On July 1- 5 July 2005, the Conference played host to the historic 25th General Synod of the UCC, which was held in Atlanta’s Georgia World Congress Center. A resolution passed by Synod delegates affirming the right of gay and lesbian persons to marry instantly drew national media attention, as this made the UCC the first traditional Protestant denomination in the U.S. to publicly espouse such a stand.
Aside from the generated publicity, two Conference members played noteworthy roles at that Synod: Dr. Annie Wynn Neal, an administrator at Meharry Medical College in Nashville (member, Howard Congregational Church) acted as one of two vice-moderators of Synod; and Milton Hurst, former Synod moderator, longtime Conference leader and pastor of First Congregational Church, Talladega, Ala., gave a stirring speech recalling his grandfather, born into slavery in rural Alabama, telling stories about the racial discrimination and violence he witnessed and suffered. Mr. Hurst did this to recognize the culmination of the Conference’s “Rekindle the Gift” project, on which he worked as a consultant. Sadly, one month after Synod, Mr. Hurst died at his Birmingham residence from injuries sustained in a fall.
Atlanta is only the third city in the Southern U.S. that has ever hosted Synod; Norfolk, Va. and Fort Worth, Tex. are the others.