General Synod is the biennial meeting of the United Church of Christ. Delegates from Conferences, Covenanted Ministries, and a broad range of interest groups meet every two years to consider the business of the church and its relationship with the wider world. Because every UCC congregation is self-governing, its resolutions speak "to" but not "for" the local church.
Many of the resolutions will be cause for serious and critical debate. Two of the resolutions relate to the possibility that the United Church of Christ might urge divestment of resources from Israel to protest the policies of the Likud party now in power. One of those resolutions calls for further study on the issue and the other calls for selective divestment from companies profiting from the occupation of Palestine. Click here for an earlier assessment of the issues involved.
There will also be resolutions on the table concerning marriage. United Church News is reporting today that one resolution could make the United Church of Christ the first Christian denomination to endorse full marriage equality for gays and lesbians.
"Ideas about marriage have shifted and changed dramatically throughout human history, and such change continues even today," reads the opening line of the proposed resolution, which goes on to spell out historical, theological and biblical rationale for affirming both civil and religious recognition of same-gender marriage.
It marks the first time the church's General Synod has been asked to address the issue of marriage equality outright.
Asked for comment, the Rev. John H. Thomas, the UCC's general minister and president, told United Church News he would not make a statement about the proposal until he has had an opportunity to listen to different perspectives from within the denomination.
In past years, the General Synod - which speaks "to" but not "for" the UCC's nearly-6,000 congregations - has sidestepped the issue of same-gender marriage, even while it has affirmed the ordination of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons; called for full civil rights and equal protections; and blessed the idea of "equal rites in covenant life" (or holy unions) for non-married couples.
Another proposal, however, asks that the church reaffirm that marriage is between one man and one woman. This proposal – and another critical of the UCC’s God Is Still Speaking Campaign – have been introduced by members of the Biblical Witness Fellowship. Click here for some background on this group.