The UCNews 2014 top 10
Lawsuits for religious freedom, the retirement announcement of the general minister and president of the United Church of Christ, and questions on immigration and racial justice—those were just some of the top stories about the work and witness of the church in the last year.
What defines a ‘top story of the year’ on the list? In this case, these are the stories with the largest number of readers. So, counting down from 10, here are the UCNews stories that garnered the most interest in 2014:
10: General Synod 2015 theme, General Synod 2017 location announced
At General Synod 2015, the church is invited to explore the “Unexpected Places” in which we find God, the theme for the biennial gathering. Members of the General Synod Program and Planning Committee hope the theme brings unexpected love, passion and spirituality to General Synod 2015, which will be held June 26-30 in Cleveland.
Two years later, the Central Atlantic Conference of the UCC will welcome the church to Baltimore for General Synod 2017.
“We view it as a phenomenal UCC-identity opportunity to celebrate what the UCC is in the conference, as well as nationally and internationally,” said the Rev. John R. Deckenback, conference minister for the Central Atlantic Conference.
9: Detroit filmmaker wins UCC video contest
Rashad Jackson, a member of Fellowship Chapel UCC in Detroit, was the winner of the United Church of Christ video contest, “My Faith, My World, My Voice.” His video, “Awake, Alive, Aware,” came out on top, collecting the largest number of the 4,500 votes cast, and the 25 year old plans to use his $5,000 prize to continue filmmaking.
“I am a very dedicated and driven person, always pushing the envelope to the next level,” said Jackson of his entry.
8: Four preachers to lift up ‘the unexpected at General Synod 2015
Four pastors and theologians were announced as the preachers for worship during the upcoming General Synod in 2015.
The Rev. Molly Baskette, a young UCC pastor from Massachusetts with a knack for church revival, delivers the opening sermon Friday evening, with Bishop Dwayne Royster, a community organizer and pastor of a Philadelphia UCC congregation, preaching the Sunday community worship service. The Rev. Mitri Raheb, a Global Ministries partner, comes from Jerusalem, with the Middle East expected to be a topic of conversation throughout General Synod. He preaches Monday evening. The Rev. Sharon Watkins of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) will offer the closing sermon on Tuesday.
7: Geoffrey Black plans to retire in 2015
The Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, the denomination’s general minister and president, announced his plans to retire early at the conclusion of General Synod 2015, two years before the expiration of his second term. Black believes this is the right moment—where the mission, governance and work among the covenanted ministries would best align under new leadership.
“The national setting of the United Church of Christ has moved through a major transition and we are steadily moving forward as a leaner, more focused and agile organization,” Black said. “I believe that a change in leadership next year, bringing new energy and vision, will help to ensure that we do.”
Black announced his retirement 11 months before he plans to leave office so that the United Church of Christ Board will have ample time to identify and nominate his successor.
6: A Pastoral Letter on Child Refugees from the National Leaders of the United Church of Christ
In a unified voice, UCC leaders declare their support for unaccompanied children that are leaving their Central American homelands out of fear to come to this country. The leaders believed this was a unique moment testing the church’s commitment for justice and peace, and the letter called on the church to stand by the children seeking refuge in the United States.
“Let the actions forged by our compassion silence the voices of hatred and fear that ring right now in the ears of these precious children of God,” the letter read. “Let them know we are Christians by our love.”
5: UCC congregations address humanitarian crisis of unaccompanied migrant children
Thousands of unaccompanied children, primarily from Central America, crossed the border into the U.S. from Mexico, looking to escape violence and poverty at home. During the ever-changing situation, UCC members and congregations stepped up to do what they can to help these children in need.
In this story, Churches in California, New Mexico, Oklahoma were all part of an effort to send supplies to those refugees, and assessing the housing conditions to ensure their well-being.
4: UCC victorious in lawsuit as judge strikes down N.C. gay marriage ban
The UCC took on a state’s marriage laws, and came up with a historic victory. On Oct. 9, a federal judge struck down North Carolina’s marriage laws as unconstitutional, giving the denomination and its co-plaintiffs a monumental win for equality for all people.
General Synod of the United Church of Christ et al vs. Cooper challenged North Carolina’s Amendment One for violating the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of religion.
“Of the three marriage equality cases pending in North Carolina, it is this landmark case about religious freedom and marriage equality that has finally struck down North Carolina’s unconstitutional marriage laws,” said UCC General Counsel Donald C. Clark.
3: After Ferguson decision, Geoffrey Black calls for courage in the struggle for justice and peace
Black released a statement in response to the decision of a grand jury on Nov. 24 not to indict a police officer for the fatal shooting of 18-year Michael Brown.
Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot on Aug. 9, setting off weeks of public demonstrations and sometimes violent protests.
The letter from the UCC General Minister and President called for the church to prayerfully join the people of Ferguson, Mo., and the surrounding area to ease their pain, and to renew their commitment to advocacy and action.
2: Old South Church Marathon Scarf Project to embrace runners, remember Boston bombing
With the one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing approaching, Old South Church organized the Marathon Scarf Project by members of the Old South Knitters, the church’s group of about 30 knitters, crocheters and weavers. The group sought to collect thousands of handmade scarves in the colors of royal blue and yellow, the official colors of the Boston Marathon, to share with participants.
The church is located about 100 feet from the marathon’s finish line where the bombs went off on April 15, 2013. Members celebrated the tenacity and perseverance of the human spirit by awarding the scarves to runners at the race.
1: United Church of Christ files landmark lawsuit against North Carolina to protect First Amendment rights of clergy
In what is believed to the first-ever challenge by a national Christian denomination of a state’s marriage laws, the landmark lawsuit General Synod of the United Church of Christ et al vs. Cooper was filed April 28 in U.S. District Court in Charlotte. The UCC and its co-plaintiffs argued that the state of North Carolina’s marriage laws violated the First Amendment rights of clergy and the principle of “free exercise of religion.”
“The United Church of Christ is proud to defend the religious freedoms upon which this nation was founded,” Black said at the time. “It is unfortunate that, even today, laws are designed to treat gay and lesbian people unequally. In its efforts to restrict gay marriage, the State of North Carolina has restricted one of the essential freedoms of our ministers and of all Americans.”
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