This past weekend, August 4-5, I participated in Faithful & Welcoming's (FWC) first national conference in Bechtelsville, PA. Nearly 150 people heard forums, presentations, and small group discussions around the theme, "Our Future and the United Church of Christ."
(For those needing background, FWC is an organization within the liberal-leaning United Church of Christ. FWC consists of Christians who consider themselves evangelical, conservative, orthodox, and traditional (ECOT) in their beliefs. We organized in opposition to our General Synod's recent support for same-gender marriage and in hopes of restoring the UCC to its founding vision of being a united and uniting church. I am one of the FWC board members.)
We invited and were pleased that several people from the UCC's national and conference settings attended the meeting. J. Bennett Guess, editor of the United Church News, filed a story that appears on the UCC website. Bob Chase, Minister and Team Leader of the UCC's Proclamation, Identity and Communication Ministry, addressed the group in the first plenary session, declaring the need to hear and respect a wide variety of voices that exist in the UCC. Bob Thompson, President of FWC, encouraged us with his opening message, "We Can Do It If We Will."
The Christian faith is all about relationships--with the Savior and each other (Steve Clifford). To this end, the weekend was successful in developing relationships and breaking down our suspicions of each other--even while we honestly discussed the issues that divide us.
I come home with a clearer understanding of where the UCC is right now. ECOTs are a dwindling minority in the UCC. While there's room for us in the UCC, we haven't been permitted a forum at the national and at many conference levels to present our views. For example, when General Synod 25 passed its support for same-gender marriage, it gave direction to how the national setting of the church should function; that's how resolutions affect the national setting. My thought is this: instead of providing web resources that only explain the support for same-gender marriage, why not provide alternative resources from UCC people making the case for traditional marriage? The General Synod resolution speaks to, not for the local churches. Let others voices speak as well--especially since everyone knows this issue threatens our unity like no other.
I also come home with a vision of what the UCC can be--a wonderful union of churches where there is liberty in the things we believe--a place where believers of diverse opinion choose to live in close proximity with those with whom they might disagree in order to learn more about our own beliefs and our Savior.