Some of the “Work” of General Synod

by Char Burch

Although General Synod is over, there is much upon which to reflect. This includes business and resolutions that encourage local churches to consider, to study, and even act. I have included information about some items of business here and will continue doing so in the upcoming issues of the Conference Connection. During General Synod, there were definitely times of celebration and times of tension.

Times of celebration included the recognition of both Spirit of the Cross, Huntsville, AL and Forgiving Heart UCC, Columbus, GA as churches new to the UCC since the last General Synod! The Rev. John Dorhauer was re-elected to another 4-year term as General Minister and President of the UCC and the Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson was elected as the Associate General Minister of Global Engagement and Co-executive of UCC/Disciples’ Global Ministries, replacing the Rev. Jim Moos who decided not to seek a third term. The Rev. Traci Blackmon continues as Associate General Minister for Justice and Local Church Ministries. Biographical materials for all three leaders are on the UCC website.

There were 22 resolutions considered by the delegates. Below, I have summarized 7 of the resolutions, all of which passed. I will summarize additional resolutions in future issues of the Conference Connections. The full text of the resolutions can be found on the UCC website.

The Thirty-Second General Synod:

  1. Calls upon the UCC to advocate for the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and other applicable governmental departments and agencies to immediately end the practice of separating minor children from their parents, except for the rare cases when the parents pose a threat to their own children, and that minor children who already have been taken from their parents be quickly reunited with them.
  2. Urges all settings of the United Church of Christ and its members to recognize opioid addiction as a health epidemic; calls on Congress to increase Medicare and Medicaid funding to treat opioid addiction; recognizes that opioid addiction is not a determinant of a person’s worth, and invites a public discourse on the need for just and equitable treatment to lessen the stigma from asking for help and treatment; and urges all settings of the UCC to use all manner of activism, including shareholder activism of opioid pharmaceutical manufacturers and distribution corporations, to hold accountable those who are acting in bad faith with the American people, either by irresponsibly marketing, distributing, and prescribing to individuals or by criminalizing those who become addicted.
  3. Calls upon the Congress of the United States to conduct formal hearings to discover systemic and proximate causes of civilian violence in America, and to receive testimony as to changes in American society that may be undertaken to alleviate the effects of violence on the American people.
  4. Recognizes a new Conference in Southern New England and vicinity (provisionally called the “TA1 Conference of the UCC”), created with geographic boundaries encompassing those previously of the Rhode Island Conference, the Massachusetts Conference, and the Connecticut Conference.
  5. Calls upon the national setting of the United Church of Christ to enable and encourage local churches and conferences to develop methods to: a. Raise the church’s consciousness of the theological, social, racial, ethnic and economic inequities which accompany the existence and/or increase of privately owned or operated correctional and holding institutions including, but not limited to prisons, jails, and detention centers (hereafter referred to as PRIVATE PRISONS). b. Monitor and advocate against proposals for state and federal criminal justice and sentencing laws which serve to increase and support the increase of the inmate population of PRIVATE PRISONS. c. Actively divest of corporations which operate PRIVATE PRISONS. Advocate that corporate suppliers to or corporate investors in PRIVATE PRISONS cease these activities. Implement an action plan for divestment from corporations which supply to or invest in PRIVATE PRISONS which do not demonstrate these changes. Also calls upon the US Congress, state legislatures, and local governments to ban government contracting with, or approval of, the existence of PRIVATE PRISONS. calls for appropriate legislation accompanied by the appropriate oversight mechanisms of U.S. Congress, State legislatures, and local governments to immediately require existing PRIVATE PRISONS to provide optimum spiritual, medical, physical, and mental care, as well as safety measures.
  6. Recognizes the Iglesia Evangelica Unida de Puerto Rico as an ecumenical partner and commits to forming an ecumenical partnership committee with the Iglesia Evangelica Unida de Puerto Rico to consider how to strengthen the partnership.
  7. Receives, the interfaith statement “A Just World for All: Engaging with All God’s Creation” for 5 use in UCC engagement with world religions and spiritualities; Renews its conviction that God has called us to affirm new ways in which Christ is reconciling the world; Reaffirms, with love and certainty, our commitment to interreligious relations with any and all communities of faith; Calls upon National leadership, Conferences, Associations, local churches, and members to continue to study about and engage in interreligious dialogue and relationships, institutionally and personally, drawing on the experience of our ecumenical and global partners; Deplores and denounces any and all acts of violence and hatred, be they in thought, word, or deed, directed at individuals and communities, particularly when based on religious identity; and to offer a public witness of support and solidarity when such acts are perpetrated; and Commends settings and members of the United Church of Christ to read, study, and act upon the document, “A Just World for All: Engaging with All God’s Creation” and calling the UCC to live inter-religiously.

Look for additional resolution summaries in the next issue of the Conference Connection!