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Every denomination needs one of these...

Will the Steeple Ad Be Effective?

Friday, August 22, 2008

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

Soon the United Church of Christ will launch a new phase of its "God Is Still Speaking" (GISS) advertising campaign.

This go around, they'll be airing a lesser-known TV commercial entitled, "Steeple" or "All the People." In it, a girl recites the traditional children’s rhyme, "Here's the church, here's the steeple, open the doors, and see all the people." Afterwards, a sequence of shots depicts demographically different people repeating the inclusive refrain, "All the people.” The commercial closes with the tag line, "God accepts all the people. So do we—the United Church of Christ. No matter who you are, or where you are on life’s journey, you’re welcome here."

Compared to the better known and more controversial "Bouncer" and "Ejector" ads, the UC News (March 2004) calls "Steeple" a "more heart-warming" ad. It's not a newly created spot, but one that aired a couple of times for one week during Advent, 2004.

Will it work?

Critics of this site say we're always negative. So instead of us questioning the potential effectiveness of the "Steeple" ad, we'll share a quote that once appeared on the now defunct StillSpeaking.com website:
"We ran the Steeples ad for a week during Advent 2004 and the response from viewers was almost non-existent. Almost no one noticed it."
Frequently Asked Questions About the 2005 Spring Ad Run
Actually, "Steeple" might have succeeded years ago if it didn't have to directly compete against its more controversial sibling, "Bouncer." More importantly, if this ad was the centerpiece of the original GISS campaign, it might have succeeded in unifying our theologically diverse church, instead of galvanizing it as "Bouncer" and "Ejector" did.

Here's hoping someone notices.
posted by Living the Biblios, Friday, August 22, 2008 | link | 1 comments |

The right way for a church to endorse a Presidential candidate

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Some UCC ministers have their shorts in a knot because the Alliance Defense Fund plans to use pulpits to endorse presidential candidates on September 28. From UC News:
The Rev. Eric Williams, senior pastor of North Congregational UCC in Columbus, Ohio, is troubled by ADF's plan.

On Aug. 7, Williams sent a letter to clergy colleagues in Ohio, announcing a counter action. Williams is gathering supporters who will publicly ask the IRS to investigate the ADF, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based non-profit organization.

"The promotion of tax fraud, particularly to houses of worship, is not a charitable endeavor," Williams told United Church News. "We believe that the ADF should lose its tax-exempt status."

With the support of the Rev. Robert Molsberry, the UCC's Ohio Conference Minister, Williams is calling for a UCC-led nationwide group of 500 ecumenical, interfaith clergy to use their pulpits on Sept. 21 – one week in advance of the ADF's action – to educate congregations nationwide on why church-state separation is important to ensuring religious liberty.
Perhaps Rev. Eric Williams should use the United Church of Christ's General Synod as an example of the right way of endorsing a candidate for office. Based on the appearance of Barack Obama at the UCC's General Synod, here is my list of activities that are permitted and sanctioned by the IRS:
1) When having a candidate for political office speak at your church function, there is no need to invite other candidates as long as you claim that you invited them before they were a candidate

2) Making a campaign pledge during the speech is permitted

3) Promoting the candidate's speech at your church is permitted and so is publicly validating their faith experience

4) Campaign tables, banners and posters are permitted on the sidewalks and public access areas around the church. If questioned about it later, deflect by claiming that you only invited the candidate to speak and you couldn't possibly ask the candidate to take the campaign elsewhere

5) Be creative in your endorsement of candidates. Do not forget the obligatory disclaimer that you are "not endorsing a candidate" and remember... winking and nodding cannot be transcribed in case a copy of the speech filters out to the public
With these helpful tips, you are well on your way to a meaningful (and tax free) campaign endorsement.

UPDATE: On September 8, the Drudge Report linked to a story by the Washington Post on this issue. No surprise, the Post article fails to address how Obama and the UCC established a new precedent for churches and candidates when the UCC was acquitted of bending IRS rules.
posted by UCCtruths, Tuesday, August 19, 2008 | link | 0 comments |

The Faith of Barack Obama

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

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

Yes, Barack Obama is no longer a member of the United Church of Christ.

But, his faith was born and molded in the UCC.

For this reason, The Faith of Barack Obama will be of interest to those of us within the denomination.

The book is written by Stephen Mansfield, who also wrote The Faith of George W. Bush.

Mansfield probably didn't get much criticism in the evangelical community for writing about Bush, but he certainly is for writing about Obama. And while Mansfield is upfront that he doesn't agree with Obama politically, he argues that the conservative church community has no right to hate Obama simply for his politics.

UCCTruths will provide a full review of Mansfield's book.

That is, if the publisher comes through with their promise of a free copy.
posted by Living the Biblios, Wednesday, August 06, 2008 | link | 0 comments |

The olympics, Darfur and our idiotic sense of justice

This doesn't directly relate to the United Church of Christ - but it should. Today, China has blocked the visa for gold winning speed skater Joey Cheek:

Olympic gold medalist and outspoken Darfur activist Joey Cheek has had his visa revoked by the Chinese embassy, hours before the speedskating champion was set to fly to China. And he wasn't even planning on wearing a mask when he got

Chinese officials don't need a reason to revoke anyone's visa but, in their eyes, they had plenty of reasons to snatch Cheek's. He is the founder of Team Darfur, a group of 70 athletes whose goal it is to raise global awareness of the human-rights violations taking part in the Darfur region of Sudan. China's military, economic and diplomatic ties to Sudan have been well-publicized in the lead-up to the Games.
China has been the single biggest obstacle in stopping the genocide in Darfur - a fact regularly missed by the UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries. Instead, JWM is promoting the incredibly stupid and completely ineffective "Tents of Action" which is intended to raise awareness about an issue where awareness isn't the problem - it's a distraction. What's worse, JWM tried to turn the issue into a political football. The way the United Church of Christ has addressed the genocide in Darfur not only exemplifies ineptness, it demonstrates a real lack of leadership and courage within the UCC to do what is right, not just what is politically expedient.

In April, 2004, it was the U.S. that raised global awareness of the crisis in Sudan before the U.N.'s Human Rights Commission in Geneva. It was nearly 6 months before the UCC had any formal reaction. In October of 2006, the UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries exploited the crisis with an email campaign suggesting that the White House wasn't taking a leadership role on the crisis... two weeks before the mid-term elections. It's worth noting that during this period, the U.S. was the only country submitting resolutions to the U.N. security council.

It can be said without doubt that the UCC's efforts (and all mainline churches) have not done a single thing to help end the crisis and if anything, used the crisis as a political football. This does not, however, suggest that the church has all the right answers all the time to every crisis in the world. This crisis, which the UCC called the worst humanitarian crisis in decades, deserved a better response from the church than was given.

So why didn't we?

While Human Rights Watch called on the U.N. to "ensure that any U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing a U.N. force for Darfur calls for U.N. forces to use all necessary means to protect civilians", the UCC couldn't bring itself to back it. I believe this is because of our theological identity as a "Just Peace" church. We choose instead to build tents and pretend in our self-righteousness that we are making a difference.

Don't kid yourself - we are not making a bit of difference to stop this genocide.
posted by UCCtruths, Wednesday, August 06, 2008 | link | 0 comments |