“Why do you call me ‘Lord,Lord,” and do not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46)
There’s a controversy in the United Church of Christ right now about how we define God. A conservative group within the denomination has proposed a resolution for the General Synod (our biannual national meeting) that would ask the delegates to vote to affirm the divinity of Christ or, as they also put it, say “Jesus is Lord.” It sounds harmless until you look deeper. After all, the denomination is the United Church of *Christ.* So it might sound redundant, but essentially harmless, right?
Well, maybe not so much.
This resolution would require UCC pastors and seminarians to swear a sort of loyalty oath, affirming the “divinity and Lordship of Jesus.” A newspaper article about the resolution, published in a New Jersey newspaper, quotes a UCC pastor there (I’m reprinting from Chuck Currie’s weblog; Chuck is a UCC seminarian).
“The Rev. Albert W. Kovacs of Woodbridge told The Record and Herald News that the resolution was needed because in the UCC:
‘We have significant numbers of clergy who don’t believe in God.’
I called Rev. Kovacs today and asked him if he could name any UCC pastor or church that didn’t believe in God. He said there might be some ‘Unitarians up in New England’ but he could not name any.”
Rev. Kovacs is talking about me and about the folks who sit in the pews of my little church so faithfully every Sunday. Our freedom to think, to question, to ponder and to reach our own conclusions, a hallmark of our Congregational heritage, is being challenged. Our Unitarian sisters and brothers are being accused of atheism in a way that belittles them, and our New England independence of spirit is being mocked.
This resolution is offered to shame the United Church of Christ. If it passes it will both violate our polity, which places no corporate test of faith but rather encourages testimony of that faith from the individual, and also make us a laughingstock among others. “Oh, look, the United Church of Christ had to *vote* on who Jesus is!!” And if it is rejected? “Oh, my, the United Church of Christ doesn’t believe in Christ at all!”
If you visited my church on a Sunday, you would know that we offer our praises week after week to Creator, Christ and Spirit, God the three-in-one. If some weeks we relate more to Jesus the man than to Christ the person of the Trinity, we are not minimizing his value. No, we are celebrating the gift of knowing that God cares enough about humankind to walk among us as one of us, to share the human experience of both love and abandonment, to take the part of the least among us and to remind us to share the Good News of God’s love with everyone in the world.
All the calling out of “Lord, Lord” means nothing when it comes from mouths more concerned with speaking than loving, loving of God and neighbor and self.
I pray that the delegates to General Synod will be moved by the Holy Spirit to find some action for this resolution that will not only acknowledge that we are in fact a Christian Church, but also allow us to maintain the integrity and autonomy that are so much a part of our particular Christian tradition.