Pilgrim leader John Winthrop envisioned founding “a city upon a hill” in America, providing a witness to God-glorifying ideals. The ultra-liberal Christian denomination United Church of Christ (UCC) – bastion of progressive values – was probably not what Winthrop had in mind.
The UCC traces its roots back to the Pilgrims. On their website, the denomination spotlights “the epic journey of the Pilgrims from England to the shores of North America” as part of its history.
But around the time of Thanksgiving, some UCC clergy find this history embarrassing. Ordained UCC clergywoman Rev. Dr. Andrea Ayvazian penned a column expressing this sentiment, published by the Daily Hampshire Gazette on November 17. She said Thanksgiving “inspires disturbing emotions in me” and “deeply troublesome feelings,” because of how the “foremothers and forefathers of my own denomination, the pilgrims and the puritans,” allegedly treated Native Americans. Rev. Ayvazian added:
Because the pilgrims and puritans considered themselves Christians and worshiped God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, they looked down on the indigenous people, who did not worship a Trinitarian deity. The puritans and pilgrims convinced themselves that the indigenous people lacked religious beliefs.
If the Pilgrims were still alive today, the feeling of embarrassment would surely be mutual. When UCC clergy aren’t rejecting the Pilgrims outright, the highly progressive denomination busily eschews their forefathers’ theology and traditions in practice. Surely this departure from founding principles and from biblical orthodoxy explains the UCC’s dramatic multi-decade decline in membership and finances.
Staff and contributors at the Institute on Religion and Democracy have reported on plenty of instances of unorthodoxy in the UCC over the last several decades. Compiling them all would inevitably result in a work the length of an epic novel. So in the interest of brevity during this busy holiday season, here are the top 10 most shocking stories on our blog about the UCC just during 2017!
(NOTE: Please be sure to share in the comments section about more outrageous examples of the UCC straying from their Pilgrim heritage into theological liberalism!)
(1) UCC congregations were among the 48 churches participating in the “Glitter+Ash” campaign organized by LGBTQ activists during Lent.
(2) Citing the Southern Baptist Convention’s “war” on Planned Parenthood, the UCC encouraged the U.S. Senate to continue government funding of the nation’s largest abortion provider.
(3) UCC clergy participated in a ceremony to “bless” an abortion clinic in Texas on the premise that abortion is a “God-given right”.
(4) An internal UCC task force reported that members endorsed ramping up advocacy for five politically liberal causes: climate change, racial justice, income inequality, immigration justice, and religious tolerance.
(5) New York City Pastor Kaji Douša wrote a devotional for the UCC expressing regret for killing plants and asking for God’s forgiveness despite official denominational support for abortion.
(6) Retired UCC Pastor Rev. Dr. Rollin Russell rejected the biblical case against abortion: “Clearly, the Bible is not a very reliable guide in this matter.”
(7) The UCC continues to stand by its decision to embrace the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS) despite denominational decline.
(8) The Rocky Mountain Conference within the UCC and the Affirming Coalition of the United Church of Christ (an LGBTQ activist organization) signed onto an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court. The brief urged the government to violate the First Amendment rights of Jack Phillips, proprietor of Masterpiece Cakeshop, by forcing him to participate in a same-sex wedding.
(9) Little River United Church of Christ in Northern Virginia hosted an event characterizing Islam as more tolerant than Christianity. Pastor David B. Lindsey alleged: “One of the real gifts that Islam brings is an understanding of what it is to have a country with diverse religious viewpoints.”
(10) UCC-affiliated Oberlin College flies four flags on campus: Old Glory, the Ohio state flag, the LGBTQ rainbow flag, and the United Nations flag.