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Saturday, September 30, 2006

UUA, UCC leaders to discuss 'growing solidarity.'

Here's an intriguing announcement from Andover-Newton Theological School in Massachusetts:

On Wednesday evening October 25th, Andover Newton Theological School (ANTS) will host an historic dialogue between the national leaders of the United Church of Christ (UCC) and the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA).

Rev. John Thomas, General Minister and President of the UCC and Rev. William Sinkford, President, of the UUA, will reflect on the historical affinities and divisions between their denominations, and then go on to explore current realities and future possibilities. This exchange is of interest to clergy and congregants in both denominations because, despite theological differences and the historical controversy that led to their split, in recent years there has been a growing solidarity of the two groups. On a number of issues of progressive religious conviction and social justice the two share common perspectives, and in some communities there are some churches that have become aligned with both denominations.

The program, which will begin at 7:00 PM in Noyes Hall on the Newton campus, will be moderated by Rev. Nick Carter, President of Andover Newton. Joining the principal speakers will be Dr. Elizabeth Nordbeck, Moses Brown Professor of Ecclesiastical History at ANTS (and specialist in New England church history), and Dr. John Buehrens, minister of First Parish in Needham (UUA), author and former president of the UUA. The program is open to the public.

There's more at the official announcement at Andover-Newton. (Hat tip to Anna.)

Copyright © 2006 by Philocrites | Posted 30 September 2006 at 11:07 AM

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Shawn Anthony:

September 30, 2006 11:26 AM | Permalink for this comment

Wow. Interesting, to say the least. I have yet to hear anything about this here at Lancaster.


September 30, 2006 12:02 PM | Permalink for this comment

That sounds fascinating. I can only hope that someone will have the foresight to record the event at least with audio, if not video - that's a podcast I'd make time to listen to. Though a transcript would be good, too. ;-)

Dudley Jones:

October 1, 2006 07:51 PM | Permalink for this comment

I hope this does not sound snarky, because that is not my intention, but how many UUs in-the-pews know what the UCC is?


October 1, 2006 09:29 PM | Permalink for this comment

Here in New England, anyway, a majority of UUs probably do know what the UCC is. A lot of Unitarian (now UU) churches on village greens all over the region have sister Congregational (now UCC) churches facing them across the green, because they were originally a single congregation before the "Unitarian Controversy" of the early 1800's divided them. (Mine celebrated its 325th anniversary in a joint service held with the UCCers next door a few years ago. They eyed with longing the silver Communion pieces they weren't allowed to take with them when they left in 1834.) That's what the announcement means with its references to "the historical affinities and divisions between their denominations" and "the historical controversy that led to their split".

Although UUs and UCCers all over New England are at least passingly familiar with each other and their shared heritage, even if only because the old tensions are kept alive as parishioners vie for parking spaces around the green on Sunday mornings, the topic has a particular resonance at ANTS. That's because Andover Theological School was originally founded by disgruntled orthodox Congregational faculty who left Harvard after the Harvard faculty came to be controlled by Unitarians, but now UU seminarians have become the second-largest denominational contingent in ANTS' own student body. Without Unitarians at Harvard, Andover Seminary would never have been founded; and now ANTS relies on the tuition of UUs for its financial health.


October 2, 2006 05:15 PM | Permalink for this comment

Yeah, now that's going to work. The definately liberal BUT ALSO Trinitarian Jesus UCC and UU. I'm sorry, but I joined UU to escape the Jesus of the mumbo jumbo and get back in touch with Jesus the teacher.


October 2, 2006 05:31 PM | Permalink for this comment

As intrigued as I am about what Thomas and Sinkford will say later this month at Andover-Newton, I'm quite sure that they won't be discussing "merger," "consolidation," "confederation," or anything remotely like a denominational or ecclesiological merger.

The more likely subject matter is shared directions in ministerial education, since the UCC-affiliated Andover-Newton now prepares more UU ministers than any other seminary.

I'd also like to add that the press release makes it sound like UU-UCC congregations are something new; they're actually a holdover from an earlier period (and confined largely to New England) when small congregations from several denominations merged or federated. In most cases, these congregations cluster at the Christian edge of the UUA.

Ron Robinson:

October 2, 2006 07:15 PM | Permalink for this comment

This conversation is also a good time to remind folks about the annual Convocation of the Council of Christian Churches within the UUA to be held at Kings Chapel on Sunday afternoon Oct. 15th in Boston. It usually includes an observer from the NACCC, those congregational churches that didn't join in the UCC merger, but seems like we have also had some UCC ecumenical participation and observing too, Adam Tierney-Eliot or Scott Wells might be able to refresh my memory here of recent times.

The UUCF is also a part of the annual Consultation on the Common Texts which is held with about 14 other denominations, and I will be posting very soon on the site the report from the CCT recent meeting for those interested in that sort of on the ground ecumenical work we have been engaged in for some time.

Ron Robinson

Mystical Seeker:

October 5, 2006 12:24 PM | Permalink for this comment

There's a church in Chicago that is affiliated with both the UUA and the UCC, so in some cases I can imagine it possible to bridge the gap between the two denominations. Some UCC churches are quite liberal; however, some are not so liberal. It just depends on the congregation. Obviously, even the very liberal ones are probably a little too Christian in their focus for most UUs, since they generally practice Christian sacraments like communion and baptism.

In the city where I live, as I tried to reconnect with my spirituality, I attended the local UU church, but found the experience dry and spiritually empty, and as a monotheist I was not attracted to the fact that no one in church could seem to bring themselves to actually use the word "God". I ended up attending UCC services at a very liberal congregation, and, much to my surprise, Trinitarian language barely seeps above the surface, mostly in the doxology or the occasional hymn, but not really in the sermons. I realized that I'd rather have a spiritually fulfilling experience that where the word "God" is actually used, even if I have to put up with the occasionaly trinitarian-sounding hymn, than attending a UU service where no one can manage to even let the word "God" pass from their lips.

Given all of that, I doubt that the two denominations could ever really merge--I think their cultures are just too different. But maybe some individual congregations in both denominations might find enough in common, like that church in Chicago, where they could have a dual affiliation.

Ron Robinson:

October 6, 2006 12:37 PM | Permalink for this comment

I wonder, you record-keepers out there, what are the current statistics on how many UU churches that are federated or unified with other denominations, and what are the various affiliations now? I know there is a great post on the issue and differences between federated churches and union churches at one such blog about one of our churches, Eliot Chapel in South Natick, MA at

I try to update and keep a list on the Area Groups and Churches section of the site. Additions helpful.

Scott Wells:

October 13, 2006 11:13 AM | Permalink for this comment

I wrote about federated and multi-denominational community churches with a UUA component at -- the comments are quite rich, too.

I don't think there are even two dozen federated churches or multi-denominationals left but it isn't always clear which are which and the UUA Directory doesn't label them differently any more.


December 15, 2006 07:35 PM | Permalink for this comment

Here's video from the UUA-UCC dialogue at Andover-Newton. (Thanks, UU Enforcer!)

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