That's true when you compare one local UCC church to another. But at the national level, finding expressions of the "diverse church," are darn near impossible.
Here's an example. An evangelical United Church of Christ pastor blogging at the denomination's "Spirit Cafe" had his Lenten devotional removed by the the site administrator in mid February after he wrote that homosexual behavior was immoral and claimed people have left the lifestyle with the help of Exodus International.
Rev. Randall Forester, pastor of St. Paul's Community Church in Chicora, Pennsylvania, had been posting articles at the Spirit Cafe blog since its inception two years ago. But apparently, his last article crossed some invisible line. i.UCC site administrator Andy Lang quickly deleted the post and justified his action to Forester, saying:
I've unpublished your blog in the Spirit Cafe until we can have a conversation about what you wrote. i.UCC is an open and affirming community. It is designed to be a safe place for lesbian and gay Christians. It is not a place where Exodus International, which, believe me, has done more harm than you can imagine, will be lifted up by a representative of the community as an example of faithful discipleship, or where homosexuality will be described as an example of the bondage of immorality...On the UCCtruths discussion board, some have said Lang is properly doing his job. He is reinforcing and upholding the convictions of General Synod delegates, who dictate the direction of the national church, and General Synod has a long tradition of welcoming and affirming the gay community.
If you feel that this is an unwarranted interference with your continued participation as an i.Guide, we can talk about it. Frankly, I am disappointed, because I thought that as an evangelical with a dialogical spirit you would understand that such a comment from an i.guide would be inappropriate. I am equally disappointed that you did not have the good judgment to consult with me first before writing a blog on this subject. As I said, I'll be glad to talk about it.
Yes, General Synod has declared its will and the national office is carrying out its wishes. However, it's amazing that once an issue gets decided, any expression of dissent on a national stage is rarely permitted-- and in this case, snuffed out.
But also, this summer's General Synod said they acknowledge, "the existence of a broad spectrum of thought on contemporary issues of theology and ethics, and advocates fair representation of all points of view in all settings of the United Church of Christ" (lines 36-39 from the resolution, "Covenantal Relationships").
So how will that get worked out?
When it comes to sex, religious liberals like to tout how tolerant they are compared to those intolerant religious conservatives. But this incident illustrates that liberals have borders just as real as their conservative counterparts. It's just that liberals and conservatives have their fence posts in radically different places. Liberals believe homosexual relationships are blessed by God. Conservatives believe these relationships are sinful and grieve the heart of God. Theologically, there is no middle ground. Apparently, there's no common table at the Spirit Cafe to discuss it either.
The United Church of Christ is a grand ecclesiastical experiment of "unity amidst diversity." Is it possible?
But not when the majority silences the minority.
Next time: The "forbidden" devotional.