Friday, October 06, 2006
Moderate Churches Headed to the UCC?

Just recently, US Newswire reported that some churches disaffected from the conservative direction of the Southern Baptist Convention are affiliating with the United Church of Christ — recognized as the most leftward of the Protestant denominations.  The UCC recognizes the ordination of practicing homosexuals and takes pride in its liberalism on theological and social issues.  The denomination just recently voiced its support for same-sex marriage.

From the report:

Increasingly, for example, Baptist churches in disagreement with the Southern Baptist Convention over issues of women’s ordination or gay-lesbian inclusion are exploring UCC affiliation. At least that’s been the case in Virginia and Georgia. And that’s quite a new twist for a Yankee-prone denomination, one that has more than 700 congregations in Pennsylvania but just one in Mississippi.

[Rev. David] Schoen believes the UCC is finding new momentum in southern states because more-progressive Christians are looking for alternatives to the region’s widely-conservative faith communities. Since December 2004, when the UCC first embarked on a national multi-media advertising campaign, the vast majority of those expressing interest in the UCC, where no church was yet located, were those living in southern states, Schoen said.

Widely recognized for its liberal mix of mainline Christianity and social activism, the UCC often touts its “early arrival” on justice issues, including the first ordination of an African- American pastor (1785), the first ordination of a woman (1853), and the first ordination of an openly gay minister (1972).

In 2003, the Alliance of Baptists (formerly known as the Southern Baptist Alliance) and the UCC entered into a “partnership in mission and ministry.”  The groups recognize each other’s ministers, etc.

Interestingly, the report of the UCC growth among liberal congregations disaffected from the SBC came just days after Andover Newton Theological School announced an October 25, 2006 “dialogue” between UCC representatives and officials of the Unitarian Universalist Association.

As the school announced:

Rev. John Thomas, General Minister and President of the UCC and Rev. William Sinkford, President, of the UUA, will reflect on the historical affinities and divisions between their denominations, and then go on to explore current realities and future possibilities. This exchange is of interest to clergy and congregants in both denominations because, despite theological differences and the historical controversy that led to their split, in recent years there has been a growing solidarity of the two groups. On a number of issues of progressive religious conviction and social justice the two share common perspectives, and in some communities there are some churches that have become aligned with both denominations.

Keep in mind the fact that the UUA does not even claim to be a Christian denomination.  By definition, it is committed to Unitarianism and Universalism.

So, the UCC is now a meeting place for disaffected Baptists, on the one hand, and Unitarian Universalists on the other.

The big story for the SBC is the fact that some of the churches formerly associated with the convention have moved so far, so fast, to the far left.