Saturday, March 18, 2006

FWC and UCC: What’s In a Name?

All of this week’s postings focus on issues related to my denomination, the United Church of Christ (UCC) and my involvement with Faithful & Welcoming Churches (FWC)—a renewal movement within the UCC. Our church hosted a regional FWC meeting on March 15.

In advance of the Little River Congregational Church hosting a meeting presented by Faithful & Welcoming Churches, our conference minister of the Kansas-Oklahoma Conference—Rev. David Hansen—made a two-fold critique of FWC in his March 7, 2006 “Monday Musing.” I’ll consider the first here and the second one in the above post.

The first concern was that FWC on its website had misnamed the UCC office that handles clergy search and call—calling the office by its old name (Office of Church Life and Leadership), instead of its new name (Parish Life and Leadership Ministry). The name change took place a few years ago when the UCC restructured itself.

Rev. Hansen asks, “Why would you call attention to an organization that no longer exists?” Other than mild embarrassment, FWC gains nothing with the mistaken name. FWC President Bob Thompson wrote Rev. Hansen and expressed appreciation for pointing out the obvious error. The FWC website has since been corrected.

Everyone makes unintentional mistakes. Hopefully, that is the kind of error made by UCC President John Thomas when—in a transcript of a March 7th speech delivered at Gettysburg College—he repeatedly refers to Faithful and Welcoming Churches as “Welcoming and Faithful.”

(Rev. John Thomas’ March 7th speech, “The IRS, the IRD, and the Red State/Blue State Religion,” is posted at Register as a member to get into their Yahoo! discussion board. The speech can be found under “Files”).

When children say, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me,” what’s actually meant is that names—particularly the intentional misuse of names—can and do hurt.

How we use names is important. Let every party be careful.

And if a mistake is made, let’s offer each other grace and benefit of the doubt.

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