The United Church of Christ acknowledges as its sole head, Jesus Christ, Son of God and Savior. It acknowledges as kindred in Christ all who share in this confession. It looks to the Word of God in the Scriptures, and to the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, to prosper its creative and redemptive work in the world. It claims as its own the faith of the historic Church expressed in the ancient creeds and reclaimed in the basic insights of the Protestant Reformers. It affirms the responsibility of the Church in each generation to make this faith its own in reality of worship, in honesty of thought and expression, and in purity of heart before God. In accordance with the teaching of our Lord and the practice prevailing among evangelical Christians, it recognizes two sacraments: Baptism and the Lord's Supper or Holy Communion.
About this testimony
Adopted at the uniting General Synod of 1957, the Preamble of the Constitution of the United Church of Christ represents the core of the theological consensus that brought the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the Congregational Christian Churches together in covenant.
In view of the errors of the "German Christians" and of the present Reich Church Administration, which are ravaging the Church and at the same time also shattering the unity of the German Evangelical Church, we confess the following evangelical truths:
1. "I am the Way and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except through me." John 14:6
"Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold through the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved." John 10:1,9
Jesus Christ, as he is attested to us in Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God whom we have to hear, and whom we have to trust and obey in life and in death.
We reject the false doctrine that the Church could and should recognize as a source of its proclamation, beyond and besides this one Word of God, yet other events, powers, historic figures and truths as God's revelation.
2. "Jesus Christ has been made wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption for us by God." 1 Cor. 1:30
As Jesus Christ is God's comforting pronouncement of the forgiveness of all our sins, so, with equal seriousness, he is also God's vigorous announcement of his claim upon our whole life. Through him there comes to us joyful liberation from the godless ties of this world for free, grateful service to his creatures.
We reject the false doctrine that there could be areas of our life in which we would not belong to Jesus Christ but to other lords, areas in which we would not need justification and sanctification through him.
3. "Let us, however, speak the truth in love, and in every respect grow into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body is joined together." Eph. 4:15-16
The Christian Church is the community of brethren in which, in Word and Sacrament, through the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ acts in the present as Lord. With both its faith and its obedience, with both its message and its order, it has to testify in the midst of the sinful world, as the Church of pardoned sinners, that it belongs to him alone and lives and may live by his comfort and under his direction alone, in expectation of his appearing.
We reject the false doctrine that the Church could have permission to hand over the form of its message and of its order to whatever it itself might wish or to the vicissitudes of the prevailing ideological and political convictions of the day.
4. "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to have authority over you must be your servant." Matt. 20:25-26
The various offices in the Church do not provide a basis for some to exercise authority over others but for the ministry [lit., "service"] with which the whole community has been entrusted and charged to be carried out.
We reject the false doctrine that, apart from this ministry, the Church could, and could have permission to, give itself or allow itself to be given special leaders [Führer] vested with ruling authority.
5. "Fear God. Honor the Emperor." 1 Pet. 2:17
Scripture tells us that by divine appointment the State, in this still unredeemed world in which also the Church is situated, has the task of maintaining justice and peace, so far as human discernment and human ability make this possible, by means of the threat and use of force. The Church acknowledges with gratitude and reverence toward God the benefit of this, his appointment. It draws attention to God's Dominion [Reich], God's commandment and justice, and with these the responsibility of those who rule and those who are ruled. It trusts and obeys the power of the Word, by which God upholds all things.
We reject the false doctrine that beyond its special commission the State should and could become the sole and total order of human life and so fulfil the vocation of the Church as well.
We reject the false doctrine that beyond its special commission the Church should and could take on the nature, tasks and dignity which belong to the State and thus become itself an organ of the State.
6. "See, I am with you always, to the end of the age." Matt. 28:20 "God's Word is not fettered." 2 Tim. 2:9
The Church's commission, which is the foundation of its freedom, consists in this: in Christ's stead, and so in the service of his own Word and work, to deliver all people, through preaching and sacrament, the message of the free grace of God.
We reject the false doctrine that with human vainglory the Church could place the Word and work of the Lord in the service of self-chosen desires, purposes and plans.
The Confessing Synod of the German Evangelical Church declares that it sees in the acknowledgment of these truths and in the rejection of these errors the indispensable theological basis of the German Evangelical Church as a confederation of Confessing Churches. It calls upon all who can stand in solidarity with its Declaration to be mindful of these theological findings in all their decisions concerning Church and State. It appeals to all concerned to return to unity in faith, hope and love.
The Word of God will last for ever.
Adapted from Robert McAfee Brown, Kairos: Three Prophetic Challenges to the Church, published in 1990 by Wm. B. Eerdmans.
About this testimony
The Barmen Declaration, 1934, was a call to resistance against the theological claims of the Nazi state. Almost immediately after Hitler's seizure of power in 1933, Protestant Christians faced pressure to "aryanize" the Church, expel Jewish Christians from the ordained ministry and adopt the Nazi "Führer Principle" as the organizing principle of church government. In general, the churches succumbed to these pressures, and some Christians embraced them willingly. The pro-Nazi "German Christian" movement became a force in the church. They glorified Adolf Hitler as a "German prophet" and preached that racial consciousness was a source of revelation alongside the Bible. But many Christians in Germany—including Lutheran and Reformed, liberal and neo-orthodox—opposed the encroachment of Nazi ideology on the Church's proclamation. At Barmen, this emerging "Confessing Church" adopted a declaration drafted by Reformed theologian Karl Barth and Lutheran theologian Hans Asmussen, which expressly repudiated the claim that other powers apart from Christ could be sources of God's revelation. Not all Christians courageously resisted the regime, but many who did—like the Protestant pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Roman Catholic priest Bernhard Lichtenberg—were arrested and executed in concentration camps. The spirituality of the Barmen Declaration profoundly influenced many of the first generation of pastors and laypeople who formed the United Church of Christ in 1957.
(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).
No one liked the Westphalian settlement, but the lines were drawn, the Reformation over. Germany lay devastated, plundered by lawless armies, much of its population decimated. Commerce and industry had disappeared; moral, intellectual, and spiritual life had stagnated. Religion was dispirited and leaderless. A time for mystics and poets, much of German hymnody comes from this early 17th century.
Out of such sensitivities, a new Protestant movement, Pietism, arose. Pietism became the heart of a number of Lutheran-Reformed unions. In 1817, the Evangelical Church of the Prussian Union, by order of Frederick William III (1797-1840) of Prussia, united the Lutheran and Reformed Churches of his kingdom, giving birth to the ancestral church of the Evangelical Synod of North America, a grandparent of the United Church of Christ. The Evangelical Church of the Prussian Union became a model in other German kingdoms for Lutheran and Reformed unions. In 1981, the United Church of Christ recovered these roots when a Kirchengemeinschaft (church communion) with representative leaders of that church from the German Democratic Republic and the Federal Republic of Germany acknowledged with joyous celebration full communion with the United Church of Christ at the 13th General Synod.
The pathetic human condition in war-torn 17th century Germany awakened Pietism, a theology of the heart, balanced by moral stringencies for self-discipline. The Pietist movement was initiated by Philip Jacob Spener (1635-1705), a Lutheran pastor sensitive to the needs of his congregation demoralized by war. Drunkenness and immorality were rife, church services sterile. Spener inspired a moral and spiritual reformation, emphasizing personal warmth, Christian experience of everyday living, and the building up of Christian virtues. His "little churches" within the church successfully taught self-discipline, including abstinence from card playing, dancing, the theatre. Similar proscriptions found their ways into Puritan churches of the British Isles.
Despite charges of heresy, Pietism held fast, and the University of Halle became its chief center. The warm heart and social concern of Pietism at Halle inspired the commission of missionaries to India, and at least one, a Lutheran, Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, to Germans in the American colonies.
Although the churches had been protected by the Treaties of Westphalia, they were isolated from one another in a divided Germany. Neither peace treaties nor the warming of hearts to social concern could erase the ravages of war. The population of Germany had been reduced from 16 million to six million. For lack of manpower, a third of German land still lay fallow between 1648 and 1680. Peasants existed on linseed and oilcakes or bread of bran and moss.
The 17th century was marked by greedy rulers bent on a lifestyle of opulent ease and aggressive attacks on neighboring states. German princes coined money and levied taxes on impoverished people to support it all. In small bands, thousands of German Reformed people, free in their faith in God, quietly slipped away in 1709, to find a haven in London. From there, most sought a permanent home among the American colonists in the New World. Having endured such pain and hardship, many found great promise in the ideal of brotherly love and joined William Penn's Pennsylvania Colony. Others, many of them indentured servants, went to New York, Virginia, and the colonies of North and South Carolina.
On Tuesday, June 25,1957, at Cleveland, Ohio, the Evangelical and Reformed Church, 23 years old, passionate in its impulse to unity, committed to "liberty of conscience inherent in the Gospel," and the Congregational Christian Churches, 26 years old, a fellowship of biblical people under a mutual covenant for responsible freedom in Christ, joined together as the United Church of Christ. The new church embodied the essence of both parents, a complement of freedom with order, of the English and European Reformations with the American Awakenings, of separatism with 20th-century ecumenism, of presbyterian with congregational polities, of neoorthodox with liberal theologies. Two million members joined hands.
The story of the United Church of Christ is the story of people serving God through the church. Co-President James E. Wagner, a graduate of Lancaster Seminary, parish minister, seminary professor, and instructor in Bible, brought intellectual and spiritual stature, wisdom and brotherly warmth to match the generous personality of Co-President Fred Hoskins, gifted Congregational Christian professor and pastor, of liberal theological orientation and consummate organizational ability.
A message was sent to the churches from the Uniting General Synod, signed by its moderators, Louis W. Goebel and George B. Hastings, its co-presidents, and co-secretaries Sheldon E. Mackey and Fred S. Buschmeyer. After acknowledging the separate ancestries of the parties to the union and citing ecumenical "relatives" of both denominations, the message stated, "Differences in ecclesiastical procedure, which in sundry places and times have occasioned tensions and disorders, are appointed their secondary place and are divested of evil effect." The union, the message continued, was possible because the "two companies of Christians hold the same basic belief: that Christ and Christ alone is the head of the Church ... From him [we] derive the understanding of God, ... participation in the same spirit, the doctrines of faith, the influence toward holiness, the duties of divine worship, the apprehension of the significance of baptism and the Lord's Supper, the observance of church order, the mutual love of Christians and their dedication to the betterment of the world" ("Report on the Uniting General Synod:" Advance, July 12, 1957, p. 22).
A Joint Resolution, declaring the basis of union, adopted by both parties at the Uniting General Synod, said in part: "Delegates of the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches, in joint session assembled this day in the city of Cleveland, Ohio, do hereby declare that The Basis of Union with the Interpretations has been legally adopted ... that the union ... is now effected under the name of 'The United Church of Christ' ... that the union be formally pronounced ... in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit ... that until the adopting Constitution ... The Basis of Union shall regulate the business and affairs of the United Church of Christ .... "
The Second General Synod at Oberlin in 1959 received for study by the churches a first draft of a constitution and approved a Statement of Faith:
Statement of Faith We believe in God, the Eternal Spirit, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and our Father, and to his deeds we testify: He calls the worlds into being, creates man in his own image, and sets before him the ways of life and death. He seeks in holy love to save all people from aimlessness and sin. He judges men and nations by his righteous will declared through prophets and apostles. In Jesus Christ, the man of Nazareth, our crucified and risen Lord, he has come to us and shared our common lot, conquering sin and death and reconciling the world to himself. He bestows upon us his Holy Spirit, creating and renewing the church of Jesus Christ, binding in covenant faithful people of all ages, tongues, and races. He calls us into his church to accept the cost and joy of discipleship, to be his servants in the service of men, to proclaim the gospel to all the world and resist the powers of evil, to share in Christ's baptism and eat at his table, to join him in his passion and victory. He promises to all who trust him forgiveness of sins and fullness of grace, courage in the struggle for justice and peace, his presence in trial and rejoicing, and eternal life in his kingdom which has no end. Blessing and honor, glory and power be unto him. Amen.
Able administration by the co-presidents and intensive committee work by lay and clergypersons produced an orderly procedure for consolidation of boards and other program agencies. The Third General Synod at Philadelphia in 1961 adopted the Constitution and By-Laws and elected a devoted, hardworking pastor its first president. Ben Herbster, earnest supporter of educational and ecumenical Christian endeavors, always faithful to the needs and requests of local churches and pastors, would guide the "freedom and order" of the new church for eight years. Calling for unity, he would, in his own words, remain "experimental ... seeking new modes that speak to this day in inescapable terms."
The youthful years of the United Church of Christ called the church to ministry in a society barely recovered from a war in Korea, soon thrust with its burden of sorrow and guilt into another in Vietnam. Burgeoning and expensive technologies in a shrinking world seemed to offer the bright prospect of ever more familiar human relationships, with fleeting promises of time to enjoy them, yet generating ominous clouds of increasing crime, violence and fear of nuclear annihilation. The first years of the church's life began during a period of unprecedented national economic prosperity and hope, when, during the preceding decades, new church buildings had abounded to accommodate worshipers disinclined to consider denomination important.
The constitution had provided for the General Synod to recognize the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries and the United Church Board for World Ministries as mission instrumentalities. Also recognized to do the work of the church were the Pension Boards and the United Church Foundation. Other program instrumentalities for the whole work of the church have been established, as needed, by the General Synod: Stewardship Council, Office of Communication, Office for Church in Society, and Office for Church Life and Leadership. The General Synod has also provided for such special bodies as Commission for Racial Justice, Commission on Development, Coordinating Center for Women in Church and Society, Historical Council, Council for Ecumenism, Council for Higher Education. A Council of Conference Executives includes the 39 conference ministers. A Council of Instrumentality Executives assists the president and Executive Council in planning implementation of General Synod and Executive Council (ad interim for General Synod) decisions. (See pages 32-33, 53-64.)
The priorities, pronouncements, and program recommendations of the General Synods throughout the 1960s and 1970s reflected a biblical sensitivity to God's care for a world that once led Jesus of Nazareth to weep over the city of Jerusalem. Peace, ecumenism, and human rights walked hand in hand in the United Church of Christ during the 1960s, continuing into the 1970s, the last with a louder and louder voice. At the grassroots, many people worked for black and other minority justice rights, for the elevation of women to equal regard and opportunity with men in society, for just treatment and consideration of all persons of whatever sexual affectional preference, for a more humane criminal justice system, and for the enablement of people with handicaps to lead a full life. Local churches were encouraged to support local councils of churches and the work of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States, that had in 1950 united many efforts of Protestant and Orthodox churches.
On the national level, a Consultation on Church Union (COCU) was initiated in 1960 to "form [together] a plan of church union both catholic and reformed," and to invite any other churches to join that could accept the principles of the plan. The United Church of Christ promptly joined the effort and COCU produced in 1966 a Plan of Church Union. By 1970, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the International Congregational Council had merged, and in 1976, COCU's In Quest of a Church Uniting was submitted to ten participating American churches for study and response; in 1977, a Plan of Union was published. The consultation would continue and the United Church of Christ often reiterated it "would not do anything alone that could be done as well or better with other churches."
In 1972 United Church Herald joined Presbyterian Life to become A.D. The same inclusive spirit became prominent within the denomination as well. In an attempt to bring young people more fully into the life of the church, the two former national youth structures (Pilgrim Fellowship and Youth Fellowship) were abandoned. In 1969, the Seventh General Synod voted that a minimum of 20 percent of all future Synod delegates and members of national boards must be under 30 years of age. This action has led many conferences, associations, and churches to include youth in decision-making bodies.
Increasing numbers of young people attend General Synods as visitors as well as delegates. Delegates under 30 have strongly influenced decisions. Articulate, committed young people have inspired and given new life to the General Synods since 1969. A 1980 National Youth Event at Carleton College rallied youth leaders of the United Church of Christ. No longer are young people seen as "the church of tomorrow"; they are an integral part of the church today throughout the denomination.
During a period of student unrest, strong protest of America's involvement in the Vietnam War, continuing pressure for minority rights, the initial upheavals of the women's movement, and following national outrage and grief over assassinations of public leaders, North Carolinian Robert V. Moss, New Testament scholar and president of Lancaster Theological Seminary, was elected president of the United Church of Christ by the General Synod in 1969. Greatly loved, a gentle man with firm biblical conviction, he spoke with a loud anti-war voice and guided faithfully the church's peace and justice efforts. With General Synod mandate, he called for withdrawal from Vietnam and for support of United States policies that would lessen rivalries in the Middle East. An advocate of ecumenism, he served with distinction on the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches and supported its stands against apartheid in South Africa and for world peace.
General Synod VIII, concerned also with the faith crisis, racial justice, peace and United States power, and the local church, established a Task Force on Women in Church and Society, which pressed successfully for a General Synod mandate that 50 percent of delegates to national meetings and members on national boards and councils be women, and later for use of inclusive language in the church. The Council for American Indian Ministries (CAIM), Pacific and Asian American Ministries (P AAM), and the Council for Hispanic Ministries look after special needs and interests of their minority groups and offer their unique gifts of ministry to the rest of the church.
From the General Synod in 1973, a delegation of95 flew from St. Louis to the Coachella Valley in California to stand with the United Farm Workers in their struggle against farm owners and a rival union. The General Synod responded to the financial crisis of six black American Missionary Association-founded colleges in the South, by raising $17 million through the bicentennial17176 Achievement Fund campaign between 1974 and 1976. The fund also aided overseas educational institutions. The same General Synod voted bail money for the "Wilmington 10," a group of eight young black men and one white woman who, involved in a North Carolina racial conflict, were imprisoned with a United Church of Christ worker, who was sent by the Commission for Racial Justice to help.
In the autumn of 1976, the church mourned the death from illness of its 54-year-old second president. Robert V. Moss died on October 25. Feeling keenly their loss, the churches received gladly his legacy of concern for justice, peace, and ecumenism.
Joseph H. Evans, secretary of the United Church of Christ, led the church as its third president for an interim period of 11 months. He repeatedly carried across America and overseas a message of unity and purpose to the grieving church and with pastoral skill brought comfort to many people.
Disintegration in the culture of traditional Christian mores surrounding sexual relationships and the institutions of marriage and family raised the need for a church study of human sexuality. Differing perspectives on biblical teaching rendered the study controversial. The General Synod in 1975 and 1977 sustained the conviction that sexual and affectional preference should not be a basis for denial of human rights enjoyed by others.
In 1977, the General Synod chose a vigorous former pastor and Massachusetts Conference minister, Avery D. Post, as president. A New Englander of poetic appreciations and ecumenical faith, grounded in a neoorthodox biblical theology, he was elected by acclamation.
The synod also called the church to responsible monitoring of exploitative broadcasting, public access and opportunity for handicapped persons, and the right to meaningful, remunerative work. World hunger and a threatened environment were commended to United Church Christians for attention and remediation, as was the social responsibility of multinational corporations.
A covenant with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to continue cooperative projects and theological and ecclesiological studies postponed a decision on formal union negotiations until 1985.
United Church Christians provided legal and moral support during the seven years that it took to win vindication for the "Wilmington 10." After a 1979 national women's meeting convened 2,000 women at Cincinnati, the Coordinating Center for Women in Church and Society was established and funded by General Synod XIII. By 1980, there were 485 United Church of Christ congregations of predominantly minority background, numbering 76, 634 persons of Afro, Asian and Pacific Island, Hispanic, and American Indian heritage. Between 1970 and 1979, each group showed net gains in membership. A decline in general United Church of Christ membership was believed to reflect demographic and migratory patterns in the United States.
Movements within the church such as the United Church People for Biblical Witness, the Fellowship of Charismatic Christians in the United Church of Christ, and United Church Christians for Justice Action help people of like perception and intention to find one another within the "beautiful, heady, exasperating mix" of the pluralistic church.
The church responded to these changes. Recognizing the urgency of Christian renewal and mission, General Synod XIII adopted a four-year program to fund New Initiatives in Church Development. Synod delegates expressed their support for women's equality by participating in vigils to encourage ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. Peace and Family Life, eloquently upheld by youth delegates, became priorities for the biennium.
General Synod XIV, meeting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, saw the election of the Rev. Carol Joyce Brun as the third Secretary of the United Church of Christ, succeeding Dr. Joseph H. Evans. At General Synod XIV the ministry sections of the Constitution and Bylaws were extensively amended, "Youth and Young Adults" was adopted as a priority, a new Council on Racial and Ethnic Ministries was authorized, a mission partnership with the Presbyterian Church of the Republic of Korea was voted, and such mission issues as the concern for persons with AIDS, justice and peace in Ce tral America, and the evil of apartheid in South Africa received the careful attention of the delegates.
Delegates at General Synod XV, meeting in Ames, Iowa, expressed their concern about the farm crisis in the United States, declared the United Church of Christ a Just Peace Church, supported sanctuary for political refugees escaping from South Africa and Central America, and supported full divestment of all financial resources from all corporations doing business with South Africa. In a historic action, General Synod XV voted an ecumenical partnership with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and voted a relationship with the Pentecostal Church of Chile.
Succeeding A.D. in 1985 was a new tabloid, the United Church News.
The United Church of Christ, through the ecumenical Office of the President and the United Church Board for World Ministries, local churches and individual members, continues communication and visitation with Christian leaders, lay and ordained, throughout the world, including those in the Soviet bloc, the war-torn Middle East, developing countries, and especially in partnership with united and uniting churches of Christ. The church remains a member of the National Council of Churches, the World Council of Churches and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches.
The United Church of Christ continues, a united and uniting church. God alone is its author, Christ alone its head. A biblical church, it continues to witness by the power of the Holy Spirit, remembering that "truths hitherto guarded in separateness become imperilled by their separateness, because they are in essence 'catholic' truths, not 'sectarian' (Norman Goodall quoted by Hoskins, op. cit., p. 33).
Resolution "Calling on UCC Congregations to Covenant as Open and Affirming"
85-GS-76 VOTED: The Fifteenth General Synod adopts the Resolution now titled "Calling On UCC Congregations to Covenant As Open and Affirming."
Calling on UCC Congregations to Covenant as Open and Affirming
WHEREAS, the Apostle Paul said that, as Christians, we are many members, but we are one body in Christ (Rom. 12:4), and Jesus calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mk. 12:31) without being judgmental (Mt. 7:1-2) nor disparaging of others (Lk. 18:9-14); and
WHEREAS, recognizing that many persons of lesbian, gay and bisexual orientation are already members of the Church through baptism and confirmation and that these people have talents and gifts to offer the United Church of Christ, and that the UCC has historically affirmed a rich diversity in its theological and Biblical perspectives; and
WHEREAS, the Tenth through Fourteenth General Synods have adopted resolutions encouraging the inclusion, and affirming the human rights, of lesbian, gay and bisexual people within the UCC; and
WHEREAS, the Executive Council of the United Church of Christ adopted in 1980 "a program of Equal Employment Opportunity which does not discriminate against any employee or applicant because of... sexual orientation"; and
WHEREAS, many parts of the Church have remained conspicuously silent despite the continuing injustice of institutionalized discrimination, instances of senseless violence and setbacks in civil rights protection by the Supreme Court; and
WHEREAS, the Church has often perpetuated discriminatory practices and has been unwilling to affirm the full humanness of clergy, laity and staff with lesbian, gay and bisexual orientation, who experience isolation, ostracism and fear of (or actual) loss of employment; and
WHEREAS, we are called by Christ's example, to proclaim release to the captives and set at liberty the oppressed (Lk. 4:18); and
WHEREAS, examples of covenant of Openness and Affirmation and Non-discrimination Policy may be found in the following:
Covenant of openess and affirmation
We know, with Paul, that as Christians, we are many members, but are one body in ChristÑmembers of one another, and that we all have different gifts. With Jesus, we affirm that we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves, that we are called to act as agents of reconciliation and wholeness within the world and within the Church itself.
We know that lesbian, gay and bisexual people are often scorned by the church, and devalued and discriminated against both in the Church and in society. We commit ourselves to caring and concern for lesbian, gay and bisexual sisters and brothers by affirming that:
We believe that lesbian, gay and bisexual people share with all others the worth that comes from being unique individuals,
We welcome lesbian, gay and bisexual people to join our congregation in the same spirit and manner used in the acceptance of any new members,
We recognize the presence of ignorance, fear and hatred in the Church and in our culture, and covenant to not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, nor any other irrelevant factor, and we seek to include and support those who, because of this fear and prejudice, find themselves in exile from a spiritual community,
We seek to address the needs and advocate the concerns of lesbian, gay and bisexual people in our Church and in society by actively encouraging churches, instrumentalities and secular governmental bodies to adopt and implement policies of non-discrimination, and further,
We join together as a covenantal community, to celebrate and share our common communion and the reassurance that we are indeed created by God, reconciled by Christ and empowered by the grace of the Holy Spirit;
Inclusive non-discrimination policy
We do not discriminate against any person, group or organization in hiring, promotion, membership, appointment, use of facility, provision of services or funding on the basis of race, gender, age, sexual orientation, faith, nationality, ethnicity, marital status, or physical disability;
THEREFORE, the Fifteenth General Synod of the United Church of Christ encourages a policy of non-discrimination in employment, volunteer service and membership policy with regard to sexual orientation; encourages association conferences and all related organizations to adopt a similar policy; and
encourages the congregations of the United Church of Christ to adopt a non-discrimination policy and a Covenant of Openness and Affirmation of persons of lesbian, gay or bisexual orientation within the community of faith.
No financial implications.
Discerning New Strategies for the Support of UCC Education Leaders
The Future of UCC Certification
Over forty years ago the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries began a program of certifying those employed in education ministries in the United Church of Christ. The program of Certification of Church Educators was designed as one strategy to establish standards for those employed in ministries of education and to provide support for education leaders in the church.
At the time the Certification program began few persons, even those with a Masters degree in religious education, were eligible for ordination. A few had become “Commissioned Workers” in education, but this credential was not then in uniform use across the denomination. Those employed as educators by the church needed a program to support and set standards for this ministry.
Initially Certification as a Church Educator required a Masters degree in religious education. It soon became evident that there were two other categories of educators serving churches and the program responded by developing standards for employed educators with a college degree, and another set of standards for those who did not have college training. These three categories – Specialist, Accredited, and Designated – added a layer of complexity to the program.
Today the situation is very different both for those engaged in education ministries and for local churches. Most of the relatively small group who have taken advantage of the program of Certification of Church Educators are also either Ordained or Commissioned ministers and are thus authorized ministers in the denomination. Less than 5% of those working as part time educators in local churches have taken advantage of the Certification program.
Another big change in the life of the church has been the growing availability of workshops and events to empower educators in their ministries. Annually the Association of United Church Educators offers 3 or 4 regional continuing education events for educators which have consistently been of high quality and well attended by those in education ministries. Many conferences have offered lay school programs attended by both employed and volunteer educators. While most seminaries no longer offer a degree program in religious education, many offer classes and continuing education events for educators. The Defiance College offers a distance learning program which results in a Bachelors degree in religious education. There are many ecumenical events and programs which offer continuing education of help to church educators.
For several years the Committee on Certification and staff at Local Church Ministries have been discussing the future of the program of Certification for Church Educators. In September 2009 a group, representing the Committee on Certification, national staff, the Association of United Church Educators, higher education faculty, and conference staff, met in Cleveland to make recommendations to Local Church Ministries about the future of the program.
One reality that group faced is, with shrinking budgets at in the national setting of the church, it is no longer feasible to continue to staff a program which serves such a small percentage of educators, especially when those same educators now are eligible to attain authorized ministry standing through associations or conferences.
This group has recommended that the many settings of the United Church of Christ – local churches, conferences, associations, national ministries, seminaries, colleges, and organizations – continue to find strategies to support the development of leaders in education for the ministry of the church. It was the discernment of that group that the program of Certification of Church educators no longer is the best strategy for providing that support.
The meeting has made four recommendations to Local Church Ministries.
1. Place the Certification process on hold for 2010 while Local Church Ministries decides on the future of the program.
Those due for renewal in 2010 will be given an automatic one-year extension. If the Certification program is ended, those certified would continue to be Certified Educators.
2. Discern the place of educational leadership ministry development within the national setting of the United Church of Christ.
The group has asked the Congregational Vitality and Discipleship and the Parish Life and Leadership Ministries to discern where attention to education leaders may be placed in the staff structure of the national setting of the church.
3. Create a path for professional education ministry standards.
A task group was created to make recommendations for adding standards for educators to the Manual on the Ministry for ordained and commissioned ministers and to offer minimal standards as guidelines for local churches employing educators not eligible to be authorized ministers.
4. Create assistance for education volunteers.
The group recognized that most attention over the years has been given to employed educators. Most of the education in local churches is done by volunteers. There is need for all settings of the church to look at ways to support these education leaders.
These recommendations have been forwarded to the board of Local Church Ministries and to appropriate staff. If you have any comments you wish to pass on to the Working Group, please send them to the group’s AUCE representative, Elsa Marshall (firstname.lastname@example.org) or to David Schoen (email@example.com) at Local Church Ministries.
Those involved in the meeting which made these recommendations include:
· Debbie Gline Allen (AUCE Coordinating Committee, commissioned minister, certified educator)
· JoAnne Bogart (Certification Committee, AUCE Coordinating Committee, ordained minister, certified educator)
· Lisa Hart (conference staff, AUCE Coordinating Committee)
· K. Ray Hill (Certification Committee, ordained minister, certified educator)
· Michelle Hintz (Parish Life and Leadership Ministry Team member, Certification Committee)
· Elsa Marshall (conference staff, Certification Committee, AUCE Coordinating Committee, commissioned minister, certified educator)
· Ken Ostermiller (former UCC staff person for Certification, Congregational Vitality and Discipleship Ministry Team member, ordained minister, certified educator)
· Marian Plant (meeting facilitator, Defiance College faculty, ordained minister, certified educator)
· David Schoen (Congregational Vitality and Discipleship Ministry Team leader, ordained minister)
· Dick Sparrow (Parish Life and Leadership Ministry Team leader, ordained minister)
· John Whitebread (AUCE Coordinating Committee, commissioned minister)
Ordained and lay educators are called to serve the church in a variety of roles and settings, in and beyond the local church. Life experiences and formal education among church educators is quite diverse. Mindful of this diversity, the United Church of Christ offers a certification process which recognizes and affirms the competence of church educators in many settings.
This certification process started in 1963 and is administered by the Worship and Education Ministry Team of Local Church Ministries...
- recognizes and affirms the competence of church educators
- encourages personal assessment, evaluation, and intentional growth, and
- seeks to incorporate persons into a relationship of support and accountability with other church educators
Three categories of certification are available to employed church educators who are members of the United Church of Christ and to others employed in church education in a UCC-related setting.
Designated Church Educator
A candidate for certification as a Designated Church Educator needs at least three years employment in church education before applying for certification. Although a bachelor's degree is not required, candidates may have a degree that is unrelated to church education. The educational norm is the completion of a non-credit concentrated program of skill development in church education. Certification is for a period of five years and may be renewed.
Accredited Church Educator
A candidate for certification as an Accredited Church Educator needs at least two years employment in church education before applying for certification. The educational norm is a bachelor's degree plus/ or including academic credits related to church education. Certification is for a period of five years and may be renewed.
Specialist in Church Education
A candidate for certification as a Specialist in Church Education needs at least one years employment in church education before applying for certification. The educational norm is a graduate theological degree plus/or including academic credits related to church education. Certification is for a period of five years and may be renewed.
Recognition of Certified Educators
Local churches may wish to recognize and celebrate the Certification of a church educator. Some ways in which local churches make this recognition are listed below.
- Recognition in service of worship.
- Liturgy of Recognition
- Guest preacher and/or speaker.
- Flowers on communion table.
- Honor at coffee hour.
- Corsage, boutonniere.
- Frame certificate.
- Give "The Church Educator's Code" in format suitable for framing.
- Flyer about Ordering Church Educator's Code
- Give book or other gift.
- Article in church newsletter.
- Article in local paper.
- Mention in worship bulletin.
- Place book in church library in honor of the certified person.
- Plant a tree on church grounds in this person's honor.
- Invite the certified educator to make a presentation in an adult education setting: Present the paper(s) written and/or project described as part of the application for certification. Share the goals set as part of the application for certification or for renewal of certification.
- Have a celebration with the educator's "constituents," i.e., with children if he/she works mainly with children; with teachers if work is mostly with teachers; etc.
The Church Educator's Code
The Church Educator's Code: Purpose and Use
The Church Educator's Code is modeled on and follows the spirit of the codes for ordained, commissioned, and licensed ministers from the United Church of Christ Manual on Ministry: Perspectives and Procedures for Ecclesiastical Authorization of Ministry. It is offered for use by local churches, associations, conferences, and other United Church of Christ calling bodies, other settings, and educators.
The Purpose of Code
The primary purpose of The Church Educator's Code, like the codes in the United Church of Christ Manual on Ministry: Perspectives and Procedures for Ecclesiastical Authorization of Ministry, is to give expression to and facilitate conversations about the commonly held values and expectations of the church in relation to those involved in educational ministries in the United Church of Christ.
The code addresses issues of commitment, ethics, and etiquette. It recognizes that the church ascribes significant meaning and value to behavior in the realm of each item in the code. While there may be significant diversity within the Church in relation to any specific item, that item does represent an arena in which church people and groups have values and make judgments about the actions of educators and churches.
The code seeks to recognize and express the experience of the church and to name those understandings and behaviors which are valued by the Church.
The Church Educator's Code is provided for educators and churches to discuss with each other their values and expectations. The emphasis is on relationships in settings in which educators are called to ministry.
The Use of the Church Educator's Code
The Church Educator's Code my be used pastorally by any setting of ministry to which a church educator is called.
The code may be used as a teaching tool to help newly-called educators to identify the many spheres in which behavior is viewed, valued, and assessed. It may be used by conference staff when they work with a local church to develop a position for a church educator. It may be used by groups of educators for study, guidance, and reflection.
The code may be used in times of conflict to enable persons to talk with one another about the underlying assumptions and unspoken expectations they have, which are producing suspicion or alienation, so that reconciliation may occur. The code may help conference staff provide assistance to a ministry setting about issues related to educators who do not have ordained, commissioned, or licensed ministry standing.
The code may be used in settings where an educator, local church, calling body, and/or conference staff are exploring the call of a church educator (e.g. interviewing, negotiating the terms of a call, etc.).
The code, or an adaptation of it, may be used in liturgical settings to provide content to the vows covenantal partners make to one another.
The code may be used in any setting in dealing with accountability for church educators to clarify the values, assumptions, and expectations they are making about the commitments and actions of one another.
Additional Options for Church Educators
Employed lay UCC church educators may apply to their local committee on the ministry for standing as a commissioned minister, according to the procedures outlined in the United Church of Christ Manual on Ministry and the practice of the association. Although commissioning is an ecclesiastical process, and certification is a professional recognition, some committees on the ministry look to certification as a means of ascertaining the attainment of necessary knowledge and skills for commissioned ministry in church education.
Church educators, lay and ordained, may seek placement through procedures established by the Parish Life and Leadership Ministry Team and the associations of the United Church of Christ. A packet for completing a professional profile may be obtained by contacting the Parish Life and Leadership Ministry Team, 700 Prospect Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44115. Phone: 216-736-3845.
Along with volunteers, employed church educators may join AUCE, the Association of United Church Educators, a national UCC educators' organization which provides regional and national education events, a newsletter, and a network of peer support. A membership form may be obtained from the office of the Committee on Certification.
The Defiance College Design for Leadership is an opportunity to earn a college degree in Christian Education through distance learning.
Resolution "Statement of Christian Conviction of the Proposed Pronouncement Calling the United Church of Christ to be a Multiracial and Multicultural Church"
93-GS-33 VOTED: The Nineteenth General Synod adopts the "Statement of Christian Conviction of the Proposed Pronouncement Calling the United Church of Christ to be a Multiracial and Multicultural Church."
Statement of Christian Conviction of the Proposed Pronouncement Calling the United Church of Christ to be a Multiracial and Multicultural Church
IV. STATEMENT OF CHRISTIAN CONVICTION
A. The Nineteenth General Synod calls upon the United Church of Christ in all its settings to be a true multiracial and multicultural church. A multiracial and multicultural church confesses and acts out its faith in the one sovereign God who through Jesus Christ binds in covenant faithful people of all races, ethnicities and cultures. A multiracial and multicultural church embodies these diversities as gifts to the human family and rejoices in the variety of God's grace.
B. The Nineteenth General Synod recognizes the following as marks of a multiracial and multicultural church:
1. CONFESSIONAL: A multiracial and multicultural church is called by God through Jesus Christ to acknowledge and confess its sins of racism and to repent and refrain from all acts of racial discrimination and bigotry.
2. THEOLOGICAL: A multiracial and multicultural church affirms Christian unity while celebrating the theological and liturgical richness that arises from its racial and ethnic diversity.
3. MISSION: A multiracial and multicultural church is called to participate in God's mission of doing justice, loving kindness and walking humbly with God through Christ in all communities with all peoples in all places.
4. INCLUSIVE MINISTRY: A multiracial and multicultural church uses an inclusive and equitable procedure for the calling, placement and standing of ministers in the church while providing equal access to employment in all settings of the church: locally, regionally, nationally, globally and ecumenically.
5. RACIAL JUSTICE STRUCTURE: A multiracial and multicultural church has a full-time national racial justice agency that seeks to coordinate programmatic strategies and involve the entire membership of the church in making racial justice a reality in church and society.
6. MONITORING BODY: A multiracial and multicultural church has a racial and ethnic body to monitor all settings of the church on issues of racial and ethnic inclusivity in the ministry, mission and programs.
7. PROPHETIC ADVOCACY: A multiracial and multicultural church engages in effective prophetic advocacy and public policy development on the issues of racial, social, economic and environmental justice with particular concern as to how these issues impact the quality of life of people of color communities.
8. MULTILINGUAL: A multiracial and multicultural church supports the development and dissemination of multilingual resources for use throughout the church and facilitates the translation of all official church documents such as the constitution and bylaws, creeds or statements of faith into languages that are spoken fluently in the local churches.
9. AFFIRMATIVE ACTION COMMITMENT: A multiracial and multicultural church affirms acommitment to accomplish specific affirmative action goals and objectives.
10. CHRISTIAN EDUCATION, EVANGELISM, AND NEW CHURCH DEVELOPMENT: Amultiracial and multicultural church develops, supports and implements strategies concerning evangelism and new church development in racial and ethnic communities; challenges and invites every member of local congregations to move beyond traditional comfort zones in living out God's multiracial and multicultural mandate; and prepares Christian education resources relevant to the diversity of racial and ethnic Christian faith traditions and cultures within the church.
11. SEMINARY TRAINING: A multiracial and multicultural church encourages related seminaries knowledge concerning the diversity of cultural heritages and theological traditions of the racial and ethnic constituencies of the church.
12. FAITHFUL AND EQUITABLE STEWARDSHIP: A multiracial and multicultural church plans and implements strategies to help ensure and promote a faithful and equitable stewardship and sharing of the financial resources of the church in regard to the empowerment of all local churches, and in particular the empowerment of local racial and ethnic congregations that have been marginalized due to racial discrimination in society.
15. RECOMMENDATIONS REGARDING A PROPOSAL FOR ACTION ON CALLINGTHE UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST TO BE A MULTIRACIAL AND MULTICULTURALCHURCH
Assistant Moderator Malaski asked Ms. Bagley to continue with the report of Committee One. Ms. Bagley asked the delegates to find the appropriate materials in Report Pack C. She explained that, in addition to the Pronouncement, the Committee was assigned the Proposal for Action and the resolution entitled Resolution of "Affirmation of Previous Declarations, Pronouncements, Resolutions and Proposals for Action Pertaining to Institutional Racism and a Request to Implement the Recommendations of the Pastoral Letter on Contemporary Racism Throughout the United Church of Christ." Ms. Bagley stated that many of the issues the Committee discussed were contained in both the Resolution and the Proposal for Action. Consequently, after contacting the submitters of both pieces of business, the Resolution was consolidated into the Proposal for Action. She then spoke to the recommendations.
The Rev. Ronald Kurtz proposed a friendly amendment to add the Stewardship Council to #11 of the directional statement. The committee accepted the amendment.
Mr. Robert Sandman (OH) proposed the following amendment to the directional statement: To insert a paragraph after paragraph 2, section 3, Directional Statement. The paragraph to read: Believes furthermore that when each member and setting of the United Church of Christ acknowledges and confesses the sins of racism, God does forgive us and does love us still. God's forgiveness, however, is no license to go and sin again. Instead, this state of forgiveness and love is the beginning of the journey toward learning to become a multiracial and multicultural church.
Mr. Sandman spoke to the amendment. A discussion and vote followed.
93-GS-34 VOTED: The Nineteenth General Synod defeats the amendment.
There was more discussion regarding the original recommendation, and some questions of clarification were asked.
93-GS-35 VOTED: The Nineteenth General Synod adopts the "Recommendations Regarding a Proposal for Action on Calling the United Church of Christ to be a Multiracial and Multicultural Church." as amended.
A PROPOSAL FOR ACTION ON CALLING THE UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST TO BE A MULTIRACIAL AND MULTICULTURAL CHURCH
Ill. DIRECTIONAL STATEMENT
Whereas the Nineteenth General Synod has adopted the Pronouncement on Calling the United Church of Christ to be a Multiracial and Multicultural Church, and whereas General Synod in the Statement of Christian Conviction recognized the marks of a multiracial and multicultural church, the Nineteenth General Synod:
1. Calls upon the United Church of Christ in all its settings to be a true multiracial and multicultural church and to affirm a commitment to achieve this goal;
2. Calls upon all members, congregations, associations, conferences, instrumentalities, other national bodies, and related institutions of the United Church of Christ to acknowledge and confess faithfully their sins of racism, to repent and refrain from all acts of racial discrimination and bigotry, to confront indifference, ignorance and neglect, and to participate in deliberate study and action to stem the resurgent tide of racism in American society by identifying the root causes of racism as well as other forms of discrimination and oppressive acts that preclude our fulfillment of our covenant with God and each ocher;
3. Calls upon all members, congregations, associations, conferences, instrumentalities, other national bodies and related institutions of the United Church of Christ to affirm consistently the necessity of Christian unity while celebrating the theological and liturgical richness that arises from the racial and ethnic diversity of the United Church of Christ; and to participate actively in God's mission of doing justice, loving kindness and walking humbly with God in all communities with all peoples in all places;
4. Calls upon all congregations, associations, conferences, instrumentalities, other national bodies, related institutions and future General Synods of the United Church of Christ consciously to elect, now and evermore, significant numbers of persons of all races, ethnicities and cultures to policy- making positions throughout the church;
5. Calls for an ethic of accountability in our relationships with each other in all settings of the church by empowering the national instrumentalities to collaborate and work collectively to develop and implement the study and action process of the "Pastoral Letter on Contemporary Racism" throughout the United Church of Christ; to incorporate the concern for institutional racism in all future plans and program implementation, and to request Council of Racial and Ethnic Ministries (COREM) to monitor continually the implementation of this Proposal for Action throughout the United Church of Christ, reporting to each General Synod through the Executive Council on the church's efforts, progress, and status in eradicating intentional and unintentional acts of racism in church and society;
6. Calls upon the Office for Church Life and Leadership, associations, conferences, and all other pertinent local, regional and national bodies to use an inclusive and equitable procedure for the recognition of calling, determination of placement and standing of ministers in the United Church of Christ; and to ensure equal access to employment in all settings of the United Church of Christ;
7. Calls upon the Commission for Racial Justice, in close consultation with COREM and its constituent bodies, to continue to coordinate the implementation of programmatic strategies in all settings of the UCC to challenge racial injustice, discrimination, and bigotry; and to provide leadership in helping to mobilize and involve the entire membership of the UCC to make racial justice a reality for all peoples in church and society;
8. Calls upon the Office for Church in Society, Commission for Racial Justice, Coordinating Center for Women, United Church Board for Homeland Ministries, United Church Board for World Ministries, other national bodies and all other settings to engage in effective prophetic advocacy and public policy development on the issues of racial, social, economic and environmental justice, in particular as to how these issues impact the quality of life of people of color communities in the United States and throughout the world; and that these bodies seek new creative opportunities toexperience the multiracial and multicultural realities of our world;
9. Calls upon all settings of the United Church of Christ to support the development and dissemination of multilingual resources for use throughout the UCC and where appropriate tofacilitate the translation of all official church documents such as the UCC Constitution and Bylaws, Statement of Faith and Statement of Mission into languages that are being spoken fluently in UCC local churches;
10. Calls upon the Executive Council and all settings of the United Church of Christ to reaffirm a commitment to accomplish the affirmative action goals and objectives that have been adopted by the General Synod; and to conduct a church-wide affirmative action audit to ascertain the current status of affirmative action within the life of the UCC;
11. Calls upon the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries, the Stewardship Council, associations and conferences, in close consultation with COREM and its constituent bodies, to develop, support and implement new programmatic strategies concerning evangelism and new church development in racial and ethnic communities across the nation, particularly in those areas undergoing rapid demographic changes with increased populations of communities of color;
12. Calls upon the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries, in close consultation with COREM and its constituent bodies, to prepare and make available Christian Education resources and materials relevant to the diversity of racial and ethnic Christian faith traditions and cultures within the United Church of Christ;
13. Calls upon the colleges and seminaries related to the United Church of Christ to expand curriculum development and educational programs to include awareness and knowledge concerning the diversity of cultural heritages and theological traditions of our multiracial and multicultural world;
14. Calls upon the Stewardship Council, Commission on Development, United Church Foundation, Pension Boards and other national bodies of the United Church of Christ to plan and implement a strategy to help ensure and promote a faithful and equitable stewardship and sharing of the financial resources of the UCC in regard to the empowerment of all local churches and in particular the empowerment of local racial and ethnic congregations that have been marginalized due to racial discrimination in society;
15. Calls upon the Office of Communication to communicate the United Church of Christ's multiracial and multicultural diversity policy and the multiracial and multicultural realities of the United Church of Christ and to promote the transition of the United Church of Christ into a truly multiracial and multicultural church; and
16. Calls upon the President of the United Church of Christ, the Secretary, the Director of Finance and Treasurer, the Executive Council, Council of Conference Ministers, Council of Instrumentality Executives, pastors and lay leaders of local congregations of the United Church of Christ to provide leadership, nurture and support towards the fulfillment of the Pronouncement and the implementation of this Proposal for Action Calling the United Church of Christ to be a Multiracial and Multicultural Church.
The Nineteenth General Synod directs the Commission for Racial Justice and the Office for Church in Society to coconvene an Implementation Committee which will coordinate the implementation of this Proposal for Action and requests a report to be made to all subsequent General Synods. The Office of the President, the Commission for Racial Justice, the Office for Church in Society. Stewardship Council, United Church Board for Homeland Ministries, United Church Board for World Ministries, the Office for Church Life and Leadership, Coordinating Center for Women, Council of Racial and Ethnic Ministries and the Council of Conference Ministers are to have representatives on the Implementation Committee.
Subject to the availability of funds.
While the independent Congregationalists had been struggling in New England to recover and maintain biblical faithful ness, a stream of German and German-Swiss settlers-farmers laborers, trade and craftpersons, many "redemptioners" who had sold their future time and services to pay for passage, flowed into Pennsylvania and the Middle Atlantic region. Refugees from the waste of European wars, their concerns were pragmatic. They did not bring pastors with them. People of Reformed biblical faith, at first sustained only by family worship at home, they were informed by the Bible and the Heidelberg Catechism.
Strong relationships developed between Lutheran and Reformed congregations; many union churches shared buildings. At first, there were no buildings and laymen often led worship. In 1710, a Dutch Reformed minister, Paul Van Vlecq, assisted a German congregation gathered at Skippack, Pennsylvania. At nearby White Marsh, Van Vlecq established a congregation in the house of elder William Dewees, who held the congregation together until the church was reestablished in 1725.
Another layman, tailor Conrad Templeman, conducted services in Lancaster county, ministering to seven congregations during the 1720s. Schoolmaster John Philip Boehm had maintained a ministry for five years without compensation. Responsible for the regular organization of 12 German Reformed congregations in Pennsylvania, although not regularly ordained, he reluctantly was persuaded to celebrate the sacraments for the first time on October 15, 1725, at Falkner Swamp, with 40 members present. Boehm -- orderly, well educated, devout -- spent the ensuing years traveling the country on horseback, 25,000 miles in all, preparing Reformed Church constitutions.
Meanwhile, the Heidelberg-educated and regularly ordained pastor George Michael Weiss arrived from Germany in 1727 to minister to the Philadelphia church founded by Boehm. He carried the Word and the Lord's Supper to communities surrounding Philadelphia. Weiss' strong objections to Boehm's irregular ministry caused Boehm to seek and receive ordination by the Dutch Reformed Church by 1729. Funds for American churches were still coming from Europe, and Weiss went abroad to Holland in pursuit of support for his congregations. Successful, he returned in 1731 to minister among German Reformed people in New York. Before 1746, when Michael Schlatter, a Swiss-born and Dutch-educated young pastor from Heidelberg, arrived in America, congregations of German settlers were scattered throughout Pennsylvania and New York. German immigrants had followed natural routes along rivers and mountain valleys, and Reformed congregations had emerged in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina. The spiritual and financial health of these 40 congregations were watched over by the Dutch Reformed Church in Holland, assisted by the German Reformed center at Heidelberg, Germany.
Support came from the Classis ("association") of Amsterdam that sent Michael Schlatter to America to "organize the ministers and congregations into a Coetus (synod)." Schlatter did this within a year of his arrival in Pennsylvania. With the cooperation of Boehm, Weiss, John Bartholomew Rieger, and 28 elders, the Coetus of the Reformed Ministerium of the Congregations in Pennsylvania came to life on September 24, 1747 and the Coetus adopted in 1748 the Kirchen-Ordnung that Boehm had prepared in 1725. The Kirchen-Ordnung placed discipline and care of the local church in the hands of a consistory of elders, deacons, and the minister, elected by the congregation. Members were charged with "fraternal correction and mutual edification." The minister was to preach "the pure doctrine of the Reformed Church according to the Word of God and to administer the holy seals of the Covenant ... : always to adhere to the Heidelberg Catechism ... to hold catechetical instruction ... [and] give special attention to church discipline, together with those who have oversight of the congregation."
In light of the multiplicity of German sects, such as Moravians, Mennonites and Dunkards, who competed for the attention and allegiance of German immigrants, the authority of the Coetus, organized according to the same structure and discipline as the local church, was welcome. The German Reformed Churches felt protected from "unscrupulous proselytizers. They achieved a mutual identity and respect, and established authority for faith and practice. Among pastor and people, shared responsibility was carried out within a community faith, under the Lordship of Christ. The leadership of Micha Schlatter and his colleagues prepared the congregations to endure the upheaval of the American Revolution and to maintain their identity in the ethnic and religious pluralism that characterized William Penn's colony.
Many German Reformed settlers served in the Revolutionary armies, 20 percent of Reformed pastors as chaplains, though Continental Congress Chaplain John Joachim Zu1 was labeled a Tory for his anti-war stand. During the Brit siege of Philadelphia in 1777, farmers wrapped the Liberty Bell and the bells of Christ Church in potato sacks and hauled them to Allentown, Pennsylvania, where pastor Abraham Blumer hid them under the floor of Zion Reformed Church for safekeeping. Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, a Reformed layman, disciplined Washington's troops during the bitter Valley Forge winter.
The Coetus strengthened the churches and prepared t] for self-government in the early years of the United States 1793, European ties were broken. A Reformed Church Constitution was adopted, a Synodal Ordnung; an official name taken, The Synod of the German Reformed Church in United States of America, and a hymnbook committee appointed. There were in that year, 178 German-speaking congregations and 15,000 communicant members.
Revival theology was antithetical to the German Reformed tradition. However, pietistic influences within the German Reformed Church responded to the warm-hearted moral virtue of the revival. On the frontier, people found its emphasis on the individual compatible with their needs. The newly independent German Reformed Church, short of pastors and threatened by a revivalist gospel, established a seminary in 1825, at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, that moved in 1829 to York, in 1837 to Mercersburg and finally to Lancaster in 1871, where it became Lancaster Theological Seminary. Franklin College (1787) of Lancaster, jointly supported by the Lutherans and the Reformed, in 1853 merged with German Reformed Marshall College to form Franklin and Marshall College.
As ministers arrived in America from the pietist centers in Europe, pietistic rather than confessional patterns appeared in Reformed congregations, and the guiding light of the catechism was dimmed. Missionary zeal abounded. People were highly susceptible to the leadership of charismatic frontier preachers. Church leaders were concerned that young and old be instructed in Reformed Christian doctrine. In 1806, the first German Reformed Sunday schools appeared. In the midst of it all, and in reaction to revivalist sectarianism, a controversial movement at the seminary at Mercersburg set off a re-examination of the doctrines of Christ and of the church -- not just in the German Reformed Church, but among all American Protestants.
First, however, there would be years of ferment when the Synod would endure turmoil and defection that would test and eventually strengthen its essential stability. Pietist minister Philip William Otterbein, a Reformed Church pastor, later founded the United Brethren Church, today a part of the United Methodist Church. Harrisburg's pastor, John Winebrenner, locked out of his church by the consistory, met with his followers in private homes to form a new denomination, The Churches of God.
As the Reformed Church grew, continuing use of the German language became an issue. Although German congregations were divided between the use of German or English, the Synod itself conducted meetings and issued minutes in German until 1825. By 1824, the Ohio Synod separated from the parent synod in order to ordain its own ministers and in 1850 organized Heidelberg College and Seminary in Tiffin.
The controversial Mercersburg movement would shake the church. With the arrival at the Mercersburg seminary of John W. Nevin and Swiss-German professor of historical and exegetical theology, Philip Schaff, Mercersburg became a center of concern that the revivalism of the Awakening was inauthentic. Schaff was the most outstanding church historian in 19thcentury America and the primary mediator of German theology to America.
The Mercersburg movement, counter to the sectarian trend of the time, called for a "true revival" centered in the life of the church, guided by the catechetical system, and in particular, the Heidelberg Catechism. The movement's leaders called for a recognition of the church as one, catholic, and holy. They acknowledged the error to which the church in all ages had been subject, urged an end to sectarianism and pretensions to the one true church and called for cessation of anti-Catholicism which had been pervasive for some time. Schaff's charitable attitude was seen by some in the Philadelphia Classis, the "Old Reformed" and loyal to Zwingli's Reformation, as heresy. Nevin, Schaff, and their followers sought to go back to the creeds and to make the mystical presence of Christ, mediated by word and sacrament, the essence of the church. Reverence for the creeds, catechism, and liturgy, they believed, would unify the church and combat sectarianism. In liturgy, the Mercersburg people favored an altar as the center for worship with formal litanies, chants, prayers and clerical garb, while "Old Reformed" pastors preferred a central pulpit, free prayer and informal worship.
The "Old Reformed" were caught up in the American revival and clung to their German sectarian identities. Schaff maintained that Reformed theology's contribution to the New World lay in the supremacy of the scriptures, absolute sovereignty of divine grace, and radical moral reform on the basis of both. A former member of The Evangelical Church of The Prussian Union, Schaff later cultivated warm relationships with Evangelicals in the West.
The Mercersburg Review, the movement's chief literary medium, which began publication at Marshall College in 1848, was greatly responsible for effecting changed attitudes. Its challenge would call other denominations to self-examination as well. It was the German Reformed Church's initial contribution to the movement toward unity and ecumenism that would take shape in the next century.
The low church "Old Reformed" minority in the East, after a long struggle against a revised liturgy, called a convention in Myerstown, Pennsylvania, in 1867 to prevent its use. In January 1868, the Reformed Church Quarterly began and in 1870, Ursinus College opened its doors, supported by the "Old Reformed."
The United Church of Christ came into being in 1957 with the union of two Protestant denominations: the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the Congregational Christian Churches. Each of these was, in turn, the result of a union of two earlier traditions.
The Congregational Churches were organized when the Pilgrims of Plymouth Plantation (1620) and the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony (1629) acknowledged their essential unity in the Cambridge Platform of 1648.
The Reformed Church in the United States traced its beginnings to congregations of German settlers in Pennsylvania founded from 1725 on. Later, its ranks were swelled by Reformed immigrants from Switzerland, Hungary and other countries.
The Christian Churches sprang up in the late 1700s and early 1800s in reaction to the theological and organizational rigidity of the Methodist, Presbyterian and Baptist churches of the time.
The Evangelical Synod of North America traced its beginnings to an association of German Evangelical pastors in Missouri. This association, founded in 1841, reflected the 1817 union of Lutheran and Reformed churches in Germany.
Through the years, other groups such as American Indians, Afro-Christians, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, Volga Germans, Armenians, and Hispanic Americans have joined with the four earlier groups. In recent years, Christians from other traditions, including the Roman Catholic Church, have found a home in the UCC, and so have gay and lesbian Christians who have not been welcome in other churches. Thus the United Church of Christ celebrates and continues a broad variety of traditions in its common life.
Characteristics of the United Church of Christ
The characteristics of the United Church of Christ can be summarized in part by the key words in the names that formed our union: Christian, Reformed, Congregational, Evangelical.
Christian. By our very name, the United Church of Christ, we declare ourselves to be part of the Body of Christ—the Christian church. We continue the witness of the early disciples to the reality and power of the crucified and risen Christ, Jesus of Nazareth.
Reformed. All four denominations arose from the tradition of the Protestant Reformers: We confess the authority of one God. We affirm the primacy of the Scriptures, the doctrine of justification by faith, the priesthood of all believers, and the principle of Christian freedom. We celebrate two sacraments: baptism and the Lord's Supper (also called Holy Communion or the Eucharist).
Congregational. The basic unit of the United Church of Christ is the congregation. Members of each congregation covenant with one another and with God as revealed in Jesus Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit. These congregations, in turn, exist in covenantal relationships with one another to form larger structures for more effective work. Our covenanting emphasizes trustful relationships rather than legal agreements.
Evangelical. The primary task of the church is the proclamation of the Gospel or (in Greek) evangel. The Gospel literally means the "Good News" of God's love revealed with power in Jesus Christ. We proclaim this Gospel by word and deed to individual persons and to society. This proclamation is the heart of the leiturgia—in Greek, the "work of the people" in daily and Sunday worship. We gather for the worship of God, and through each week, we engage in the service of humankind.
What we believe
We can tell you more about the United Church of Christ with the help of seven phrases from Scripture and Tradition which express our commitments.
That they may all be one. [John 17:21] This motto of the United Church of Christ reflects the spirit of unity on which it is based and points toward future efforts to heal the divisions in the body of Christ. We are a uniting church as well as a united church.
In essentials unity, in non-essentials diversity, in all things charity. The unity that we seek requires neither an uncritical acceptance of any point of view, nor rigid formulation of doctrine. It does require mutual understanding and agreement as to which aspects of the Christian faith and life are essential.
The unity of the church is not of its own making. It is a gift of God. But expressions of that unity are as diverse as there are individuals. The common thread that runs through all is love.
Testimonies of faith rather than tests of faith. Because faith can be expressed in many different ways, the United Church of Christ has no formula that is a test of faith. Down through the centuries, however, Christians have shared their faith with one another through creeds, confessions, catechisms and other statements of faith. Historic statements such as the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Heidelberg Catechism, the Evangelical Catechism, the Augsburg Confession, the Cambridge Platform and the Kansas City Statement of Faith are valued in our church as authentic testimonies of faith. [See Beliefs for the complete texts of some of these testimonies.] In 1959, the General Synod of the United Church of Christ adopted a Statement of Faith prepared especially for congregations of the United Church. Many of us use this statement as a common affirmation of faith in worship and as a basis for study.
There is yet more light and truth to break forth from God's holy word. This affirmation by one of the founders of the Congregational tradition assumes the primacy of the Bible as a source for understanding the Good News and as a foundation for all statements of faith. It recognizes that the Bible, though written in specific historical times and places, still speaks to us in our present condition. It declares that the study of the scriptures is not limited by past interpretations, but it is pursued with the expectation of new insights and God's help for living today.
The Priesthood of All Believers. All members of the United Church of Christ are called to minister to others and to participate as equals in the common worship of God, each with direct access to the mercies of God through personal prayer and devotion.
Recognition is given to those among us who have received special training in pastoral, priestly, educational and administrative functions, but these persons are regarded as servants—rather than as persons in authority. Their task is to guide, to instruct, to enable the ministry of all Christians rather than to do the work of ministry for us.
Responsible Freedom. As individual members of the Body of Christ, we are free to believe and act in accordance with our perception of God's will for our lives. But we are called to live in a loving, covenantal relationship with one another—gathering in communities of faith, congregations of believers, local churches.
Each congregation or local church is free to act in accordance with the collective decision of its members, guided by the working of the Spirit in the light of the scriptures. But it also is called to live in a covenantal relationship with other congregations for the sharing of insights and for cooperative action under the authority of Christ.
Likewise, associations of churches, conferences, the General Synod and the churchwide "covenanted ministries" of the United Church of Christ are free to act in their particular spheres of responsibility. Yet all are constrained by love to live in a covenantal relationship with one another and with the local churches in order to make manifest the unity of the body of Christ and thus to carry out God's mission in the world more effectively.
The members, congregations, associations, conferences, General Synod, and covenanted ministries are free in relation to the world. We affirm that the authority of God as revealed in Jesus Christ and interpreted with the aid of the Holy Spirit stands above and judges all human culture, institutions and laws. But we recognize our calling both as individuals and as the church to live in the world:
To proclaim in word and action the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
To work for reconciliation and the unity of the broken Body of Christ.
To seek justice and liberation for all.
This is the challenge of the United Church of Christ.