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Every denomination needs one of these...

"My" Beliefs Among "Our" Beliefs

Monday, October 01, 2007

By Pastor Ted Weis, Congregational Church, Little River, KS

From its beginning, the United Church of Christ (UCC) has been a non-creedal denomination. It is guided by testimonies, not tests of faith. Beyond the confession that Jesus Christ is head of the church, you basically have the freedom to believe whatever you want.

While there's tremendous personal autonomy for the individual in the UCC, what happens when the one becomes part of the many?

Coming into a UCC group, like joining any group, will advance beliefs held by the individual-- and also demand personal compromise for the good of the group. Individuals contribute to the group's life, but no one individual sets the group's agenda. Especially in the UCC, ours is not a top down authority in hierarchy. We speak to, not for each other.

An individual considers and weighs competing ideas, but in the end, must live by an overall principal. If not, you're a hypocrite at best, or at worst, a schizophrenic-- split and unable to function.

I contend that the same principal is true of groups. Groups must live by an overarching principal. It may hold diverse views, but it cannot maintain radical differences. Otherwise, you have inefficiency, chaos, or anarchy.

I make those observations to say this: While UCC polity often touts individual autonomy, what's often neglected is what happens when your beliefs reach the group-- be it a local church, association, conference, or General Synod. In the UCC covenant, your beliefs could get boosted and celebrated, but they could also get minimized or ignored.

As a member of the evangelical, conservative, traditional, orthodox (ECOT) wing of the UCC, the prevailing beliefs that guide my local church are in harmony with the core values I hold personally. But at the association, conference, and synod level, my individual beliefs are often passed over. As the minority, I can express my beliefs, but the group's life is directed by majority views I don't share.

On the one hand, over 200 churches and the Puerto Rico conference decided the differences between their values and the UCC's were too great. On the other, some new churches are joining the UCC, believing they share more than enough. Consequently, the UCC's group tilt is becoming more liberal-progressive.

UCC polity is often illustrated by a husband and wife-- "they don't agree on everything, but they still remain in covenant." It's a decent analogy, yet it presumes the disagreements are over minor issues. However, when there's continuous disagreements or severe violations of one's core values, the covenant is jeopardized and could dissolve.

As an individual Christian, what would you say are your core beliefs and values? As a group, what would you say are the prevailing beliefs that govern your local UCC church, association, and conference?

How much are you feeling the tension?


posted by Living the Biblios, Monday, October 01, 2007


We (my wife and I) felt it enough to leave the local UCC church entirely. We have since joined another, more traditional main-line denomination.
commented by Anonymous Alex, 9:24 PM  
I always bristle a little when people say the UCC is "creedless" .. in fact we have several creeds that we honor within our tradition... Apostle's Creed, Nicene Creed, UCC SoF, Heidelberg Catechism et al.

The use of creeds, as you probably know, is as "testaments, not tests"

The other point I wanted to make (That I am partially stealing from Don Neiderfrank, moderator of the UCC theology forums) is that the fundamental theological unit of the UCC is not the individual but the Local Church. We in the UCC do not do theology as individuals in a vacuum but in the context of our local discernment community.

It is well within the bounds of UCC for a local church to set theological boundaries on what can occur in a worship or Christian education setting.

Anyways, good essay and thanks for your opinions!


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