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UCC

Characteristics of the United Church of Christ

GET TO KNOW US

The characteristics of the United Church of Christ can be summarized in part by the key words in the names that formed our union: Christian, Reformed, Congregational, Evangelical.


Christian. By our very name, the United Church of Christ, we declare ourselves to be part of the Body of Christ—the Christian church. We continue the witness of the early disciples to the reality and power of the crucified and risen Christ, Jesus of Nazareth.


Reformed. All four denominations arose from the tradition of the Protestant Reformers: We confess the authority of one God. We affirm the primacy of the Scriptures, the doctrine of justification by faith, the priesthood of all believers, and the principle of Christian freedom. We celebrate two sacraments: baptism and the Lord’s Supper (also called Holy Communion or the Eucharist).


Congregational. The basic unit of the United Church of Christ is the congregation. Members of each congregation covenant with one another and with God as revealed in Jesus Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit. These congregations, in turn, exist in covenantal relationships with one another to form larger structures for more effective work. Our covenanting emphasizes trustful relationships rather than legal agreements.


Evangelical. The primary task of the church is the proclamation of the Gospel or (in Greek) evangel. The Gospel literally means the “Good News” of God’s love revealed with power in Jesus Christ. We proclaim this Gospel by word and deed to individual persons and to society. This proclamation is the heart of the leiturgia—in Greek, the “work of the people” in daily and Sunday worship. We gather for the worship of God, and through each week, we engage in the service of humankind.


THERE IS YET MORE TRUTH AND LIGHT TO BREAK FORTH FROM GOD’S HOLY WORD. 

This affirmation by one of the founders of the Congregational tradition assumes the primacy of the Bible as a source for understanding the Good News and as a foundation for all statements of faith. It recognizes that the Bible, though written in specific historical times and places, still speaks to us in our present condition. It declares that the study of the scriptures is not limited by past interpretations, but it is pursued with the expectation of new insights and God’s help for living today.

THE PRIESTHOOD OF ALL BELIEVERS.

All members of the United Church of Christ are called to minister to others and to participate as equals in the common worship of God, each with direct access to the mercies of God through personal prayer and devotion.  Recognition is given to those among us who have received special training in pastoral, priestly, educational and administrative functions, but these persons are regarded as servants—rather than as persons in authority. Their task is to guide, to instruct, to enable the ministry of all Christians rather than to do the work of ministry for us.

WHAT WE BELIEVE

​​​​​​​We can tell you more about the United Church of Christ with the help of seven phrases from Scripture and Tradition which express our commitments.

That they may all be one. [John 17:21]

This motto of the United Church of Christ reflects the spirit of unity on which it is based and points toward future efforts to heal the divisions in the body of Christ. We are a uniting church as well as a united church.

In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity. 

The unity that we seek requires neither an uncritical acceptance of any point of view, nor rigid formulation of doctrine. It does require mutual understanding and agreement as to which aspects of the Christian faith and life are essential.

The unity of the church is not of its own making. 

It is a gift of God. But expressions of that unity are as diverse as there are individuals. The common thread that runs through all is love.

TESTIMONIES OF FAITH, NOT TESTS OF FAITH

Because faith can be expressed in many different ways, the United Church of Christ has no formula that is a test of faith. Down through the centuries, however, Christians have shared their faith with one another through creeds, confessions, catechisms and other statements of faith. Historic statements such as the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Heidelberg Catechism, the Evangelical Catechism, the Augsburg Confession, the Cambridge Platform and the Kansas City Statement of Faith are valued in our church as authentic testimonies of faith. In 1959, the General Synod of the United Church of Christ adopted a Statement of Faith prepared especially for congregations of the United Church. Many of us use this statement as a common affirmation of faith in worship and as a basis for study.

RESPONSIBLE FREEDOM

As individual members of the Body of Christ, we are free to believe and act in accordance with our perception of God’s will for our lives. But we are called to live in a loving, covenantal relationship with one another—gathering in communities of faith, congregations of believers, local churches.

Each congregation or local church is free to act in accordance with the collective decision of its members, guided by the working of the Spirit in the light of the scriptures. But it also is called to live in a covenantal relationship with other congregations for the sharing of insights and for cooperative action under the authority of Christ.

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Likewise, associations of churches, conferences, the General Synod and the churchwide “covenanted ministries” of the United Church of Christ are free to act in their particular spheres of responsibility. Yet all are constrained by love to live in a covenantal relationship with one another and with the local churches in order to make manifest the unity of the body of Christ and thus to carry out God’s mission in the world more effectively.


The members, congregations, associations, conferences, General Synod, and covenanted ministries are free in relation to the world. We affirm that the authority of God as revealed in Jesus Christ and interpreted with the aid of the Holy Spirit stands above and judges all human culture, institutions and laws. But we recognize our calling both as individuals and as the church to live in the world:

  • To proclaim in word and action the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
  • To work for reconciliation and the unity of the broken Body of Christ.
  • To seek justice and liberation for all.

This is the challenge of the United Church of Christ.

 

10 REASONS TO CHECK OUT THE UCC

10. What if church is like spinach?

You know—like something that you hated as a kid but you love as an adult because you eat it in ways that suit you much better. Guess what? A lot of people are having the same sort of experience with church. In the UCC, things are often quite different and worth checking out.


9. We’ve got variety

UCC churches tend to tailor themselves to fit the people they feel called to serve in their local community. The result: a variety of musical traditions, expressions and values that have integrity and purpose. From conservative to liberal, we’re not short on variety.


8. No apologies

You are what you are … and so are we: we like ourselves just fine. Find a church where you will fit in, be nurtured and challenged to grow.


7. No waiting

In many UCC congregations, you don’t have to join to be active. If you want to get involved, many of our churches will find a place to help fulfill your need to give—whether or not you decide to join.


6. No boxes

God can blow the lid off any box, unfold it and turn it into a dance floor. We tend to be the “out of the box” people. Among our many firsts, we were the first mainline church to take a stand against slavery (1700), the first to ordain an African American person (1785), the first to ordain a woman (1853), the first in foreign missions (1810), and the first to ordain openly gay lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons (1972). We value education for all people. We founded Harvard and Yale, as well as many historically black colleges, six of which remain affiliated with the UCC to this day.

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5. One God, one faith, one baptism … for all

When we baptize you into our community, we promise that we will never take it back—no matter what you discover about yourself or what others discover about you along life’s journey. We believe that baptism places each of us into the “body of Christ” and lasts forever. Some are baptized as infants, others as adults. Some are sprinkled. Others are immersed. Some reclaim their baptism from a previous church life. For each of us, however, baptism is big enough, strong enough and cleansing enough to last forever. We believe that everyone—old, young, straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, physically or emotionally challenged, rich or poor, sure or unsure, lost or found, Democrat or Republican has a place in the body of Christ. Baptism is like a badge that says, “you’re a full member of the church and no one can take that away from you.”

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4. Good News people

We believe that No. 5 is good news!


3. We’re a “party church”

God is having a party and we are all invited. At God’s party our spiritual hungering is fed and our thirsting is satisfied. At God’s party we get strength, stamina and community support that helps us through the tough times that come to everyone. Feeding our spiritual hunger helps reduce those, “I can’t believe I’m so stupid” moments – but we’ll never eliminate them all. That’s why we need friends and companions and not judges (no offense to judges) for the journey.


2. It’s about relationships

It’s not about commandments. It’s about relationships—even with God. The most important relationship is our relationship with God. Second most important are our relationships with the rest of the human family. In balance, these relationships produce justice amid injustice, kindness in the face of meanness, and the humility of self acceptance that comes as we sense the presence of a God who knows our inmost thoughts and loves us uncontrollably—just as we are. Spiritual journeys can be like the exercise equipment we buy and leave under the bed. Without coaches and workout partners, most of us don’t stick with it. We’re the “Journeys Wanted” people: bring yours!


1. We’re waiting for you!

UCC TV ADS​​​​​​​

Steeple ad

Open the door, and see all the people. Not some … but all.


The Ejector Ad

Have you ever felt unwelcome in a church? Sometimes it feels like they can’t wait to get rid of you.

Bouncer ad

Who’s really included in a church, and who has to wait outside? We want to be a community that doesn’t fence people out.

UCC 101

A brief introduction to the United Church of Christ by our General Minister and President, the Rev. John Thomas.

UCC RADIO ADS

To listen to any of the UCC radio ads, click on the links below:

"That they may all be one." 

John 17:21