Thursday, August 04, 2005

Is it Happening?

From UCC News:

Starting Aug. 3, the 4,300-member Cathedral of Hope in Dallas, Texas, will begin a five-week series of church-wide conversations about affiliating with the 1.3-million-member United Church of Christ.

If such a move were to transpire, the Cathedral of Hope would become the UCC’s third largest congregation.“We’ve been taking a look at this for a number of years,” says Dennis Bolin, a 10-year member of the church and chair of its Affiliation and Expansion Committee.

The 35-year-old Cathedral of Hope, which until 2002 was affiliated with the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, is considered to be the largest church in the world with a primary outreach to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons. In more recent years, however, the congregation has attracted many non-LGBT members. It also has a satellite congregation, with a full-time pastor, in Oklahoma City.

Also from UCC News:

Citing dissatisfaction with General Synod’s July 4 adoption of a resolution in support of same-gender marriage equality, three congregations voted in late July to leave the denomination.

On July 24, the 49-member Center Congregational UCC in Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood voted to withdraw from the UCC’s Southeast Conference.

Likewise, on July 31, the 470-member Shiloh UCC in Faith, N.C. voted 189 to 9 to sever its ties to the Southern Conference. On the same day, in Evansville, Ind., the 400-member Salem-Darmstadt UCC also voted to leave the Indiana-Kentucky Conference.

I suppose one answer to the question in the title would be, 'It's been happening for years.' More 'conservative' churches are leaving and more 'progressive' churches are moving in. For a long while, I chose to reject the 'liberal' label that people attached to the denomination, citing polity. 'We' are not 'liberal,' those at the national setting are 'liberal.' The UCC has a large 'conservative' base who either don't acknowledge many Synod resolutions (well within their right under polity), make statements against Synod resolutions (also well within their right) or disaffiliate as was the case with the three churches above.

Nevertheless, the shift is becoming harder to mistake. That base is slowly eroding while churches like Cathedral of Hope come in. I have nothing against Cathedral of Hope and would gladly welcome them if they decided to join officially. With the establishment of 97 new churches in the past two years, what with their voluntary identification as UCC, I'm willing to bet that they might be more in line with resolutions that have been passed by Synods.

All of this is to say that I think it is becoming more proper to say that the UCC is a 'liberal' denomination. Maybe I'm late in recognizing that or giving in to that, but I wonder how many more will join the three departed churches and who will come with Cathedral of Hope.