- United Church of Christ
- The united Church of Christ (uCC) is an American denomination founded in 1957 by the merger of the Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Church. It embraces perhaps the most diverse set of traditions of any American denomination, including New England Puritan Congregationalism, the frontier Restoration movement, German Lutheranism, and German Reform (Calvinism).The uCC sees itself primarily as a continuation of the Puritan Congregationalism of early New England. Their congregational polity was developed in Massachusetts in intimate relationship with the local government, and the Congregationalists remained the established church in Massachusetts into the early 19th century. Nevertheless, due to their congregational polity (local autonomy), the church became home to a broad spectrum of theological opinions. unitarianism grew within its ranks but eventually split off into its own body. in the late 19th century, Congregationalists took the lead as spokespersons for various liberal causes from the Social Gospel to a theological accommodation to evolution. The denomination was eventually organized as the National Council of the Congregationalist Churches.Early in the 19th century, the Massachusetts Congregationalists took a leading role in the global spread of Protestantism by founding the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. It survives today as the UCC Board of Global Ministries, which maintains contact with the many former mission churches founded by the American Board.In the post-Revolutionary War era, the Restoration movement emerged in different parts of the country. it encompassed groups of churches that shared a congregational polity and an aversion to denominational labels. They called themselves simply Christian churches. unlike the Congregationalists, they had no tradition of government ties. in 1833, representatives from many of these churches held a convention, which is generally considered the start of the Christian Church as a denomination. it was this church that in 1931 merged with the National Council of the Congregationalist Churches to become the General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches.The Evangelical Synod of North America was an immigrant import of the church created by King Ludwig of Prussia in 1817 by merging the Lutheran and Reformed Churches in his realm. one resource the church drew upon to make the union work was Pietism, a form of Lutheran thought that emphasized personal devotion over strict doctrinal proscriptions. Pietism in Prussia also produced a new burst of energy for Bible and missionary societies.The same Pietist spirit had produced the Basel Missionary Society, which sent almost 300 ministers to German-American communities in the Midwest beginning in the 1830s. in 1840, a group of these ministers met in St. Louis and formed the German Evangelical Church Society of the West, which over the next decades evolved into the Evangelical Synod of North America.The Reformed Church in the United States traced its history to colonial Pennsylvania. While most of the people who accepted William Penn's invitation to settle there belonged to Free Church groups, thousands of people identified with the German-speaking Reformed Church also arrived. In the 1730s, Michael Schlatter (1716-90) roamed through Pennsylvania at the behest of the Dutch Reformed Church in New York to help the scattered German churches form a network. His work bore fruit in 1747 with the formation of the Reformed Ministerium of the Congregations of Pennsylvania, which evolved into the Reformed Church in the United States.In 1934, the Evangelical Church and the Reformed Church united to create the Evangelical and Reformed Church, which soon began negotiations to merge with the Congregational Christian Churches. Despite opposition on the Congregational side, the merger was completed in 1957.The United Church incorporates elements of both Congregationalism and Presbyterianism. The General Synod is the highest policy-making body. The church has affirmed its standing in the Reformed theological tradition, though the 1959 statement of faith is open to interpretation. The church is one of the most socially liberal denominations and was the first American church to ordain openly gay and lesbian ministers.The church is headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio. As the new century began, it reported 1.4 million members. It is a member of the World Council of Churches and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches. In 1995, its Board of World Ministries merged with the Division of overseas Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), to create a new Board of Global Ministries serving congregations in both churches. The merger was a sign of the communion between the two groups that had been growing for several decades.Further reading:■ David Dunn, et al., A History of the Evangelical and Reformed Church (Philadelphia: Christian Education Press, 1961)■ Louis H. Gunne-mann, The Shaping of the United Church of Christ (New York: Thomas Nelson, 1971); , United and Uniting (Cleveland, Ohio: Pilgrim Press, The United Church Press, 1987)■ Douglas Horton, The United Church of Christ (New York: Thomas Nelson, 1962)■ J. William Youngs, The Congregationalists (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1988).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.