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Every denomination needs one of these...

Trinity UCC Chicago Suffers Tragic Loss

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

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

Trinity UCC in Chicago-- one the United Church of Christ's largest churches-- suffered a terrible tragedy over the weekend when their long time choir director was found murdered.

Donald Young, 47, was discovered dead in his apartment when his roommate came home early Sunday morning, December 23. According to the Chicago Tribune, Young suffered multiple gun shot wounds.

So far, no suspect(s) in the case have been identified. The apartment showed no signs of forced entry. Christmas presents and some jewelry were missing from the apartment, but police have not yet settled on robbery as the motive.

For 20 years, Young directed the choir of the church pastored by Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Jr. and attended by presidential candidate Barack Obama.

The Tribune reports:
He was "one of those classic, incredible good news stories," Wright said. "He wasn't a gangbanger, didn't do drugs, wasn't in trouble, no police record."

Wright said Young was supposed to conduct the choir at a service Sunday morning, but "he never got to the service." Officials at the church... were informed of Young's death during an early service at the church, and they made an announcement to the congregation at later services.

Pastors "prayed with the choir to let them know before the service," Wright said. "They had about 30-40 minutes of serious weeping and grieving before having to go into service.

"He called me Dad, and I called him my son," Wright said. "I was like his adopted dad."
Young was a deacon in the church and taught fourth-fifth grade at an elementary school.

A funeral service honoring Young's life takes place at Trinity on December 29.

This is a horrible tragedy that deeply affects the worship life of one of the UCC's largest churches. May God bring about justice and pour out healing on the Trinity church family.
posted by Living the Biblios, Wednesday, December 26, 2007 | link | 0 comments |

Food for the soul

Friday, December 21, 2007

David Loar, minister at Fairlawn-West United Church of Christ in Akron (and a UCCtruths message board regular) is featured in an article today in the Akron Beacon Journal:
Near the Auntie Anne's pretzel shop and Sbarro Italian eatery at Summit Mall in Fairlawn, several people gathered to share food for thought Thursday morning.

As mall workers busily readied shops for the onslaught of holiday shoppers, the group sat in the food court, reading and talking about Scripture. Open Bibles dotted the tables.

The food court "has become a home for us," said the Rev. David Loar of Fairlawn-West United Church of Christ in Akron, the group's leader.

Loar prefers to call the discussion Bible "reflection" as opposed to "study," which he says sounds academic and conveys ''an almost being outside of the experience type of thing."
I had the chance to fellowship with David over the summer at The Nervous Dog coffee shop where he regularly sets up office in front of a laptop computer. David is a former Associate Conference Minister in the Southeast Conference. Loar has also served in a variety of roles on a national and international level from being the UCC representative on the Commission in Religion in Appalachia, a member of the former OCIS human rights delegation to East Germany and Hungary in 1986 and was a member of Witness for Peace to Nicaragua in 1987. You can also check out David's blog at Disciple David.
posted by UCCtruths, Friday, December 21, 2007 | link | 1 comments |

Some UCC churches stop marrying couples

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Churches that object to state laws prohibiting gay marriages are now taking action. From Yahoo:
Some churches have decided that until same-sex partners can have a civil wedding ceremony in the church, they will not hold any at all. It doesn't matter if you're gay or straight, you can't get legally married at Lyndale United Church of Christ.

The small, liberal church in south Minneapolis was the first of several Twin Cities congregations last year to stop performing civil marriage ceremonies as long as same-sex marriage is illegal. These churches, and a handful of others around the country that took the same step, will still hold a religious ceremony to bless the unions of straight and gay couples -- but straight couples must go separately to a judge or justice of the peace for the marriage license.

"If you feel that gay and lesbian people are loved and credited by God, then how can we continue to discriminate against our brothers and sisters?" asked Rev. Don Portwood, the reserved Nebraska native who's been lead pastor at the 120-member Lyndale United Church of Christ for 27 years.
Regardless of your opinion on gay marriage, this is a dumb tactic. While I respect the autonomy of local church ministers in the UCC to discern this for themselves how they can best serve their parishoners, this strategy deserves some scrutiny. It's also kind of cheap.

For starters, this is about a state law, not church policy. Instead of working through the legislative process or petitioning lawmakers to make changes to the law, the strategy is to deprive their own church of a privledge that clergy have had for a very long time. Functionally, it's not that strong of a statement since the impact doesn't reach beyond the local church itself which is probably supportive of gay marriage already.

For all practical purposes within the UCC, this is a political and legislative issue and not a theological issue since local UCC churches have the freedom to be "open and affirming" already.

It's also a cheap tactic since the consequence of their actions will not be a burden carried by clergy themselves, it will be carried by their parishoners.

Let's apply this tactic to other political issues that are frquently mentioned in the UCC. Take healthcare - how many clergy would be so bold as to renounce their health care coverage until every child is covered? Homelessness? How many ministers would throw themselves out of their parsonages until everyone in their city had a roof over their heads?

I don't think many clergy would go this far to make a political statement if they had to carry such a significant burden themselves... which why this tactic just seems cheap.
posted by UCCtruths, Wednesday, December 19, 2007 | link | 12 comments |

No Wall of Separation for the United Church of Christ

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

If there was any doubt about the objectivity of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, this will clear it up.

As I've posted a number of times in the last few weeks, AU has given Barack Obama and the United Church of Christ a free pass to campaign from the pulpit during a United Church of Christ church service in Iowa, to give a campaign speech at the UCC's Iowa Conference annual meeting and to campaign from the stage at the UCC's General Synod in Connecticut (complete with campaign tables at the entrance).

Apparently, Americans United has flip flopped on their own standards for separation. Last November, AU got their shorts in a knot because Arkansas gubernatorial candidate Asa Hutchinson spoke in front of a church and filed an IRS complaint:
The election is over and Republican gubernatorial nominee Asa Hutchinson has conceded defeat to Democrat Mike Beebe.

But Americans United for Separation of Church and State says one issue remains undecided.

The group has asked the Internal Revenue Service to investigate whether
Hutchinson's appearance and speech at a Hot Springs church last month violated the constitution's separation of church and state principle.

Lakeview Assembly of God hosted Hutchinson on Oct. 15. The church ran an ad in the local newspaper that read: "Come hear Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Asa Hutchinson Speak."
Unlike the Obama speeches at church events, Lakeview Assembly of God reportedly invited Mike Beebe to speak to the church as well (one of the IRS requirements for a church to host a candidate).

Rev. Barry Lynn, the Executive Director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, claimed recently that AU's complaints to the IRS have been evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. Still, that doesn't explain how the United Church of Christ keeps getting away with crossing the line between church and state... unless it's because Barry Lynn is himself an ordained minister in the UCC and Obama is a proud member of the UCC. When the UCC was the beneficary of a $100,000 state of Conecticut grant to bring the General Synod to Hartford (the same General Synod that Obama campaigned at), Lynn expressed some concern but ultimately did nothing in response. Barry Lynn's interpretation of the "wall of separation" looks less like a wall and more like swiss cheese.

It's not all bad though - AU's blog recently referenced that “over the weekend at a rally in Columbia, S.C. with media mogul Oprah Winfrey at his side, Obama quoted scripture in telling the audience of 29,000, 'Look at the day the Lord has made.'"

Thomas Jefferson would be so proud.
posted by UCCtruths, Tuesday, December 18, 2007 | link | 2 comments |

Politics in the pulpit... again

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Apparently, Barack Obama is the only one allowed to campaign from the pulpit. This time, Obama was peddling for votes during the service this morning at First Congregational United Church of Christ Christ in Mason City, Iowa. From MSNBC:

Though Obama has been hammering his message of change at town halls across Iowa, he took a reflective turn at the church, saying that running for president wasn’t the only way to bring about change. “You don't have to run for president in order to make a difference. Certainly, those of you here in Iowa who have been bombarded by political messages unfortunately over the holiday season, I hope we are all reminded that all of us have some work to do. And that this is a moment of celebration of the birth of our savior, but it is also a moment of reflection on how we can make a contribution to our community,” he said.
The campaign stop was also covered by the Associated Press:
Obama sat in a pew accompanied by Joann Hardy, one of his Mason City precinct captains, and her husband, Russ, and their family.

He also participated in a church tradition of tossing mittens onto a bare Christmas tree. He joked that as a basketball player, the toss should not pose much of a challenge.

His first underhand throw hit mid-tree. His second was close to the top, and elicited a cheer. But his mitten was quickly overwhelmed by colorful hats, scarves and gloves tossed onto the tree by the other congregants.

Later, Obama shifted to the secular, detailing his plan for tax relief for the middle class and for seniors with incomes of less than $50,000 a year.
IRS rules on candidates speaking at churches are pretty clear but Obama regularly gets a free pass at this sort of thing. Americans United for the Separation of Church and State ignored Obama's political "altar call" in October and decided to apply a different standard to his campaign speech at the UCC's General Synod in June. An IRS complaint was filed, however, against the United Church of Christ after his General Synod speech.
posted by UCCtruths, Sunday, December 16, 2007 | link | 0 comments |

Obama catches AU's attention

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The geniuses at Americans United for the Separation of Church and State have now added Obama to their bad boy list. From Jeremy Leaming's post on AU's blog:

Obama can’t seem to pass up a church invitation or an opportunity to expound on his Christian beliefs. Over the weekend at a rally in Columbia, S.C. with media mogul Oprah Winfrey at his side, Obama quoted scripture in telling the audience of 29,000, “Look at the day the Lord has made.”
It's not really a change of heart for AU - Obama is merely added to AU's list of candidates that bring up "God talk" on the campaign trail. Americans United gave Obama and the UCC a pass when he campaigned at the United Church of Christ's General Synod in June and again when Obama drew media attention with his "campaign alter call" in October. Instead of scorching Obama like they have a politically selective list of Republicans, Obama gets added to the "they all do it" list.

And of all the religiously mixed political activities of Obama's campaign, Leaming picks “Look at the day the Lord has made"???? Ouch! Leaming is fearless in his advocacy for the separation of church and state.
posted by UCCtruths, Tuesday, December 11, 2007 | link | 0 comments |

Americans United selective non-partisanship

Friday, December 07, 2007

As expected, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State and Barry Lynn couldn't pass up an opportunity for a sound bite ... and Presidential candidate Mitt Romney's speech on politics and religion without chiming in. From Barry Lynn's press release:
"I am an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, and I believe in
my faith," Lynn added. "But I believe just as strongly that non-believers are
good Americans too. I wish Romney had said that."

Americans United is a nonpartisan organization that takes no position
on candidates for any elective office. Lynn said he is responding solely to
constitutional inaccuracies in Romney's remarks, not taking a stand on his
Lynn is right about Romney, but disingenuous on being non-partisan. Although Lynn is a UCC ordained minister (as if that gives him some special distinction or clarity on the separation of church and state), UCCtruths has pointed out numerous times how he selectively judges how political candidates respect the separation of church and state. While Lynn takes a jab at Romney, he most recently ignored fellow UCCer Barack Obama's "alter call" during the campaign. If Lynn has any credibility, he needs to be consistent in his judgment... and he clearly is not.
posted by UCCtruths, Friday, December 07, 2007 | link | 1 comments |

Immigration is an issue?

Thursday, December 06, 2007

In Ohio, illegal immigration and border security are barely recognizable issues. It might be all over the national news, but here, it isn't even water cooler talk and it's not something I'm passionate about at all. That doesn't mean that I don't get amused when fellow UCCer's feel the need to jump into the fray.

The United Methodist News Service is reporting today how an interfaith coalition is circulating an odd petition on "immigrant neighbors". From the Iowa Interfaith Immigration Coalition
We pledge ourselves as people of faith and goodwill to stand with our immigrant neighbors who have come to the United States from throughout the world. Recognizing the moral imperative to welcome the stranger in our midst, we commit ourselves to support laws that affirm their dignity, preserve their families, and acknowledge the value of their presence among us.”
On it's face, this is a truly faithful statement. However, in the current political environment it is also a dishonest statement. The issue isn't about immigrants, the issue is about illegal imigration.

UCC Iowa Conference Minister Rich Pleva is quoted in the UMNS article:
Rich Pleva, conference minister of the Iowa conference of the United Church
of Christ, said he grieves "the mean-spirited tone to our contemporary debate on imigration."

"Certainly the issues confronting us are difficult and complex," he added, "but at least it ought to be possible for people of faith and, in particular, people who value devotion to Christ, to engage in this conversation with grace and respect."
People of faith should also speak honestly about the issue. If this is about illegal immigration, then they ought to have the courage of their convictions to say as much.
posted by UCCtruths, Thursday, December 06, 2007 | link | 7 comments |