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The United Church of Christ (UCC) is a mainline Protestant Christian denomination principally in the United Statesmarker, primarily in the Reformed tradition, but also historically influenced by Lutheranism. The UCC formed in 1957 with the union of the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the Congregational Christian Churches. These churches in turn arose from the merger of earlier Protestant churches in the United States, through which the denomination traces its roots back to the Protestant Reformation.

According to its 2008 annual report, the United Church of Christ has about 1.1 million members in about 5,300 local congregations. The denomination has suffered a 44 percent loss in membership since the mid-1960s.

The UCC maintains full communion with several other mainline Protestant denominations and participates in worldwide ecumenical efforts. The national settings of the UCC have historically favored progressive or liberal views on civil rights, gay rights, women's rights, abortion, and other social issues. However, United Church of Christ congregations have freedom in matters of doctrine and ministry, and may or may not support the national body's theological or moral stances.

Origins of the United Church of Christ

Composition of the UCC

In 1957, the United Church of Christ formed through the union of the Evangelical and Reformed Church with the General Council of Congregational Christian Churches.

Hidden Histories in the United Church of Christ (two volumes; 1987, ISBN 0-8298-0753-5) edited by Barbara Brown Zikmund chronicles the heritages and denominational traditions that have come to be a part of the UCC in addition to the 'big four' (Evangelical, Reformed, Congregational, Christian) detailed above. Volume one is available online, while the second volume is available from United Church Press.

Doctrine and Beliefs

Statements of doctrine and beliefs

The UCC uses four words to describe itself: "Christian, Reformed, Congregational and Evangelical." The church's diversity and adherence to covenantal polity (rather than government by regional elders or bishops) give individual congregations a great deal of freedom in the areas of worship, congregational life, and doctrine.

The motto of the United Church of Christ comes from John 17:21: "That they may all be one." The denomination's official literature uses broad doctrinal parameters, honoring creeds and confessions as "testimonies of faith" rather than "tests of faith," and emphasizes freedom of individual conscience and local church autonomy. Indeed, the relationship between local congregations and the denomination's national headquarters is covenantal rather than hierarchical: local churches have complete control of their finances, hiring and firing of clergy and other staff, and theological and political stands.

In the United Church of Christ, creeds, confessions, and affirmations of faith function as "testimonies to faith" around which the church gathers rather than as "tests of faith" rigidly prescribing required doctrinal consent. As expressed on the United Church of Christ constitution:

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.

The denomination, therefore, looks to a number of historic confessions as expressing the common faith around which the church gathers, including:

Studies and surveys of beliefs

In 2001, Hartford Institute for Religion Research did a "Faith Communities Today (FACT)" study that included a survey of United Church of Christ beliefs. Among the results of this were findings that in the UCC, 5.6 percent of the churches responding to the survey described their members as "very liberal or progressive," 3.4 percent as "very conservative," 22.4 percent as "somewhat liberal or progressive," and 23.6 percent as "somewhat conservative" Those results suggested a nearly equal balance between liberal and conservative congregations. The self-described "moderate" group, however, was the largest at 45 percent. Other statistics found by the Hartford Institute show that 53.2% of members say "the Bible" is the highest source of authority, 16.1% say the "Holy Spirit," 9.2% say "Reason," 6.3% say "Experience," and 6.1% say "Creeds."

David Roozen, director of the Hartford Institute for Religion Research who has studied the United Church of Christ, said surveys show the national church's pronouncements are often more liberal than the views in the pews, but that its governing structure is set up to allow such disagreements.Starting in 2003, a task force commissioned by General Synod 24 studied the diverse Worship habits of UCC churches. The study can be found online and reflects statistics on attitudes towards Worship, Baptism, and Communion, such as "Laity (70%) and clergy (90%) alike overwhelmingly describe worship “as an encounter with God that leads to doing God’s work in the world.” "95 percent of our congregations use the Revised Common Lectionary in some way in planning or actual worship and preaching" and "96 percent always or almost always have a sermon, 86 percent have a time with children, 95 percent have a time of sharing joys and concerns, and 98 percent include the Prayer of Our Savior/Lord’s Prayer." Clergy and laity were invited to select two meanings of baptism that they emphasize. They were also to suggest the meaning that they thought their entire church emphasized. Baptism as an “entry into the Church Universal” was the most frequent response. Clergy and laity were also invited to identify two meanings of Holy Communion that they emphasize. While clergy emphasized Holy Communion as “a meal in which we encounter God’s living presence,” laity emphasized “a remembrance of Jesus’ last supper, death, and resurrection.”

Other theological publications and colloquiums.

Theological seminars, journals, and publications of the UCC may be helpful to understand the theologies of the UCC, but while they disseminate various theological opinions and news, none is used to speak authoritatively about church beliefs.

In 1977, a group of theologians called together by the Office of Church Life and Leadership (OCLL) issued a statement titled “Toward Sound Teaching in the United Church of Christ.” In 1983, thirty-nine UCC seminary faculty wrote a letter to the Church in a similar vein, “A Most Difficult and Urgent Time.” In 1984, marking the fiftieth anniversary of the Barmen Declaration of the Confessing Church in Germany that resisted cultural captivity, a grassroots group of UCC pastors organized a theological colloquy in Craigville, Massachusetts (the Craigville Colloquy). Its 160 participants issued a Witness Statement calling for faithfulness to the Church’s central founding tenets. The colloquies have continued annually, addressing subjects that range from the Trinity, the sacraments and the faith and order of the UCC, to war and peace and biomedical ethics. According to a 2004 speech by current president John H. Thomas, "a group of prominent United Church of Christ theologians set forth an agenda as urgent today as it was then: Convinced as we are that our church, along with the American churches generally, is excessively accommodated to cultural values and perceptions, our thinking revolved around the conviction that the ministry of the church must become more intentional and disciplined in teaching the faith of the church, in valuing its theological tradition and in responding to the present place of the church in culture."

Concurrent with these sentiments, the late 1970s/early 1980s brought the launch of several theological publications to include Prism and New Conversations.

New Conversations, an "annual" magazine of the United Church of Christ's Board for Homeland Ministries (BHM) that is actually published less often than annually. The last known edition was 2002's "Medical Technology and Christian Decision Making dealing with bioethics". The BHM has produced several issues of “New Conversations” dealing with Asian Americans, Micronesians, and Native Hawaiian Issues.

  • Volume 1: (Spring/Summer, 1975),
  • Volume 4: no 2 (Fall 1979) – Topic: "Order and Identity in the United Church of Christ"
  • Volume 5: No. 2, (Fall 1980) – Topic: "The Design of Faith"
  • Volume 6: (Spring 1982)
  • Volume 11: (Fall 1988) – Topic: "National Service" New Conversations.
  • (Winter/Spring 1989) – Topic: American Missionary Association and Amistad
  • Spring 1995 – Topic: "Don't Ask Questions"
  • Volume 15, Number 3 (1993) – Topic: "New Conversations: Confronting and Combatting Christian Anti-Judaism" ed. by Nanette M. Roberts
  • Volume 17, no. 2 (Summer 1995) – Topic: "The Church and the Public School"
  • Fall 2002 – Topic: "Medical Technology and Christian Decision Making"

Prism is a theological journal of the United Church of Christ published jointly by the seven seminaries of the United Church of Christ, and produced twice a year. A journal for the whole church, Prism offers "serious theological reflection from a diversity of viewpoints on issues of faith, mission, and ministry." Prism was founded in 1985, and is edited by Clyde Steckel, United Seminary's emeritus professor of theology, and Elizabeth Nordbeck of Andover Newton Theological School.

The Living Theological Heritage of the United Church of Christ an 835-page, 7-volume set edited by Rev. Barbara Brown Zikmund and a team of 13 editors, four associate editors and an editorial board of seven. The materials, which span the first century through the 20th century, were included in the volumes because, according to editors, they had impacted the shaping the UCC's theological identity.

UCC beliefs expressed to the World Council of Churches

In 1982 the World Council of Churchesmarker published "Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry", a document that has served as a foundation for many ecumenical recognition agreements. As a WCC member church, the United Church of Christ issued a response as part of the process to work toward a statement of common theological perspectives.

Polity/organizational structure

System and ethos of polity

Quoting the United Church of Christ Constitution, "The basic unit of the life and organization of the United Church of Christ is the local church." An interplay of wider interdependence with local autonomy characterizes the organization of the UCC. Each "setting" of the United Church of Christ relates covenantally with other settings, their actions speaking "to but not for" each other.

The ethos of United Church of Christ organization is considered "covenantal." The structure of UCC organization is a mixture of the congregational and presbyterian polities of its predecessor denominations. With ultimate authority on most matters given to the local church, many see United Church of Christ polity as closer to congregationalism; however, with ordination and pastoral oversight conducted by Associations, and General Synod representation given to Conferences instead of congregational delegates, certain presbyterian similarities are also visible.

Local churches

The basic unit of the United Church of Christ is the local church (also often called the congregation). Local churches have the freedom to govern themselves, establishing their own internal organizational structures and theological positions. Thus, local church governance varies widely throughout the denomination. Some congregations, mainly of Congregational or Christian origin, have numerous relatively-independent "boards" that oversee different aspects of church life, with annual or more frequent meetings (often conducted after a worship service on a Sunday afternoon) of the entire congregation to elect officers, approve budgets and set congregational policy. Other churches, mainly of Evangelical and Reformed descent, have one central "church council" or "consistory" that handles most or all affairs in a manner somewhat akin to a Presbyterian session, while still holding an annual congregational meeting for the purpose of electing officers and/or ratifying annual budgets. Still others, probably those congregations started after the 1957 merger, have structures incorporating aspects of both, or other alternative organizational structures entirely.

In almost all cases, though, the selection of a minister for the congregation is, in keeping with the Reformed tradition of the "priesthood of all believers," vested in a congregational meeting, held usually after a special ad hoc committee searches on the congregation's behalf for a candidate. Members of the congregation vote for or against the committee's recommended candidate for the pastorate, usually immediately after the candidate has preached a "trial sermon;" candidates are usually presented one at a time and not as a field of several to be selected from. Typically the candidate must secure anywhere from 60 to 90 percent affirmative votes from the membership before the congregation issues a formal call to the candidate; this depends on the provisions in the congregation's particular constitution and/or by-laws. Local churches have, in addition to the freedom to hire ministers and lay staff, the sole power to dismiss them also. However, unlike purely congregational polities, the association has the main authority to ordain clergy and grant standing to clergy coming to a church from another association or another denomination (this authority is exercised "in cooperation with" the person being ordained/called and the local church that is calling them). Such standing, among other things, permits a minister to participate in the UCC clergy pension and insurance plans. Local churches are usually aided in searching for and calling ordained clergy through a denominationally-coordinated "search-and-call" system, usually facilitated by staff at the conference level. However, the local church may, for various reasons, opt not to avail itself of the conference placement system, and is free to do so without fear of retaliation, which would likely occur in synodical or presbyterian polities. Participation in the process, though, is usually a sign of the congregation's loyalty to the larger denomination and its work.


Local churches are typically gathered together in regional bodies called Associations. Local churches often give financial support to the association to support its activities. The official delegates of an association are all ordained clergy within the bounds of the association together with lay delegates sent from each local church. The association's main ecclesiastical function is to provide primary oversight and authorization of ordained and other authorized ministers. The association ordains new ministers, holds ministers' standing in covenant with local churches, and is responsible for disciplinary action; typically a specific ministerial committee handles these duties. Associations meet at least once annually to elect officers and board members and set budgets for the association's work; fellowship and informational workshops are often conducted during those meetings, which may take place more frequently according to local custom. In a few instances where there is only one association within a conference, or where the associations within a conference have agreed to dissolve, the Conference (below) assumes the association's functions.


Local churches also are members of larger Conferences, of which there are 38 in the United Church of Christ. A conference typically contains multiple associations; if no associations exist within its boundaries, the conference exercises the functions of the association as well. Conferences are supported financially through local churches' contribution to "Our Church's Wider Mission" (formerly "Our Christian World Mission"), the United Church of Christ's denominational support system; unlike most associations, they usually have permanent headquarters and professional staff. The primary ecclesiastical function of a conference is to provide the primary support for the search-and-call process by which churches select ordained leadership; the conference minister and/or his or her associates perform this task in coordination with the congregation's pulpit search committee (see above) and the association to which the congregation belongs (particularly its ministerial committee). Conferences also provide significant programming resources for their constituent churches, such as Christian education resources and support, interpretation of the larger UCC's mission work, and church extension within their bounds (the latter usually conducted in conjunction with the national Local Church Ministries division).

Conferences, like associations, are congregationally representative bodies, with each local church sending ordained and lay delegates. Most current UCC conferences were formed in the several years following the consummation of the national merger in 1961, and in some instances were the unions of former Congregational Christian conferences (led by superintendents) and Evangelical and Reformed synods (led by presidents, some of whom served only on a part-time basis). A few have had territorial adjustments since then; only one conference, the Calvin Synod, composed of Hungarian-heritage Reformed congregations, received exemption from the geographical alignments, with its churches scattered from Connecticutmarker westward to Californiamarker and southward to Floridamarker. Only one conference has ever withdrawn completely from the denomination: Puerto Rico, expressing disapproval of national UCC tolerance of homosexuality (as well as that of a large number of mainland congregations), departed the denomination in 2006, taking all of its churches.

General Synod

The denomination's churchwide deliberative body is the General Synod, which meets every two years. The General Synod consists of delegates elected from the Conferences (distributed proportionally by conference size) together with the boards of directors of each of the four covenanted ministries (see below, under National Offices).

While General Synod provides the most visible voice of the "stance of the denomination" on any particular issue, the covenantal polity of the denomination means that General Synod speaks to local churches, associations, and conferences, but not for them. Thus, the other settings of the church are allowed to hold differing views and practices on all non-constitutional matters.

General Synod considers three kinds of resolutions:
  • Pronouncements: A Pronouncement is a statement of Christian conviction on a matter of moral or social principle and has been adopted by a two-thirds vote of a General Synod.
  • Proposals for Action: A Proposal for Action is a recommendation for specific directional statements and goals implementing a Pronouncement. A Proposal for Action normally accompanies a Pronouncement. (See link above regarding Pronouncements.)
  • Resolutions and Other Formal Motions Which may consist of the following three types:
    • Resolutions of Witness: A Resolution of Witness is an expression of the General Synod concerning a moral, ethical, or religious matter confronting the church, the nation, or the world, adopted for the guidance of the officers, Associated, or Affiliated Ministries, or other bodies as defined in Article VI of the Bylaws of the United Church of Christ; the consideration of local churches, Associations, Conferences, and other bodies related to the United Church of Christ; and for a Christian witness to the world. It represents agreement by at least two-thirds of the delegates voting that the view expressed is based on Christian conviction and is a part of their witness to Jesus Christ.
    • Prudential Resolutions: A Prudential Resolution establishes policy, institutes or revises structure or procedures, authorizes programs, approves directions, or requests actions by a majority vote.
    • Other Formal Motions

National offices: covenanted, associated, and affiliated ministries

As agents of the General Synod, the denomination maintains national offices comprising four "covenanted ministries", one "associated ministry", and one "affiliated ministry". The current system of national governance was adopted in 1999 as a restructure of the national setting, consolidating numerous agencies, boards, and "instrumentalities" that the UCC, in the main, had inherited from the Congregational Christian Churches at the time of merger, along with several created during the denomination's earlier years.

Covenanted ministries

These structures carry out the work of the General Synod and support the local churches, associations, and conferences. The head executives of these ministries comprise the five member Collegium of Officers, which are the non-hierarchical official officers of the denomination. (The Office of General Ministries is represented by both the General Minister, who serves as President of the denomination, and the Associate General minister). According the UCC office of communication press release at the time of restructure, "In the new executive arrangement, the five will work together in a Collegium of Officers, meeting as peers. This setting is designed to provide an opportunity for mutual responsibility and reporting, as well as ongoing assessment of UCC programs." The main offices of the Covenanted ministries are at the "Church House", the United Church of Christ national headquarters at 700 Prospect Avenue in Cleveland, Ohiomarker.

  • The Office of General Ministries (OGM) is responsible for administration, common services (technology, physical plant, etc), covenantal relations (ecumenical relations, formal relations to other settings of the church), financial development, and "proclamation, identity and communication". The current General Minister and President is the Rev. Dr. Geoffrey Black and the current Associate General Minister is Ms. Edith Guffey.
  • Local Church Ministries (LCM) is responsible for evangelism, stewardship and church finance, worship and education, Pilgrim Press and United Church Resources (the publishing house of the United Church of Christ), and parish life and leadership (authorization, clergy development, seminary relations, parish leadership, etc.). The current Executive Minister of Local Church Ministries is the Rev. Dr. Stephen L. Sterner
  • Wider Church Ministries (WCM) is responsible for partner relations* (relations with churches around the world, missionary work, etc.), local church relations* (as relates to world ministries and missions), global sharing of resources, health and wholeness ministry, and global education and advocacy*. The starred '*' ministries are carried out through the Common Global Ministries Board, a joint instrumentality of the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), based in Indianapolis, Indianamarker. The current Executive Minister for Wider Church Ministries is the Rev. Cally Rogers-Witte.
  • Justice and Witness Ministries (JWM) is responsible for ministries related to economic justice, human rights, justice for women and transformation, public life and social policy, and racial justice. In addition to its offices in Cleveland, JWM also maintains an office on Capitol Hillmarker in Washington, D.C.marker The current Executive Minister for Justice and Witness Ministries is Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo. JWM also maintains an office called "Minister for Children, Families and Human Sexuality Advocacy" that promotes the Our Whole Lives sex education curriculum.

Associated ministry

The Pension Boards of the United Church of Christ (PB) operates the employee benefits systems for all settings of the United Church of Christ, including health, dental, and optical insurance, retirement/pension systems, disability and life insurance, and ministerial assistance programs. The Pension Boards offices are located in New York Citymarker, where the headquarters of all UCC national bodies had been located prior to their move to Ohio in the early 1990s.

Affiliated ministry

The United Church Foundation (UCF) operates a collective financial management and investment system available to any setting of the United Church of Christ that wishes to place its assets with UCF. The United Church Foundation offices are also located in New York Citymarker.

The United Church of Christ Insurance Board is a nonprofit corporation collectively "owned" by 38 of the 39 Conferences of the United Church of Christ. It is run by a president/CEO and a 15-member Board, of with the full corporate board consisting of participating Conference ministers. The UCCIB administers a property insurance and liability insurance program serving the United Church of Christ and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) churches and related entities.

United Church News

The denomination's official publication, United Church News, was begun in 1985 by the Rev. W. Evan Golder, founding editor. The current editor, the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, succeeded Golder in 2003 after serving as "minister for communication and mission education" for the UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries.

United Church News is published by the Office of Communication, United Church of Christ, which is related to the Proclamation, Identity and Communication Ministry of the United Church of Christ, led by the Rev. Robert Chase of Lakewood, Ohiomarker, a Cleveland suburb. Chase began work at the UCC’s national offices in Cleveland in April 1999.

Several regional editions are published by conferences as inserts to the nationally distributed edition. At its inception, the newspaper charged a subscription fee, but in the early 2000s this was discontinued in favour of free distribution. In 2005, UCN reduced frequency of publication, from ten issues per year to six, on a bi-monthly basis.

Unfortunately, due to rising printing costs, the OGM made the decision in March 2009 to discontinue the print edition of United Church News in September. UCN will become a strictly online service. However, the OC expressed a desire to launch a new, twice-annual publication sometime in 2010.

Previous publications serving the UCC were United Church Herald (1958-1972) and A.D. (1972-1983). United Church Herald was, not surpiringly, a merger of the Congregational Christian Churches' Advance and the Evangelical and Reformed Church's Messenger. A.D. was a joint publication of the UCC and the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. A.D. was discontinued when the UPCUSA merged with the Presbyterian Church in the United States to form the present Presbyterian Church , in order for the new denomination to establish its own official periodical.

Current issues in the United Church of Christ

Apology Resolution

United Church of Christ was recognized in the Apology Resolution to Native Hawaiians. In the Resolution, congress recognized the reconciliation made by the UCC in the Eighteenth General Synod for their actions in overthrowing the Kingdom of Hawaii.

Sex Education

The United Church of Christ, along with the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations created several sexual education classes designed for many different age groups. Called Our Whole Lives, or OWL, these courses aim to provide scientific and unbiased information regarding sexuality, birth control and condoms, and physical biology.

"God Is Still Speaking" banner on a UCC church in Rochester, Minnesota.

"God Is Still Speaking," identity campaign

At the 2003 General Synod, the United Church of Christ began a campaign with "emphasis on expanding the UCC's name-brand identity through modern advertising and marketing." that was formally launched Advent 2004. The campaign included coordinated program of evangelism and hospitality training for congregations paired with national and local television "brand" advertising, known as the "God is Still Speaking" campaign or "The Stillspeaking Initiative." The initiative was themed around the quote "Never place a period where God has placed a comma," and campaign materials, including print and broadcast advertising as well as merchandise, featured the quote and a large "comma," with a visual theme in red and black. United Church of Christ congregations were asked to "opt in" to the campaign, signifying their support as well as their willingness to receive training on hospitality and evangelism. An evangelism event was held in Atlanta in August 2005 to promote the campaign. Several renewal groups panned the ad campaign for its efforts to create an ONA/progressive perception of the UCC identity despite its actual majority in centrist/moderate viewpoints. According to John Evans, associate professor of sociology at University of California, San Diego, "The UCC is clearly going after a certain niche in American society who are very progressive and have a particular religious vision that includes inclusiveness... They are becoming the religious brand that is known for this."

The first television advertisement in the campaign, the "Bouncers" advertisement, showed bouncer allowing a white, well-dressed family composed of a straight couple and two children into a church building while rejecting a number of others, including an African American female, a Latino male, a gay couple, and a person using a wheelchair. The text displayed on the screen says "Jesus didn't turn people away. Neither do we." In the initial December 2004 run, the NBC and CBS television networks refused to air an advertisement by the UCC, deeming it too controversial. The winter 2005 issue of The Witness (a renewal group publication) noted, ‘Some controversy continues about the controversy itself. Some reports indicate that NBC and CBS notified the UCC about its decision not to run the “bouncer” ads several months before the campaign launch date, while approving a second “little girl” ad which UCC officials chose not to use until three weeks into the month. All the press releases about this controversy have come from the UCC to coordinate with the release of the Ad. NBC and CBS have not commented, leading some to speculate that the creation of the controversy was an intentional effort to draw attention to the campaign. Ironically, the one major network to accept the Ad is FOX, which is generally considered to be more conservative than the three other networks.’

During Lent 2006, the UCC launched several sites prior to the release of the commercial, including,,, Also, at Buford’s request, the commercial was previewed by an estimated 800 people March 17-19 at the UCC’s New England Women’s Gathering. In January 2006, Sojourners Magazine published an inverview of Buford describing the commercial. This Sojourners' information was subsequently published on several forums and blogs, (namely, UCC forums, Philosophy over Coffee, UCCTruths). In reaction, the United Church news stated that "details of UCC's new TV ad [had] emerge[d] earlier than planned" and therefore issued a complete description of the ad a full week before its planned press conference.

In the second major commercial, known as the "Ejector Seat" commercial, church pews "eject" people in a fashion similar to aircraft ejector seats; among the persons "ejected" from the church are an African American mother holding a crying infant, two men holding hands, an Arab-American man, and a person with a walker. The commercial again concluded with the line "Jesus didn't turn people away. Neither do we", and cut to a scene of a diverse church gathering and a voice-over stating "The United Church of Christ: No matter who you are, or where you are on life's journey, you're welcome here." The "Ejector Seat" commercial was originally announced to air during Advent 2005, but due to inadequate funding available at the time, the Executive Council delayed this until Lent 2006.

In December 2006, UCC launched a blog-centered ad campaign. "UCC ads will be placed on various internet sites and blogs, with the hope of reaching general audiences in addition to targeted groups, such as youth, young families with children, gays and lesbians, social justice advocates, and the Spanish-speaking community."

The United Church of Christ Executive Council announced at its April 2006 meeting that the denomination would integrate the campaign into the overall program of the national setting. Ron Buford, the campaign manager, subsequently resigned.

Controversial Resolutions from General Synod XXV (2005)

Two resolutions from the United Church of Christ General Synod XXV, meeting in Atlanta, Georgiamarker from July 1–5, 2005, generated significant controversy both in and outside the denomination, some of which continues presently. As noted in the Polity section above, the General Synod cannot enforce positions on local congregations, speaking "to, but not for" them.

  • The resolution "In support of equal marriage rights for all", supported by an estimated 80% of the 884 General Synod Delegates, made the United Church of Christ General Synod the first major Christian deliberative body in the U.S. to make a statement of support for "equal marriage rights for all people, regardless of gender," and is hitherto the largest Christian denominational entity in the U.S. supporting same-sex marriage (although other denominations have affirmed committed relationships for LGBT people in other forms). The resolution's primary focus is on calling for equal access to civil marriage rights regardless of gender; however, the resolution does call upon local congregations and other settings of the United Church of Christ to discussion and discernment around "marriage equality" and encourages congregations "to consider adopting Wedding Policies that do not discriminate against couples based on gender." Although eighty percent (80%) of the delegates at the United Church of Christ General Synod XXV endorsed an "Equal Marriage Rights For All" resolution, national response to the resolution remains mixed. Some in the United Church of Christ have heralded the resolution as furthering the prophetic witness of the United Church of Christ to both church and society. Others in the United Church of Christ viewed this decision unfavourably, though, because the General Synod's highly publicized endorsement may or may not reflect the actual theological opinions held by individual members or their local congregations. The language used that asserts no distinction between same sex marriage and different sex marriage ("Therefore, theologically and biblically, there is neither justification for denying any couple, regardless of gender, the blessings of the church nor for denying equal protection under the law in the granting of a civil marriage license, recognized and respected by all civil entities.") has been considered by some to be an overstepping the Synod's role in asserting theological positions. Of particular note, on June 10, 2006, the Iglesia Evangelica Unida de Puerto Rico, since 1931 a conference of the Congregational Christian Churches/UCC, voted by a 3–1 margin to withdraw its affiliation with the UCC as a body, over the issue.

  • United Church of Christ General Synod XXV also passed two resolutions concerning the conflict between Israel and Palestinians in the Middle East. One calls for the use of economic leverage to promote peace in the Middle East, which can include measures such as government lobbying, selective investment, shareholder lobbying, and selective divestment from companies which profit from the continuing Israel-Palestine conflict. The other resolution, named "Tear Down the Wall", calls upon Israel to remove the separation barrier between Israel and the West Bank. Opponents of the "Tear Down the Wall" resolution have noted that the wall's purpose is to prevent terrorist attacks, and that the resolution does not call for a stop to these attacks. The Simon Wiesenthal Centermarker stated that the July 2005 UCC resolutions on divestment from Israel were "functionally anti-Semitic". The Anti-Defamation League stated that those same resolutions are "disappointing and disturbing" and "deeply troubling". In addition to the concerns raised about the merits of the "economic leverage" resolution, additional concerns were raised about the process in which the General Synod approved the resolution. Michael Downs of the United Church of Christ Pension Boards (who would be charged with implementing any divestment of the UCC's Pension Board investments) wrote a letter to UCC President John H. Thomas expressing concern "with the precedent-setting implications of voted actions, integrity of process and trust."

Criticism of conservative critics

Leaders of the United Church of Christ have recently begun to issue criticism of the Institute for Religion and Democracy and groups associated with it. In a speech October 14, 2005, President John H. Thomas accused the IRD of becoming over-involved with conservatives within the UCC. He said:

In the midst of all of this we are increasingly aware of the challenge of groups within and beyond the United Church of Christ that claim to represent the call to honor theological diversity in the United Church of Christ, that encourage the voice of more conservative sisters and brothers among us, but which are in fact intent on disrupting and destroying our life together.

At Gettysburg Collegemarker on March 6, 2006, Thomas again warned against collusion with the IRD, calling the IRD "a sophisticated 'inside the beltway' organization well funded by conservative foundations and closely aligned with a neo-conservative political agenda." Thomas criticized IRD's association with the Association of Church Renewal, with the Biblical Witness Fellowship, with "Welcoming and Faithful Movement" [sic], and the Simon Wiesenthal Centermarker. Further, Thomas described IRD's modus operandi as follows:

The IRD pursues its political agenda in the churches through three strategies: campaigns of disinformation that seek to discredit church leadership, advocacy efforts at church assemblies seeking to influence church policy, and grass roots organizing which, in some cases, encourages schismatic movements encouraging members and congregations either to redirect mission funding or even to leave their denominations.
Indeed, the Mainline churches are facing hardball tactics."

Following the speech, the Simon Wiesenthal Centermarker denied any connection to the IRD and stated:

John Thomas made some conspiratorial charges about the Wiesenthal Center at a recent speech at Gettysburg College.
These charges are completely inaccurate and are not based on fact and the irresponsible nature of these comments should make reasonable people wonder if the leadership of the UCC is being equally irresponsible with the facts about the Middle-East."

Faithful and Welcoming, one of these groups named by Thomas as being aligned with IRD, held their first annual gathering in August 2006 and invited the UCC leadership to dialogue on the future of conservatives and other non-liberals in the UCC. Shortly thereafter, the August–September issue of the United Church News was published during that included a pastoral letter by Thomas and point counterpoint articles by Bob Thompson and Nancy Taylor disagreeing over the goals of Faithful and Welcoming. Thomas' letter does not take an explicit stand on FWC, but is clear that pastors within the UCC need to "distinguish loving critics from hurtful ones" and that not all conservative critics of UCC resolutions should be automatically associated with IRD. Taylor's ONA counterpoint explicitly stated "Thompson is not a loving critic."

However, Faithful and Welcoming is not and was not aligned with IRD. This controversy stemmed from a short-lived link to IRD inadvertently posted on the FWC website's links page. This link was not representative of an association or alignment with IRD.

Thomas' letter said:
It is clear that we face two kinds of critics today. There are many loving critics who care deeply for this church, seek ways to support it, and yearn for its growth and vitality. They find themselves in dissent from some of the positions of the General Synod and its leaders, finding in the Bible and the church's tradition differing understandings of how we are to view contemporary social and moral issues. We need to listen with care, humility and deep respect to these loving critics, assuring them of their honored place within the diverse life of this church, finding ways for them to support those aspects of our national and global ministries that they can fully embrace. We need to be open to the truth that they have spiritual insights to nurture, even challenge us toward greater faithfulness.

It's also the case that there are critics who do not love this church, who seek to disrupt, distract, diminish, even destroy our life. These critics, within and beyond, encourage local churches to withhold financial support of our wider ministries, offer advice and counsel on how to leave the denomination, establish parallel structures for the placement of clergy and the sending of mission personnel, and regularly disseminate deliberately misleading or false information about the denomination and its leaders. Those who love this church, and cherish its legacy, need to be clear in saying no to this form of critique which falls outside the bounds of acceptable Christian behavior.

Discerning between these two types of critics is one of the great challenges of leadership today. It requires a deep humility to embrace the loving critics, no matter how uncomfortable their critique may be, never saying, "I have no need of you." But it also requires the courage to name those whose actions are out of bounds, saying to those who would disrupt, distract, even destroy, "I will not let you damage what is precious or diminish a vocation that is a critical dimension of the Gospel witness." Such discernment is not easy. May God grant us the wisdom required for it, and the discipline to do it.

Thompson voices his contention that the UCC is attempting a realignment along the lines of Tony Campolo's 1995 book, Can Mainline Denominations Make a Comeback? [that] advocated the "realignment" of denominations based on ideological lines." Thompson says, "numerous individuals — along with entire congregations — have expressed interest in joining the UCC because of its bold pronouncements and extravagant welcome. More important than the numbers lost and gained, whatever they turn out to be, is this dual reality: those leaving the UCC more than likely consider themselves evangelical, conservative, orthodox, or traditional (ECOT) and those finding the UCC are likely liberal or progressive."... "We [FWC] do not seek to divide or disrupt. We are not a cover for an exit strategy. We are simply asking that our presence be recognized and valued."

In response, Taylor writes, "while Thompson writes that his Faithful and Welcoming Churches "are not a cover for an exit strategy" from the UCC, his activities tell a different story" she lists several including that "Thompson's own church, Corinth Reformed Church in Hickory, N.C., has dropped UCC from its name and the FWC website encourages other UCC congregations to drop UCC from their names. Moreover, his church has scheduled a congregational vote for September 9, 2007 regarding its continued UCC affiliation." She further criticizes Thompson for his church's withholding of OCWM funds, and concludes, "Thompson is not a loving critic."

General Synods 26 and 27

The 2007 General Synod featured a "Synod in the City" outdoor bazaar throughout the central city of Hartford, Connecticutmarker with speakers, street musicians, and circus acts, as a celebration of the denomination's 50th anniversary. Several notable speakers such as Marian Wright Edelman, Lynn Redgrave, Bill Moyers, NBC's John Hockenberry, Leonard Pitts, Jr., Kevin Phillips, then-Illinois Senator Barack Obama, Ray Kurzweil, the Rev. Peter Gomes, and DJ Davey D were present during the festivities.

The 2009 General Synod was held in Grand Rapids, Michiganmarker, where the mayor, George Heartwell, is an ordained UCC minister. Rev. Mayor Heartwell led delegates and visitors in a march in favor of healthcare for all from the convention center to City Hall after the UCC adopted a resolution in support of a single-payer system. Much of the time at this General Synod was spent discussing proposals for a more unified governing structure. Rev. Geoffrey Black, previously Minister-President of the New York Conference, was called by election to be the new General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ.

Barack Obama's membership in the UCC

A controversy arose over Obama speaking at UCC gatherings, but the IRS found that the UCC had adhered to the prohibition against churches campaigning for political candidates.

In 2007, US Presidential candidate and longtime UCC member Barack Obama spoke at the UCC's Iowa Conference meeting and at the General Synod 26. A complaint filed with the Internal Revenue Service alleged that the UCC promoted Obama's candidacy by having him speak at those meetings.

Barry Lynn, an ordained UCC minister and the executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, stated that although he personally would not have invited a Presidential candidate to speak at the meetings, he believed "the Internal Revenue Service permits this to happen." The church had consulted with lawyers prior to the event to make sure they were following the law and had instructed those in attendance that no Obama campaign material would be allowed in the meeting. Nevertheless, in February 2008, the IRS sent a letter to the church stating that it was launching an inquiry into the matter.

On February 27, 2008, in an open letter to UCC members, Rev. John H. Thomas announced the creation of The UCC Legal Fund, to aid in the denomination's defense against the IRS. While the denomination expects legal expenses to surpass six figures, it halted donations after raising $59,564 in less than a week.

In May 2008, the IRS issued a letter which states that the UCC had taken appropriate steps and that the denomination's tax status was not in jeopardy.

Ecumenical relations

The United Church of Christ is in a relationship of full communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Presbyterian Church , and the Reformed Church in America through a formal declaration known as the Formula of Agreement; with the German Union Evangelischer Kirchen (Union of Evangelical Churches); and with the Christian Church through an ecumenical partnership. It is also in dialogue about deeper relations with the Alliance of Baptists. In 2009, the United Church of Christ entered into a relationship of full communion with the Evangelical Church in Germany (in German Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland, abbreviated as EKD). . The EKD is a federation of 23 regional Protestant churches ("landeskirche") in Germany, of which the Union Evangelischer Kirchen is a member. The EKD comprises Lutheran, Reformed and United and uniting churches.

The UCC is a member of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC), the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC), and the World Council of Churchesmarker. It is also a founding member of Churches Uniting in Christ. The UCC also allies with other denominations in support of Church World Service efforts in domestic and foreign development and relief efforts.

United Church of Christ institutions

Officially related educational institutions


Colleges and universities

These 18 schools have affirmed the purposes of the United Church of Christ Council for Higher Education by official action and are full members of the Council.

Secondary academies

Historically related educational institutions

Historically related seminaries

Historically related colleges and universities (Council for Higher Education)

"These colleges continue to relate to the United Church of Christ through the Council for Higher Education, but chose not to affirm the purposes of the Council. Though in many respects similar to the colleges and universities that have full membership in the Council, these institutions tend to be less intentional about their relationships with the United Church of Christ." (from the United Church of Christ website)

Other colleges and universities (historically related, currently unrelated)

These colleges and universities were founded by or are otherwise related historically to the denomination or its predecessors, but no longer maintain any direct relationship.

List of prominent UCC churches

  • Cathedral of Hope marker - Largest church in the United States with a primary outreach to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Local membership exceeds 3500 people though the church claims over 52,000 world wide constituents.

List of famous UCC members

This section lists notable people known to have been past or present members or raised in the United Church of Christ or its predecessor denominations.



UCC people notable within the denomination

This section lists theologians and other UCC clergy and laypeople that are notable within the denomination but that may have little name recognition outside the denomination.

Presidents (year order)

Others (alphabetical order)
  • Ron Buford — coordinator of The Stillspeaking Initiative and former advertising manager for United Church News.
  • Gabriel Fackre — Theologian; president, Confessing Christ; Abbot Professor of Christian Theology Emeritus, Andover Newton Theological School
  • J. Bennett Guess — Editor of United Church News, the denominational newspaper
  • Edith Guffey — Associate General Minister
  • Louis Gunnemann — UCC polity theologian and former dean of United Theological Seminary (Twin Cities)
  • Douglas HortonEcumenist, Minister and General Secretary of the General Council of Congregational Christian Churches, translator of Karl Barth into English, and early force in the formation of the UCC.
  • Rev. William Hulteen — 25-year veteran of the former national "Office for Church Life and Leadership" (OCLL) and spokesman for issues of "ordained and lay leadership, theological reflection and education, clergy placement, worship and spirituality, and congregational life".
  • M. Linda Jaramillo — Executive Minister for Justice and Witness Ministries (JWM)
  • José Malayang — Executive Minister for Local Church Ministries (LCM)
  • Rev. Otis Moss III — Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicagomarker
  • Elizabeth Nordbeck — Professor of Ecclesiastical History and 11-year dean at Andover Newton Theological School. co-editor of Prism, a UCC denominational journal.
  • Charles Shelby Rooks — influential UCC pastor and scholar who, as president of Chicago Theological Seminary from 1974 to 1984, was the first African American to lead a predominantly Euro-American theological school.
  • David Runnion-Bareford — Executive Director of Biblical Witness Fellowship since 1994; pastor, Congregational Church, Candia, New Hampshiremarker
  • Reuben Sheares, pastor and former executive director of the national Office for Church Life and Leadership for the UCC.
  • Nancy S. Taylor — frequent denominational commentator, former Massachusetts Conference minister, and presently pastor of the historic Old South Churchmarker in Boston.
  • Susan Thistlethwaite — President and Professor of Theology, Chicago Theological Seminary
  • Rev. Bob Thompson, president of Faithful and Welcoming Churches; pastor, Corinth Reformed Church, Hickory, North Carolinamarker
  • Reuben Archer Torrey (1856-1928) — Congregationalist American evangelist
  • Frederick R. Trost — founding convenor of Confessing Christ; former Conference Minister, Wisconsin Conference
  • Cally Rogers-Witte — Executive Minister for Wider Church Ministries (WCM)
  • Rev. Jeremiah Wright — retired senior pastor of the 10000-plus-member Trinity United Church of Christ, a predominantly African American Chicagomarker congregation.
  • Barbara Brown Zikmund — church historian (Hidden Histories) and President of Hartford Seminary; unsuccessful candidate for General Minister position in 1999.

See also


  2. See, e.g., Local churches say no tie with United Church of Christ.
  3. In the words of Paul A. Crow Jr., "This ecumenical partnership—like all expressions of Christian unity—carries an aura both of celebration and struggle" {Crow, "United Church of Christ----Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Ecumenical Partnership" in Douglas A. Foster, Paul B. Blowers, Anthony L. Dunnavant, & D. Newell Williams, eds., Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), ISBN 0-8028-3898-7, p. 754}. Enthusiasm for the "full communion" and the Churches Uniting in Christ is weakest among theologically conservative individual Disciples and an association of conservative congregations known as the Disciples Heritage Fellowship. For more detail on the historical relationships among the UCC and the churches of the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement, see Foster, Blowers, Dunnavant, & Williams, esp. pp. 753-754 for Crow's full article and pp. 190-191 for Thomas H. Olbricht's "Christian Connection" article.
  4. United Church Press
  5. A New Spirituality: Shaping Doctrine at the Grass Roots
  6. [1]
  7. ISSN 0887-5049
  8. United Theological Seminary - Publications From United
  9. (ISBN 0-8298-1113-3)
  10. United Church of Christ Insurance Board Who We Are
  12. [2]
  13. December 2004 Archive
  14. Witness 2005 - Winter
  15. name = "Evans"
  16. [3], pp. 1, 7.
  17. Extravagant Welcome, Sojourners Magazine/January 2006
  18. [4]
  19. Simon WIESENTHAL Center.
  20. Anti-Defamation League.
  21. [5].
  22. [6]
  23. [7]
  24. March 2006 Archive
  25. THOMPSON, Bob.
  26. TAYLOR, Nancy.
  27. Thomas’ letter, 2006 Sept.
  28. Campolo has expressed similar views to other audiences, such as in a speech at Abilene Christian University's convocation at the start of the 2003 spring semester ( "Tony Campolo challenges ACU students to service").
  29. One week before Synod speech, Obama addresses UCC's Iowa Conference
  30. The American Spectator
  31. - Your News Right Now
  32. The Associated Press: IRS Investigates Obama's Denomination
  33. The United Church of Christ: Support the UCC's legal defense against the IRS
  34. The United Church of Christ: Search results for 59,564
  35. epd:EKD und US-Kirche streben Kirchengemeinschaft an (German)
  36. In Quest to Be More Welcoming, Yale Is Severing Ties to a Church NY Times, April 12, 2005
  37. A Brief History - New College of Florida, The public liberal arts honors college for the state of Florida
  38. pg 10
  39. On Eagle Pond Farm The new poet laureate on politics, grief—and Poetry TV
  40. Chatting With Koontz About Faith
  41. [8]
  42. Lenten Series 2006 Old South Church: The United Church of Christ: a radical experiment in Christian unity
  43. Reuben A. Sheares, 58, a Pastor And a Leader in Church of Christ
  44. [9]
  45. Just Peace movement seeks rebirth in UCC - News - United Church of Christ | Christian Century | Find Articles at

External links

Denominational Websites: Websites of groups/caucuses with Executive Council Seats: Websites of UCC-related groups (including professional associations and other caucuses):

Websites of unofficial but notable UCC groups (including dissent groups, renewal groups, and prophetic groups):

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