Question: "What is the United Church of Christ?"
Answer: The United Church of Christ (UCC) is a mainline Protestant denomination that was formed when the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches were united in 1957. Historically, the United Church of Christ is a continuation of the General Council of Congregational Christian Churches founded under the influence of New England Puritanism.
As a national body, the United Church of Christ officially subscribes to the theology of the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Heidelberg Catechism, Luther’s Small Catechism, the Kansas City Statement of Faith, the Evangelical Catechism, and the Statement of Faith of the United Church of Christ. However, the UCC’s constitution states that the “autonomy of the Local Church is inherent and modifiable only by its own action,” meaning that each local congregation determines its own doctrine and practice. The result is a theologically liberal bent. The United Church of Christ describes itself as “an extremely pluralistic and diverse denomination,” and the denomination is noted as a leader in the social gospel movement.
The United Church of Christ has entered an ecumenical partnership with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and is in full communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian Church (USA), and the Reformed Church in America. They are also a member of the World Council of Churches. Headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, the United Church of Christ has most of its nearly 5,000 congregations located in the Northeast and Midwest regions of the United States.
The national body of the United Church of Christ is active in traditionally liberal social causes such as abortion rights, same-sex marriage, and LGBT welcoming programs. The 2005 General Synod’s decision to solemnize same-sex unions was supported by an estimated 80 percent of the delegates. The UCC’s “Open and Affirming” movement claims to be the largest church program in the world to welcome and support “marriage equality” for all people, regardless of gender.
Not everyone in the United Church of Christ is on the politically correct bandwagon. There is a UCC pro-life ministry known as the United Church of Christ Friends for Life. And not all United Church of Christ churches support same-sex marriage. Some are working for change within the denomination. Others are choosing to leave the denomination. More theologically conservative members have complained about “theological surrender to the moral and spiritual confusion of contemporary culture” and the “often radically liberal political agenda” of the United Church of Christ.
Two large, well-known congregations within the United Church of Christ are the Trinity United Church of Christ (Chicago) and the Cathedral of Hope (Dallas). Trinity UCC, pastored for over 30 years by the controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright, is a predominantly black church with 8,000 members. Former President Obama claimed this as his home church in Chicago. The Cathedral of Hope (Dallas) is known for its outreach to the LGBT community. Local membership is over 4,000, and the church claims 52,000 adherents worldwide.
In 2004 the United Church of Christ launched a national advertising campaign called the “God Is Still Speaking” initiative. It used a comma as its motif and was based on the quotation, attributed to comedienne Gracie Allen, “Never place a period where God has placed a comma.”
The United Church of Christ’s desire is to be thought of as very progressive and inclusive. In their quest to be “open and affirming,” their support of abortion, and their involvement in ecumenism, the United Church of Christ has watered down the truth of Scripture to the extent that the Word of God is being replaced with the philosophies of man. Rather than bend to the fads and fancies of a changing society, we are “to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people” (Jude 1:3).