Monday, July 04, 2005

United Church of Christ Backs Gay Marriage :: ABC

The United Church of Christ's rule-making body voted overwhelmingly Monday to approve a resolution that endorses same-sex marriage, making it the largest Christian denomination to do so. The vote is not binding on individual churches, but could cause some churches to leave the fold. Roughly 80 percent of the members of the church's General Synod voted to approve the resolution. They debated for about an hour before voting.

On Sunday, a committee of about 50 United Church of Christ representatives gave nearly unanimous approval to the resolution, recommending that the General Synod approve it. It was supported by the UCC's president, John H. Thomas.

Traditionally strong in New England, the liberal denomination of 1.3 million members has long been supportive of gays and lesbians.
From J. Gordon Melton's Encyclopedia of American Religions (first edition, 1978):
The United Church of Christ was formed in 1961, at the end of twenty years of negotiating its formation. It inherits the legacies of four major nineteenth-century bodies: the Congregational Church, the Christian Church, the Reformed Church in the U.S., and the Evangelical Synod of North America.

The Congregational Church had continued the tradition of the Puritan fathers. . . .

The vision of a united Protestant Church . . . which came to the fore in the creating of the UCC and which has made it a unique body in American religion has not been without its problems. Frequently, the membership has voiced disapproval of the synod's work and liberal positions on certain issues, especially those related to social action. One result was the vote in the early 1970's to disband the Council on Social Action. . . .

In 1975 there were 6,552 churches, 1,818,762 members and 9,536 ministers.

Honey, who shrunk the church?

And, from the Finke and Starke's Churching of America 1776-2005:

In 1776 the Congregationalists, Episcopalians, and Presbyterians seemed to be the colonial denominations. Of Americans active in a religious body, 55% belonged to one of the three. . . . in 1761, Ezra Stiles . . . proclaimed that 100 years hence there would by 7 million Congregationalists in the colonies and fewer than 400,000 Baptists. But by 1860 there were actually fewer than 500,000 Congregationalists in America, while the Baptists numbered nearly 2 million. . . . in 1776 the Congregationalists, Episcopalians, and Presbyterians dominated. . . . The, in just 74 years, the combined market total of these 3 bodies shrank to only 19.1 percent of religious adherents, even though the proportion belonging to churches had about doubled, to 34 percent. . . .

we argue that . . . the decline of the old mainline denominations was caused by their inability to cope with the consequences of religious freedom and the rise of a free market religious economy.

For Congregationalism, the shift approached total collapse. . . falling from more than 20 percent of total adherents [in 1776] to but 4 percent [8 decades later]. . . . The Episcopalians also fared badly in terms of their share of the religious market, falling from . . . 15.7% to 3.5% of all church adherents. . . . The Presbyterians fared better because they were able to achieve some growth on the new American frontiers. Their share declined, however, because their growth failed to match the expansion of the proportion who were churched.

1 comment:

Mark said...

John,

While I agree that the Episcopal Church suffered in part from its inability to compete in the marketplace of religious ideas, it's primary problem at that time was probably more the fact that it was the Church of England in America, at a time when independence from England of primary concern. That, and the CoE's refusal to send any bishops to the Colonies, which was prompted by a misguided attempt to control the process of ordination of new clergy, were probably more important factors in the Episcopal Church's decline at that particular point in history.

-maa