Thursday, June 02, 2005

Synod Resolutions: The Non-Issues

'No, not the church! Jesus lives there!' - Rev. Lovejoy

Two Synod resolutions fall under this category, which perhaps carry with them more baggage than any other resolutions to be presented. I'll show you what I mean.

The first is a resolution entitled 'The United Church of Christ is a Christian Denomination Where Jesus is Lord.' Who said it isn't? The first line of the text asserts that 'The greatest issue facing our denomination is whether or not to acknowledge the Lordship and divinity of Jesus, which is the most basic of all Christian teachings.' How did the drafters discern that this is the greatest issue facing our denomination?

This is the first line of the second paragraph of the UCC Constitution: 'The United Church of Christ acknowledges as its sole Head, Jesus Christ, Son of God and Savior.' The resolution mentions this, but apparently it's not enough. Article IV, paragraph 8 of the Constitution says, 'A Local Church is composed of persons who, believing in God as heavenly Father, and accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour...' Oh wait, the resolution mentions that, too. In the liturgy to welcome new members AND for confirmation the question is asked, 'Do you profess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior?' Oh, the resolution caught that one, too. So what's the problem? The resolution, given its context in a denomination with all the afforementioned language included in its Constitution and its liturgy for welcoming new members and confirmation, is redundant.

The other piece of the resolution is its call to explicitly mention Jesus' divinity, which seems to really be the underlying issue for its drafters. They propose a particular definition of the creed, 'Jesus is Lord,' which is made more explicit by this part. When I say that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior, I need a moment to clarify what I mean. When I speak of Jesus' divinity, I also need to clarify what I mean. This resolution, after being redundant, wants to clarify for me what I mean.

On the whole, given a few slight changes, I wouldn't have a problem with this resolution. Unfortunately, if this resolution is not passed, let alone as it is currently worded, it has the potential to be used to further prop up some claims that the UCC is not Christian or at least that it has a strong non-Christian element ('See? They didn't pass the resolution professing to be Christian.'). But since the resolution will be there, let's amend it slightly, send it through, and be done with it.

The other resolution calls the UCC to reaffirm the 'Cross Triumphant' as the primary symbol of the denomination. Why? 'The symbol of the comma, while understood by many to simply express an effort to promote the UCC to a new generation of unchurched, has been mistaken by others as a symbol for the church itself.' We can't control how everyone else views the comma. On the other hand, who might mistake the comma for the UCC symbol when the Cross Triumphant is included on most 'God is Still Speaking' merchandise, INCLUDING the StillSpeaking website?

Here are two Whereases which are irrelevant to the resolution:

And Whereas: Some in the United Church of Christ have promoted an ideology in which Jesus Christ is not sovereign, nor our sole head and savior, but one among many religious paths that have equal validity in the sight of God. And, that this ideology has conflicted our unifying madate to fulfill the great commission of Christ.

And Whereas: Some in the United Church of Christ have seemingly sought to change the churches' message of the gospel of transformation through the power of Christ's death and resurrection, for an ungrounded grace extended unconditionally to anyone on the basis of self defined righteousness.

This resolution's purpose is to promote a symbol. These two pieces seem to be axes that are best ground elsewhere (maybe in the other resolution mentioned here). Furthermore, the Cross Triumphant can be found twice on the UCC's main page (and nearly every other page on the site), many local UCC church websites, the front cover of every United Church News, and many other places related to the United Church of Christ. There is no co-opting or eclipsing by the comma to be found.

In addition, let's be honest. Many more 'conservative' elements in the UCC are currently unhappy. They haven't liked what's been going on at our national setting for some time. Resolutions such as these are one manner in which they voice that unhappiness. 'The UCC has strayed from The Faith,' they say. I wonder just how many people of whom these resolutions are supposedly the subject would stand up and say, 'You know what? You're right. Jesus is NOT my Lord. I WOULD rather extend an 'ungrounded grace unconditionally to anyone on the basis of self-defined righteousness.' Let's replace the Cross Triumphant with the Comma.' I'm willing to bet that if the contingent that would actually say that exists, it is very tiny.

This post has been modified.