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The 34th General Synod of the United Church Christ met the first week of July in Indianapolis, Indiana. Lively worship, passionate activism, and a still-speaking Spirit permeated a busy week in Indy.
At Synod the wider church elected a new president and general minister, the Reverend Dr. Karen Georgia Thompson. She is well known within the national setting as the former Associate General Minister for Wider Church Ministries and Operations in the UCC and Co-Executive for Global Ministries with the UCC and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). After eight years in the role of President and General Minister, the wider church said a gratitude-filled goodbye to the Reverend John Dorhauer.
Rev. Cameron Barr and the United Church of Christ Board (UCCB) recommended to the Synod an increase in the amount of time between Synod gatherings from every two years to every three years. They also recommended increasing the service term of board members from six-year terms to nine-year terms. A deeply divided synod passed these recommendations with a razor-thin margin of just one vote. For the first time in eleven synods, a minority report was attached to the passing resolution. The report encourages the UCCB to investigate ways to provide for fellowship and the church’s responsibility to speak prophetically to culture since Synod gatherings will take place less frequently.
It’s time to update our UCC History and Polity materials. The story(s) (many of us may be familiar with) about the founding of the United Church of Christ received a long overdue revision. The story we have told ourselves is one of the merging of the Congregational Christian and Evangelical and Reformed denominations; four theological streams merging into two and uniting into one United Church of Christ.
This Synod took an important step in confronting our own white supremacy. The story of the Afro-Christian Convention of 1892 was brought into sharper relief as an important part of the UCC story. Founded just fifteen years after the Evangelical Synod of North America and forty years before the Congregational Christian and Evangelical and Reformed denominations, the Afro-Christian Convention was always a part of the UCC story. The Rev. Yvonne Delk’s recent publication of the Afro-Christian Convention has contributed significantly to our understanding of its importance. Recognition of this part of Afro-Christian history as one of the five streams of the UCC could not come at a more meaningful moment than now when we have elected Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson as our new General Minister.
Synod passed several bold resolutions of witness with overwhelming support. Ministers and laity within the Southeast Conference played significant roles in drafting and revising a resolution affirming transgender and gender-diverse persons amid hostile legislation in several states. Significant resolutions passed by synod:
- Affirming Licensed and Commissioned Ministers as Authorized Ministers in the United Church of Christ
- Denouncing the Dobbs Decision and Proclaiming Abortion as Healthcare
- Calling for a New Study by our Church on our Relationship with the Indian Boarding Schools and the Boarding Schools in Hawai’i
- Calling on the United Church of Christ to Seek Digital Justice and Inclusion
- Urging Planning for and Implementing Electrification
- Faithful Advocacy for Intersectional and Transformational Healing in Harm Reduction
- Affirming Guns to Gardens and Other Gun Violence Prevention Ministries
- Urge All Responsible Entities to Join in Reparations to Fund Christian Hawaiian Language Education Programs
- Promoting freedom from Plastic Pollution
- Supporting Public School Educators, Academic Freedom, and Equity Efforts in Schools
- Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African Americans
- Condemning Prolonged Solitary Confinement as a Form of Torture
- Affirming the Human Dignity of Transgender and Nonbinary Persons
- Calling on United Church of Christ Local Churches to Witness “A White Supremacy Free Zone” & Confronting White Supremacy
View photos from General Synod on our Facebook page.