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UCCtruths

Every denomination needs one of these...

Coincidence? Another ordination of a woman priest taking place in UCC church

Friday, October 31, 2008

Another United Church of Christ church is poised to be at least the third UCC church to host an ordination of Catholic women... this one is in Chicago. From the Chicago Tribune:

The ceremony, to be held at St. Paul's United Church of Christ in Lincoln Park, is being organized by Roman Catholic Womenpriests, an organization that is not recognized by the Catholic Church. The group, which began in 2002, also will ordain three women as deacons in preparation for priesthood.

The Vatican has said repeatedly that only men can be ordained priests because Jesus did not call women to be apostles, and because the priest stands in the image of Jesus, who was male. Officials with the Chicago archdiocese denounced the ceremony and reiterated the Vatican decree that states the person who ordains the woman, as well as the woman herself, will be excommunicated. An excommunicated person is forbidden to receive the sacraments.
Back in July, the UCC-affiliated Church of the Covenant in Boston hosted an ordination of women priests which drew support from former UCC Conference Minister Rev. Nancy S. Taylor.

As I stated back then and now again, I can't help but think this meddling in other faiths is part of the creeping anti-Catholicism in the United Church of Christ.
posted by UCCtruths, Friday, October 31, 2008 | link | 6 comments |

Dissent over restructuring is growing

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I have to admit to having mixed feelings about the United Church of Christ's proposed restructuring plan. When you look at the current structure of the national office with the boards and committees, it is easy to appreciate the inefficiencies that the new plan is trying to correct. The big problem is the manner is which the national office would like to centralize the functions of how it is governed. Rather than extract effeciencies by making the existing governing bodies flatter (same organizational structure, just fewer layers) they are trying to make it narrower by creating a single governing board. While that might work for other denominations, it will never work in the United Church of Christ.

One group, the Joshua Generation Leadership Team, is trying to make a difference and is trying to make it's voice heard regarding the restructure with an online petition form. Why do they need our help? From the online petition:

Here are just 5 of the many reasons why we need your help:

  1. The process has been unjust.
    a. Despite the multitude of serious and legitimate concerns that have been raised by several different branches of the church, including the historically underrepresented groups (HUGs), the concerns have been ignored and the process has continued ahead.
    b. In a restructure of this magnitude, it would seem very appropriate that each of the incorporated board of directors of the Covenanted Ministries would have their own specialists, consultants, and legal counsel advising them on what is in their best interests as an independent corporation of the church. Instead, this process has been facilitated by one sole consultant, who was hired by one arm of the church.
    c. Not all of the historic, elder leaders of the church were consulted about the proposed restructure in a timely fashion, despite public claims that the key past leaders were included in the process.

  2. We have been a church that has historically chosen not to place
    power in any one place.
    Because of our congregational culture, power has always been in the local church however, this proposed restructure shifts the power to a central place. Also, where is the decision making checks and balances of a single governance board? A single governing board is a condensation of power with no checks and balance system. It also seems largely staff driven given that staff will have both voice and vote at the Executive Committee level.

  3. We have always been a church who has fought, and continues to fight, against elitism. The single-board structure promotes elitism for the following reasons:
    a. A smaller, single-board structure limits the amount of participation (and thus, the development of new leaders) from every single segment of the UCC.
    b. We have always fought for economic justice, yet what about the class implications in a single-board structure? Because the board would shrink, the amount of decisions and responsibility of each board member would increase. Board meetings would thus be much longer. Only those who had a surplus of free time would be able to serve.

  4. This has not been a mission-driven restructure; it has been a
    financially-driven restructure.
    We are a church, not a corporate entity
    driven by product. The missions of the church have not been the first priority in this restructure; instead it has been motivated by efficiency and money.

  5. It is as if we are erasing the rich history of our church and are
    starting from scratch.
    The rich history of this church seems lost in this proposed restructure. It is as if we are beginning from ground zero and remaking the identity and culture of the church. We would be appalled if certain chapters of American history were removed from the textbooks, why should the history of the UCC be any different?
I would encourage you to review the information and consider signing the petition. I think the points they make are completely accurate and reflective of where we are as a denomination.

The leaders of the UCC don't like this petition at all... and they shouldn't. As the petition states, the catalyst for the restructure is money, not mission. The leaders of the United Church of Christ have not proven themselves to be honest nor have they proven themselves to be good stewards of our financial resources... and the best example is to see is how the television advertising campaign has been run. When the ad's were rejected by NBC because they "inappropriately suggested that churches other than the UCC are not open to people of diverse races and backgrounds," UCC leaders falsely claimed that the ad was rejected because it's "welcoming" message was "too controversial". To compound the problem, the national office continually fell short of fundraising goals to pay for the ads and it's presummed that the covenented ministries picked up the tab.

So why reject the restructuring? Because restructuring is dependent on trust that a centralized body will act in the best interests of the whole denomination, not just the best intentions of those at the top. Our leaders have not earned that trust.

Read the petition and consider signing it today.
posted by UCCtruths, Tuesday, October 21, 2008 | link | 0 comments |

Sacred Conversations are Usually No Earthly Good!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Note: Since the creation of UCCtruths, I've had a policy that any leader within the United Church of Christ is welcome to submit commentary which will be posted, unedited and without commentary, on the top of the site.

Rev. Graylan Scott Hagler, Senior Minister of Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ & National President of Ministers for Racial, Social and Economic Justice Of The United Church of Christ has submitted the following commentary for UCCtruths to post:
Sacred Conversations are Usually No Earthly Good!

October 9, 2008

By: Reverend Graylan Scott Hagler,Senior Minister, Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ & National President,Ministers for Racial, Social and Economic JusticeOf The United Church of Christ

This past May 18, 2008 The United Church of Christ, a denomination known for its liberalism called for a “Sacred Conversation on Race” to take place in its pulpits across the nation. This call to the congregations was made in the aftermath of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright-Barack Obama controversy since both were affiliated with The United Church of Christ. Some United Church of Christ ministers called a meeting in the Washington, DC area to discuss this initiative by the denomination. The gathering was revealing to say the least. Most of the fifty odd ministers who were present were predominantly white and attested to their liberalism and openness to other races, and how each of the ministers had somehow in the past stood up for a person of another racial group at some traumatic moment. The black ministers in the room each testified to the fact that they needed not “A Sacred Conversation on Race,” but straight talk on racism which was the issue that impacted their lives negatively. As usual this created tensions between the black and white clergy participants where the whites perceived that they were being “put down” for their past stances and their proclaimed liberalism, and the blacks felt that the issues of racism were being ignored for the sake of a feigned peace between the races and to advance the desires of a denomination to have a “marketplace” identity.

Indeed this was not the first time in recent history that The United Church of Christ attempted to use an issue to stake out a position in the fiercely competitive world of church growth and identity theology. The denomination in the previous five years created a “God is Still Speaking” public relations campaign that focused on its openness to people no matter of their sexual orientation, gender, race or disability. This is a message to be applauded except the ads implied that The United Church of Christ was more superior and forward thinking than any other denomination. Many denominations took exception to this, and even some of the television stations slated to air the ads pulled them. This campaign however put the church further into debt, and as a consequence of the hemorrhage of funds the director of the campaign was fired – a black man!

Over the last ten years The United Church of Christ in its national office has tended to have less blacks and other people of-color in its employ. In hard economic times the old adage held true even within the church for blacks and other people of-color, “the last hired and the first fired.” Furthermore black male clergy on national staff in the church is at an all time low. All of this serves as a backdrop to the church’s “Sacred Conversation on Race.”

In May when The United Church of Christ clergy met at that church in Washington, DC, the decision was made that black and white clergy would meet over the ensuing months to discern how we might make this conversation relevant, and to take it beyond the publicity stunt that the denomination intended. In those ensuing meetings however the white participation dwindled to less than a hand full, and it became apparent that though the denomination wanted “A Sacred Conversation on Race” and prides itself on liberalism even its ministers did not want to deal with the issues of racism or the institutional racism that plagues this church and many others like it. But just as the prophet Jeremiah proclaims, there is "remnant" people that will make a stand in easy times and in times that are not too easy, and will lift up a message that needs to be lifted, even in spite of The United Church of Christ’s attempts to sanitize and homogenize people and issues. Therefore beginning in October and spanning over the next three weeks, this handful of United Church of Christ clergy, black, Hispanic and white, will host “town hall” gatherings in a white, Hispanic, and black congregation so that people can engage in a culturally diverse setting and have a real discussion on racism. Hopefully we all may grow in the process out of these frank conversations that may anger people at times, but will hopefully help to build a context where people out of their diversity might truly come together and combat the “isms” that separate and often destroys possibilities of ever coming together as a church, a people and a nation.
posted by UCCtruths, Saturday, October 11, 2008 | link | 0 comments |

'Get Religion' gets UCCtruths

Thursday, October 09, 2008

We got a nice link reference yesterday morning on GetReligion.org from Terry Mattingly:

So, who is the better Christian in the White House race?

The Times of London claims that it wants to know.

Seriously?

Things don’t look good for the old mainline Protestant — that would be Sen. John McCain — but the new era of Oprah-friendly liberal Protestantism is doing just fine. Sen. Barack Obama’s United Church of Christ brand of faith is a hit on the other side of the Atlantic, while the numbers in the pews here in the U.S. are nothing to write home about.

Not everyone liked the reference though... cranky Pastor Dan threw a tantrum:

Almost too many problems to mention here:
  1. John McCain continually fudges his religious identity. Is he an "oldline
    Protestant" Episcopalian, or a Southern Baptist, or really not much of anything?


  2. Despite Mattingly's slurs, the United Church of Christ is an overwhelmingly
    traditional, even orthodox, denomination. I know people would like to think of
    us as somehow "New Age-y". We're not. He knows that.


  3. Yes, Oprah briefly attended Trinity UCC. She left. He knows that too.


  4. Mattingly cites UCCTruths without noting that they're knee-jerk opponents of the national UCC, hence not an unbiased source. He also fails to mention that basically no denomination has "numbers to write home about" these days. He knows that, too. Or if he doesn't, he shouldn't have his job.


  5. The poll in question has less to do with the candidates' actual religion than their public image as faithful people. Barack Obama has been in the national spotlight for four years shaping a religious narrative for himself. Sarah Palin has been known to most people for about two months, and to the extent that people know her faith tradition, they think it's batshit crazy. Can you blame them?
Wank, wank, wank. If Mattingly held himself to his own standards, he'd wonder why the media don't "get" religion.
Either Pastor Dan didn't get his bottle of milk yesterday morning or he lost his pacifier... in either case he clearly didn't read the actual post that Mattingly referenced to UCCtruths. The post by Pastor Ted Weis was about the 40 years of decline within the mainline church and which quoted Dr. David Greenhaw, President of Eden Theological Seminary. The mainline has been in decline and it has nothing to do with UCCtruths being "knee-jerk opponents of the national UCC".

I guess if we aren't all drinking the same punch, we can't be on Pastor Dan's 'A' list. Boo hoo.
posted by UCCtruths, Thursday, October 09, 2008 | link | 0 comments |

It's Not a Matter of "Criticizing" Israel

In a nutshell, here is the problem with mainline Protestant narrative about the Arab-Israeli conflict:

At the center of the mainline Protestant narrative about the Arab-Israeli conflict is a very simple assertion: Israel is in control of and responsible for the hostility directed at it by its adversaries in the Middle East. The story is told in various ways, but ultimately Israel is portrayed as having the ability and the obligation to bring a unilateral end to the Arab-Israeli conflict through a magical combination of concessions, withdrawals and peace offers that will mollify nations, groups and individuals that worked to prevent Israel’s creation in 1948 and have sought its destruction since then.

This narrative, while comforting, denies the fundamental nature of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Israel cannot control the enmity directed at it and the conflict will come to an end when religious and political leaders that govern the nations in the Middle East choose peace and stop supporting groups like Hamas and Hezbollah as they attack Israel. The fact that these leaders have not chosen peace challenges deeply held mainline beliefs about the perfectibility of human nature and the ability of mainline churches to influence events in the Middle East. But the fact remains peace will come to the region when Arab and Muslim leaders in the region choose peace and not a moment before.

To affirm their brittle and distorted peacemaking narrative, activists, leaders and staffers from these churches and their allies in the Middle East have produced materials related to the conflict that downplay Muslim and Arab hostility toward Israel and Jews in the Middle East and have portrayed the Israeli people and their government as psychologically and spiritually unable to make peace with their neighbors. To buttress their portrayal of Jews as a people who cannot be trusted with self-determination, mainline activists, leaders and commentators enlist the help of Israeli and American Jews whose unreasonable denunciations of Israel have gotten very little traction in Israel, but who enjoy substantial support from audiences in Europe and the United States who exhibit a persistent and unnatural appetite for stories of Jews behaving badly. Mainline activists, leaders, and staffers also invoke Christian Zionist support for Israel in a manner that short-circuits honest discussion about the underlying causes and impacts of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

At times, these activists, leaders, commentators and their allies in the Middle East resort to scripture to portray Jewish sovereignty as a violation of the boundaries set for the Jewish people by the New Testament and Israeli use of force as a cosmological affront to the Christian nomos and Israelis as enemies of God.

Mainline materials about the Arab-Israeli distort history, judge Israeli behavior against a utopian standard of conduct while at the same time denying Israel’s adversaries of moral agency. The overall impact of this narrative is to render Arab and Muslim violence as unremarkable and Israeli use of force as the root of the conflict.

The worst part about this narrative is that it is a beast that needs to be fed with stories of Jews behaving badly. And sadly enough, there are all too many people who are willing to feed this beast.

The Gospel is a living-giving narrative. It strengthens us. We feed on it. It does not feed on us. The story we tell about the Arab-Israeli conflict is a lethal and ravenous narrative. It feeds on us. It demonizes Israel, infantilizes the Palestinians and diminishes our ability to confess to the reality of the living God.

"Hear and understand: not what goes into the mouth defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a person." -- Mark 15:10-11

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posted by Dexter Van Zile, Thursday, October 09, 2008 | link | 1 comments |