Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The United Church of Christ (UCC)

I said at the beginning that I would write about religion. The UCC is the topic today. I will concentrate on one area of the UCC, the Congregational Church. The UCC has been in the news lately due to its very liberal treatment of gays. Knowing some background is certainly in order.

England broke from the Roman Catholic Church (1500's) and the state church became known as the Anglican Church. English emigrants to America (1620) included many who eventually formed the Congregational Church. Yes. The Congregational Church is commonly known as the 'Pilgrim Church'.

(The Anglican Church eventually came to America, where it is called the Episcopal Church.)

The Congregational Church, the pilgrim's church, has also been called the 'Church of the Presidents' many times over the years. Many many presidents have attended the Congregational Church, ---and when they needed more dignity and pomp, have attended the Episcopal Church in Washington D.C. Many people doing their family genealogies, upon finding out they have an English 'side', are very used to the idea that the Congregational Church, United States of America, and roots in England, all seem to blend into one.

The Congregational Church exists from the 'bottom-up', as opposed to its polar opposite - the Roman Catholic Church. Catholics are dictated to by Rome. The Congregational Church is a product of the local parish members ---and they inform the state or national church officials what they are doing, or intend to do. Each individual Congregational Church may be quite different than another just ten miles away.

There was always some form of outreach to other churches and the Congregationals began merging with other churches in the 1930's. The largest merger happened after some twenty years of work in the 1950's. They merged with the Evangelical & Reformed Church (E&R) and the merger gave the church a new name: The United Church of Christ.

Many of these merged groups used 'UCC' on their sign with 'Congregational' or 'E&R' below it in smaller (or larger) print. Some still are not totally comfortable with this merger as in the case of the Congregational Church in downtown Oshkosh. They have allegiance to both the UCC and the old Congregational Church.

The UCC continues to reach out to other churches and considers harmony with other faiths as necessary and proper. The Kennebunkport, Maine UCC is one church which you may have heard of, being the place where a former president attends, and has even been the scene of protests.

What is the UCC like? I was confirmed in the UCC in the early 1960's in a small town in Wisconsin. One of the requirements was that I attend the other churches in town at least once and be able to comment on them. (They were Missouri Synod Lutheran and Roman Catholic.) Now, some 40yrs later, some people gasp when I tell them this. I never thought it unusual.

Yes. The UCC is quite liberal and open to new ideas and social justice. I can truly understand why they welcome gays into the fold. They are quite possibly way ahead of everyone else.

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