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Pre-General Synod "My Thoughts"

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

The Next General Synod of the United Church of Christ begins in sixteen days. As usual for any Synod there are many “Resolutions”. This year there are twenty-three. There are two types of Resolutions: Witness and Prudential. A Resolution of Witness is “an expression of the General Synod concerning a moral, ethical or religious matter” and requires a 2/3rds majority vote of the delegates in order to pass. There are thirteen of this type. A Prudential Resolution “establishes policy, institutes or revises structure or procedures, authorizes programs, approves directions or requests actions” this must be passed by a simple majority vote of the delegates. You can read all the resolutions at:

While all the Resolutions are of import, there are a few that I would like to raise for general consideration. One of these is a Witness Resolution “Stewardship of Exhibit Space as a Mission of Justice” from the Michigan Conference. The basic issue addressed here concerns whether exhibitors at General Synod must embrace the core values of the denomination. Should an exhibitor be excluded if they promote any position or opinion that is at variance with a previous Resolution of Witness of the General Synod. This is a complex polity and identity issue. Will the denomination of “inclusivity” exclude displays of UCC groups that disagree with previous actions of the General Synod? Will the denomination of “inclusivity” allow expressions of exclusivity and theological intolerance to make their position made known at the General Synod?

Among the Prudential Resolutions, there are three that I find particularly intriguing. Two of them have almost the exact same title: “[Discerning/ Examining], Articulating, and Resourcing the Nature, Purpose, Composition, Covenantal Autonomy and Definitions of ‘the basic unit of life and organization of the United Church of Christ for the Twenty-first Century”. My reading is that there is no fundamental difference of position in these two resolutions. The difference is primarily in how the resolution would be implemented if passed. Within these two resolutions, there are three unique points for consideration:

  1. If the local church is truly autonomous to “receive and dismiss” members as that local church so chooses [Art. V, p. 18], how can the UCC Constitution also mandate who can and cannot be a member of a local church [Art. V, p. 10-11] and what is the mechanism of becoming a member?

  2. If it is not uncommon for local UCC congregations to be affiliated with more than one denomination, then why are the Congregational Christian Churches that did not join the UCC in 1957 prohibited from holding dual standing in the UCC and one of the other Congregational denominations (NACC, CCCC)?

  3. The third area is in regard to “dismissing, releasing, and/or laying to rest” congregations by an action of an Association. It has always been clear that a new congregation joins the denomination by an action of the Association. And the congregations “standing” in the UCC is held by the Association. However, it is unclear on whether an Association can take a unilateral action to “dismiss”, “release” or “lay to rest” a congregation that has not lived in covenantal manner with the Association, Conference or National Setting.

The third Prudential Resolution that I mention above uniquely addresses the #3 point above: “Resolution on Oversight of the Local Church and Its Covenantal Relationship with The Association in Which it Holds Standing as A Local Church of The United Church of Christ”.

In my opinion these four Resolutions have the potential of changing the polity and/or identity of this denomination. I am not sharing my opinion on whether I agree or disagree with any of them. I am lifting up their weightiness for our beloved United Church of Christ.


~To Equip the Saints~

Rev. David R Gaewski

Conference Minister Twitter: @DavidGaewski1

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