but their import is powerful.
“When I was in prison, you visited me.”
In the lives and faces of those who fall into the criminal justice system, we encounter Christ. Even in the midst of profound brokenness. We are challenged to seek out the image of God in this complex and challenging context. We cannot enter the conversation at arms-length. Because we are followers of Jesus, we are called to be present as ambassadors of healing, restoration and justice in jail cells, courtrooms, booking rooms, prison yards and detention centers.
Commentary: A call to action opposing mandatory minimums for drug crimes
May 15, 2017
The United Church of Christ remains a faithful witness and advocate for criminal justice reforms and an end to the disproportionate number of people of color within the prison industrial complex.
Racial justice proponents reject new Department of Justice guidelines on criminal punishment
May 12, 2017
Critical of new guidelines from the U.S. Department of Justice outlining tougher punishments for nonviolent drug offenders, United Church of Christ racial justice leaders are calling on the wider church to protect vulnerable communities and to renew their commitment to justice to create a just world for all.
General Synod 30 Resolutions on Mass Incarceration
- Dismantling Discriminatory Systems of Mass Incarceration in the United States
- Dismantling the New Jim Crow
Download our 1-page resources on criminal justice for use in your congregation:
- Our Faith and the Criminal Justice System
- The United Church of Christ & Criminal Justice Reform - Our Historic Witness
- The Interfaith Witness for Criminal Justice Reform
- Fast Facts about Criminal Justice & Mass Incarceration
- Ferguson or Fallujah? The Militarization of Law Enforcement
“When I was in prison….”: Our Faith and the Criminal Justice System
A primer by Sandy Sorensen, Director of our UCC Washington Office. In it she looks at our criminal justice system, our call to stand with those in prison, and the momentum building for change
The state of our criminal justice system
More than 2.2 million people are currently incarcerated in the United States today, according to the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics. About 1.5 million are in federal or state facilities for adults. The remainder are in local jails, juvenile facilities, military prisons, jails on Indian reservations, or immigration facilities. This is not the full picture, however. More than 5 million additional persons are under Justice supervision, either on probation or on parole. The number of people currently active within the system is over 7 million.
The United States imprisons more of its own people than any other country in the world. For every 100,000 U.S. residents, more than 700 are in prison. In contrast, the incarceration rate per 100,000 residents in the U.K. is 125; in Canada, 110; and in the Netherlands, France and Italy it is 90. In Japan, the incarceration rate is 40 per 100,000. Of all the prisoners in the world, one out of every four is incarcerated in the United States.
The number of U.S. prisoners continues to grow. The prison population has more than quadrupled since 1980, and has risen sharply for women and youth. Greatest increases are in the South and West regions, but the general trend is consistent across all states. Approximately 1 in every 100 men and 1 in every 1,700 women in America resides in a federal or state facility. If this trend persists, we can expect that one in every 20 of America's children will serve time in a state or federal prison.
The General Synod of the United Church of Christ has established a policy base calling for reformation of the nation's justice system, with specific attention to promoting training and rehabilitation of inmates; reduction in mass incarceration, especially through alternative sentencing; attending to race and class bias in arrests and sentencing; opposing excessive bail; opposing the growth of the prison industrial complex; and calling for increased public awareness of prison conditions.
Learn More About Criminal Justice
- Capital Punishment
- Mental Illness & Incarceration
- Our criminal justice system on the world stage
- Prison Labor
- Prison Ministry
- The Privatization of Prisons
- Puerto Rican Political Prisoners and the positions of the United Church of Christ
- Resources on Criminal Justice
- The relationship between incarceration and crime rates
- What Can I Do?
We, the regularly constituted representatives of the Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Church, moved by the conviction that we are united in spirit and purpose and are in agreement on the substance of the Christian faith and the essential character of the Christian life;
Affirming our devotion to one God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our membership in the holy catholic Church, which is greater than any single Church and than all the Churches together;
Believing that denominations exist not for themselves but as parts of that Church, within which each denomination is to live and labor and, if need be, die; and
Confronting the divisions and hostilities of our world, and hearing with a deepened sense of responsibility the prayer of our Lord "that they all may be one";
Do now declare ourselves to be one body, and do set forth the following articles of agreement as the basis of our life, fellowship, witness, and proclamation of the Gospel to all nations.
The name of the Church formed by this union shall be UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST.
This name expresses a fact: it stands for the accomplished union of two church bodies each of which has arisen from a similar union of two church bodies. It also expresses a hope: that in time soon to come, by further union between this Church and other bodies, there shall arise a more inclusive United Church.
The faith which unites us and to which we bear witness is that faith in God which the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments set forth, which the ancient Church expressed in the ecumenical creeds, to which our own spiritual fathers gave utterance in the evangelical confessions of the Reformation, and which we are in duty bound to express in the words of our time as God Himself gives us light. In all our expressions of that faith we seek to preserve unity of heart and spirit with those who have gone before us as well as those who now labor with us.
In token of that faith we unite in the following confession, as embodying those things most surely believed and taught among us:
We believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator and Sustainer of heaven and earth and in Jesus Christ, His Son, our Lord and Savior, who for us and our salvation lived and died and rose again and lives for evermore; and in the Holy Spirit, who takes of the things of Christ and shows them to us, renewing, comforting and inspiring the souls of men.
We acknowledge one holy catholic Church, the innumerable company of those who, in every age and nation, are united by the Holy Spirit to God in Christ, are one body in Christ, and have communion with Him and with one another.
We acknowledge as part of this universal fellowship all throughout the world who profess this faith in Jesus Christ and follow Him as Lord and Savior.
We hold the Church to be established for calling men to repentance and faith, for the public worship of God, for the confession of His name by word and deed, for the administration of the sacraments, for witnessing to the saving grace of God in Christ, for the upbuilding of the saints, and for the universal propagation of the Gospel; and in the power of the love of God in Christ we labor for the progress of knowledge, the promotion of justice, the reign of peace, and the realization of human brotherhood.
Depending, as did our fathers, upon the continued guidance of the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth, we work and pray for the consummation of the Kingdom of God, and we look with faith for the triumph of righteousness and for the life everlasting.
About this testimony
The Basis of Union, 1943, was an early agreement between the Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Church. It was formulated during World War II, a time like our own when churches believed it was God's call to witness to unity as a sign of reconciliation in a divided and despairing world. The agreement set the stage for the 1957 union of the two communions into the United Church of Christ.
Tips on choosing a Bible for children
Your children will probably go through four to six different Bibles between the day they're born and the day they leave home. This is not only practical, since their reading skills, comprehension levels, and interests change, but it also encourages children to see that they are progressing in their knowledge of God.
In the past, choosing a Bible or Bible storybook for children was a relatively simple task because the choice was limited. Times have changed. Now there is a dizzying variety of Bible storybooks and regular Bibles to choose from. They all come with illustrations, study notes, and other special features. But which one is the best one for your child? Here are some general tips to help you make your choice:
Each of your children should have his or her own Bible. Owning a Bible shows them how important God's Word is and how it should always be on hand as the practical guidebook for life.
Let your children have a say in choosing what type of Bible to buy. Ownership in this decision will increase their interest in reading it.
When your children are old enough to want a whole-text Bible, choose a translation that uses modern language. Some versions are deliberately made for children's use. If you're not familiar with the various modern translations, pick out a few verses from different parts of the Bible and compare how they read in different versions.
Finally, look for children's and teens' Bibles that contain the whole text of the Bible as well as additional materials to help your children understand and apply what they read. Choose a Bible with all or some of the following features: a simple concordance, explanatory notes in the text, introductions to each book of the Bible, maps of Bible lands, cross-references, and Bible facts or trivia.
Here are a few hints for choosing a bible storybook or a Bible by age group
Preschool: Buy a Bible storybook, with simple illustrations, that covers key Bible stories and has a small number of simple words per picture.
Beginning Readers: Choose a storybook that contains simple illustrations and more stories than a preschool storybook. It is best if beginning readers have a storybook that takes two pages or more to tell each story.
Grade Schoolers: Fewer pictures, more words is the key at this level. Make sure the illustrations are interesting and up-to-date. Simple Bible reference lists and an index are also good features to look for at this age level.
A prayer for the family
God of all birthing, God of all living, God of all dying, hear our prayers this day.
We pray for our families, in all their complex and wondrous forms, for families of our origin and for those of our choosing.
We give thanks for those who have given us birth, for those who have nurtured us, and for those whose lives were invested in our care. Your love for us has been steadfast and sure, and lived out in those who have cultivated our abilities, enriched our minds, strengthened our bodies, and challenged our spirits.
We mourn those times when our families have not provided for us and for our children the safety, well-being, and love we needed. We recognize and confess those times when we have failed to be agents of your reconciling and renewing love and ask your forgiveness, as well as the forgiveness of those whose trust we have violated.
We celebrate the ever-present possibilities for your Church to be a Family of Blessing for your beloved children. We pray that as Church we might always be attentive to the ways in which we can be a community which is ever more inclusive, ever more nurturing, ever more stimulating, ever more relevant, and ever more healing for all your children. May we recommit ourselves daily to your Gospel call to serve those in need in our world as if they were our very own sisters and brothers, sons and daughters, and to advocate for them and their well-being in the halls of power as well as in our own sanctuaries. In the name of the One who came to us, loved us as his own, and gave to us new life, we pray.
Contributed by Reverend Allen V. Harris
1. The Lord Jesus Christ is the only head of the church.
2. "Christian" is a sufficient name for the church.
3. The Holy Bible is a sufficient rule of faith and practice.
4. Christian character is a sufficient test of fellowship and of church membership.
5. The right of private judgment and liberty of conscience is a right and a privilege that should be accorded to and exercised by all.
6. The purpose of this church will be consumated in the reformation of the world and the union of all Christians.
About this testimony
The "Christian Church" is the name shared by several branches of an early 19th-century movement for Christian unity on the American frontier. The oldest of these branches united in 1931 with the Congregational Churches to form the Congregational Christian Churches—now a part of the United Church of Christ. Among other descendants of this movement are the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the independent Churches of Christ.
The First Commandment:
"You shall have no other gods."
We should fear, love and trust in God above all things.
The Second Commandment:
"You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain."
We should fear and love God, and so we should not use his name to curse, swear, practice magic, lie or deceive, but in every time of need call upon him, pray to him, praise him and give him thanks.
The Third Commandment:
"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy."
We should fear and love God, and so we should not despise his Word and the preaching of the same, but deem it holy and gladly hear and learn it.
The Fourth Commandment:
"Honor your father and your mother."
We should fear and love God, and so we should not despise our parents and superiors, nor provoke them to anger, but honor, serve, obey, love and esteem them.
The Fifth Commandment:
"You shall not kill."
We should fear and love God, and so we should not endanger our neighbor's life, nor cause him any harm, but help and befriend him in every necessity of life.
The Sixth Commandment:
"You shall not commit adultery."
We should fear and love God, and so we should lead a chaste and pure life in word and deed, each one loving and honoring his wife or her husband.
The Seventh Commandment:
"You shall not steal."
We should love and fear God, and so we should not rob our neighbor of his money or property, nor bring them into our possession by dishonest trade or by dealing in shoddy wares, but help him to improve and protect his income and property.
The Eighth Commandment:
"You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor."
We should love and fear God, and so we should not tell lies about our neighbor, nor betray, slander or defame him, but should apologize for him, speak well for him, and interpret charitably all that he does.
The Ninth Commandment:
"You shall not covet your neighbor's house."
We should love and fear God, and so we should not seek by craftiness to gain possession of our neighbor's inheritance or home, nor to obtain them under pretext of legal right, but be of service and help to him so that he may keep what is his.
The Tenth Commandment:
"You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's."
We should love and fear God, and so we should not abduct, estrange or entice away our neighbor's wife, servants or cattle, but encourage them to remain and discharge their duty to him.
What does God declare concerning all these commandments?
He says, "I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers 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."
God threatens to punish all who transgress these commandments. We should therefore fear his wrath and not disobey these commandments. On the other hand, he promises grace and every blessing to all who keep them. We should therefore love him, trust in him, and cheerfully do what he has commanded.
The First Article: Creation
"I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth."
I believe that God has created me and all that exists; that he has given me and still sustains my body and soul, all my limbs and senses, my reason and all the faculties of my mind, together with food and clothing, house and home, family and property; that he provides me daily and abundantly with all the necessities of life, protects me from all danger, and preserves me from all evil. All this he does out of his pure, fatherly and divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness on my part. For all of this I am bound to thank, praise, serve and obey him. This is most certainly true.
The Second Article: Redemption
"I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father,and he will come to judge the living and the dead."
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, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, delivered me and freed me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with silver and gold but with his holy and precious blood and with his innocent sufferings and death, in order that I may be his, live under him in his kingdom, and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness, even as he is risen from the dead and lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.
The Third Article: Sanctification
"I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen."
I believe that by my own reason or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him. But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in true faith, just as he calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth and preserves it in union with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church he daily and abundantly forgives all my sins, and the sins of all believers, and on the last day he will raise me and all the dead and will grant eternal life to me and to all who believe in Christ. This is most certainly true.
"Our Father in heaven."
Here God would encourage us to believe that he is truly our Father and we are truly his children—in order that we may approach him boldly and confidently in prayer, even as beloved children approach their dear father.
"Hallowed be your name."
To be sure, God's name is holy in itself, but we pray in this petition that it may also be holy for us.
How is this done?
When the Word of God is taught clearly and purely and we, as children of God, lead holy loves in accordance with it. Help us to do this, dear Father in heaven! But whoever teaches and lives otherwise than the Word of God teaches, profanes the name of God among us. From this preserve us, heavenly Father!
"Your kingdom come."
To be sure, the kingdom of God comes of itself, without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may also come to us.
How is this done?
When the heavenly Father gives us his Holy Spirit so that by his grace we may believe his holy Word and live a godly life, both in time and hereafter forever.
"Your will be done, on earth as in heaven."
To be sure, the good and gracious will of God is done without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may also be done by us.
How is this done?
When God curbs and destroys every evil counsel and purpose of the devil, of the world, and of our flesh which would hinder us from hallowing his name and prevent the coming of his reign, and when he strengthens us and keeps us steadfast in his Word and in faith even to the end. This is his good and gracious will.
"Give us today our daily bread."
To be sure, God provides daily bread, even to the wicked, without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that God may make us aware of his gifts and enable us to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.
What is meant by daily bread?
Everything required to satisfy our bodily needs, such as food and clothing, house and home, fields and flocks, money and property; a pious spouse and good children, trustworthy servants, godly and faithful rulers, good government; seasonable weather, peace and health, order and honor; true friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.
"Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us."
We pray in this petition that our heavenly Father may not look upon our sins, and on their account deny our prayers, for we neither merit nor deserve those things for which we pray. Although we sin daily and deserve nothing but punishment, we nevertheless pray that God may grant us all things by his grace. And assuredly we on our part will heartily forgive and cheerfully do good to those who may sin against us.
"Save us from the time of trial."
God tempts no one to sin, but we pray in this petition that God may so guard and preserve us that the devil, the world, and our flesh mahy not deceive us or mislead us into unbelief, despair, and other great and shameful sins, but that, although we may be so tempted, we may finally prevail and gain the victory.
"And deliver us from evil."
We pray in this petition, as in a summary, that our Father in heaven may deliver us from all manner of evil, whether it affect body or soul, property or reputation, and that at last, when the hour of death comes, he may grant us a blessed end and graciously take us from this world of sorrow to himself in heaven.
It means that I should be assured that such petitions are acceptable to our heavenly Father and are heard by him, for he himself commanded us to pray like this and promised to hear us. "Amen, amen" means "Yes, yes, it shall be so."
What is baptism?
Baptism is not merely water, but it is water used according to God's command and connected with God's Word.
What is this Word of God?
As recorded in Matthew 28:19, our Lord Christ said, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."
What gifts or benefits does Baptism bestow?
If effects forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and grants eternal salvation to all who believe, as the Word and promise of God declare.
What is this Word and promise of God?
As recorded in Mark 16:16, our Lord Christ said, "He who believes and is baptized will be saved, but he who does not believe will be condemned."
How can water produce such great effects?
It is not the water that produces these effects, but the Word of God connected with the water, and our faith which relies on the Word of God connected with the water. For without the Word of God the water is merely water and no Baptism. But when connected with the Word of God it is a Baptism, that is, a gracious water of life and a washing of regeneration in the Holy Spirit, as St. Paul wrote to Titus (3:5-8): "He saved us by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit, which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life. This saying is sure."
What does such baptizing with water signify?
It signifies that the old Adam in us, together with all sins and evil lusts, should be drowned by daily sorrow and repentance and be put to death, and that the new man should come forth daily and rise up, cleansed and righteous, to live forever in God's presence.
Where is this written?
In Romans 6:4, St. Paul wrote: "We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life."
What is confession?
Confession consists of two parts. One is that we confess our sins. The other is that we receive absolution or forgiveness from the confessor as from God himself, by no means doubting but firmly believing that our sins are thereby forgiven before God in heaven.
What sins should we confess?
Before God we should acknowledge that we are guilty of all manner of sins, even those of which we are not aware, as we do in the Lord's Prayer. Before the confessor, however, we should confess only those sins of which we have knowledge and which trouble us.
What are such sins?
Reflect on your condition in the light of the Ten Commandments: whether you are a father or mother, a son or daughter, a master or servant; whether you have been disobedient, unfaithful, lazy, ill-tempered, or quarrelsome; whether you have harmed anyone by word or deed; and whether you have stolen, neglected, or wasted anything, or done other evil.
[Here Luther gives two examples of a confession.] . . . Then the confessor shall say: "God be merciful to you and strengthen your faith. Amen."
Again he shall say: "Do you believe that the forgiveness I declare is the forgiveness of God?"
Answer: "Yes, I do."
Then he shall say: "Be it done for you as you have believed. According to the command of our Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Go in peace."
A confessor will know additional passages of the Scriptures with which to comfort and to strengthen the faith of those whose consciences are heavily burdened or who are distressed and sorely tried. . . .
What is the Sacrament of the Altar?
Instituted by Jesus Christ himself, it is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the bread and wine, given to us Christians to eat and to drink.
Where is this written?
The holy evangelists Matthew, Mark and Luke, and also St. Paul, write thus: "Our Lord Jesus Christ, 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 given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.' In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, 'Drink of it, all of you. This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me."
What is the benefit of such eating and drinking?
We are told in the words "for you" and "for the forgiveness of sins." By these words the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation are given to us in the sacrament, for where there is forgiveness of sins, there are also life and salvation.
How can bodily eating and drinking produce such great effects?
The eating and drinking do not in themselves produce them, but the words "for you" and "for the forgiveness of sins." These words, when accompanied by the bodily eating and drinking, are the chief thing in the sacrament, and he who believes these words has what they say and declare: the forgiveness of sins.
Who, then, receives this sacrament worthily?
Fasting and bodily preparation are a good external discipline, but he is truly worthy and well prepared who believes these words: "for you" and "for the forgiveness of sins." On the other hand, he who does not believe these words, or doubts them, is unworthy and unprepared, for the words "for you" require truly believing hearts.
In the morning
. . . when you rise, make the sign of the cross and say, "In the name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen."
Then, kneeling or standing, say the Apostles' Creed and the Lord's Prayer. Then you may say this prayer:
"I give you thanks, heavenly Father, through your dear Son Jesus Christ, that you have protected me through the night from all harm and danger. I beseech you to keep me this day, too, from all sin and evil, that in all my thoughts, words and deeds I may please you. Into your hands I commend my body and soul and all that is mine. Let your holy angel have charge of me, that the wicked one may have no power over me. Amen."
After singing a hymn (possibly a hymn on the Ten Commandments) or whatever your devotion may suggest, you should go to your work joyfully.
In the evening
. . . when you retire, make the sign of the cross and say, "In the name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen."
Then, kneeling or standing, say the Apostles' Creed and the Lord's Prayer. Then you may say this prayer:
"I give you thanks, heavenly Father, through your dear Son Jesus Christ, that you have graciously protected me through this day. I beseech you to forgive all my sin and wrong which I have done. Graciously protect me during the coming night. Into your hands I commend my body and soul and all that is mine. Let your holy angels have charge of me, that the wicked one may have no power over me. Amen."
Then quickly lie down and sleep in peace.
Blessing before eating
When the children and the whole household gather at the table, they should reverently fold their hands and say:
"The eyes of all look to you, O Lord, and you give them their food in due season. You open wide your hand. You satisfy the desire of every living thing."
(It is to be observed that "satisfying the desire of every living thing" means that all creatures receive enough to eat to make them joyful and of good cheer. Greed and anxiety about food prevent such satisfaction.)
Then the Lord's Prayer should be said, and afterwards this prayer:
"Lord God, heavenly Father, bless us and these your gifts which of you bountiful goodness you have bestowed upon us, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
Thanksgiving after eating
After eating, likewise, they should fold their hands reverently and say:
"O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever. He gives to the beasts their food, and to the young ravens when they cry. His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man; but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love."
Then the Lord's Prayer should be said, and afterwards this prayer:
"We give you thanks, Lord God, our Father, for all your benefits, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns forever. Amen."
About this testimony
Martin Luther's Small Catechism, 1529, was written to answer the need for a basic exposition of the Christian faith for lay people. It follows the historic form of a catechism, based on explanations of the Apostles' Creed, the Ten Commandments and the Lord's Prayer, to which Luther has added sections on Baptism, Confession and the Sacrament of the Altar, along with forms for Morning and Evening Prayer and Grace at Table.
Historically, a catechism was a short course in Christianity to prepare converts for Baptism. "Luther's Small Catechism is often seen as the beginning of catechesis in the modern sense," writes UCC church historian John B. Payne. "It had enormous influence on all subsequent catechisms, both Protestant and Catholic." It entered the UCC tradition as a faith testimony through one of our antecedent churches: the German Evangelical Synod of North America. Other historic creeds and confessions are collected in The Living Theological Heritage of the United Church of Christ, published by the Pilgrim Press and available from United Church Resources at 1-800-325-7061.
We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one accord,
teach people to confess one and the same Son,
our Lord Jesus Christ,
at once complete in Godhead and complete in humanity,
truly God and truly human,
consisting of a rational soul and body;
of one substance with the Father as regards his Godhead,
and at the same time of one substance with us
as regards his humanity;
like us in all respects, apart from sin;
as regards his Godhead,
begotten of the Father before the ages,
but yet as regards his humanity begotten,
for us and for our salvation,
of Mary the Virgin, the Theotokos [God-Bearer];
one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten,
recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change,
without division, without separation;
the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union,
but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved
and coming together to form one person and subsistence,
not as parted or separated into two persons,
but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God, the Word,
the Lord Jesus Christ;
even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him,
and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us,
and the creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us.
About this testimony
The "Definition of the Council of Chalcedon," 451, was the end result of the struggle to understand the relationship of the three persons of the Holy Trinity. It is accepted as a symbol of Christian doctrine by the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, Reformed and Lutheran churches. The concern of Chalcedon is the humanity and divinity of Jesus Christ. Seeking a middle way, it says "no" to doctrines that deny either that Christ was truly human or that Christ was truly divine. Christ is both, the definition says, united to the First Person of the Trinity in his divinity and united to us in his humanity. Even today, some Christians experience Jesus only as God, others only as a human being. The contribution of Chalcedon—which is now the mainstream of Christianity—is an inclusive Christology that affirms that both experiences are true, but neither is complete without the other.