Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Last Day of General Synod

Today was a day busy with business at Synod. Much of today's time was spent taking action on resolutions. The first two resolutions addressed both concerned the resolution passed at General Synod two years ago in Atlanta supporting equal marriage rights for all. According to the standing rules for this gathering, resolutions of witness such as these require a 2/3 majority vote. So, even though it might appear that the Synod was weak-willed on these resolutions by voting “no action,” there are two important points to make. First of all, the votes were overwhelming (as they needed to be) and the reason given by the committee for taking “no action” in lieu of simply voting to defeat the resolutions was that this was one way of recognizing the divisive nature of this issue within our denomination. I must agree that since the committee (representing 10% of the delegates) reported that the opinion of the committee members was nearly unanimous in opposition, it would do little good to bring about a vote that might re-open wounds and end in no change of position. This is a good model of the church at work.

Another moving moment occurred when actress Lynn Redgrave shared the story of her struggle with breast cancer, accompanied by a powerful collection of photos taken by her daughter. At the heart of her tale was the fact that she had not been a regular church-goer, but after her mastectomy she heard that there was a female minister at a church in her town, so she went because she thought a woman might be more understanding. On her first Sunday there she heard words that were familiar and prayers for others who were likewise suffering and it put her suffering in perspective, and as she put it, she “lost her innocence.” It was stirring and assuring to hear someone speaking of finding care and comfort in the local church. This is where “the rubber hits the road” in church growth.

In the afternoon, a pastor of a church who three weeks ago took a vote considering leaving the UCC spoke to the body telling us that he encouraged his church to remain in the denomination because as he put it, “they need us for theological diversity.” He told us that a later speaker said, “sure, they need us but they don't want us.” He then assured us that his experience at General Synod has been one of extravagant welcome and thus supported the resolution on Reaffirming Our Commitment to Observing Covenant (or something like that...it was renamed from Reaffirming Our Faith to Retain Our Churches). It was nearly unanimously passed, certainly reaffirming our commitment to seek unity in diversity.

A resolution stating concern about the nation's immigration policies was passed after a small amount of debate. A resolution calling for a study of the issue of the legalization of physician aid in dying was passed on a split vote (2/3 was required) after some amendments and much debate. A resolution calling for solidarity with the persecuted in the Philippines, where disappearances and death squads are serious problems, was passed after a minor debate about language. The final resolution was in opposition to the use of depleted uranium in weapons and passed easily.

Typical of church business, a large amount of time was devoted to an issue involving a simple issue of the allocation of money. On a close vote, the body decided to allocate money from the Strengthen the Church offering to support the Still Speaking Initiative. The beauty of the process was shown in the fact that after the vote count was announced, the moderator's request that there be no applause was honored and a prayer was offered instead.

While there is a tad bit of business left that will push the beginning of evening worship back some, all that remains is closing worship in which we will be challenged and anointed to service.


David J said...

Ian, it's great to see you posting with such vigor and detail about your general synod. Although I don't agree on some of the provisions in the declarations, I do think it sounds like your church has got all its oars in the water. Keep us informed. And share what you think was accomplished at this synod. You also might want to give us your thoughts on where your church could do more.

Ian said...

One of the peculiarities of the UCC is that our gatherings don't speak FOR the church, they speak TO the church. I've blogged about that here

I do like your challenge and as things digest I may comment further.

David J said...

My hats off to Ms. Redgrave who apparently found God in her suffering as so many of us do. It seems the UCC has a star studded line up of celebrities that feel comfortable with the church. Tony Campolo points out who evangelicals need to do more to reach out to those on the margins. He talks about the Metro churches that have reached out to homosexuals and those with serious addictions to foster safe places and community interaction. I don't think enough is done in the name of Christ for those who truly need the healing power of his presence. We tend to overlook those who need Him the most.