Skip to comments.Cultural Pandering No Boon for Shriveling United Church of Christ
Posted on 02/05/2013 3:16:54 PM PST by ReformationFan
Advocates for churches and Christian institutions reconsidering biblical teaching on sexual morality frequently claim that such cultural accomodationism is "needed" if Christian communities are to have any hope of surviving in an America whose secular culture is increasingly intolerant of moral boundaries for sexual expression (beyond consent).
If one is going to take such arguments seriously, it makes sense to consider how well that has worked in the denomination that has most prominently pioneered enthusiastic abandonment of biblical values on marriage and sex.
The United Church of Christ (UCC) attracted heaps of polarized public attention in 2005 with its embrace of a strong pro-same-sex-marriage stand, for church as well as society. But this was really a sadly unsurprising development in a denomination whose leaders had by that point already harshly excluded evangelicals (within the limits of the UCC's congregational polity), aggressively promoted secular sexual values, and even allowed local congregations to dually affiliate with the Unitarian Universalist Association for many years.
UCC denominational officials defended high-profile homosexuality-affirming actions in the middle of the previous decade by, among other things, boasting of a presumably controversy-driven increase in traffic to the find-a-church section of the UCC website. To paraphrase this argument: "You naysayers protested, but just you wait and see all the people who will come flocking to our churches as a result of this." In a rather similar vein, Chicago United Methodist Bishop Sally Dyck defended her recent promotion of same-sex marriage in Illinois (in which she notably misrepresented the UMC's official position), by framing it as something that will attract non-Christians to attend United Methodist congregations.
So how has such pandering worked out for the UCC?
As of this writing, the UCC stands poised to finally dip below the benchmark of one million members, which is less than half the size it had when it was founded (by merger) in 1962.
According to the most recently available annual report of the denomination's own Pension Board, the denomination has shed a whopping 37 percent of its congregations since that year, and just in the first decade of the new millennium, it saw a decline of 35 percent in membership, 41 percent in church-school attendance, and 12 percent in the number of congregations.
And prospects for the future do not look much brighter. Contrary to optimistic predictions by progressives that departing conservatives would be replaced by an influx of sexually liberal newcomers, the UCC Pension Board report admits that "the rate of decline is accelerating." Furthermore, of the remaining congregations, over 40 percent have annual budgets smaller than the "bare minimum for sustaining full-time ministerial leadership and the minimum necessary for mission and ministry."
This will inevitably take an accelerating toll on beloved, generations-old denominational institutions. Last month, the final convocation was delivered at Bangor Theological Seminary, one of the UCC's seven seminaries. Last year, in the face of falling enrollments and growing financial pressures, the trustees unanimously decided to cease the seminary's operations as a degree-granting school after this June, just one year shy of its 200th birthday. So far, there has been talk of continuing the institution as a shadow-of-its-former-self theological center, but the details of this are still undecided.
At least some UCC liberals drew the line at John Thomas, the UCC's crusading liberal president and general minister for most of the last decade, carrying on an affair with a much-younger subordinate staffer, for whom he eventually divorced his wife. But that is apparently not too much for one of the UCC's remaining seminaries, Chicago Theological Seminary, where Thomas remains a role model for the denomination's clergy-in-training as Senior Advisor to the President and Visiting Professor in Church Ministries.
This is a striking fate for a denomination once considered "mainline" in American society. More of the now "sideline" denomination's seminaries and other institutions will probably shutter their doors within the next decade or two. In all likelihood, I will personally never drive past the construction site for a new UCC congregation. Within my lifetime, I expect to see the 40-year-old Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) eclipse the UCC in membership and worship attendance. It is questionable whether or not the UCC will even survive the twenty-first century. Perhaps it may try to buy some time through merging with the Disciples of Christ, the Metropolitan Community Churches, or even (why not?) the Unitarian Universalist Association.
The spiritual and existential end of a Christian denomination with such a rich heritage should drive any disciple of Jesus to mourn.
In my own denomination, the United Methodist Church, a very vocal minority repeatedly claims that UCC has set a courageous, future-building example for us to follow. Recently, some voices have argued that if non-mainline evangelical churches are to survive among younger generations of Americans, they too must move their approach to sexual morality closer to that of the UCC.
In light of the above, the best response this young adult can offer is: Seriously???
Life and, eventually, the parasites themselves always abandon the dead host when it’s nothing but bones.
Hard to believe that the members of what is now the United Church of Christ were once called Puritans.
This, to my thinking, is the unpardonable sin - blaspheming the Holy Spirit - by deigning to appropriate His blessings on their utter perversion.
God has much more tolerance and compassion on hardened atheists and those that want nothing to do with the Church than these heretics who want to say God blesses the damnable.
The UCC is a bluehair congregation, and will die a natural death as the old members continue to die off. They will end up merging with some other leftwing splinters, as the article suggests, in order to survive.
I'll share this story (which I've posted on occasion here on Free Republic). Back in the summer of 2008 when the presidential campaign was in full swing, I took a long summer vacation by car. My route took me across Texas, into Arkansas, through Missouri, Illinois and Tennessee as well as Alabama. I visited congregations of the "coC" at every opportunity for Wednesday night as well as Sunday services. I checked out the parking lot of each. There was NOT ONE Obama bumper sticker on any of the thousands of cars I must have seen. There were plenty for Palin (with the name of some other guy, the fellow she ran with...the name escapes me at the moment). And, to top it off, as far as I know, everyone at my congregation is a gun owner and that includes the preacher. Woe unto the fool who tries to lift the collection plate. We carry more than just our Bibles into the building when it's time to Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition! Amen!
And here's one more tidbit to help remember the substantial difference. The United Church of Christ counts Obama as a member. We've got Weird Al Yankovich and Meatloaf in our flock. :-)
From what I've seen, the Presbyterian Church USA may not be far behind.
When the Black Hymnals were issued, so many of the parishioners at the Hillcrest Congregational Church in La Habra Heights, Calif.--a deeply "red" section of Los Angeles County--protested that the pastor kept the old hymnals in the pews along with the new ones.
I haven't been to a service there in years, so I don't know if the old hymnals are still in use.
True. And then head for solid meaty churches like those in the Southern Baptist Convention, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and the Presbyterian Church in America(my denomination) to try to wreck them as well.
I encountered something like that back in the 70's when I dropped into a church while visiting colleagues in Richmond Hill, Ontario. I accompanied them to their worship services out of courtesy. It was very PC in an era when that term had not yet entered the lexicon on a widespread basis.
But rather than being gender neutral, although all references to Christ were masculine, the Holy Spirit was consistently "she" and "her". As for Almighty God, HE was pretty much left out of their picture since it was awkward (even for them) to refer to HIM as "it".
‘There’s occasionally some confusion, even here on Free Republic, between the church of Christ (lowercase ‘c’) and the United Church of Christ. The former arose from the Stone-Campbell restoration movement of the 19th century. As a member of the “coC”, I have found that every congregation is very Conservative both politically and in terms of God’s Word. Each congregation is autonomous so there may be some that tilt to the left...but I haven’t encountered any.’
I’d heard of Churches of Christ for most of my life. When I first heard of the “United Christ of Church” it was in an article saying they endorsed homosexual clergymen. I was completely confused wondering why they would prohibit the use of musical instruments in worship but think same-sex behavior was OK? :? Then later, I learned that UCC was a completely different group.
‘I’ll share this story (which I’ve posted on occasion here on Free Republic). Back in the summer of 2008 when the presidential campaign was in full swing, I took a long summer vacation by car. My route took me across Texas, into Arkansas, through Missouri, Illinois and Tennessee as well as Alabama. I visited congregations of the “coC” at every opportunity for Wednesday night as well as Sunday services. I checked out the parking lot of each. There was NOT ONE Obama bumper sticker on any of the thousands of cars I must have seen. There were plenty for Palin (with the name of some other guy, the fellow she ran with...the name escapes me at the moment). And, to top it off, as far as I know, everyone at my congregation is a gun owner and that includes the preacher. Woe unto the fool who tries to lift the collection plate. We carry more than just our Bibles into the building when it’s time to Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition! Amen!’
That seems more consistent with what I’ve heard about the Churches of Christ.
‘And here’s one more tidbit to help remember the substantial difference. The United Church of Christ counts Obama as a member. We’ve got Weird Al Yankovich and Meatloaf in our flock. :-)’
Weird Al and Meatloaf are COC? Interesting.
Looks like the UCC is in the ejector seat.
I grew up Congregational, too. It was big here in New England.
I know multiple cofC members who were and are Obama supporters. I don’t think they have bumper stickers. I also know a number of ex cofC-ers who are gay. They are Obama supporters. They flaunt their lifestyles. And I see people who are torn as to whether they should accept them and stay chummy or cut them off. They attend churches that accept them practicing their sin. As in, they attend Episcopal, Methodist, and other churches.
Those are among the more colorful members that usually cause a smile. Other members include Congressman Ted Poe of Texas's 2nd district, a non-nonsense Conservative and Ken Starr, now president of Baylor but perhaps better known for heading the investigation of Clinton as well as Fred Thompson. Gene Stallings, one of the Texas A&M "Junction Boys", is another member that comes to mind.
That commercial is such a lie. Of course I can’t say for all churches, but I figure every one wants to have people come and occupy pews, even if it’s (sadly) only for the “nickels and noses” rule. The stumbling block is that a true church will only want believers who profess the true faith to actually join but I’d be surprised if anyone would’ve been excluded from coming. At one church I attended, I was told there was someone attending who wanted to join but could not honestly give assent to all or some essential Christian beliefs. He was told that he could not join but that they wanted him to keep attending in the hopes that he would come to believe the essentials. Then, they would be happy to let him join.
I never knew that Weird Al is a member of the church of Christ.
ucc is a big pro-homo, pro-abort group.
It’s a theology my brother who is pro-abortion, pro gay rights can attend and feel good about himself.
really? I wonder what they'll be when they join with the Unitarians and the MCC -- Metropolitan United Unitarian Universalist Community Churchs -- MUUUCs?