The United Church of Christ gives autonomy to its local churches, many of which are progressive and controversial. This inclusive and liberal denomination broke ground with an early stand against slavery (1700), the first ordained African American (1785), the first ordained woman (1853), and was the first to ordain openly gay, lesbian, transgendered and bisexual persons (1972).
United Church of Christ Beliefs
Baptism - Baptism is the church community's promise of "love, support, and care." United Church of Christ (UCC) churches baptize infants brought by parents, or adults, when they are received into membership.
Bible - The Bible is used for inspiration, guidance, and for preaching. Members are not required to believe literally any version of Scripture.
Communion - All people of faith are invited to participate in the sacrament of communion. The act is seen as a reminder of the cost of Christ's sacrifice. Communion is celebrated as a mystery, honoring Christ and those who have died in his faith.
Creed - The UCC does not require its congregations or members to follow a creed. The only profession necessary is love.
Equality - There is no discrimination of any type in United Church of Christ beliefs.
Heaven, Hell - Many members do not believe in specific places of reward or punishment, but do believe God gives believers eternal life.
Jesus Christ - Jesus Christ is recognized as fully human and fully God, Son of the Creator, Savior, and Head of the Church.
Prophecy - United Church of Christ beliefs call the UCC to be a prophetic church. Many of the church's positions call for the same treatment of people as did the prophets and apostles.
Sin - According to the UCC, sin is "opposition or indifference to the will of God."
Trinity - The UCC believes in the Triune God: Creator, resurrected Christ and the Holy Spirit.
The United Church of Christ sets itself apart from other Christian denominations with its emphasis on the belief that God still speaks to his followers today. New light and understanding are constantly being revealed through interpretation of the Bible, says the United Church of Christ.
United Church of Christ Practices
Sacraments - Congregations conduct baptism during worship services when the community is present. Sprinkling is the usual practice, although some congregations use immersion. Communion elements are usually brought to members in their pews.
Worship Service - United Church of Christ beliefs account for wide diversity in services. Local needs and traditions usually dictate worship styles and music. While no single liturgy is imposed, a typical Sunday service includes a sermon, adoration of God, general confession of sins, an assurance of forgiveness, prayers or songs of thanksgiving, and members dedicating themselves to God's will.
All members of the UCC are equals as the priesthood of believers, and though ordained ministers have special training, they are considered servants. Individuals are free to live and believe based on their interpretation of God's will for their lives.
UCC stresses unity within the church and a unifying spirit to heal divisions. It seeks unity in essentials but allows for diversity in nonessentials, with a charitable attitude toward disagreement. The unity of the church is a gift from God, UCC teaches, yet diversity is to be accepted with love.
To learn more about United Church of Christ beliefs, visit the official United Church of Christ Website.
(Sources: UCC.org and Religions of America, edited by Leo Rosten.)