What is the United Church of
The United Church of Christ came into being in 1957 with the union
of two Protestant denominations: the Evangelical and Reformed Church
and the Congregational Christian Churches. Each of these was, in turn,
the result of a union of two earlier traditions.
Congregational Churches were organized when the Pilgrims of
Plymouth Plantation (1620) and the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay
Colony (1629) acknowledged their essential unity in the Cambridge Platform
Church in the United States traced its beginnings to congregations
of German settlers in Pennsylvania founded from 1725 on. Later, its ranks
were swelled by Reformed immigrants from Switzerland, Hungary and other
Churches sprang up in the late 1700s and early 1800s in reaction
to the theological and organizational rigidity of the Methodist,
Presbyterian and Baptist churches of the time.
Synod of North America traced its beginnings to an association of
German Evangelical pastors in Missouri. This association, founded in 1841,
reflected the 1817 union of Lutheran and Reformed churches in Germany.
Through the years, other groups such as American Indians, Afro-Christians,
Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, Volga Germans, Armenians, and Hispanic
Americans have joined with the four earlier groups. In recent years,
Christians from other traditions, including the Roman Catholic Church,
have found a home in the UCC, and so have gay and lesbian Christians who
have not been welcome in other churches. Thus the United Church of Christ
celebrates and continues a broad variety of traditions in its common life.
June 25, 1957, at the Uniting General Synod in Cleveland, Ohio, the
Evangelical and Reformed Church, 23 years old, passionate in its impulse
to unity, committed to "liberty of conscience inherent in the Gospel," and
the Congregational Christian Churches, 26 years old, a fellowship of
biblical people living under a covenant for responsible freedom in Christ,
joined together as the United Church of Christ. The new church embodied
the essence of both parents, a complement of freedom with order, of the
English and European Reformations with the American Awakenings, of
17th-century separatism with 20th-century ecumenism, of Presbyterian with
congregational polities, of neo-orthodox with liberal theologies. Two
million members joined hands.
Who we are
Intelligent dialogue and a strong independent
streak sometimes cause the United Church of Christ (UCC) and its 1.4
million members to be called a "heady and exasperating mix." The UCC
tends to be a mostly progressive denomination that unabashedly engages
heart and mind. And yet, the UCC somehow manages to balance
congregational autonomy with a strong commitment to unity among its
6,000 congregations — despite wide differences among many local
congregations on a variety of issues.
While preserving relevant portions of heritage and
history dating back to the 16th century, the UCC and its forebears
have proven themselves capable of moving forward, tying faith to
social justice and shaping cutting edge theology and service in an
The UCC affirms the responsibility of the church in each generation
and community to make faith its own in reality of worship, in honesty
of thought and expression, and in purity of heart before God. It looks
to the Word of God in the Scriptures, and to the presence and power of
the Holy Spirit to prosper its creative and redemptive work in the
world. One of the UCC’s distinguishing characteristics is its penchant
to believe that ... God is still speaking, ... even when it puts us
out there alone. History has shown that, most often, we’re only alone
for a while. Besides, we receive so many gifts from our ecumenical
partners, being "early" seems to be one of ours.
The UCC recognizes two sacraments: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper or
Church of Christ embraces a theological heritage that affirms the
Bible as the authoritative witness to the Word of God, the creeds of
the ecumenical councils, and the confessions of the Reformation. The
UCC has roots in the "covenantal" tradition—meaning there is no
centralized authority or hierarchy that can impose any doctrine or
form of worship on its members. Christ alone is Head of the church. We
seek a balance between freedom of conscience and accountability to the
apostolic faith. The UCC therefore receives the historic creeds and
confessions of our ancestors as testimonies, but not tests of the
faith. Here are some of those testimonies.
What we believe
in the triune God:
Creator; resurrected Christ, the sole Head of the church; and the Holy
Spirit, who guides and brings about the creative and redemptive work
of God in the world.
that each person is unique and valuable; it is the will of
God that every person belong to a family of faith where they have a
strong sense of being valued and loved.
that each person is on a spiritual journey and that each of
us is at a different stage of that journey.
that the persistent search for God produces an authentic relationship
with God, engendering love, strengthening faith, dissolving
guilt, and giving life purpose and direction.
that all of the baptized ‘belong body and soul to our Lord and Savior
Jesus Christ.’ No matter who . . . No matter what . . . No
matter where we are on life’s journey, notwithstanding race, gender,
sexual orientation, class or creed, we all belong to God and to one
worldwide community of faith. All persons baptized – past, present and
future – are connected to each other and to God through the sacrament
of baptism. We baptize during worship when the community is present
because baptism includes the community’s promise of ‘love, support,
and care’ for the baptized . . . and we promise that we won’t take it
back – no matter where your journey leads you.
that all people of faith are invited to join Christ at Christ’s table
for the sacrament of Communion. Just as many grains of wheat
are gathered to make one loaf of bread and many grapes are gathered to
make one cup of wine, likewise we, the many people of God are made one
in the body of Christ, the church. The breaking of bread and the
pouring of wine reminds us of the costliness of Christ’s sacrifice and
the discipleship to which we are all called. In the breaking of bread,
we remember and celebrate Christ’s presence among us along with a
‘cloud of witnesses’ – our ancestors, family, and friends who have
gone before us. It is a great mystery; we claim it by faith.
the UCC is called to be a united and uniting church. "That they
all may be one." (John 17:21) "In essentials unity, in nonessentials
diversity, in all things charity," These UCC mottos survive because
they touch a core values deep within us. The UCC has no rigid
formulation of doctrine or attachment to creeds or structures. Its
overarching creed is love. UCC pastors and teachers are well-known for
their commitment to excellence in theological preparation,
interpretation of the scripture and justice advocacy. Even so, the
supremacy of love and unity in the midst of our diversity are our
that God calls us to be servants in the service of others and
to be good stewards of the earth’s resources. ‘To believe is to care,
to care is to do.’
that the UCC is called to be a prophetic church. As in the
tradition of the prophets and apostles, God calls the church to speak
truth to power, liberate the oppressed, care for the poor and to
comfort the afflicted.
in the power of peace, and work for nonviolent solutions to
local, national, and international problems.
We are a
people of possibility. In the UCC members, congregations
and structures have the breathing room to explore and to hear . . .
for after all,
God is still speaking, . . .
United Church of Christ
Statement of Faith—adapted by Robert V. Moss
We believe in God, the Eternal Spirit, who is made
known to us in Jesus our brother, and to whose deeds we testify: God
calls the worlds into being, creates humankind in the divine image,
and sets before us the ways of life and death. God seeks in holy love
to save all people from aimlessness and sin. God judges all humanity
and all nations by that will of righteousness declared through
prophets and apostles. In Jesus Christ, the man of Nazareth, our
crucified and risen Lord, God has come to us and shared our common
lot, conquering sin and death and reconciling the whole creation to
its Creator. God bestows upon us the Holy Spirit, creating and
renewing the church of Jesus Christ, binding in covenant faithful
people of all ages, tongues, and races.
God calls us into the church to accept the cost and joy of
discipleship, to be servants in the service of the whole human family,
to proclaim the gospel to all the world and resist the powers of evil,
to share in Christ's baptism and eat at his table, to join him in his
passion and victory. God promises to all who trust in the gospel
forgiveness of sins and fullness of grace, courage in the struggle for
justice and peace, the presence of the Holy Spirit in trial and
rejoicing, and eternal life in that kingdom which has no end.
Blessing and honor, glory and power be unto God.
Reasons to Check out the UCC
10. What if church is like
spinach . . .?
You know, like something that you hated as a kid but you love as an
adult because you eat it in ways that suit you much better. Guess
what? A lot of people are having the same sort of experience with
church . . . In the UCC, things are often quite different and worth
9. Variety . . .
UCC churches tend to tailor themselves to fit the people they feel
called to serve in their local community. The result: A wide variety
of musical traditions, expressions and values that have integrity and
purpose. From conservative to liberal, we’re not short on variety.
8. No apologies . . .
You are what you are . . . and so are we – we like ourselves just
fine. Find a church where you will fit in, be nurtured and challenged
7. No waiting . . .
You don’t have to join to be active in many UCC churches. If you want
to get involved, many of our churches will find a place to help
fulfill your need to give – whether or not you decide to join.
6. No boxes
God can blow the lid off any box, unfold it and turn it into a dance
floor. We tend to be the “out of the box” people. Among our many
firsts, we were the first mainline church to take a stand against
slavery (1700), the first to ordain an African American person (1785),
the first to ordain a woman (1853), the first in foreign missions
(1810), and the first to ordain openly gay lesbian, bisexual, and
transgendered persons (1972). We value education for all people. We
founded Harvard and Yale, as well as many historically black colleges,
six of which remain affiliated with the UCC to this day.
5. One God, One Faith,
One Baptism for All
When we baptize you into our community, we promise that we will never
take it back – no matter what you discover about yourself or what
others discover about you along life’s journey. We believe that
baptism places each of us into the “body of Christ” and lasts forever.
Some are baptized as infants, others as adults. Some are sprinkled.
Others are immersed. Some reclaim their baptism from a previous church
life. For each of us, however, baptism is big enough, strong enough
and cleansing enough to last forever. We believe that everyone – old,
young, straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, physically or
emotionally challenged, rich or poor, sure or unsure, lost or found,
Democrat or Republican has a place in the body of Christ. Baptism is
like a badge that says, “you’re a full member of the church and no one
can take that away from you.”
4. Good News People
We believe that No. 5 is good news!
3. “Party” Church
God is having a party and we are all invited. At God’s party our
spiritual hungering is fed and our thirsting is satisfied. At God’s
party we get strength, stamina and community support that helps us
through the tough times that come to everyone. Feeding our spiritual
hunger helps reduce those, “I can’t believe I’m so stupid” moments –
but we’ll never eliminate them all. That’s why we need friends and
companions and not judges (no offense to judges) for the journey.
2. Spiritual Guidance . . .
It’s not about commandments. It’s about relationships – even with God.
The most important relationship is our relationship with God. Second
most important is our relationships with the rest of the human family.
In balance, these relationships produce justice amid injustice,
kindness in the face of meanness, and the humility of self acceptance
that comes as we sense the presence of a God who knows our inmost
thoughts and loves us uncontrollably – just as we are. Spiritual
journeys can be like the exercise equipment we buy and leave under the
bed. Without coaches and workout partners, most of us don’t stick with
it. We’re the “Journeys Wanted” people . . . bring yours.
1. We’re waiting for
The UCC is a church of many firsts. You could say that we are the
original "Act Up " people. You can see from most of these
stories that it’s not always easy being first and not as pretty as we
would often make it out to be.
Seeking spiritual freedom, forebears of the United Church of Christ
prepare to leave Europe for the New World in December of 1620. Later
generations know them as the Pilgrims. Their pastor, John Robinson,
urges them as they depart to keep their minds open to new ways. God,
he says, "has yet more light and truth to break forth out of his holy
The Pilgrims published the first book on the North American continent,
The Bay Psalms Book, in 1640. This publication was the fruit of their
desire to establish a free press, but it was not their most famous
publication. Their publishing ventures began in the city of Leidens
and was known as Brewster Press. In 1617, after publishing an
anonymous tract to warn the Scotts that King James was about to
re-establish ecclesiastical controls, the king sent out ruffians to
hunt down and punish its printers. The Pilgrims decided to
take their printing press to the new world where a free press could
become a reality. Today, Pilgrim Press, part of the United Church of
Christ, is the oldest continuously operating press on the North
American continent and freedom of the press is a hallmark of US
Congregational churches in colonial Massachusetts adopt the Cambridge
Platform. A forerunner of the U.S. Constitution, it affirms the
freedom of congregations that are autonomous, but bound together by
ties of love and mutual support.
Forebears of the UCC were the first mainline church to take a stand
against slavery in the year 1700. On June 24 Samuel Sewall, a
Puritan, speaks out against slavery and writes the first anti-slavery
pamphlet in America, The Selling of Joseph . Sewall, a far from
perfect figure from our history, laid the foundation for abolition
that would come 150 years later.
No tax on tea! That was the decision on December 16, 1773, when 5,000
angry colonists gathered at the Old South Meeting House to
protest a tax and started a revolution with the Boston Tea Party.
Built in 1729, the Old South Meeting House was the largest building in
colonial Boston, and provided a stage for the drama of the American
Revolution. African American poet Phillis Wheatley and statesman
Benjamin Franklin were members of Old South's congregation. As a
meeting place and a haven for free speech and assembly, Old South
Meeting House has been in continuous use for over 250 years. Read
about Old South radical congregation and its role starting the Boston
On September 11, 1773, Phillis Wheatley was the first Black woman to
be published in London. Her book, 'Poems on various subjects,
religious and moral ' consisted of 39 poems. She was bought as a slave
in Boston Massachusetts aged seven and was immediately segregated from
the other slaves and taught to read and write. She also became a
member of Old South Church in Boston. Within a couple of years she was
reading the bible and by the age of thirteen she had begun to write
her own poetry. She came to England in 1773 with the son of her
mistress. While in England in she was afforded celebrity status and
was introduced to high society. Benjamin Franklin visited her, and the
Lord Mayor of London presented her with an edition of Milton's
From September of 1777 to the summer of 1778 the patriots of the
American cause hid the Liberty Bell, which had been smuggled up from
Philadelphia just ahead of the British Army, under the floor of the
second Zion Church.
Lemuel Haynes would become the first African American person to
be ordained to preach in a mainline Protestant denomination and the
first to receive an honorary Master of Arts degree.
Dissident preacher James O'Kelly is one of the early founders of a
religious movement called simply the Christians. His aim is to restore
the simplicity of the original Christian community. The Christians
seek liberty of conscience and oppose authoritarian church government.
O'Kelly writes that "any number of Christians united in love, having
Christ for their head . . . constitutes a church."
On September 5, 1810, the UCC organized the American Board of
Commissioners for Foreign Missions, the first foreign missionary
agency in North America.
UCC Congregationalist forebears work to free the Amistad
captives. A multi-racial Amistad committee is formed to care for,
educate and free the captives. John Quincy Adams takes the case before
the Supreme Court. Sengbe Pieh learns to speak and write in English
enough to defend himslf and speak to the Supreme Court.
A meeting of pastors in Missouri forms the first united church in
American history—the future Evangelical Synod. It unites two
Protestant traditions that have been separated for three centuries:
the Lutherans and the Reformed. The Evangelicals believe in the power
of tradition, but oppose inflexibility in worship and practice. "Rigid
ceremony and strong condemnation of others are terrible things to me,"
one of them writes.
Theologian Philip Schaff scandalizes the Reformed churches in
Pennsylvania when he argues for a "Protestant Catholicism" centered in
the person of Jesus Christ. The sacrament of Holy Communion—in which
Christians are united through Jesus to each other in love—is at the
heart of Schaff's revival.
Ordination of Antoinette Brown, the first woman ordained to
ministry in the modern era, took place on September 15, 1853.
Congregationalist Washington Gladden is one of the early
leaders of the Social Gospel movement—which takes literally the
commandment of Jesus to "love your neighbor as yourself." Social
Gospel preachers denounce injustice and the exploitation of the poor.
In 1897 he writes a hymn that summarizes his creed:
"Light up your Word: the fettered page from killing bondage free.
Light up our way: lead forth this age in love's large liberty.
O Light of light! — within us dwell, through us your radiance pour,
that word and life you truths may tell, and praise you evermore."
Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr proposes a union of his Evangelical Synod
with the Reformed Church—an idea that at first is greeted with
derision. "Perhaps the idea is a wild one," he writes again nine years
later. But divided churches in North America are beginning to move
toward each other. In 1931 the Congregational and Christian churches
unite. In 1934 Niebuhr's "wild idea" becomes real when the
"Evangelical and Reformed Church" is formed.
Reinhold Niebuhr preaches a sermon that introduces to the world the
now famous Serenity Prayer: "God, give us grace to accept with
serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the
things that should be
changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other."
The union of The Evangelical and Reformed Church with the
Congregational Christian Churches to form the UCC on June 25, 1957 was
the first and only time two completely separate Christian traditions
would unite to form a single denomination.
Dr. Everett C. Parker, head of the UCC Office of Communication asked
Andrew Young to arrange a meeting with Dr. Martin Luther King. Young’s
work with voter registration was funded by the UCC. Knowing that
Parker was a broadcaster, King told Parker "Please try to do something
about the television stations." At that time TV stations across the
South literally blocked any transmission that showed people of color
as equals, told news about discrimination or showed King’s marches.
Viewers would see a sign that said, "Sorry Cable Trouble." Parker and
UCC members documented the injustice, challenged station owners before
the Federal Court of Appeals and won. The courts made the historic
ruling that the airwaves were public property and that local
communities had a voice in the way airwaves serving their communities
were managed. The proliferation of the faces of people of color in
media today is the direct result of that decision; in fact, the
presence of the public voice of all colors and interests in many
regulatory matters is directly related to this historic UCC victory.
Charles Cobb pushes, General Synod takes a stand for powerful civil
General Synod voted that social justice be considered along with
security and yield in its investment of funds.
The UCC ordains the Rev. William R. Johnson in June of 1972—the first
openly gay person in history to become a Christian minister. Six years
later, the first openly lesbian minister, the Rev. Anne Holmes, is
ordained. From the 1970s on, General Synod supports equal rights for
homosexual citizens, and calls on congregations to welcome lesbian,
gay and bisexual members.
See footage of William
The UCC General Synod becomes impassioned about the plight of farm
workers and charters a plane to fly delegates to Coachella Valley as a
public witness on June 25 after being notified by Cesar Chavez that
the Teamsters Union had unleashed a campaign of violence against the
strikers, which almost claimed the life of one of the workers who was
nearly beaten to death.
Wilmington 10 . Convicted on charges of firebombing and racial
turmoil, the Rev. Benjamin Chavis, and others, now known as the
Wilmington 10, were arrested and charged with burning a white-owned
grocery store in Wilmington, NC. Chavis was sent to Wilmington, NC by
the United Church of Christ as a racial justice worker – sent to help
an oppressed African-American community overcome racial intolerance
and intimidation. Amid charges that allegations against the Wilmington
10 were false, the UCC General Synod became outraged at the treatment
of one of its own; it raised more than $1 million in bail to free the
Wilmington 10. Chavis spent 4.5 years in prison before his conviction
was set aside in1980. The UCC recovered its bail, plus interest.
On October 30, 1976, the Rev. Joseph H. Evans is elected UCC
president. He becomes the first African American leader of a
predominantly European-American mainline church in the United States.
Voted at General Synod to monitor-- but also support -- genetic
engineering and technology.
The Rev. Dr. Paul Sherry, national president of the Cleveland-based
United Church of Christ, apologized in person to Hawaiians for the
role of UCC forbear mission worker involvement in the overthrow of
Queen Lili'uokalani's monarchy on January 17, 1893, and pledged
redress. The redress was in three parts: One is in terms of monetary
redress. Second is in terms of the return of lands. Third is in-kind
contribution or redress. The monetary portion of the redress plan was
divided into three parts: $1.5 million dispersed to 60 native Hawaiian
churches, which were part of the Hawaiian Evangelical Association,
while $1 million went to the Pu'a Foundation and the $1 million went
to the Association of Hawaiian Evangelical Churches, which has a
membership that includes the 60 Hawaiian churches. The plan states the
awards are not necessarily an admission of guilt by the UCC, but a
reaching out to heal the hurt in the Hawaiian community. In 1993
Congress and President Clinton also formally apologized for the
overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii.
On July1, 2000, the UCC established non-hierarchical leadership model
for national setting and calls a collegium of officers to lead the
the logo symbolize?
The symbol of the
United Church of Christ comprises a crown, cross and orb enclosed
double oval bearing the name of the church and the prayer of
Jesus, "That they may all be one" (John 17:21). It is based on an
ancient Christian symbol called the "Cross of Victory" or the
"Cross Triumphant." The crown symbolizes the sovereignty of
Christ. The cross recalls the suffering of Christ his arms
outstretched on the wood of the cross for the salvation of
humanity. The orb, divided into three parts, reminds us of Jesus'
command to be his "witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and
Samaria and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8). The verse from
Scripture reflects our historic commitment to the restoration of
unity among the separated churches of Jesus Christ.
Statement of Mission
As people of the United Church of Christ, affirming our Statement
of Faith, we seek within the Church Universal to participate in God's
mission and to follow the way of the crucified and risen Christ.
Empowered by the Holy Spirit, we are
called and commit ourselves:
- To praise God, confess our sin, and joyfully accept God's
- To proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ in our suffering world;
- To embody God's Love for all people;
- To hear and give voice to creation's cry for justice and peace;
- To name and confront the powers of evil within and among us;
- To repent our silence and complicity with the forces of chaos
- To preach and teach with the power of the living Word;
- To join oppressed and troubled people in the struggle for
- To work for justice, healing, and wholeness of life;
- To embrace the unity of Christ's church;
- To discern and celebrate the present and coming reign of God