UCC Church House hosts last ecumenical visit as national ministries welcome Reformed partners
Ecumenical delegations and international visitors have been welcomed to the Church House in Cleveland since the United Church of Christ first opened its doors there in 1990.
The national ministries, preparing to move early next year, marked another milestone, hosting their last delegation of ecumenical partners on Nov. 18.
UCC team leaders welcomed three representatives of the World Communion of Reformed Churches to 700 Prospect for a long-anticipated meeting in the United States, one that had been postponed earlier due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The WCRC is based in Hannover, Germany.
‘It was time to visit’
“While we were concerned about hosting the delegation of three, we are also keenly aware this will be the last such opportunity to host partners at the Church House,” said the Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson, associate general minister, Wider Church Ministries and Operations. “With the re-opening of travel between Germany and the U.S., the three members of the Collegiate General Secretariat decided it was time to visit. Given the pending move of the UCC offices and absence of staff from the building, a hybrid format was designed to provide the WCRC leadership with the opportunity to meet with UCC leaders and staff to learn how the denomination is faring.”
Thompson and the Rev. Mark Pettis, UCC manager for ecumenical and interfaith relations, organized the daylong meeting.
“This was my first in-person gathering with partners as ecumenical officer in our offices,” said Pettis, who assumed the role in February. “The ministry briefings that were selected represented a cross section of the UCC’s work in ecumenical settings. During the briefings, it became quite clear that there is a great deal of overlap between the ministry in which our UCC staff is engaged and the WCRC, especially around justice work.”
He and other UCC representatives gathered with the WCRC Secretariat for a series of discussions with UCC program staff. The Secretariat consists of the Rev. Hanns Lessing, executive secretary for communication, the Rev. Philip Vinod Peacock, executive secretary for justice and witness, and the Rev. Phil Tanis, executive secretary for communications and operations.
“Given the one-day visit and other visits on the WCRC delegation’s itinerary, the choice was made to focus on key areas which would be relevant to the WCRC,” Thompson said.
Program areas highlighted were sustainable development, refugee and migration ministries, human sexuality, and global advocacy. Also on the agenda were gender-based violence and participation in the World Council of Churches’ Thursdays in Black campaign; and racial justice and the UCC’s Join the Movement initiative, which launched at General Synod and has a further rollout planned for the first of the year.
Thompson provided a “state of the United Church of Christ” presentation, which included preliminary data from the draft 2021 annual report.
“The UCC continues to honor the traditions of its predecessor bodies with its participation and connection to the Reformed churches globally,” Thompson said. “This partnership is rooted in common commitments to justice and theological engagement. The UCC is also a part of the Caribbean and North America Area Council, which is the regional expression of the WCRC. This regional engagement connects the UCC to the Reformed churches in the region and to a focus on justice and advocacy for a variety of issues in the region.”
For example, Pettis also attended the Reformed Church in America General Synod in Arizona in October. The RCA — like the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the United Church of Canada — is a North American WCRC member that is also a UCC “full communion” partner.
Pettis said the UCC “will continue identify those areas where we can effectively partner so that the impact of our ministry will be strengthened. Our WCRC guests were quite impressed with the forward-thinking ministry being done by the United Church of Christ.”
“The strategic meetings between the UCC and WCRC demonstrated that there is a common vision between both organizations and obvious programmatic connections,” Peacock said. “We look forward to working together programmatically and ecumenically in the future.”
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