Both denominations have been in full communion since the summer.
The United Church of Christ has this nifty deal with other denominations including the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America and the Reformed Church in America. They are relationships we formed because we believe that Jesus wasn’t kidding when he said “that they may all be one” (John 17:21).
Maybe you already know this history, but indulge a church geek, will you? The United Church of Christ began when two denominations came together to be more “united and uniting.”
Did you read it all? Are you so inspired? I know. Welcome to church geekery.
And now you are even more in love with my church, right? Sigh. Anyhow, these two bodies—that started as four different denominations—came together because they believed Jesus wasn’t kidding. They saw around them a broken world where people—even in the church—were finding more reasons to divide than to unite. They believed that there was another way.
They believed this merger was just the beginning.
They thought they were on the cusp of something huge where all of the tiny branches of the church would come back together.
It is something I have heard the UCC’s General Minister and President espouse. John C. Dorhauer said, at least according to Twitter, “I don’t want to open a debate, but I’ve asked myself why United Church of Christ rather than Uniting Church of Christ?”
He might not want to open up a debate, but it’s been in the works for many, many years. Over these 50 years (which really isn’t that many at all), we haven’t quite forgotten the passion of those who gathered to sign the merger in 1957.
We’ve taken it to heart. It’s a part of every one of our local churches, even if we don’t talk so much about our relationship with the denomination. It’s part of our DNA because no matter who you are or where you are, if you’re in the United Church of Christ, you’ve found yourself in a tribe that really doesn’t think that Jesus was kidding. There always has been something to this idea of being more “united and uniting.”
So, we have kept at it over the years. We have tried to unite more fully with both the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the Unitarian Universalist Association. They didn’t quite share the same spirit. We are not sacramental enough for one and we like Jesus too much for the other. (Just so we are clear, this is the sentence that will make people mad at me, but we need to talk more about what we believe about both the sacraments and Christ. So bring it.)
Even as we share in a new relationship with the United Church of Canada, it is not exactly a merger. It’s an agreement. It means we get to share some resources and partner in ways that we haven’t in the past. All of this is good news, but it is not quite realizing that vision that Jesus prays in the Gospel of John.
There are still things that separate us so that more often than not we live out the typo that repeatedly appears every time we publicize our church’s good works. Surely you’ve seen this typo in your church’s weekly email or even in the (gasp!) worship bulletin.
We are not the United Church of Christ but the Untied Church. We are the Untied Churches—loosely held together by our Lord and Savior who still prays that we might actually get to that hope that “all be one.”
The Rev. Elsa A. Peters is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ who has served churches in New York City, Maine and Washington. She believes in the power of community, that poverty can end in our lifetime and that everyone needs a little more love. Follow along in her adventures in ministry at http://revelsaanderspeters.com. You can also find her on Facebook at /elsa.a.peters.