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Every denomination needs one of these...

WSJ: The Bully Pulpit

Friday, May 22, 2009

Wake up slumbering UCC Truths!

We interrupt this Rip Van Winkle sleep to thank the Wall Street Journal for shedding light on the UCC's Southeast Conference effort to steal away the assets of the small Center Congregational Church in Atlanta.

The article, "The Bully Pulpit," written by Jim Auchmutey, appears on the Journal's website and print edition.

So why is the Southeast Conference so interested in this little church? It all boils down to this--pure greed.

Center's property--located in prime Atlanta real e$tate--is held in trust, and technically not by the church itself. That crack in the door is the opening by which the thief is trying to enter.

According to the winter, 2009 edition of Networker, published by the Evangelical Association, the Southeast Conference claims that they are the only true successors of the Congregational denomination, while Center rightly replies the Congregational tradition includes not only the UCC, but also the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches (NACCC), the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference (CCCC), and the Evangelical Association of Reformed and Congregational Christian Churches (EARCCC).

If Center Church was dissolving, the Southeast Conference might have a legitimate case. Instead, this little congregation voted to leave the UCC in 2006. Even though 36 in attendance is considered a good Sunday, the church is still very much alive. Bottom line, they disaffiliated and are entitled to keep their assets, as the UCC Constitution explictly states.

Oh, one more thing. Center and its pastor, Rev. J.R. McAlilley, oppose a conviction held in highest esteem in UCC culture--same-sex marriage. While the Conference Minister, The Rev. Timothy Downs, says that Center could have remained and dissented because the UCC welcomes a diversity of opinion, in practice, UCC churches that oppose same-sex marriage rarely (if ever) have platforms in conference life to express that dissent.

May Goliath fall down again.
posted by Living the Biblios, Friday, May 22, 2009


Thank you for posting this story. From the facts as presented, it seems to me the conference is behaving badly. I hope the local congregation wins out. Has anyone heard any updates since May?
commented by Blogger rk, 7:37 PM  
"Center's property--located in prime Atlanta real e$tate--is held in trust, and technically not by the church itself."

What does this mean? Who owns the trust? I'm way out of my field here...
commented by Blogger Tom, 12:32 PM  
Okay, just read the article. Apparently the trust was supposed to be left to the "Congregational Denomination" of the 19th century. Doesn't that specific denomination become the UCC in the 1950s? If so, then the issue seems pretty cut-and-dried to me. It's a bummer for the church, but they did choose to disaffiliate from their landlords. Same thing would happen in any other denomination, I'm sure.

What I don't understand is: why would a congregation that supposedly values congregationalism feel the need to leave a denomination on the basis of ideological purity? Though I'm pretty content with the UCC on the whole, I appreciate this blog and other UCC dissenters who stick around anyway because this, right here, is the very embodiment of congregationalism: we do what we do, and we don't need to enforce the same upon you. What does congregationalism even mean if every church is supposed to agree on every detail?

commented by Blogger Tom, 1:04 PM  
Good story find; welcome back!

Missed you!
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