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General Synod Reflection #3

Updated: Jul 20, 2023

Making All Things New... Isaiah 43:18-19

At this year's Synod we passed 13 of the 14 Resolutions of Witness brought by congregations, conferences and communities about issues of deep concern to these local settings. These 13 join the more than 950 resolutions that have been proclaimed since the creation of the UCC in 1957.

On the new Resolution archive site the "about" section says

A Resolution of Witness is an expression of the General Synod concerning a moral, ethical or religious matter confronting the Church, the nation, or the world, adopted for the guidance of the Officers, Covenanted, Associated or Affiliated Ministries, or other bodies as defined in Article VI of the Bylaws of the United Church of Christ; the consideration of Local Churches, Associations, Conferences and other bodies related to the United Church of Christ; and for a Christian witness to the world. It represents agreement by at least two-thirds of the delegates voting that the view expressed is based on Christian conviction and is a part of their witness to Jesus Christ. The text of the proposed Resolution should be so phrased as not to bring into question the Christian commitment of those who do not agree.

In other words, these are statements, witnesses, that are brought to the UCC Body of Christ as a whole at the General Synod witnessing to our commitment to various things that the General Synod feel called to speak about as one voice. Unlike other polities that we hear about (SBC, UMC, just to name a few), these resolutions are not dictates, but rather, witnesses that speak "to, but not for" the rest of the UCC. As the website says, resolutions may "call upon, urge, affirm, support, invite, recommend, request, ask, and encourage various settings of the [UCC], but may not direct them."

This year there were resolutions dealing with abortion as heath care, digital justice and accessibility, reparations for African Americans, and supporting public school educators, just to name a few. Each resolution was assigned a committee who held listening and working sessions where delegates and visitors could speak on the topic, wordsmith and add their voices to the resolution for greater clarity and impact. Then each resolution was brought before the gathered body for floor discussion during the plenary sessions. Delegates could speak and then vote on the resolution in its final form. It was an interesting process to observe.

For the most part, the resolutions were adopted with overwhelming support. Some felt redundant based on prior resolutions passed at previous General Synods. It was interesting to listen to the perspectives of non-majority delegates. I could see the desire of the creators of these statements to be progressive, radically welcoming, prophetic, and justice seeking. And I could hear the voices of the minority struggling with some of the White Privilege inherent in the ideas.

One such idea was a call to encourage the UCC to adopt a "plant-based" (vegan) lifestyle. The comments against were an acknowledgement of the individual nature of the resolution (asking individuals to adopt veganism) as opposed to looking at the impacts of factory farming on our collective reality. Since resolutions are about a witness to the UCC as a body, the 34th General Synod rejected the resolution as written. I know there will be a new resolution brought before the 35th General Synod addressing factory farming.

I could go on about each resolution, but I'll leave that to you to explore here. However, it feels important to share that after the plenaries ended, the committees gathered again to look at how these resolutions might be implemented. Some seem easy. Others hard. I'm wondering if we might want to explore what they mean for us in our setting over a 14-week period this year as a part of our celebration of being an Open and Affirming Congregation for 30 years? Send me a note and let me know what you think.

Again, I am so grateful for the opportunity to gather with the rest of our UCC siblings at General Synod 34 and wrestle with the ways in which we hear God calling us to live our Gospel of Love for such a time as this.

With gratitude and love - Pastor Robin

PS - if you want another synopsis of GS 34, take a look at what the Hawaii Conference newsletter offers up here.

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