July 4th, 2011

This afternoon the General Synod will vote on a number of proposed changes to the UCC constitution and bylaws related to the structure of the national UCC.  The vote will culminate years of study and dialogue.

Rather puzzlingly (from my point of view), a constitutional change has been included (line 82) in the section about “Local Churches.”  The proposed change is in the paragraph that defines a local church –

A Local Church is composed of persons who, believing in the triune God as heavenly Father, and accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and depending on the guidance of the Holy Spirit, are organized for Christian worship, for the furtherance of Christian fellowship, and for the ongoing work of Christian witness.

Proposed deletion is in purple and strikethrough; proposed addition in red and bold. The first question is why the paragraph on local churches has any relevance to the national structure.  The second question is why a change in language about God is relevant to restructuring in this paragraph or any other.

For most progressive/liberal UCC’ers, this is simply a matter of cleaning up the constitution and bylaws on a matter of broad consensus within the denomination.  Even for me as an ECOT (an acronym for evangelical, conservative, orthodox, or traditional), the argument for “inclusive language” about God makes some valid points.  Masculine language for God (King, Lord, Father) has been used as a pretense for exclusion of females, dominance by males, and even abuse.  The point should also be self-evident that God is not male.  God’s image is reflected equally in male and female.

My primary point is that this is a significant theological conversation that deserves attention and debate.  It shouldn’t be subsumed under constitutional amendments that have to do with unified governance.

I am hoping that someone who has voice AND vote will move to remove this particular proposed amendment from consideration today just so it can have more serious consideration.

The primary purpose of this blog is to share with those at GS the ECOT perspective on why it matters to retain the language currently in our constitution, that God is “our heavenly Father.”  Here are some of the reasons that come to mind.

·        Jesus.  Basically, if this language was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for me.

·        Bible.  Not only Jesus, but from cover to cover the Bible that shapes our faith and gives it boundaries affirms the use of “Father” as a way of understanding and explaining God.

·        Personal.  C. S. Lewis reminds us that Christianity is unique in proclaiming the “three personal God” – three ways in which God connects with us person-to-person.  “Triune God” removes one of those persons.”

·        Baptism.  The General Synod just affirmed mutual recognition of the historic baptismal formula with our ecumenical partners, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  This language obviously matters to many in the Body of Christ.

·        Basis of Union.  This language (“God our heavenly Father”) was agreed to when the predecessor denominations of the UCC joined together.

·        The Preamble.  The preamble to our constitution says the UCC “claims as its own the faith of the historic Church expressed in the ancient creeds,” which affirm faith in God as our Father.

·        Fatherlessness.  In a world that increasingly recognizes the devastating social implications of fathers who do not take responsibility for the children they help bring into the world, God-as-Father is a critical idea to shape and inspire men.

I hope the GS will at least recognize this proposed change deserves some deeper conversation.

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