This week the United Church of Christ gathers in Hartford, Connecticut to convene its 26th General Synod and to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the church founded by the merger of the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the General Conference of Congregational Christian Churches on June 25, 1957.
As we celebrate our heritage and rededicate ourselves to fulfilling God’s mission, I pray we can rekindle something of the passion for unity that motivated the birth of this new church experiment: The United Church of Christ acknowledges as its sole Head, Jesus Christ, Son of God and Savior. It acknowledges as kindred in Christ all who share in this confession.
These words from the Preamble to the Constitution of the United Church of Christ represent the UCC at its best. The lines of authority are simple and clear: there is only one source of authority on the church — Jesus Christ! And the lines of connection are simple and clear: any — ANY — who share our dedication to following Jesus are already our brothers and our sisters, no more questions necessary!
Too often, I believe, our church falls prey to the same sort of prejudices and shortsightedness that plague much of Christ’s church. We recognize as kindred in Christ … all who think pretty much like we do! It seems sometimes we expend more energy bashing “right-wing Christians,” “evangelical Christians,” “other-side-of-the-aisle Christians” than bearing a common witness of grace and peace into a hurting world.
I am not suggesting the church forego healthy theological criticism and a faithful prophetic witness. I am not suggesting an uncritical acceptance of “church” in whatever forms it presents itself. But I am saying that the original genius of the United Church of Christ was its recognition that something is broken in the Church and that what is broken is Christ’s own vision of a church that is One.
The integrity of our witness will be demonstrated not only by what we say to the world, but by what we can show to the world, what we can show of our ability to get along even with each other! Does Christ make us one … or not? Do we require further conditions for fellowship and friendship than our common faith in Christ? Is Christ capable of breaking down the walls that divide us … or not?