A guide to the history of the UCC

What is the United Church of Christ?
It is a community of Christians under Christ, the sole head of the church.
The UCC was once several church bodies, now joined together. In freedom, congregations support each other in the work of Christ through denominational structures. The UCC has nearly 2 million members in over 6,000 congregations throughout America; from cities, suburbs, rural areas and of many nationalities and races.
The goal of the UCC is to be joined together in one church on earth with all who share allegiance to Christ. The UCC takes an active role in:
  • promoting cooperation between churches and denominations
  • bringing people everywhere together in the name of Christ.
Four churches into two into one; a history of ecumenical unity!
The religious heritage of the UCC stems from the great traditions of the Protestant Reformation - Lutheran, Calvinist and Congregational. These traditions were brought to America by Protestants fleeing persecution in Europe.

German Reformed Church of the US - Followed Calvinist beliefs and traditions.
1725 - German immigrants established congregations in the US
1793 - The Synod of the German Reformed Church in the US was formed.
1867 - The name "German" was dropped from the Synod title.

Evangelical Synod in North America basically, followed Lutheran, Reformed and other beliefs.
1800s - German immigrants established churches in the Midwest.
1872 - Churches organized into the German Evangelical Synod of North America
1927 - The name "German" was dropped from the Synod title.

Stressing liberty of conscience, authority of the Scriptures and their common liberal German Protestant heritage, these churches united in 1934 to form the Evangelical and Reformed Church.

Congregational Churches
Basically, followed Calvinist, Puritan and Congregational beliefs.
1620s - Puritans came to Massachusetts and united to begin in North America

1892 - Congregational Methodists joined.
1925 - Evangelical Protestants joined.
1927 - German Congregationalists joined.

The Christian Churches
1794 - O'Kelly "Christians" group was formed.
1801 - First Free Christian Church in Vermont was organized.
By 1850 - American Christian Convention of churches in the Northeast had formed
1854 - Southern Christian Convention was formed.
1922 - The Christian Church was organized.

Stressing congregational freedom and a continuing reformation, these churches united in 1931 to form the Congregational Christian Churches.

In 1957, these churches united to form the United Church of Christ. Today, the UCC is interested in uniting with other churches in fulfillment of the great prayer of Jesus Christ that they may all be one.

What are the beliefs of the UCC?
The United Church of Christ believes in:
Authority of the Scriptures - The Bible is the ultimate rule of faith and practice.
Doctrinal Freedom - Different covenants and confessions of faith are accepted in different congregations.

Christian Unity - All Christians are brothers and sisters in Christ, and must help each other.
The Trinity - Creator, Christ and Holy Spirit are one God
  • God - Acting in love, God is ever active in the world.
  • Jesus Christ - In Christ, the only head of the church, God has come, conquering sin and reconciling the world to Divine Love.
  • The Holy Spirit - God sent the Holy Spirit as the Eternal One's continuing presence and activity in the world.
The Church - The church consists of a group of people united in Christ through worship, work and witness.
    Salvation - Forgiveness, grace and eternal life are promised to all who have faith.
    Bearing Witness - We must each be disciples, in word and in deed - the strength of our faith.
    Redefining Faith - Each generation is responsible for re-thinking its beliefs, as God's word unfolds and conditions change.
    Serving Others - The mission of the church is to work for justice for all and to establish God's rule in the world.

These beliefs are summed up in the Statement of Faith. The Statement of Faith is a testimony, not a test of faith.
Statement of Faith
We believe in you, O God, Eternal Spirit, God of our Savior Jesus Christ and our God, and to your deeds we testify:
You call the worlds into being,
Create persons in your own image,
And set before each one the ways of life and death.
You seek in holy love to save all people from aimlessness and sin.
You judge people and nations by your righteous will declared through prophets and apostles.
In Jesus Christ, the man of Nazareth, our crucified and risen savior, you have come to us and shared our common lot, conquering sin and death and reconciling the word to yourself.
You bestow upon us your Holy Spirit, creating and renewing the church of Jesus Christ, binding in covenant faithful people of all ages, tongues, and races.
You call us into your church to accept the cost and joy of discipleship, to be your servants in the service of others, to proclaim the gospel to all the world and resist the powers of evil, to share in Christ's baptism and eat at his table, to join him in his passion and victory.
You promise to all who trust you forgiveness of sins and fullness of grace, courage in the struggle for justice and peace, your presence in trial and rejoicing, and eternal life in your realm which has no end. Blessing and honor, glory and power be unto you. Amen.

This version of the Statement of Faith uses inclusive language and was approved by the Executive Council in 1981 for use in the United Church of Christ in connection with 25th anniversary. Some congregations use the Statement of Faith that was approved by the General Synod in 1959.

Each congregation may practice its own Form of Worship.
Many include:
    statement of faith
    Scripture reading
The UCC recognizes two Sacraments - instituted by Christ
    Baptism - through baptism, persons are joined in faith with Jesus and accepted into the fellowship of the Church.
    The Lord's Supper - the breaking of bread and pouring of "wine" are done in remembrance of Christ's death on the cross and resurrection.

Other special ceremonies include:
What does it mean to belong to the UCC?
It means being an active Christian.
Growing In Faith
Individually - Members of the UCC try to accept more and more the responsibility of being Christ's disciples. This includes:
o committing themselves totally to God through Christ
o responding in faith and gratitude, praise and service to God
With Others - Members of the UCC try to share their faith more and more with each other. They do this by:
o Gathering together in worship, church activities and service
o Supporting each other on the Christian path
o Belonging to each other, in the church
Serving in the World
Helping Others - The UCC's mission is to bring the Gospel to bear on all situations, both personal and social by:
o Helping people in need
o Building
o Reconciling
o Working for justice and peace
o Healing
o Teaching
Working for Christian Unity
o The UCC recognizes that all Christians share the same basic faith: they are one in the body of Christ.
o The UCC seeks to unite all Christians in effective ministry and mission in Christ's name, while recognizing diversity of work and worship.
o An ecumenical partnership with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) was established in 1989.
How the UCC is organized
The structure of the United Church of Christ is based on the local congregation.
Christ is the only acknowledged leader of the church.
No official hierarchy manages local affairs.
Local Congregation
o The local church is the basic united of the UCC
o Each congregation practices its own forms of organization, worship, education and mission.
o The affairs of the church are managed by the members of each congregation.
o The pastor is a member of the congregation.
Individual congregations work together through:
o Associations - Groups of local churches work together to ordain ministers and set Association rules and procedures.
o Conferences - Each of the 39 conferences in the US are made up of one or more Associations.
o General Synod
o Speaks to the whole UCC, and oversees its worldwide work.
o Elects UCC national officers, sets church policy, adopts a budget, etc.
o Includes about 700 delegates (at least � lay people) elected by Conferences.
o Meets every 2 years. An Executive Council, made up of conference representatives and others, carries out duties between meetings.
Special Agencies - (most are elected by General Synod) carry out Christian World Mission:
o Board for Homeland Ministries - Helps the poor, evangelizes, educates, etc., in the US
o Board for World Ministries - Evangelizes and servers the needy abroad.
o Office for Church in Society - Develops Christian strategies for dealing with social issues.
o Office for Church Life and Leadership - Its goals are to develop leaders and to strengthen the church.
o Commission for Racial Justice - Helps work for racial justice for all minorities.
o Office of Communications - Interprets the work of the UCC to churches and to the larger society.
o And others
Church Activities
The UCC is a concerned church that witnesses to the Gospel by getting involved.
o Locally. For example, the UCC:
o Educates members and interested people of all ages in Christianity and the UCC
o May get actively involved in community affairs: youth programs, raising funds for charitable causes, influencing public policy, etc.
o Develops faith and spirituality in individual members.
Nationally. For example, the UCC:
o Works for social reform (racial justice, end to poverty, etc.)
o Communicates the Gospel and identifies social issues that need to be faced.
o Works to improve ecumenical relations, to unite all Christians
o Works to deepen the faith of individual Christians
Worldwide. For example, the UCC:
o Spreads the good news of the Bible.
o Works with other churches in serving the needy through disaster relief, social welfare programs, evangelism, etc.
o Speaks up for freedom, human equality.
o Promotes world peace.
So, the United Church of Christ offers:
o Unity - for Christians of diverse traditions seeking one church on earth.
o Action - a heritage of working for Christ's Kingdom.
o Freedom - for congregational and individual decisions under Christ.
"And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus giving thanks to God the Father through him. - Colossians 3:17
Take the opportunity to get involved in the UCC!