UCC Advocacy

March 20, 2017

UCC Task Force Sees Politicized Future

After more than 40 years of uninterrupted decline, the United Church of Christ (UCC) may not be the picture of vibrant American Christianity, even among its troubled Mainline Protestant peer group. But the descendant of the Congregationalist tradition has found reason for optimism: its constituents envision a shared future advocating for causes popular on the political left.

A survey of 4,000 constituents of the church commissioned by a denominational task force identified three top issues that the church should focus upon in the next decade: climate change, racial justice and income inequality.

“What we learned from both surveys is that, as a denomination, we are on one accord with our future priorities and issues. These were the five areas where people said we should place our focus,” announced the Rev. Darrell Goodwin, chair of the Strategic Implementation Task Force. The other two issues were immigration justice and religious tolerance.

The survey results were presented at the UCC Board of Directors meeting March 9-11 in Cleveland.

UCC General Minister and President John Dorhauer is quoted in an article on the denomination’s web site saying that the task force’s work was critical in articulating “a future worth living into.”

“We needed first to see a future that shifted the narrative away from decline and diminishment. They have done that,” Dorhauer said. “The Board, and I with them, needed to see what was coming so that we could align our staff less with past needs than with future expectations. They gave us that. I am grateful to them for helping us see not just what is possible, but what is being called for from us.”

The denomination’s most recent statistical profile released in autumn 2016 listed 5,032 congregations and 914,871 members, down from 5,116 congregations (-1.6%) and a U.S. membership of 943,521 persons (-3%) in 2015.

Founded in 1957 as a merger of the Congregational-Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Church, the United Church of Christ has lost more than half of its membership in the intervening years. An internal report made available in June 2015 predicted an 80 percent decline in membership by 2045. The corresponding financial crunch has led to a 70 percent cut in staff at the UCC’s national office since 2000.

Consequences of this historic collapse are felt in UCC congregations now, with an estimated one-quarter of all UCC churches without a full-time pastor. Many churches, especially in the denomination’s New England heartland, are facing a difficult choice between retaining their buildings and employing clergy, with many opting to rely upon retired and non-stipendiary clergy instead of full-time ministers.

The denomination made news in 2015 by embracing a policy of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against companies that do business with Israel. A prominent congregation in the UCC hosts an annual “Drag Gospel Festival”. Published materials from the UCC also drew attention last year after challenging the inerrancy and divine inspiration of the entire biblical text.


6 Responses to UCC Task Force Sees Politicized Future

  1. Joe Nash says:

    How often I have gone to a church wanting to feel the presence of the Holy Spirit and to learn how to improve my ability to talk to my lover God, only to be hectored and harassed about not being an enthusiastic enough supporter of a laundry list of secular political causes.

    • Sandy Naylor says:

      Find a new church home. There are lots of faith exiles from the mainlines. We give them a warm welcome.

  2. Palamas says:

    The UCC really needs to give up the pretense and become a wholly owned subsidiary of the Democratic Party, since it obviously no longer cares about being a Christian church.

  3. MikeJ2 says:

    Interesting that “preaching the gospel” did not make the top 5. This isn’t really a Christian group, is it.

    • LukeinNE says:

      Hi Mike –

      I actually got this survey in my email (long story). It’s been months since I clicked through it, but I
      was struck at the time by the total lack of options for anyone who wanted a more orthodox UCC. Added to the biased questions is the fact that these “4,000 constituents” are all people who the national UCC has in their system – pastors (almost uniformly far-left) and lay folks who enjoy participating in the Conferences and general setting of the UCC – generally the activist liberals from the congregations. In short, this was conducted with all the integrity of a Russian-administrated independence referendum in eastern Ukraine.

      What I would love to see (for the same reason it will never happen) is a congregation by congregation vote in all of the Mainlines: pick one of the following agendas: preaching the Gospel and evangelizing in the name of our Lord Jesus and only commenting politically when absolutely necessary, or working for peace and justice etc….what do you suppose the vote would be? 80/20? 90/10? The extent to which the legacy churches have been hijacked (without the knowledge of many of their members) is tragic.

  4. Gregg says:

    The UCC is like a person who cuts on themselves. They know they shouldn’t do it. It’s bad for them. It hurts the other people in their family. But they somehow get a perverse sense of pleasure in their righteous pain. They’ll show everyone.

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