God Still Speaking to UCC

By Geoffrey A. BlackGeneral Minister and President-elect United Church of Christ As I begin my term of service as General … Continued

By Geoffrey A. Black
General Minister and President-elect
United Church of Christ

As I begin my term of service as General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ, I have no illusions. I am taking on a leadership role in a Christian communion that has been in decline for decades. Like many of its ecumenical partners, the United Church of Christ has experienced loss of members and financial support steadily since the 1960’s, not long after the UCC came into existence in 1957. In the first decades of decline the signs were not so visible. However, those signs have been hard to ignore in recent years.

In all of this bad news (for many it is old news or not news at all), there are yet signs of hope. The first of those sings is that we are fully cognizant of the decline and instead of denying it, we are beginning to adapt to our new reality with renewed hope and determination. And we believe that renewed hope can lead us to a place where progressive, inclusive visions of faith will be embraced.

Growing smaller and having less money to spend limits our capacity to do some things. For instance, we cannot support an administrative operation as large as we once had or travel as frequently. Yet, even with those limitations, we are finding new ways to engage in our mission effectively and to stay connected, bearing witness to our unity. Indeed we are finding that these circumstances are opening us to new possibilities within our own communion. Additionally, we are exploring partnerships across denominational lines that we and others would not have considered in earlier, more flush days. Upon reflection, we may just find this lean season to be a time when our self awareness of what it means to be the church grows and when our commitment to discipleship and living our faith deepens.

I believe that such growth in awareness and deepening of commitment can lead to clarity of vision and a renewed sense of vitality in mission. These are so necessary, if we are to serve God faithfully amidst the emerging realities of the 21st Century in America and throughout the world. Being a historic church that embraces the theological affirmation that “God Is Still Speaking,” we also strive to be a church that listens to and responds to God. To me this means being attentive contemporary realities, because God is concerned about the whole of creation here and now.

Over time, our discernment as a denomination has been that God calls us to a deep commitment to racial justice and racial equality. We have also discerned that God calls us to a commitment to gender equality and the equality of people of differing physical abilities. Our discernment extends to an inclusive understanding of sexual orientation and to the conclusion that all are children of God and are to be honored and treated as such regardless of sexual orientation. Again, over time we discerned that God calls us to be a people always seeking peace with justice and a people committed to welcoming the stranger and to responsible stewardship of God’s creation.

I stress the words over time, because it is important to acknowledge ourselves and to help others to understand that we did not reach this theological and spiritual outlook overnight. For instance, our anti-racism stances, our commitment to equality in marriage and our commitment to fair and just treatment of undocumented immigrants are in response to contemporary social trends although they me coincide with such trends. To the contrary, the United Church of Christ articulates a progressive faith stance today as a result of decades, even centuries of prayerful reflection, rigorous scholarship and dialogue, courageous action, thoughtful proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus and openness to the movement of the Holy Spirit in our midst. I must add that we are by no means of one voice or unanimous in our discernment, but we do “strive for unity in the bond of peace.”

As I begin to serve as the United Church of Christ’s General Minister and President, I expect to be fully engaged in all of that I have mentioned above. In so doing, I know I will not be alone. I am sure there will be opportunities for partnership in mission and ministry with ecumenical partners. No doubt, there will be opportunities for dialogue and constructive engagement with leaders and people from other faith traditions and who possess other belief systems. Of course, I anticipate working closely with the people of the UCC as we welcome people of no faith or lapsed faith to discover the journey of faith anew as members or fellow travelers in the United Church of Christ. Yes, it is true. I have no illusions, but I am full of hope and faithful expectation.

Geoffrey A. Black is general minister and president-elect of the United Church of Christ.

Written by

  • DwightCollins

    if you want your members back…

  • Revcain777

    You have got to be kidding! The UCC has been dying on the vine, losing members, RAPIDLY. While there are a handful of churches in “okay” condition, this church (denomination) is on the verge of extinction.

  • Revcain777

    Geoffery Black…General Minister of the UCC. BIG DEAL. That is like saying “Hi, I am Mr. Black, the President of the 8-Track Tape Come-Back Club.” Tell us how many members you have lost in the last 20 years…..tell us.

  • razzl

    The best of all outcomes in America would be for the shrinking mainline Protestant “high” churches, such as the Episcopalians (“Anglicans”) and Congregationalists (“UCC”), and others, now that they’ve at last arrived at a form of Christianity which acknowledges the best spirit of the religion (charity, toleration, social responsibility, compassion) to prepare to receive the masses of Roman Catholics who are deserting their unreformable church and looking for a modern alternative to the old patriarchal pagan Roman priesthood wrapped up in Christian clothing. One key to enabling former Catholics to feel free to break from the church and join one of the protestant liberal denominations is acknowledging past historical sins of the denominations (like the Episcopalian/Anglican guilt in Henry VIII’s massacre of clergy or the the Congregationalist suppression of catholics in American history and overblown distaste for catholic traditions like art and ritual). Your average surviving Congregational or Episcopal church in any given New England town or city is a welcoming oasis that the majority catholic population in those towns secretly wishes they could escape to, but it feels too much like jumping into the arms of an enemy on account of the old doctrinal hostilities still embedded in Protestant theology and rhetoric. American catholics have outgrown the spiritual dictatorship of Rome and are ripe for what the liberal protestant denominations have to offer, if only a welcome mat were placed for them.And if anyone thinks fine points of doctrine really matter to the average person wanting to practice Christianity then they just don’t get it. Hopefully Rev. Black and others in the liberal Protestant churches do and are willing to let go of denominational doctrinal dogma for the greater good…

  • Alex511

    fr dwightcollins:>if you want your members back…In other words, only be the type of Christian that YOU are, right, dwight?

  • nakiberu


  • nakiberu

    ccnl1:You actually had time to post all that?? Get a life please! Another one who thinks he/she is the cat’s whiskers, you guys are very well trained in the industry of clownery or clowness, I hope you are compensated to max. However, anyone who has been blessed by God with any kind of wisdom and intelligence couldn’t be bothered reading all your drivel, I didn’t even bother finish reading it, because frankly I have better things to do. Happy Clowning to you, Happy Clowning to you, Happy Clowning dear ccnl1, Happy Clowning to you!!

  • ccnl1

    nakiberu,Actually the synopsis of today’s Christianity has been posted many times. And please note it is simply the reiteration of the conclusions of many of todays historical Jesus exegetes to include four who are panelists for the On Faith blog.

  • gkrehbiel

    What the liberal churches fail to realize is that there isn’t much point in wasting your time on a church that isn’t substantially different from what you can hear for free on Oprah. Liberal churches will continue to fade away until they find something that makes them vibrant, different, challenging and exciting.

  • razzl

    Actually, nakiberu, I’m an atheist and an ex-catholic, so I’m not the least bit concerned about my standing with “God” or worries about salvation–I’ve been liberated from that. I offered a suggestion that would open up possibilities for Catholic Christians, who generally have a better take on the communal family spirit of Christ’s teachings, to practice their religion in a more enlightened institutional structure than the one they are tethered to.You, on the other hand, are living in a hell of your own making and seem to be beyond the reach of either God or man until you do some talking to yourself and root out the source of your anger…

  • pioneer1

    there is little point to espousing a mythology-based belief system and then not bother to follow most of its tenets. What is left, so to speak, is the Democratic Party platform; thats ok, but its not needed as the basis for a church. The relgions that do no stand by their founding texts and tenets will drift away to nothing and/or split apart (see Episcopal Church as an example). It starts to make you think that perhaps we dont need to waste our time on mythology anymore while supporting public health insurance; Odin might agree with you in this regard, but do not under any circumstance eat the meat of the sacred kangaroo!