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Bold stands, new leaders mark the UCC


new-churches2When delegates from around Wisconsin and  the nation gathered for meetings of the wider United Church of Christ last month, they helped define who we are as a denomination and helped give focus to issues that folks at Memorial UCC care about. Here are a few updates.

Our own Bonnie Van Overbeke has been a voice within the wider UCC for calling for our denomination to stand with our Christian partners in Palestine. Our friend Rev. Mitri Raheb from Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem was one of the main speakers at the UCC General Synod in Cleveland at the end of June. After  much debate, the delegates there overwhelmingly adopted a resolution calling for the UCC to stop investing in any company that whose products are used to enforce the Israeli occupation of Palestine and also to call upon UCC members to boycott those companies. The resolution also called on congregations to study what is known as the Kairos Palestine document – a document formulated by Christian leaders in Palestine, including Mitri – advocating for the Congressional accountability of U.S. aid to the Israeli government and continuing to engage in interfaith dialogue among Jewish and Muslim communities. These actions were the most controversial items at the Synod.

The delegates called for converting the American economy from reliance on fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, energy conservation, and energy efficiency by 2040. The original resolution called for this to happen by 2080, but Memorial’s own Karin Wells introduced an amendment to accelerate the transtion and her amendment passed.

Delegates at the Synod also addressed the use of Native American images by professional sports teams, calling on the Cleveland Indians baseball team to give up their “Chief Wahoo” logo, a racially exaggerated caricature, and asking UCC members to boycott any games played by the Washington Redskins football team and team merchandise until the team changes its racially offensive name and imagery.

On another issue that many people at Memorial care about, the General Synod adopted a resolution calling for the dismantling of racism in the criminal justice system.

Less controversial, but still meaningful, the Synod voted to have the UCC enter into full communion with the United Church of Canada as our denomination continues to widen its ecumenical relationships. We often use a creed from the United Church of Canada here at Memorial.

And the delegates elected a new leader for the national UCC – Rev. John Dorhauer, who has been the conference minister in the Southwest Conference of the UCC. Locally, Wisconsin has a new conference minister – Rev. Franz Rigert – who began in January and Wisconsin will have a new team of associate conference ministers in place on Sept. 1, including Rev. Joanne Thomson who will focus on the Southwest Association that includes Memorial.