5 Things To Know...
General Synod in Indianapolis lived up to its theme, “Making All Things New,” with key decisions on leadership and governance, an inspiring keynote and an honest new look at the UCC’s history. Here are five keys to understanding what went happened.
1. A History-Making Election
The Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson became general minister and president of the United Church of Christ in a historic vote on Monday, prompting delegates to sing “Amen, Amen” when the result was announced. She also became the first African-American woman to lead the UCC. Thompson was the third woman ever nominated for general minister and president. “Today, United Church of Christ, we created a first together,” she said after the vote. “It won’t be the last first.” A native of Jamaica, Thompson served before her election as the UCC’s associate general minister for wider church ministries and co-executive for global ministries.
2. Farewell From John Dorhauer
Thompson replaces the Rev. John Dorhauer, who spent eight years as general minister and president. In his final State of the Church address, Dorhauer gave thanks for the many rich experiences afforded by his ministry. “You are the United Church of Christ, and you show up every day to do the work of the Holy Spirit,” Dorhauer said. “Lives are changed by it, and it has been my great pleasure to bear witness to that. And, my God, I will miss it.”
3. New General Synod Schedule
After a spirited exchange of views, delegates voted to change UCC bylaws so that General Synod takes place every three years rather than every two. The 2025 General Synod will go on as planned in Kansas City. The General Synod after that will be in 2028. The issue generated vigorous debate, with advocates of the new schedule arguing that a three-year cycle would save considerable money across the denomination and that the proliferation of virtual meeting platforms had made it unnecessary to meet every two years. Opponents said they feared a loss of connection to the wider church. The bylaws changes required a two-thirds majority vote from Synod delegates and passed by a single vote, with 454 voting yes and 226 voting no. There were six abstentions. (Editor's note: Photo does not include the three paper ballots).
4. ‘God Is Not Done,’ Says Keynoter Bolz-Weber
The Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber, a Lutheran pastor, author and public theologian, struck a chord with delegates with a keynote centered on the themes of fear and anxiety, worry, regret and hope, and the ways Scripture addresses them – a talk she claimed was a “thinly veiled attempt to comfort myself.” The perspective offered by Scripture is vital in unsettling times, she said. “When all we can see and feel and think about is all the personal and political crap happening now, it’s important to remember we are part of an old, old story,” she said. “One that starts in the beginning of time and brushes the skin of the present and reaches into the promised future, and the promise that God is not done.” She added: “When we stand on the rock of this big story, with one hand reaching back to the hope of the prophets and one hand reaching forward to the promises of God, we can stand firmly in the reality of the present and not have that reality consume us.”
5. Recovering the ‘Fifth Stream’
Delegates who attended the United Black Christians luncheon learned about the UCC’s “Fifth Stream” – the Afro-Christian Convention of the South – which is often overlooked when the denomination recalls its roots in the Congregational, Christian, Evangelical and Reformed traditions. Speaking to the group, Dorhauer said that “without the fifth stream, we can’t be the UCC.” He apologized for the UCC for “cutting off one of its limbs” and ”for making you wait this long for this.” In her address to the gathering, the Rev. Yvonne Delk said that the Afro-Christian tradition has historically only been “recognized as a footnote to the four white streams of the United Church of Christ,” and that the UCC has lived “the flaw of seeing the Afro-Christian Convention as an object for ministry instead of a subject defining the UCC.” In 1989, Delk was the first woman ever nominated to serve as general minister and president of the UCC.
For complete coverage of General Synod, check out coverage from UCC News, or check out recordings of plenary sessions and worship (scroll down for the list of plenary sessions).
In 1957 St. John’s Evangelical and Reformed Church became St. John’s United Church of Christ as a result of a merger. The denominations of the Congregational Christian Church, along with Evangelical and Reformed Church joined to form United Church of Christ. UCC is a distinct and diverse community of Christians that came together as one church. They joined faith and actions and currently are over 5,000 churches with nearly one million members across the U.S. The UCC serves God in the co-creation of a just and sustainable world. The UCC is a church of “firsts,” a church of extravagant welcome, and a church where “…they may all be one”.
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