Apostasy in the Raw: United Church of Christ Scratches “Heavenly Father” Out
UCC spokesperson Barb Powell told World Net Daily: “In the UCC, our language for God, Christ and the Holy Spirit … is preferred to be more open for different expressions of the Trinity. Heavenly Father is just one vision.”
If you have not heard about this already, you need to be aware that the United Church of Christ has recently, quite literally, lined through reference to God as Father in their governing documents. Friends, you will hear some theologians and pastors, perhaps even ones that claim to be conservative, try to justify this, or make excuse for it, or explain it away, or try to ignore this reality, but here it is: this is apostasy in the raw. There is no fuzz on this peach, no grey areas here. This is nothing more and nothing less than open rebellion against the Holy Triune God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
But here is where this raises huge questions for all Christians. Let me put a few of them forward.
How can a baptism performed in a United Church of Christ congregation be recognized as valid and legitimate any longer since the UCC has taken this step?
What implications does the fact that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is in full communion with the UCC have for that church body’s commitment to the holy, catholic faith? If the ELCA does not sever its full communion with the UCC over this, that means, frankly, that the ELCA is giving its de facto and tacit approval of this action? And in that case, the implications for any baptism performed in the ELCA are ominous, since full communion is an expression of fundamental agreement and unity in doctrine between church bodies.
Pastor Peters blogged about this and he wisely notes that this decision has implications for all parish pastors in all church bodies. He writes, “It seems that from now on we better check any baptism from the UCC on a case by case basis because any baptism not in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit cannot in confidence be a baptism at all…. just something to think about….”
I don’t think we can afford to stick our heads in the sand on this one.
Here are the important details of this disaster from the Louisville newspaper, the Courier-Journal
“According to a United Church of Christ spokesman, it isn’t news that the liberal Protestant denomination is moving to delete a reference in its constitution from “Heavenly Father” to “Triune God.” Decades of theological change lay behind it. Yet now it is putting the change on record.
“We no longer use exclusively male language to refer to God. We haven’t for a long time.”
The deletion prompted alarm among from a conservative activist group in the predominately liberal denomination.
It may not be new, but it’s still eye-catching to see the words crossed out in the constitutional change, even if the main point of the change was to merge five boards into one. The change would require ratification by two-thirds of the denomination’s 38 regional conferences by 2013. [PTM Note: I can't do a line through, so the words I've underlined are literally crossed out in the resolution passed by the UCC]
Here’s the salient paragraph from 13 pages of bylaw changes, with the revised language in blue and the deleted language crossed out. It was approved Monday at the denomination’s biennial governance meeting.
ARTICLE V. LOCAL CHURCHES
The basic unit of the life and organization of the United Church of Christ is the Local Church. A Local Church is composed of persons who, believing in the triune God as heavenly Father, and accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and depending on the guidance of the Holy Spirit, are organized for Christian worship, for the furtherance of Christian fellowship, and for the ongoing work of Christian witness.
Guess said the denomination was dealing “with bylaws written decades ago, before the denomination’s commitment to using inclusive and expansive imagery for God.” (The term “bylaws” sounds more perfunctory than “constitution,” especially when the “basic unit” of the church is described.) Another spokeswoman said members are free to refer to God as father or mother.
The United Church of Christ recorded 1.08 million members last year, down nearly 3 percent from the previous year and down by about half since its peak in the 1960s.
It was formed by a merger of the Evangelical and Reformed Church — itself formed by a merger of two historically German Protestant groups, with several congregations in the Louisville area — and the Congregational Christian Churches, whose organizational ancestors included the Puritans. Therein lies a tale.
In more recent years, the denomination has made headlines as the affiliate of President Obama’s former church in Chicago, headed by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright; and a controversial TV ad showing bouncers keeping people out of church (in contrast to the UCC’s declared inclusiveness.)”