Sunday, January 25, 2015

"Faithful and Welcoming Churches" Board Members Bond with National UCC Leaders // Seek Larger Role in the Denomination

The United Church of Christ has a reputation for being spiritually and socially progressive, but elements of that reputation aren't shared by all members of the denomination. In the past, a conservative group called Biblical Witness Fellowship operated within the UCC and actively sought to get rid of liberal leaders and members -- particularly GLBTs and feminists.

The BWF is largely gone by this point (as far as I can tell), but many BWF leaders and churches founded a new organization about a decade ago called UCC Faithful and Welcoming Churches. It was founded back around 2005 or 2006, not long after the denomination's 25 General Synod voted in favor of equal marriage rights & rites. There are roughly 70 FWC churches and their goal is to provide support and resources for Evangelical, Conservative, Orthodox, and Traditional (ECOT) UCC churches. Basically, they are trying to offer an alternative for these folks outside of quitting the denomination.

A group of 10 FWC board members went to the United Church of Christ's main office in Cleveland a couple Fridays ago to discuss common concerns with national UCC staff members and to plan for this summer's General Synod. It was noted here that the FWC plans to host a formal luncheon at the Synod in order to gain more visibility.

The FWC wants more "self-identified" ECOTs working on the UCC's national office and serving on different boards. Which is interesting when you consider the next two paragraphs of this report:
As the conversation shifted to human sexuality and same-sex marriage, (Rev. Bob Thompson, president of the Faithful and Welcoming Church,) helped break a momentary tension by acknowledging "the elephant in the room." But in the respectful dialogue that followed, FWC members voiced past guilt surrounding the treatment of LGBT individuals, though they still believe the Bible affirms marriage as only between a man and a woman. National staff agreed that many UCC members hold that view, and that the church’s welcome extends across a range of the theological spectrum.

"This was not a meeting in which all problems were solved and all divisions erased," Thompson said. "There are still many issues ahead, and many perspectives on each. However, the meeting was one peaceful, Christ-centered step on a journey of shared purpose. It was a moment when the UCC was all that it was designed to be—everyone was welcome at the table."
Which is always the sticky point when it comes to integrating diverse religious leaders. How do you integrate two groups of people when ultimately the one group is deeply opposed to the other group?

Honestly, I'm glad that the National UCC leaders continue to meet with the FWC leaders and I hope that they continue to stick with the denomination even though they disagree with pervasive progressive denominational beliefs.

I must also admit that I have to fight my own trigger reactions when it comes to the FWC. Different members may have a gentler disposition to LGBT Christians and leaders than the BWF, but it's hard for me to forget that this group appears to have been founded in direct reaction to the UCC General Synod's support for equal marriage rights. The FWC might believe that only a marriage between a man and a woman is actually a family; but my husband and our sons are every bit as precious, blessed, and real to me. My family is fully integrated within our home UCC church. It's a shame that I couldn't say that if we tried attending one of these 70 churches.

Hopefully, they'll have a good showing this summer at General Synod.

No comments: