This brief bit of scripture is emblazoned proudly on the United Church of Christ logo. We really like oneness – the richness of our diversity coming together in one church. The UCC’s General Synod gathering, which closed about a week ago in Tampa, FL, embodies that idea about as much as anything else we do. (To see more of what happened at the Youth @ General Synod program see our videos.)
One of the most striking things for first-time Synod goers is the incredible diversity of individuals and churches attending this gathering. About 3,000 people converge on a convention center, 900 of whom consider the business of the wider church as voting delegates. Once you get past the exhibit hall and the social gatherings, you see clearly how challenging oneness really is. Diverse people and churches have conflicting opinions; reaching consensus about any issue is difficult or even impossible.
Take the proposal regarding the creation of a unified governance structure at the national setting of the church. Though Synod delegates eventually passed this proposal overwhelmingly, it was hotly debated because this issue touches at the core of who we try to be – a collection of diverse independent churches who are covenanted to do mission and ministry as a whole. This doesn’t come easy. Oneness truly is an aspiration; something to which we as UCCers (and as Christians) are constantly working toward with the help of God’s grace.
I’m hoping that as you make plans for your upcoming ‘program year’ in the church that you consider a couple of things that came up at General Synod. The first is Mission: 1, an initiative that I think we can pretty easily reach consensus about – feeding hungry people. The second is “A Covenant for Church Youth Ministries” — a resolution that calls upon local churches to covenant with youth workers to take adequate time for rest, renewal, professional development as well as adequate pay.
I pray that we may all be one – not necessarily of the exact same mind on issues – but one in Christian community that calls us to live together through challenging and uncomfortable times.