General Synod, the day after

June 28, 2007

These are the days after Synod. As usual they are days of catching up – hitting practice with an insistent 5 year old, listening to a play by play of the 17 year olds first driving lesson on the way to her MacDonald’s shift, leading a fast paced final training session for 30 exuberant teenage camp counselors. The wonder of real life in Christ puts Synod very quickly into perspective. So then, just what did happen in Hartford?

There was to be sure much that we have come to expect, heightened by the drama of nationally famous speakers, a well planned party to celebrate the 50th, as well as excellent artistic use of image and sound in worship and plenary. There was a good deal of hubris, some theological casseroles containing poisonous ingredients from the realms of other spirits, some of the usual tensions and of course some things that were simply outright hilarious. John Thomas didn’t disappoint his critics, offering again a brittle, defensive, and strange view of our life together. (Joe Malayang and his family were, in contrast, impressive in his retirement testimony.) The administrative crisis in Cleveland, and the interpersonal tensions within the collegium, were painfully visible even to some of the newcomers. All this stuff will be reported as expected in the upcoming Witness and on our webpage. We won’t let you down. (

But, there were also some landmark realities. Whether you agree with his politics or not, Barack Obama gave a very clear testimony of personal conversion and faith in Jesus Christ. He appears to be a brother. The name of Jesus was on the lips of speakers, moderators, delegates and participants with great regularity, and for the most part genuinely and appropriately. There were several periods of authentic worship into which any of us could join with little reservation. The Jesus is Lord buttons were far more common than ever before, and Jesus is Lord was affirmed several times in various settings.
The resolution the FAITHFUL AND WELCOMING congregations brought to Synod passed! While some language was modified to read “all” instead of “ECOT”, it was also strengthened with language urging every Association and Conference to accommodate presentations and displays from “all”. It was also strengthened with the language “under the guidance of the Holy Spirit”. It will have a profound impact on what happens next. Bob Thompson and his crew did a superb job in their first Synod outing – praise God!
The Synod backed away from its anti-semitic position on the Israeli, Palestinian conflict and moved toward a renewed consideration of a more balanced view. This happened regardless of the spin it receives. Praise God.

The Resolution promoting “death with dignity” or assisted suicide was derailed by strong opposition from the disabilities advocates within the UCC and was dramatically modified to a study resolution with little bias against the sanctity of human life. The resolution, which passed, bore faint resemblance to the one proposed. Praise God.

And of course as widely reported, the two resolutions calling for a restoration of the Biblical view of marriage were tabled for no action. While not a victory, it does open the door for this issue to continue to return to the Synod on a regular basis.
The real story of this Synod, however, is that GOD IS STILL SPEAKING. As I prayed through these days, it became clear to me that behind the smoke and noise of the marriage resolution explosion in 2005, that the reaffirmation of Jesus as Lord that summer, was more important. A people who call on the name of the Lord, pray in Jesus name, and read their Bibles will be transformed. The power of the gospel can be trusted.

It also was made clear to me that 2007, is to be marked down in the UCC as the year of the Holy Spirit. Calling upon the Holy Spirit to act, to fall fresh on us, to guide, to anoint, was repeated by a wide variety of voices. I am very convicted that God is on the move, to reclaim His churches. Now is the time to rededicate ourselves to this vital mission field in the power and humility of the Holy Spirit. To succeed we will need a network of intercessory prayer. If you are an intercessor, know some, are connected to a team, we need you. We need you now. Email us.
Now, both the expectations and skepticism some of our supporters voice about these Synods is naïve. To expect that the Synod or the corporate leadership of the UCC, or its Conference Ministers, etc. will suddenly reject the ideology to which they have pledged their lives and careers, is unrealistic. We aren’t looking for an action of Synod to somehow grant us acceptance or to give us hope, or save the churches from themselves. This is a thing God alone will do. But Synod does offer hundreds or thousands of vignettes, actions, sound bites, and images that reveal much about the nature of things in the UCC at that particular moment in time. What was revealed in Hartford is that God is about to do something in our churches for which many of us have yearned for a lifetime. It has begun, and will unfold as none of us could have anticipated. It will defy our right/left categories and once again have us dying to ourselves if we hope to live. Stay tuned.


One Response to “General Synod, the day after”

  1. Steve Gettinger said

    Thanks for the testimony, David. “The battle belongs to the Lord”, and so does the church. Perhaps indeed, now is the time of salvation. It is certainly time to keep praying.
    While your word is encouraging about the future of the UCC, I’m still glad our congregation redirected our affiliation. Definitely the right thing for us. Even though our congregation was one of those “no shows” at synod to present explain and defend our resolution on Marriage. The resolution was thoroughly “no actioned” at our Conference meeting. Well, actually tabled for further discussion, but no discussion has taken place.
    Peace in Jesus

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