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Saturday, January 24, 2004

Dean's congregationalism.

The Rev. Nancy S. Taylor, president of the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ, writes in the Boston Globe about Howard Dean's much-discussed "Congregationalism," and how the denomination's diversity offers an important model for our civic life. (The first paragraph below is factual, and explains why New England members of the United Church of Christ tend to call themselves "Congregationalists.")

So, what does being a congregationalist say about Dean and how his faith might inform his political judgments? To be accurate, Dean is a member of the United Church of Christ, a 1.3-million-member denomination of nearly 6,000 congregations that was established in 1957 by the union of the Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Church. The UCC is the largest Protestant denomination in Massachusetts. But, across New England, where congregational heritage is as prevalent as clam chowder, many UCC members cling to the original "congregational" identity.

Here's the key section:

Dean supports civil rights for gay couples, although he is not in favor of gay marriage. The UCC includes those who share this view, as well as those who oppose recognition of homosexual couples and others who support gay marriage.

How can the UCC exist with such a diversity of theological perspectives and social convictions? We believe God is still speaking and did not stop speaking when the biblical canon was closed or the ancient creeds crystallized. Therefore, we are still listening and learning. We are convinced that the thud and clash of competing ideas in uneasy proximity to each other, make for spiritually alive, intellectually agile, and deeply engaged Christians.

To be a member of the UCC is to apply one's own, God-given intellect to inform one's faith. It is to examine an array of possibilities with attention to both tradition and new perspectives. As a member of the UCC, Dean is not instructed what to think by a pope, bishops, or his own pastor, for we do not grant that power to anyone.

Instead, we engage in "responsible freedom" — the freedom to test and entertain ideas in an environment of respectful, if often impassioned, civil discourse. We should expect no less, of both citizens and elected officials — religious or otherwise — across the whole of our political life.

("How will Dean's faith inform his judgment?" Nancy S. Taylor, Boston Globe 1.24.04)

Election resources for churches.

By the way, the UCC has put together a good list of resources to help churches "participate constructively in the political process." (The Unitarian Universalist Association's resources are worth a look, too.)

Copyright © 2004 by Philocrites | Posted 24 January 2004 at 10:44 AM

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Kensho Godchaser (Jay Allen):

January 24, 2004 05:17 PM | Permalink for this comment

That's a GREAT vision and attitude to take toward competing ideas. Any idea on their take toward interfaith relations?


January 24, 2004 06:13 PM | Permalink for this comment


The UCC has been on the forefront of the interfaith dialogue since the '60's.

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