After much discussion and debate, members of a Connecticut church have voted to leave the liberal-leaning United Church of Christ over what they perceive as the denomination's disregard for scripture. Meanwhile, the head of that denomination has publicly endorsed a resolution supporting homosexual "marriage."
With a possible historic vote looming on the resolution, UCC head Rev. John Thomas says the denomination's General Synod "should affirm the rights of gay, lesbian and transgender persons" to have marriages "equal in name, privileges and responsibilities to married heterosexual couples."
The same-sex marriage resolution is one of three expected to be voted on by the General Synod at its annual meeting this weekend in Atlanta. If it passes, the church would be the first mainstream Christian denomination to officially support the marriages of homosexuals. UCC members could also choose to support a "one man, one woman" marriage resolution, or a resolution calling for prayer and study of the same-sex marriage issue.
Associated Press reports that Thomas said he was disappointed that some congregations are considering leaving the denomination if the same-sex resolution is approved. But members of First Congregational Church of Torrington, Connecticut, are heading that direction, having voted to split with the denomination as of October 1.
Pastor Steve Darr says representatives of other parishes within the denomination were at the vote as observers, and their churches are weighing a similar decision.
Darr says his congregation could not go along with the support of the UCC for, among other things, abortion and gender-neutral versions of the Bible and hymnals. And of course, there is the resolution to endorse same-sex marriage that is on the agenda for the church's upcoming convention in Atlanta.
"We have seen over the years a kind of move away from a more traditional, historic interpretation of Scripture or the traditional Christian views by the United Church of Christ," the conservative pastor notes. "We're very Bible-based in our beliefs here at our church."
Darr says his congregation found it could no longer remain in a denomination that takes such a radical, non-biblical approach to scripture. Members of the increasingly liberal denomination "have really put a much bigger emphasis on the 'social gospel,'" he asserts, "and [have done so], we believe, at a cost to the saving grace gospel of Jesus Christ – the transforming grace that Christ brings to our lives when we hear the gospel."
First Congregational becomes the fourth parish in the state church's Northwest District to quit the United Church of Christ in less than a year. Darr says his church has yet to decide whether it will now join the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference or the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches.
The UCC has a history of supporting homosexuals dating to 1972, when it ordained the first openly homosexual minister and established a homosexual caucus. UCC churches are autonomous, meaning that the General Synod does not create policy for its congregations.
Associated Press contributed to this article.
United Church of Christ (http://www.ucc.org)
Conservative Congregational Christian Conference (http://ccccusa.ccccsitelaunch.com)
National Association of Congregational Christian Churches (http://www.naccc.org)
(c) 2005 Agape Press. All rights reserved. Used with permission