Last night my church, the Little River Congregational Church, decided the ground rules it will use to determine whether or not to remain in the United Church of Christ.
In short, a vote will take place at the church on Wednesday, February 28. Everyone on the church's membership roll is eligible to vote. Any member who is not able to be present at the February 28 meeting may request in writing an absentee ballot, and the church must receive that returned ballot by mail before the evening's vote. As stated in last night's meeting, it's understood that anyone who exercises their membership right to vote, and requests an absentee ballot, does so in "good Christian conscience."
The ground rules were formally established when the church, after much discussion and a couple of amendment votes, agreed by a 30-5 decision to adopt into the constitution an amendment stipulating how the church will decide affiliating or disaffiliating with any denomination.
The actual adopted constitutional amendment and a description of how absentee balloting will take place will soon be posted on the church's website.
As far as church meetings go, this one was certainly the most difficult I've ever been a part. But I'm proud of how our people handled themselves. Good questions were asked. Important observations were made. No one muffled their opinion. Best of all, the process wasn't rigged. The multiple options of how the church could decide its future were laid out for every one's consideration. And after a long and hard discussion, the ground rules are now set.
I've shared with my church several times, "We can be faithful to God remaining in the UCC and we can be faithful to God in leaving the UCC." What we actually do is a matter of prayer. As stewards of God's church, we must seek His will because the church belongs to God. And after having sought His face, cast our ballot.