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Every denomination needs one of these...

FWC mailing to churches criticized

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Some local churches are raising concerns about how a recent mailing from Faithful and Welcoming Churches (FWC) was addressed. Some of the letters, which promoted the goals of FWC and promoted their regional workshops, were addressed to "The President of the Church" instead of the minister. Last month, John Dorhauer, Associate Conference Minister of the Missouri-Mid South Conference in an article for Talk2Action.org, criticized Biblical Witness Fellowship (BWF) for addressing letters that were "neither addressed to the pastors of the church, nor was its coming announced to the pastors of the churches to which it was sent". Although it's not a rule, it is customary for ministers in the UCC to be included in communications to their church.

Rev. Deb Kunkel of United Church of Christ of Pittsville, commented on the UCCtruths.com message board that "This mailing could appear- and I mean appear not that it was in any way shape or form intended as this- as an attempt to go around pastors." Kunkel continues:
I have just returned from picking up the congregation's mail at the post office, and in it was a letter addressed to "The President of the Church". Now I'm the preacher, pastor, chief bottle washer and secretary for this congregation, so one of the things I do with full knowledge and approval of the Council is to open the mail to determine if it is something I have to let that person know right away, or if it can wait until they come to church next (unless it's marked personal or confidential).

...it was from Rev. Robert Thompson of FWC inviting the recipient to share their enclosed brochure with the congregation, and to attend the "Healthy Church Workshop" coming into the area. Let me repeat this was sent 1) to the church mailing address, and 2) to the generic title of President of the Congregation", so it wasn't something the moderator requested.
I hope that this was just an innocent happening, a lapse in judgment. But this is the type of thing that fuels the conspiracy theory of people trying to "steal" churches and going around the pastor to do so. Perception can become "reality" for people.
Through a member of the UCCtruths.com message board, Rev. Bob Thompson, President of Faithful and Welcoming Churches, responded:
Here's the scoop. We were given a MS Excel database with every UCC church on it. The database went directly to our office staff person who printed the almost 6,000 labels and affixed them by hand to the envelopes we had specially ordered and printed. It was toward the end of this process that I opened the database for a different reason and noticed that the the first column was "President of the Consistory."

Our staff member told me that many of the labels misprinted, and that the "President of the Consistory" line did not show up. However, she painstakingly took a white out strip and covered that line in as many labels as she could. She apparently missed some.

The reason I asked her to make the effort is that we want to avoid any appearance of a "conspiracy theory." To whatever degree we failed, I apologize. It was unintentional on my part, and the individual we have hired to do this work has very little experience in UCC political issues or perspectives.
We at FWC are making every effort to work above board and listen to our critics. We want the conversation to be about the faithfulness of the UCC to the historic Christian faith and to its own heritage, not about our methods and motives. If we were involved in a conspiracy to hurt the UCC or its churches, we could certainly do a lot better job than sending out respectful letters, persistently encouraging churches to stay in the UCC, and sponsoring workshops on "Healthy Churches."
Innocent or not, the mistake was a bad one. The climate in the UCC is red hot with fear of a "church stealing conspiracy" by conservative groups. Although the FWC letter encourages churches to remain in the UCC and to participate in the "Healthy Churches" seminar, the perception of a letter being addressed to a local church member other than the minister implies that the minister of the local church is being cut out of the communication.
posted by UCCtruths, Saturday, April 21, 2007


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