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Every denomination needs one of these...

PBS feature on United Church of Christ well done

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The United Church of Christ is being featured this week on the PBS television series "I Believe". Most of the show consists of an interview with Hans Holznagel, the UCC's minister for community life at the Church House in Cleveland, with a brief look at Euclid Avenue Congregational UCC in Cleveland. The candid interview with Holznagel was pretty good and I think he fairly represented the theological diversity within the UCC and openly acknowledged some of the criticisms and concerns raised within the UCC.

posted by UCCtruths, Wednesday, August 29, 2007 | link | 0 comments |

More scapegoating by Dorhauer

Instead of actually addressing his own priorities, UCC Missouri Mid-South Associate Conference Minister John Dorhauer indignantly deflects criticism by making the issue about the UCC church that just closed. From Dorhauer's comments on his own blog today:
I want to be clear about one thing: what pisses me off is not the repeated attacks to my charachter. I don't have enough respect for Hutchins personally, nor do I place enough (not any) credibility in his writings to be affected personally by what he writes. What pissed me off was his use of this painful moment, approached with dignity and grace by the members at Holy Ghost, in order to try and further his twisted agenda. THEY deserve better than that, and every one of them would take offense at the implication that the efforts of their Conference staff were compromised because of other interests; or that their closing was the result of other work their Conference staff undertook. Without knowing any more than that a church closed; and with no other motivation that to sully my reputation, Hutchins implied that other work I had done led to the demise of this and other churches. Again, the good people at Holy Ghost do not deserve to be used by him in this matter. That is a disgrace; and whether he sees it, knows it, or can accept it, Hutchins comes out looking like an opportunistic bully. I have ignored a number of personal attacks - but this I could not ignore. Andyes, I'm pissed.
This isn't about Holy Ghost - this is about John Dorhauer's priorities. His clear priority publicly has been on a conspiracy theory about outside groups stealing UCC churches. Of course he would rather make this about Holy Ghost since he (and everyone else) knows where his public priorities lie - all you have to do is read his blog, his book or watch his presentations. I would argue that the problem isn't with churches being stolen, but with churches closing. Highlighting the fact that a historic church closed in Dorhauer's backyard was ironic but not opportunistic.

At no time did I accuse or blame Dorhauer for churches that are closing. I do think his work regarding the conspiracy theory is harmful to our denomination as a whole, but it's not responsible for any churches closing and I don't doubt that he did what he could with Holy Ghost. But this is about priorities. Publicly, Dorhauer's priorities are on a conspiracy theory that he himself acknowledges "all I have is circumstantial evidence".

Holy Ghost's closing wasn't circumstantial, it was real and, as an Associate Conference Minister, Dorhauer's public priorities should reflect that, not on a conspiracy theory.
posted by UCCtruths, Wednesday, August 29, 2007 | link | 7 comments |

Dorhauer has another temper tantrum

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

UCC Missouri Mid-South Associate Conference Minister John Dorhauer is pissed off at me and this web site.


Dorhauer doesn't like being called out for his public emphasis on conspiracy theories of church stealing by outside groups while churches in his own backyard close. Shockingly, Dorhauer accuses me of lying without ever saying exactly what it is I lied about (read his post and then re-read it again - nothing). The pattern of accusations without substance continues to be Dorhauer's method of operation.

A couple of weeks ago, I posted on the closing of an aging UCC church in St. Louis and concluded:
What makes this all the more interesting is that while UCC Missouri Mid-South Associate Conference Minister John Dorhauer is running around the country trumping up a bogus conspiracy theory about UCC churches being stolen by other denominations, churches like Holy Ghost United Church of Christ are closing their doors. This doesn't mean the Conference isn't conscious about the loss of aging churches, but the emphasis publicly has clearly focused on Dorhauer's conspiracy theory.
I'll say it again: "This doesn't mean the Conference isn't conscious about the loss of aging churches, but the emphasis publicly has clearly focused on Dorhauer's conspiracy theory."

Look at the Missouri Mid-South Conference web site... is there anything from Dorhauer about the problem of aging churches on it? Is there any transparency about the number of lost churches? Oh... but if you check out the February 13, 2007 "E-Connections" you will find a note about how you can buy Dorahauer's book for 32% off at Amazon.

Look at Dorhauer's blog - Does he ever mention a concern about aging churches and the shifting demographics and what strategies might be employed to save them? I guess it's only a problem if you lose churches to a right-wing conspiracy.

The loss of churches due to shifting demographics is a problem for all Mainline churches, not just the UCC but the challenge can't be addressed privately while publicly ranting about conspiracy theories. And yes - I'm a little sensitive about it. As a kid, the UCC church I was confirmed in closed precisely because the demographics of the neighborhood changed while the membership and leadership of the church couldn't adjust.

It's a matter of priorities and, at least publicly, Dorhauer's emphasis is on attacking right-wing bogeymen. We should all be pissed off.
posted by UCCtruths, Tuesday, August 28, 2007 | link | 9 comments |

IRS complaint filed against the United Church of Christ

Monday, August 27, 2007

UCCtruths has received a copy of a complaint sent to the IRS regarding Sen. Barak Obama's speech at the UCC's General Synod in June in Hartford, Connecticut. The complaint, dated August 2nd, does not ask for any specific remedy, but does ask for an investigation alleging that the UCC violated "federal tax law banning political campaign intervention". Many of the citations in the letter include links to the UCC.org web site but there is a reference to one post from UCCtruths.com. The allegations in the letter include:
The United Church of Christ violated every single point outlined in the IRS guidelines. Specifically:

According to the IRS guidelines, church or religious organization must ensure that:
The individual speaks only in a non-candidate capacity
o While much of Sen. Obama’s speech was a reflection of his personal faith and the relationship of his beliefs to public life, it was clearly a campaign speech with direct references to campaign pledges (Sen. Obama: "I have made a solemn pledge that I will sign a universal health care bill into law by the end of my first term as president that will cover every American and cut the cost of a typical family's premiums by up to $2500 a year.” Transcript available on the United Church of Christ’s own web site: http://www.ucc.org/news/significantspeeches/ a-politics-of-conscience.html).

o Numerous local and national news outlets characterized the event in terms of a political campaign:

“At times it certainly had the feel of a political convention” WTNH, http://www.wtnh.com/Global/story.asp? S=6700799&nav=menu29_2

“With fiery speeches on faith and politics, the United Church of Christ's biennial General Synod seemed at times as much a revival or political rally as a mainline church meeting.”
The Christian Century Magazine, http://www.christiancentury.org/article.lasso?id=3518
• Neither the individual nor any representative of the church makes any mention of his or her candidacy or the election
o Sen. Obama made a direct reference to his candidacy in the fourth sentence of his speech (Sen. Obama: “It's been several months now since I announced I was running for president.” Transcript available on the United Church of Christ’s own web site: http://www.ucc.org/news/significant-speeches/ a-politics-ofconscience.html).

o A June 21, 2007 Religion News Service article in advance of the speech was prominently posted on the United Church of Christ web site with the headline “Obama's Synod speech will be 'first major address on faith and politics as presidential candidate'” http://www.ucc.org/news/aide-obamas-synodspeech.html
No campaign activity occurs in connection with the candidate’s attendance. In addition, the church or religious organization should clearly indicate the capacity in which the candidate is appearing and should not mention the individual’s political candidacy or the upcoming election in the communications announcing the candidate’s attendance at the event.
o An April 24, 2007 News Release announcing Sen. Obama’s speech on the UCC web site states “Obama, a Democratic candidate for President, has spoken often about his profession of faith, his membership in the socially progressive UCC and the need for Democrats to take seriously the concerns of religious Americans”. http://www.ucc.org/news/barack-obama-joins.html

o Campaign volunteers for Sen. Obama set up tables and greeted visitors at the entrances of the Hartford Civic Center. According to the official “Connecticut for Obama ’08” blog, approximately 40 volunteers staffed the campaign tables in three-hour shifts from 8AM to 6PM on the day of Sen. Obama’s speech. The blog further stated “As volunteers staffing tables, our goal was to gather as many new supporters as possible.”Although this particular blog entry was removed after another web site drew attention to the violation, a copy of the text is located at http://ucctruths.blogspot.com/2007/06/ connecticut-volunteers-blog-aboutobama.html and pictures of the tables are included with this letter.
The copy of the letter that was sent to UCCtruths was sent anonymously and the author's name and contact information were redacted. Photos of campaign booths outside the Hartford Civic Center from before, during and after Obama's were included with the letter, some of which came from UCCtruths.com.

Rev. Barry Lynn, Executive Director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (and an ordained UCC minister) last month declined to file a complaint with the IRS. According to Rev. Lynn's Blog:
Obama’s appearance at the UCC gathering does not seem to warrant IRS action. Church leaders, including the president, reiterated that the invitation was issued well before Obama launched his presidential campaign and that he was invited to speak on a specific topic of interest, not to trumpet his candidacy.
Lynn is flat out wrong and his bias is apparent in his response. The IRS guidelines do not make any reference whatsoever to the date that a candidate is invited to speak. In fact, as UCCtruths pointed out in June (and as thoroughly enumerated in the complaint to the IRS), the United Church of Christ violated each of the three provisions in the IRS guidelines on "Speaking as a Non-Candidate":
  • The individual speaks only in a non-candidate capacity,
  • Neither the individual nor any representative of the organization makes any mention of his or her candidacy or the election, and
  • No campaign activity occurs in connection with the candidate’s attendance.
Although I believe UCC leaders knowingly violated the IRS guidelines, I don't think we should have our tax exempt status revoked. However, as we head into the election season, I believe the IRS should send a stern warning to our leaders about political campaign intervention.
posted by UCCtruths, Monday, August 27, 2007 | link | 1 comments |

Live from New York it's....

Sunday, August 26, 2007

I don't normally make it a habit to point out differences I have with local churches or local ministers unless it's something really bizarre... and this time I can't help it. If you are going to publicize your views in both print and video in one of the most widely read newspapers in the country, you open yourself up for commentary.

The first time I saw this video attached to a New York Times story about a UCC minister who was married yesterday, I thought I was watching a Saturday Night Live bit. This would be a really funny video if it wasn't serious. Watch the video on the New York Times (watch her eyes as she talks about the use of unity candles in a marriage ceremony).

Oh the horror! Unity candles? There are some awful marriage traditions out there (like doing the 'chicken dance' at a reception), I just didn't think the unity candle was one of them. Then there's her amazement that he "understood the lingo" because he asked her what denomination she was ordained in... only to eventually ask if she "took confession". So much for understanding the lingo.

Thankfully, the article that accompanied the video was just as amusing.
During the planning stages of weddings she was to officiate, she would discuss with the couple what she considered the “disturbing” history behind some nuptial traditions.

“The father walking the bride down the aisle is one example,” she said. “It is symbolic of an exchange of property — the father handing over his daughter to her new keeper.”

Mr. Lanzana did not mind.

“We were both of the opinion that marriage is more or less a formality,” he said. “What’s most important is the relationship and the bond that we developed.”
It's just a wild guess, but I bet she didn't wear an engagement ring because it was symbolic of a pre-marital possession.

But the bit the story doesn't end there.
Ms. Miller’s negative attitude about marriage changed in 2005, when her father lost his left leg in an accident on his farm.
In the end, I'm happy for both of them that they got hitched. Having just celebrated my 10 year anniversary to the greatest woman in the world, I'm also grateful that we both entered marriage free from any luggage or perceptions about the symbolism of the act. We also proudly display our unity candle in the living room of our house.

But... here's the moral I'm taking away from the bit the story: I pray that I don't have to lose a limb for my daughter to decide whether or not she should get married.
posted by UCCtruths, Sunday, August 26, 2007 | link | 6 comments |

Pilgrim Press book about Middle-East is discredited

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Former UCCtruths.com contributor Dexter Van Zile has penned a scathing review of a book written by a noted New Testament scholar and published by Pilgrim Press (the United Church of Christ's publishing house). According to Van Zile's report for CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America), Rev. Dr. Gary Burge's 2003 book, Whose Land? Whose Promise?: What Christians Are Not Being Told About Israel and the Palestinians is loaded with dozens of errors and omissions. Most notably:
  • Rev. Dr. Burge portrayed an essay by well-known commentator Daniel Pipes as offering a message exactly the opposite of what Daniel Pipes actually wrote.
  • Rev. Dr. Burge attributed a quote to David Ben-Gurion that had been exposed as false and fabricated several years before publication of Whose Land? Whose Promise? (The book the author cites as the source for the quote in question – a work book intended for high school-age students – does not include the quote in question.
  • Rev. Dr. Burge falsely stated that Israeli-Arabs are denied membership in Israel’s labor movement, when in fact, one of the books he cites reports that Israeli-Arabs had been allowed full membership in Israel’s largest union – the Histadrut – since 1959.
  • Rev. Dr. Burge falsely reported that Israeli-Arabs are barred from the service in Israel’s military.
  • Rev. Dr. Burge falsely reported that Israeli-Arabs are prohibited from joining Israel’s major political parties.
  • Rev. Dr. Burge mis-characterized UN Resolution 242 as requiring Israeli withdrawal to its “pre-1967 borders” when in fact it does not.
  • Rev. Dr. Burge portrays Hezbollah as a “resistance organization” when in fact its political agenda and leaders clearly state the organization is dedicated to the destruction of Israel – a fact he omits in his description.
  • Rev. Dr. Burge portrays the founding of the PLO as an attempt to resolve the problem of Palestinian refugees created by the 1948 war when in fact its founding was motivated by a desire for the destruction of Israel.
According to the report, "in the years after its publication, peace and justice activists in mainline churches have invoked Whose Land? Whose Promise? as a reliable source of information about the Arab-Israeli conflict." Besides being highly regarded in evangelical circles as a New Testament scholar, Burge also serves as a member of the advisory board to the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation and is president of Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding.
posted by UCCtruths, Thursday, August 23, 2007 | link | 0 comments |

How do you like your chaos?

The Observer has an interesting book review of UCCer Jack Good's 2003 book, "The Dishonest Church". The review puts a great deal of focus on "chaos tolerant" and "chaos intolerant" churches:
The chaos intolerant either long for an institutional church with dogmas and infallible authority or for an infallible scripture unambiguously stating the inerrant Word of God. “The church — or the Bible — says it, and that’s it,” they proclaim. Therefore and forever the case is closed. This is a love-it-or-leave-it approach, an either-or, binary position. There is little choice.

The chaos tolerant, on the other hand, have a cafeteria approach to religion. After all, they say, you can get a good meal in a cafeteria if you pick and choose wisely. The chaos tolerant have no trouble with theologians and scripture scholars, who question many of the texts and interpretations of doctrines that previous generations considered sacrosanct. The chaos tolerant are more opened, accepting and non-judgmental of diversity of both belief and conduct. They have little trouble, for example, with non-literal explanations of the virgin birth or with homosexual unions even of clergy. Just recently this country’s largest Lutheran denomination has prayed, urged and encouraged its bishops not to discipline gay and lesbian clergy in committed same-sex relationships.
The article does make an interesting analogy to marriage:
Church communities struggling with change and formulations of faith might consider the model of what happens in a loving marriage. Perhaps we have a couple faced with an employment move of the breadwinner, which is painful for the spouse. Maybe his lucrative promotion would take his family hundreds of miles away from her mother and father. In a loving marriage the spouses negotiate this wrenching change lovingly and together make their decision.

Or perhaps a chaos tolerant husband instinctively fails to put the cap back on the toothpaste and leaves his dirty clothes on the bathroom floor. Maybe he’s married to a chaos intolerant wife who is as neat as the alphabetized spices in the kitchen cupboard. What can be done to make such a marriage last? The husband and wife must calmly and gently negotiate. Both have to respect the needs and nature of the other. The husband has to pick-up because he loves his wife. And sometimes the wife has to overlook his failures. Why? Because despite it all they love each other. Isn’t there a lesson for the churches here?
While the analogy is overly simplistic, it does hold up to offer different ways of conflict resolution within churches. Ultimately, the extremes of this chaos are imperfect:
Both approaches have their shadow sides. The chaos intolerant can become strict and rigid, judgmental and inflexible. The chaos tolerant can become so opened minded that their faith has little intellectual content. The danger of the one is calcification, the danger of the other dilution.
I'm not sure I'm comfortable with the terms "tolerant" and "intolerant" to describe the conflict that is taking place in churches. It sets up a "right way" and a "wrong way" to view the conflict before you've peeled back the underlying issues.

In any event, I'll take my chaos with coffee... in my church's fellowship hall.
posted by UCCtruths, Thursday, August 23, 2007 | link | 1 comments |

God's punctuation

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

I'm beginning to think people should stop mixing up Gracie Allen lines... or at least keep God out of the punctuation business. From a BBC report on a mother of a murder victim who opposes the death penalty:
"It was against everything I was brought up to believe. Taking another person's life is wrong. Don't put a question mark where God puts a period," she told the crowd to spontaneous cheering.
Are you telling me that Old Testament commandments don't end in a comma????

All joking aside, it's an interesting theology question in light of our denomination's adopted slogan, "Never put a period where God puts a comma". If you don't hold the Bible as authoritative, I imagine anything could end in a comma and we can pretty much make up our own rules as we go along. On the other side of the equation, if the Bible is authoritative (and each sentence ends in a period), why don't we still honor Levitical Law?
posted by UCCtruths, Wednesday, August 22, 2007 | link | 0 comments |

Yet another UCC church closing it's doors

Monday, August 20, 2007

Maybe it's just coincidence, but two churches in two days? And these are just the ones getting press. Is this a bigger problem? From The Buffalo News:
As the congregation has for more than 100 years, members will celebrate the anniversary of the founding of St. Paul’s Church in South Buffalo with a special service.

This time, they also will say goodbye. The United Church of Christ congregation, down to a few dozen people, voted in January to give up its charter and cease operations as a church. It will hold a final service Sunday.

“Our anniversary service is going to be our closing service,” said the Rev. Wayne E. Sova, who has served as pastor of the church at 49 Indian Church Road since 1986. “The service on the 26th is going to be a celebration of the life of the church, but it’s going to be an awful lot of emotion there, too.”

The congregation had 31 members Aug. 30, 1895, when it was organized as St. Paul’s Evangelical German Reformed Church. Members initially met on the second floor above a grocery store at Seneca and Duerstein streets, according to a church history. By the 1940s and 1950s, the church had 900 members, and the sanctuary was filled to capacity for Sunday services.
No IRD conspiracy here.
posted by UCCtruths, Monday, August 20, 2007 | link | 0 comments |

Another UCC church closing it's doors

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Unfortunately, this is becoming more common. Aging churches with aging members are closing their doors. From the South Side Journal in St. Louis, Missouri:
With its Sunday attendance down to a handful and its pastor retiring, Holy Ghost United Church of Christ, 4916 Mardel Ave., will hold its final service at 10:15 a.m. Aug. 26.

Founded as the Independent German Evangelical Protestant Church of the Holy Ghost in 1834, it served a rapidly-growing German population downtown, first at a building where the old Busch Stadium was located, then at Eighth and Walnut streets.

The church continued to serve Germans into the 20th Century, and eventually located at 4916 Mardel Ave. in the Kingshighway Hills neighborhood.

Though it had as many as 350 people in Sunday services at that location, people started leaving the church until now membership is about 35 and Sunday attendance is about 18. The impending retirement of Pastor I. David Thompson forced the issue. The church membership voted to discontinue as a congregation.
What makes this all the more interesting is that while UCC Missouri Mid-South Associate Conference Minister John Dorhauer is running around the country trumping up a bogus conspiracy theory about UCC churches being stolen by other denominations, churches like Holy Ghost
United Church of Christ are closing their doors. This doesn't mean the Conference isn't conscious about the loss of aging churches, but the emphasis publicly has clearly focused on Dorhauer's conspiracy theory.

The loss of
Holy Ghost United Church of Christ is tragic. The church is 173 years old with an incredibly rich history:
A group of German Evangelical immigrants, meeting for worship as early as 1832 in Methodist and Presbyterian churches, formed the German Evangelical Congregation, the first German Protestant church in the city. The congregation met in Benton School until dedicating its first building on the northwest corner of 7th St. and Clark Ave. in 1840, when it also became known as the Independent German Evangelical Protestant Church of the Holy Ghost. A larger church at 8th and Walnut Streets was dedicated on Sept. 25, 1858. When construction of a railroad tunnel endangered the structure, the congregation relocated to the former Third Congregational Church building at Grand and Page Boulevards in 1895. Declining membership caused the congregation once more to relocate in 1923. After meeting at the B'Nai El Temple at Spring and Flad, the congregation built a chapel / classroom building at 4916 Mardel Ave. near Kingshighway Blvd. and Chippewa St. in 1928. Construction of a new sanctuary was completed in 1951.
You can read more about
the history of Holy Ghost United Church of Christ here.
posted by UCCtruths, Sunday, August 19, 2007 | link | 2 comments |

"Pastor Dan" featured in the New York Times

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Although I disagree with virtually everything "Pastor Dan" Schultz says, he is one of the more intelligent liberal religion bloggers on the net today. The UCC minister is featured today in a good story in the New York Times. However, there is one ironic part of the article that caught my attention:
"If Conservative Christians are looking for salvation," Mr. Schultz wrote in one characteristic post, "they ought to start looking to save themselves from themselves. They have much to repent for, like the rest of us. But unlike the rest of us, they have a unique level of judgmentalism and separation to get out of their system."
I always get a kick out of watching someone judgmentally criticize someone else who is being judgmental.

Circular arguments aside, he is one of the few UCC ministers who drinks the punch yet seems to be able to articulate his point of view without reading off the script or recycling press releases. I read his blog regularly and feel challenged by many of his posts even when I disagree with them.

He is also one of the few UCC bloggers I'd ever entertain debating online.
posted by UCCtruths, Saturday, August 11, 2007 | link | 1 comments |

Dorhauer suggests UCCtruths - IRD connection

Friday, August 10, 2007

Missouri Mid-South Associate Conference Minister John Dorahauer's fraud on the United Church of Christ continues. Not content with recycling phony conspiracy theories about an evil cabal trying to steal UCC churches, Dorhauer now alleges that this humble web site is connected to the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD).
For over a decade, I have witnessed the fruits of these sustained attacks on both my denomination and the local churches that comprise it. When I started my work as a regional official over four years ago, I was immediately thrown into the cauldron of conflict and dissent that erupts in churches that have been targeted for attack by trained IRD activists. I have spent the last four years learning everything I can about the IRD, their alliance with renewal groups, their funding sources, their tactics, and their motivations. They have identified me as a target because of my work.2
And that footnote?
2 At the time of this writing, no fewer than eight articles written about me appear on the front page of the scurrilous website www.ucctruths.com. Twice now, I have been "visited" at one of my workshops by a staff member of the IRD, who within one week wrote a follow up article about me on the organization's website.
UCCtruths has never been affiliated with the IRD in any way, shape or form. One of the principles of this web site is to be fully independent of any group internal or external of the UCC. Dorhauer knows there is no connection, but he likes to deceptively suggest that there might be a connection. He also lied (and then backtracked) when he suggested that UCCtruths was responsible for the misdirection of a UCC-related web page. He later apologized but he has continued to recirculate the suggestion in his seminars.

Dorhauer is right about one thing - I have devoted space to exposing his lies about a conspiracy. Even in his current article where he starts off citing the example of Redeemer Evangelical United Church of Christ, he doesn't claim that it was part of an IRD conspiracy yet he connects the two within the context of the whole article. And this is precisely what is deceptive about John Dorhauer's tactics - he takes seemingly unrelated events and tries to connect them without any evidence to support his claims. He then pretends to be the martyr when he's called out on his fabrications. He'll probably feign shock, sadness and victimization by even this simple clarification that this web site is not related or linked to the IRD in any way.

The reality is that Dorhauer's phony conspiracy further divides the UCC:
By his own words, there is nothing honorable about what he is doing. As long as Dorhauer continues to misrepresent what is happening in our denomination and continues lying about this web site, I will continue to expose him.

Update - August 13, 2007: Not content with making up conspiracy theories, Dorhauer is now re-writing history... From the article, according to Dorhauer, Robert Bork was a "Bush Supreme Court Nominee". Does anyone proofread his stuff? It's this lack accuracy which should make everyone question what he says. Hat tip to Jeepboy in the comments.
posted by UCCtruths, Friday, August 10, 2007 | link | 4 comments |

UCC leaders ticked off with FCC

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Using words like "outrage" and "indignant" to describe their feelings, UCC leaders fumed yesterday after the FCC rejected their challenge to renew the licenses of two Florida television station. The United Church of Christ filed the license renewal challenges in response to NBC and CBS refusing to air one of two advertisements in 2004.

It was also an opportunity for UCC leaders to perpetuate the myth that the ad was rejected because of the its "
all-inclusive religious message". From the UC News article:
"We are indignant at the FCC's treatment of our complaint," said Cheryl A. Leanza, an attorney and managing director of OC, Inc. "Rather than address the heart of our concern, the FCC has played games with the law. We have a legitimate concern, but we can obtain no redress."

Leanza said she is appalled that "a few network executives can decide that it is 'too controversial' for a church to publicly welcome every member of society."

"Communities of faith are playing a more significant role than ever before in civic debate, and the current media system's bias prevents the full range of religious thought from being presented to the public," Leanza said.
Leanza is betting that people will drink the punch and not actually read why the 'Bouncer' ad was rejected. From NBC's response to the FCC:
The Network concluded that the "Night Club" ad inappropriately suggested that churches other than the UCC are not open to people of diverse races and backgrounds and therefore violated the Network's policy against addressing issues of public controversy through paid commercial advertisements.

Accordingly, the Network refused to air the ad.
Contrary to Leanza's phony claim, NBC did accept a second UCC television ad that included an
"all-inclusive religious message".

Of course, no spin coming out of the Office of Communication would be complete without Bob Chase's pontification (didn't he resign????):
"This decision is indicative of why people are so fed up with media consolidation," said the Rev. Robert Chase, the UCC's communication director. "We are caught in a conundrum. Where do we go to challenge the right of a church to have its message broadcast over the public airwaves, even when it is willing to pay for that broadcast?"
Ironically, the UCC tried to benefit from media consolidation and network ownership when it tried to buy the ads directly from the network instead of through each station.

That said, Chase has a point. The UCC (and all entities) should have some recourse to file a complaint with the FCC when networks make decisions about advertising and programming.
There is precedence for the FCC holding network owned affiliates accountable for network programming decisions. When the FCC fined CBS for Janet Jackson's Super Bowl flash, it actually fined the CBS owned affiliates, not the network itself.

However, it's entirely possible that the license renewal process was not the appropriate avenue for the UCC to seek review. According to the FCC ruling, "under the plain terms of section 309(k), the Commission cannot deny a license renewal application based on violations that occurred at other stations licensed to the same licensee". As in the CBS Super Bowl example, the fines were not the result of license challenges, they were the result of complaints being filed directly to the FCC. That may have been the appropriate and most direct way of getting the FCC to review the UCC's concerns.

I hope there is some way for the FCC to review the claims and to reject them on their lack of merit. The ad's were not rejected for their welcoming message, they were rejected because they disparaged other churches.
posted by UCCtruths, Thursday, August 09, 2007 | link | 4 comments |

FCC throws out UCC license challenge

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Remember when the United Church of Christ claimed that the "Bouncer" television ad was banned from network television for it's welcoming message? In response, the UCC Office of Communication challenged the FCC license renewals of two southern Florida television station owned by NBC and CBS. Well... it didn't work. The FCC rejected the UCC's claims. From Broadcasting & Cable:
The Federal Communications Commission Tuesday denied challenges to the licenses of NBC Universal's WTVJ (TV) and CBS' WFOR-TV, both Miami.

The challenges were filed by the United Church of Christ after the NBC and CBS networks declined back in 2004 to air UCC ads on religious tolerance that the networks said violated their policies against paid editorial advertising.

As the FCC described the ad in the WFOR decision, "The spot depicts would-be worshippers approaching a church guarded by bouncers who refuse entrance to what appears to be a gay couple, a Hispanic young man, a man in a wheelchair and an African-American woman, followed by the tag, ‘Jesus didn’t turn people away … Neither do we.’” The spot then concludes with the statement: “No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you’re welcome here.”

The commission pointed out that it was the networks, not the stations, that declined to air the ads, adding that it could not deny an application based on violations at other stations. "UCC does not allege that it ever offered the spot at issue to station WFOR-TV," FCC Media Bureau staffers concluded. "According to CBS, it is the policy of the Viacom Television Stations Group ‘to leave decisions as to whether to accept particular editorial advertisements to the individual discretion of each station.’ Station WFOR-TV may have chosen to air the spot had it been offered the opportunity."

It used the same argument to deny the WTVJ challenge.
The networks claimed that they didn't reject the ad because it was welcoming, they rejected the ad because it disparaged other churches. From NBC's response to the UCC's challenge:
As the UCC admits, it never requested the Station to air the advertisement at issue, called "Night Club." Instead, in February 2004, the UCC, through its advertising agency, approached the Network with the ad, which portrayed other churches and religions as discriminatory in their refusal to accept people who are African- American, Hispanic, disabled, or gay. The Network concluded that the "Night Club" ad inappropriately suggested that churches other than the UCC are not open to people of diverse races and backgrounds and therefore violated the Network's policy against addressing issues of public controversy through paid commercial advertisements.

Accordingly, the Network refused to air the ad.

In November 2004, the UCC approached the Network a second time with the "Night Club" ad and also offered another commercial announcement. The other commercial, which the Network accepted, contained a positive message asserting only that UCC churches are welcoming and inclusive. The Network again rejected the "Night Club" ad as unacceptable under Network policy, however, and offered suggestions to the UCC for modifying the "Night Club" ad to address the Network's objections. The UCC responded to these offers not by telling the Network to run the acceptable ad or modifying the objectionable ad, but rather by filing the Petition – more than 10 months after the objectionable ad was first presented – against a station to which the ad had not even been offered.
While the publicity around the supposed banning of the ad generated a large amount of attention, the ad campaign was a bomb: Millions of dollars later the UCC had the largest drop of members of any Christian denomination.
posted by UCCtruths, Tuesday, August 07, 2007 | link | 1 comments |

God is Still Speaking... in Latin?

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Before Vatican II, the Tridentine (or Latin Mass) was celebrated in all Roman Catholic churches worldwide. Since Vatican II, the focus of the Roman Catholic mass has been to speak in the native language of it's audience. Now, Pope Benedict XIV is allowing Latin Mass to be celebrated in any church if it’s requested by a sufficient number of parishioners and a priest has the ability to do it. The move by Pope Benedict XIV is drawing some notable comments from prominent UCC'ers. First from the Oroville Mercury-Register:
Gabriel Fackre, a theologian in the United Church of Christ, said Pope John stated he called Vatican II to "open a window to the world and let the fresh air in."

He wanted the church to reach out to the world and "take the context of the world seriously," Fackre said.

Since Vatican II, some have felt the reforms "led to extremes" and that the church had become not just open to the world but "captive to the day and age," he said.

What we see now, with the easing of rules on the Latin Mass is a reaction by a pope who's concerned about these extremes, Fackre said.

Pope John's successors made some moves to make the Latin Mass more easily available to people who wanted it.

And last month, Pope Benedict issued an order making it yet more easily available. He said where groups of Catholics request the Latin Mass, the churches must accommodate them.
A less than enthusiastic response came from Susan Brooks Thistlewaite, President, Chicago Theological Seminary on the Washington Post's "On Faith" web site:
The timing of the re-introduction of the Latin Mass at this time is very instructive, especially in regard to the U.S. Catholic Church. At a time when the Catholic Church in the U.S. needs to be working on becoming more open and more accountable to its laity to prevent more child sexual abuse, the re-introduction of the Latin Mass signals that the Catholic Church as a whole is moving in a reactionary direction, becoming more closed rather than more open.
How Thistlewaite connects the Latin Mass to the sexual abuse scandal of the Catholic Church is wildly absurd since many of the abuse allegations have occurred since Vatican II. In addition, Pope Benedict's statement is clear that Latin Mass will be offered only if it’s requested by a sufficient number of parishioners. Hardly the makings of a closed church.

The move to more traditional services isn't limited to just the Catholic Church. Just this past week, The Naperville Sun reported on a UCC church that is re-introducing services in German:
German also is the native tongue of St. John United Church of Christ, the faith community Steininger has embraced since coming to the United States 87 years ago. Founded as St. John Lutheran Church by German settlers in 1857, the church held services exclusively in German for more than 60 years before phasing in a monthly English-speaking service in 1922. As time went on, St. John's began to alternate English and German services. When World War II broke out and anti-German sentiments began to run high, church leaders dropped the German services completely.

Until 1995. That's when Steininger, Gudrun Haas and other church members of German ancestry helped re-establish German language services at St. John.

Held at 11:30 a.m. on the first Sunday of the month, they attract as many as 40 worshippers from the Chicago area and beyond as well as nearly 160 people for a special service held on Christmas Eve. Those in regular attendance include German students and teachers, people of German ancestry and Germans whose employment temporarily brings them to the Chicago area.
posted by UCCtruths, Sunday, August 05, 2007 | link | 0 comments |

God is Still Speaking

Friday, August 03, 2007

By Rev. Hart Inlow via the UCCtruths Message Board

I, personally, would fall into the category of one who proclaims -- though hopefully I also practice -- a fairly strict literal interpretation of scripture. And I most definitely believe God is
still speaking! Of all the issues I may have with UCC positions, statements, etc., that is not one of them.

Furthermore, as someone who has a considerable amount of interaction with believers from a fairly broad spectrum of perspectives about interpretation of scripture, including VERY conservative believers, I don't think I have found a single one who does NOT believe that God is still speaking. I suppose there may be some out there...but I'm not aware of having spoken to one of them, and I've spoken to a lot of people who agree and who disagree with some of my perspectives about interpreting scripture.

I think a more relevant set of questions about this subject include questions like these:
  • how is God still speaking? what means and methods is God using to speak in 2007?
  • how do we discern the voice of God in our world today?
  • how do we, and do we not, find the voice of God in scripture? In culture? in history?
  • how do we distinguish between the voice of God, which we should listen to and heed, from the voice of an error-prone man or woman, who may or may not be speaking on behalf of God?
I have tried to engage my local and conference UCC clergy groups in some of those questions, but without much success.

About questions like those, we in the UCC will, on the whole, have VERY different responses to our brothers and sisters who generally use a more literal approach to the interpretation of scripture. And I also suspect we will have a wide variety of perspectives among ourselves.

But we should, in my opinion, be very cautious about suggesting our more conservative, and even fundamentalist, fellow believers do not believe God is still speaking. Because in my experience, they absolutely DO believe God is still speaking. They simply have very different ideas about how God speaks, and as a result, very different ideas about what God is saying.


Lynn and Hart Inlow are the founders of The Lion of Judah Academy and The Lion of Judah Ministries. They have been missionaries to Tanzania since 1999, with Africa Inland Mission. Prior to going to Tanzania they lived and worked in the U.S. Lynn taught elementary school and Hart was a pastor.
posted by UCCtruths, Friday, August 03, 2007 | link | 0 comments |

Former UCC church joins the Evangelical Covenant Church

From the Sheboygan Press:
For 60 years, Nancy Eckardt has been a member of Zion Church in Sheboygan. And in that time she's seen a lot of changes.

But most recently, she watched as Zion, 1125 N. Sixth St., changed denominations — leaving behind the United Church of Christ and joining the Evangelical Covenant Church.

"We were just not happy with the United Church of Christ," said Eckardt, 86. "(The ECC) seemed to fit all of our needs perfectly."

It has been an interesting year and a half for the congregation of the Zion Church, said the Rev. Steve Pedersen. But while it was a tough journey, the parish was able to make it through — together.

"It's been a time of transition, of claiming our identity and our roots back," Pedersen said. "We're doing well. We're united. It's been a healthy change for us."

Zion is the first ECC church in Sheboygan County.

In January of 2006, at the church's annual meeting, 85 percent of the nearly 500-member congregation voted in favor of leaving the UCC for another, more conservative Christian denomination because of disagreements with the UCC over biblical authority and the nature of who Jesus is, Pedersen said.

At the time, nearly 50 of the UCC's 5,725 churches voted to disaffiliate from the denomination after a controversial General Synod in the summer of 2005 in which the denomination embraced gay marriage.

"It's a very diverse denomination," Pedersen said of the UCC. "It was confusing for people who would come into our church and then read the national news about what the UCC is doing. We don't have anything against the local UCC churches that are in town. It's just the national progressive leadership that doesn't speak for us anymore."
The UCC has lost over 200+ churches since 2005 yet the national office and some Conference officials would rather pretend that it's not that big of a deal or that it's part of some conspiracy. We are a dying denomination in desperate need for serious leadership. There is no reason for a church like Zion to leave the denomination because "the national progressive leadership that doesn't speak for us anymore." In our polity, the national office doesn't speak for anyone other than themselves.
posted by UCCtruths, Friday, August 03, 2007 | link | 2 comments |

John Thomas lied

Thursday, August 02, 2007

I've gotten a few emails since yesterday's post regarding the lies that United Church of Christ President John Thomas and Linda Jaramillo of Justice and Witness Ministries wrote in a letter to the editor of the Evansville Courier & Press. Apparently, it's sacrilegious to call the head of your denomination a liar.

None of the emails I received actually challenged the information posted on the site, just that it was wrong to suggest that Thomas is a liar. Just to be clear, I'm not suggesting he's a liar - I'm stating plainly and clearly that he is a liar.

Yesterday's letter to the editor from Thomas and Jaramillo contained a number of lies about convicted terrorist Alejandrina Torres. Specifically:

"This temporary exhibit, sponsored by our national prison ministries office, was brought to the UCC's Amistad Chapel as one way of demonstrating the church's love and concern for those who are incarcerated, as Jesus has compelled us."

Not true at all. The
art show invitation claims that it was an "Exhibition commemorating the 25th Anniversary of Political Incarceration". No mention was made at all on the invitation that this event was a demonstration of our "church's love and concern for those who are incarcerated".

"...church leaders have long acknowledged that Torres was convicted of a criminal offense"

Really? Where would you find that? Certainly not on the internet. Again, the art show invitation claims that it was an "Exhibition commemorating the 25th Anniversary of Political Incarceration" - hardly the acknowledgment of FALN crimes which were responsible for more than 120 bomb attacks on U.S. targets between 1974 and 1983.

"Torres served her entire prison sentence..."

Alejandrina Torres did not serve her entire sentence - she was sentenced to 35 years in prison and would still be in prison today if she hadn't been granted clemency in 1999.

"...she has been fully exonerated by law enforcement agencies, the courts and the federal government."

Alejandrina Torres was never "exonerated" by any agency, court or federal government. Torres was granted clemency which means her sentence was reduced, but she was never exonerated of the crimes she committed. She remains a felon.

I'm sorry to be bearer of bad news, but UCC President John Thomas is a liar.
posted by UCCtruths, Thursday, August 02, 2007 | link | 4 comments |

Thomas continues to defend terrorist Alejandrina Torres

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Miffed by a letter to the editor at the Evansville Courier & Press that criticized the UCC's hosting of a terrorist art show back in November, United Church of Christ President John Thomas and Linda Jaramillo of Justice and Witness Ministries amusingly respond with a jab at UCCtruths. From the letter:
Interestingly, Kissel's claims about the UCC are lifted, almost verbatim, from a Web site wholly devoted to attacking the UCC, its leaders, its pastors and its churches on every issue imaginable.

In a post-9/11 context, Kissel's inflammatory and repeated attempts to link the word "terrorists" with our church are beyond the pale. Here are the facts.

In November, in partnership with Cleveland's large, respected Cuyahoga Community College, the UCC's Church House in Cleveland was the site of an art exhibition called "Not Enough Space," which introduced our city to the phenomenal works of two exceptional artists who vividly bring to life the faith and perseverance of impoverished Puerto Rican citizens, especially children.

The artists' incredible insights into the beauty of Puerto Rico's people and culture are even more amazing given they are prisoners who have served decades behind bars.

This temporary exhibit, sponsored by our national prison ministries office, was brought to the UCC's Amistad Chapel as one way of demonstrating the church's love and concern for those who are incarcerated, as Jesus has compelled us.

Moreover, while the UCC has constantly condemned violence in the pursuit of justice as unacceptable, the UCC General Synod has had a long history of standing with Puerto Ricans who advocate self-determination for their people and their homeland. In this regard, we stand proudly alongside other respected church bodies, former U.S. presidents and Nobel Peace Prize laureates.

In the case of Alejandrina Torres, a 35-year member of the UCC, church leaders have long acknowledged that Torres was convicted of a criminal offense. However, subsequently, Torres served her entire prison sentence, has publicly renounced violence and actively advocated for peaceful resistance. She completed all of her parole requirements, and she has been fully exonerated by law enforcement agencies, the courts and the federal government.
Thomas and Jaramillo are deliberately lying on a number of points:
  • The purpose of the art exhibition "Not Enough Space" was to commemorate the 25 years of imprisonment of terrorists Carlos Alberto Torres and Oscar López Rivera.
  • The UCC's invitation to the event claimed that Torres and Rivera were "serving long prison terms for acts and beliefs in favor of Puerto Rican independence." What they didn't mention were the convictions they received... seditious conspiracy, interference with interstate commerce by threats or violence, possession of an unregistered firearm, carrying firearms during the commission of seditious conspiracy and interference with interstate commerce by violence, interstate transportation of firearms with the intent to commit seditious conspiracy and interference with interstate commerce by violence, interstate transportation of a stolen vehicle, conspiracy to escape, to transport explosives with intent to kill and injure people, and to destroy government buildings and property, aiding and abetting travel in interstate commerce to carry on arson, and using a telephone to carry on arson.
  • The UCC, to anyone's recollection, never condemned Torres' actions. In fact UCC Executives went to Congress to defend the clemency she received. In testimony, Rev. Dr. Thomas Dipko (then an executive with the UCC) watched a video of Alejandrina Torres building a bomb and conceded "If that is an accurate record of the happening and that is in fact what she was doing, the church would wish to, of course, disassociate from it." Someone forgot to tell Thomas and Jaramillo.
  • Where has the UCC "acknowledged that Torres was convicted of a criminal offense"? It wasn't in the invitation and you can't find anything about it on the internet. In fact, Rev. Dr. Thomas Dipko refused to acknowledge the significance of Torres crimes in his testimony to Congress.
  • Torres did not serve her entire sentence and she was never "exonerated by law enforcement agencies." This is a complete fabrication by Thomas and Jaramillo. The FBI, as well as local law enforcement, testified against Torres specific actions in testimony to Congress.
You can also see a video of Jaramillo fawning over her terrorist hero at YouTube. For more details about the exhibit and the crimes committed by the FALN, click here. The facts do not support Jaramillo and Thomas claims at all.

And just to set the record straight, UCCtruths is critical of UCC leaders and the half-wits that believe everything they say - not the UCC in whole. I fully respect the work going on in our local churches.
posted by UCCtruths, Wednesday, August 01, 2007 | link | 1 comments |