Evangelism – bringing people the Gospel message – is a primary obligation of any Christian. The Gospel message is one of radical inclusion and justice. Jesus teaches time and time again that our love of God is demonstrated by how we treat the “least of these.” Faithful witness to the Gospel teachings is evidenced by our love of neighbor. That message of “extravagant welcome” is clearly resonating with those who have heard about the actions of the General Synod of the United Church of Christ over his past weekend.
Our General Synod voted to support same sex marriages. Endorsing legal equality for gays and lesbians is not the most popular stance to take these days. Several states – including my home state of Oregon and my temporary digs at seminary in Missouri – have endorsed anti-gay marriages initiatives. But following Jesus is often unpopular and comes with risks. Some people and churches might leave the UCC because of the stance of our General Synod. No one wants that to happen.
Other churches in the UCC might have a very different problem to contend with: where to fit all their new members. 22,000 people have visited the UCC’s national web sites looking for local congregations to visit since General Synod began. Since Sunday, over 169,000 people have visited ucc.org. That is a record.
Over 100 new churches have either been started by the UCC or joined the denomination over the past year. Two-thirds of those churches “are from racial, ethnic, multiracial and multicultural backgrounds.”
This is all good news. A progressive vision of Christianity – one rooted firmly in Jesus’ teachings – is doing well for the first time in a long time. Could it be that the UCC which has had declining membership for years (along with all other mainline churches) will start to reverse the trend? Regardless of that we can be glad that the message of “extravagant welcome” is being heard.
Related Post: Homosexuality and the Bible
Related Link: Family Research Council Chickens Out