t-com:vml" xmlns:o="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" xmlns="http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40"> Orgin of UCC
North Port Community
United Church of Christ
Origin of the
United Church of Christ in America

         

 What is the United Church of Christ?

    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.

    The 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 of 1648.

    The Reformed 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 countries.

    The Christian 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.

    The Evangelical 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.

 On Tuesday, 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 ever-changing world.

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 Holy Communion.

     The United 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

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.

We believe 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.

We believe that each person is on a spiritual journey and that each of us is at a different stage of that journey.

We believe that the persistent search for God produces an authentic relationship with God, engendering love, strengthening faith, dissolving guilt, and giving life purpose and direction.

We believe 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.

We believe 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.

We believe 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 greatest assets.

We believe 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.’

We believe 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.

We believe 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. Amen.


Top 10 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 checking out.


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 to grow.


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 you


UCC Firsts


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.

1620
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 Word."

1640
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 democracy.

1648
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.

1700
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.

1773
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 Tea Party.

1773
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 'Paradise Lost'.

1777
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.

1785
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.

1798
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."

1810
On September 5, 1810, the UCC organized the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, the first foreign missionary agency in North America.

1839
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.

1840
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.

1845
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.

1853
Ordination of Antoinette Brown, the first woman ordained to ministry in the modern era, took place on September 15, 1853.

1897
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."

1919
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.

1943
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."

1957
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.

1959
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.

1963
Charles Cobb pushes, General Synod takes a stand for powerful civil rights resolutions

1967
General Synod voted that social justice be considered along with security and yield in its investment of funds.

1972
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 Johnson’s ordination.

1973
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.

1973
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.

1976
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.

1985
Voted at General Synod to monitor-- but also support -- genetic engineering and technology.

1993
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.

2000
On July1, 2000, the UCC established non-hierarchical leadership model for national setting and calls a collegium of officers to lead the denomination.

What does the logo symbolize?

The symbol of the United Church of Christ comprises a crown, cross and orb enclosed within a 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 forgiveness;
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 and death;
To preach and teach with the power of the living Word;
To join oppressed and troubled people in the struggle for liberation;
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

 

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