Saturday, July 2, 2011

No More "God the Father" in the United Church of Christ?

This weekend, the General Synod of the United Church of Christ is meeting down in Florida.  Synod is an opportunity to update the administrative rules of the denomination, to participate in a variety of worship experiences and workshop, to meet other UCCers from around the country, and to vote on a bunch of resolutions.  I generally don't have the time or money to go to Synod.  Maybe someday if they schedule it a little closer to home.

I was skipping around the Internet and came across a concern by the Biblical Witness Fellowship's executive director, David Runnion-Bareford, that the denomination plans to "reject God the Father" from the denomination's constitution.  According to the PDF, Article 5, lines 9-10 would be amended from "The basic unit of the life and organization of the United Church of Christ is the Local Church.  A Local Church is comprised of persons who, believing in God as heavenly Father, and accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and depending on the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and organized for Christian worship, for the furtherance of Christian fellowship, and for the ongoing work of Christian witness" to "The basic unit of the life and organization of the United Church of Christ is the Local Church. A Local Church is comprised of persons who, believing in the triune God, accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and depending on the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and organized for Christian worship, for the furtherance of Christian fellowship, and for the ongoing work of Christian witness".

This is was Runnion-Bareford had to say about this proposed change:
Rejecting God as Father in an age of fatherlessness is unthinkable. God acted toward us in amazing grace when He offered to be our Father through the sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ who offers us life in his name. This is not something we as humans made up in some other time. Rejecting our Father is act of arrogant rebellion in the name of cultural conformity that only further alienates members, churches, but more importantly God himself. We call the delegates to reject the change for God’s sake.
I understand his point and I understand that people strongly believe in identifying God as the Father.  But I've also been part of a UCC church for nearly 15 years that generally attempts to use gender-inclusive language to describe God.  Many times, I hear people justify the use of gender inclusive language to describe God as a way to help people who've been hurt by their abusive and/or absent earthly fathers or by men in general.  I understand this point of view, but I think there's a much more legitimate reason to use gender-inclusive language in the Church.  We are all created in God's image.  All includes men and women.  Ultimately, I understand gender inclusive language as it relates to God and I generally use it in worship.  It wasn't a selling point for the denomination and I'm certainly not railing against it.  But it's certainly not one of my concerns, if that makes sense.  In other words, I can take it or leave it.  Then again, It feels much more natural for me these days praying to "Our Creator..." instead "Our Father..."  For what it's worth.

I'm not sure how I feel about the proposed change.  It would be nice to know why they want to make the changes to Article 5.  It's one of those word changes that doesn't seem to make a huge difference, but it makes a huge difference to those who believe strongly in referring to God as Father and to those who believe strongly in the use of gender-inclusive language.  My concern is that this amendment will be used by renewal groups like BWF and traditionalists in the denomination to further attack the denomination.  My other concern is that the change will happen and people won't be gracious in celebrating its approval.  My third concern is that there will not be clear consensus about the change in wording and yet it will be pushed through for approval.

Concerns aside, I look forward to hearing if this amendment gets approved and what kinds of discussions will come from it.

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