The Demise of the UCC, Part 2: Crisis in the Church

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 1:45 AM

It was a crisp autumn Sunday, not really unlike other early autumn Sundays. At St. Paul's Evangelical Church in Creve Coeur, MO, a visitor might not have expected that anything abnormal was about to happen. Two church services and Sunday School/Adult Bible Fellowships plugged along just like normal, but just an hour after the last service something that would attract the attention of observers around the nation would occur.

At one o'clock sharp, the congregation convened to choose what to do with the results of the two-year old Role in the UCC committee's findings on the United Church of Christ. With very little descention voiced, the decision was clear: 92.5% of those attended voted to sever ties with the successor denomination to the one the 155-year old congregation had been affiliated with since the beginning in 1843.

The decision sent shockwaves through the Biblical Witness Fellowship, the UCC renewal organization that St. Paul's had been deeply involved in. With St. Paul's Sr. Pastor Mark Friz on the Fellowship's national board and St. Paul's Spiritual Council serving as the evaluation body for BWF scholarships, those involved with the BWF realized this was a major and serious move.

The disaffiliation process also caught the attention of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which did a half-page story on the subject the next day. St. Paul's was one of the largest churches in the UCC's Missouri Conference, but those watching the event rightly would see this as just one church in a growing trend to escape the collapsing denomination to avoid going down with it.

Heresy Spreads
Last time we worked up to the 80's in UCC History. In 1982, Dr. Theodore L. Trost, Jr., after considering the revision of the UCC's Book of Worship, wrote “Like Marcion of old, I'm afraid the UCC wants to rewrite the Christian faith in terms of here own current, ideological bias. But this is to wander into the sidepaths of Hersey. The tragedy of much that is included in these proposed Services (Book of Worship) is that their content further moves us into the map of sectarian Christianity and thereby destroys the unity of the Church.”1 (emphasis mine.)

By the middle 1980's, what had begun as the 1977 Sexuality Report had ballooned; one department of the UCC had been commissioned to “develop resources on human sexuality for use in local churches” and to “collect and continue to update information about the nature of human sexuality, including variations in sexual orientation and behavior, seeking to provide material appropriate for use with all age groups and making this information available for study by churches.”2

During the General Synod session in 1985, what was already clear to many would be made even clearer. The UCC was abandoning any semblance of Biblical morality, urging congregations to not only be open to, but also to affirm persons of lesbian, gay, and bisexual orientation. The member churches of the UCC were being softened for the onslaught that would occur in the 1990's.

By 1991, the UCC would recognize the “common ground” between its sexuality studies and that of the Unitarian Universalists, and the two groups convened the Human Sexuality Education Taskforce. Within just three decades of its founding, the UCC's views were beginning to take facets of the UU's beliefs, or lack there of.

The UCC's similarities with the UU wouldn't remain merely in the department of sexual morality. 1995 brought on the concept of “Deep Ecumenism,” promoted as the logical successor to the ecumenical movement between the mainline denominations. Deep Ecumenism moves from cooperation and recognition of other denominations into cooperation and recognition of other “faith traditions.”

Dr. Trost's 1982 letter would appear prophetical by this point as the UCC completely removed any attempt at remaining true to its biblical heritage and would now show its true colors in full. In the midst of this, those leading the UCC were warned that their current path would lead to accelerated decline within the denomination, which has lost churches every year since its formation in 1957, but the UCC leadership made it clear that it did not care.

The 90's would yield three immensely controversial and divisive publications: The New Century Hymnal, as well as the Affirming Persons and Our Whole Lives Sunday School materials. Affirming Persons was published in 1994 targeted at every age level of children's' Sunday School.

This material effectively demonstrates the moral decay of the UCC. Here are a few excerpts from the 5-6 grade materials (10-11 year olds), some of this is a bit more graphic than I'd normally post on my site, so you may want to skip over these quotes.

The introduction to the materials for 10-11 year olds:
“This is, in many ways, the pivotal Learning Series of the entire Affirming Persons-Saving Lives curriculum. Children in this age group are on the brink of a dramatic expansion of their world, which promises new experiences, increasing independence and a variety of relationships, possibly including sexual relationships.”

Then here are some excerpts of what the Sunday School teacher is suppose to say and do:
“Tell the children: 'When people talk about 'sex' it can mean a lot of different things. People can have sex with someone else or have sex with themselves.”
“Write the term 'sexual intercourse' on the newsprint. Then say: 'Usually, when people talk about 'having sex' or 'making love,' they are referring to two people being sexual with each other in a way that involves genital contact. This is called 'sexual intercourse.' Sexual intercourse means being sexual with another person in a way that involves the genitals—the penis or the vagina.'

“Forms of Sexual Intercourse: Tell the children '…There are three forms of sexual intercourse.' Write the term 'vaginal intercourse' on the newsprint … Vaginal intercourse means contact between the male penis and the female vagina. This is also the way human beings reproduce and make babies.

“Write the term 'oral intercourse' on the newsprint. Then say: 'another form of sexual intercourse is oral intercourse … Oral refers to the mouth or tongue. So, oral intercourse is contact between the mouth and the genitals. … sexually active people may use their mouths for kissing and for engaging in oral intercourse.' ”

“Write the term 'Anal Intercourse' on the newsprint. Then say: 'Anal intercourse means contact between the penis and the anus or rectum … Both men and women may engage in anal intercourse … some of these behaviors may seem strange to you now, but there are many different ways that two people can express their sexuality with each other. Sexual partners have the right to choose how they will express their sexuality in private.

Keep in mind, this is material targeted at pre-teens and is “Sunday School material.” Of course, this fits with the “whatever feels good” mentality of the secular humanists. I emphasize this is very real material coming out of the UCC and not materials that were just being considered.

Perhaps even more controversial, since it would be hard to miss its impact, whereas some might be unaware that their church had started Affirming Persons, is the New Century Hymnal (NCH), released in 1995. The hymnal project was a large scale production, which was not, to the best of my knowledge, based on any previous E&R or UCC hymnals. In fact, one might even wonder if it was based on any existing hymns — perhaps that's an exaggeration, but not much of one.

Reading the UCC's own description of the NCH makes clear that the intentions of the Hymnal were quite agreeable with the so-called “re-imaging” movement. “The only hymnal released by a Christian church that honors in equal measure both male and female images of God,” the information proudly proclaims. Hmm… why would it be that no other Christian churches have hymnals that honor both male and female images of God? It couldn't possibly be because the Bible clearly illustrates that God is male, could it?

According to the Biblical Witness Fellowship, “We found 304 of the NCH hymns in other hymnals. Often the words were so changed that we could only find them using the tune indexes, not by first line.” The report on the NCH continued, “Of these 304 traditional hymns, 45 were unchanged or virtually unchanged. 259 had significant word changes.”

The BWF report also includes excerpts from some of the hymns. Here are a few of the quotes:

#560 - By Whatever Name We Call You — “By whatever name we call you Fashioner of spheres, you are grander, so much wiser than our minds perceive. Labels limit understanding, God, you have no peers. So, we question - changing, growing - wanting to believe.”
#11 - Bring Many Names — “Strong mother God, working night and day, planning all the wonders of creation, setting each equation, genius at play … .”Old, aching God, grey with endless care, calmly piercing evil's new disguises, glad of good surprises, wiser than despair …”Young, growing God, eager, on the move, saying no to falsehood and unkindness, crying out for justice, giving all you have …”

The BWF also provides a full text comparison of How Great Thou Art and its “replacement” in the New Century Hymnal, known as “O Mighty God, When I Survey in Wonder.” I encourage you to read the mutilation of How Great Thou Art and the rest of the NCH saga on the Biblical Witness Fellowship's web site.

Sadly the UCC's activities are more than just talk and publication. I have heard reports from around the country of terrible heresies taking place in United Church of Christ churches. One person told me that in his former church they invited a Native American “witch doctor” to summon good spirits and the like. A elderly couple at our church came to my church after being kicked out of their UCC church by the pastor for voicing concern over the New Century Hymnal, after attending that church all of their lives.

And then there is the issue I mentioned in passing — re-imaging. The UCC has supported the Re-imaging Conference in the Minnapolis/St. Paul, which promotes goddess worship. UCC sponsored events, including this year's Synod, have had the central theme of worshiping “Mother Nature.” The UCC has taken hold of Sophia worship too, going so far as to have seminars in which communion was replaced with bread and honey, which is more traditional of goddess worship.

This year's synod's symbol was the “Earth Mother” (Gaia). That might have been bad enough, but the order of “worship” for the first day was also arranged to recognize the “feminine” side of God. I feel filthy just writing such blasphemous statements, even if I am only quoting what they are saying. One hymn's words include the reference to “mother earth and father sky” — if the UCC thinks Greek mythology is so great, why don't they just admit it and become Hellenistic polytheists.

The UCC has also promoted and, to the best of my knowledge, fully agrees with the opinions of the infamous Jesus Seminar. Even liberal pastor friends of mine cringe at some of the opinions of the Jesus Seminar!

Yet, this is where the UCC is. Sadly, the UCC is hurdling forward with extreme inclusitivity. In the process, the UCC has become a massive political machine attempting to support and promote the ideology of the far left. The UCC has condemned those who support a ban on partial birth abortion. The UCC compared American troops in Iraq to a Nazi occupation. The UCC is even fighting against using Federal Funds to repair the church were Paul Revere hung his lantern, lest the secularization (oops… I mean separation) of church and state be “damaged.”

While many organizations are pressing against the orthodoxy and even neo-orthodoxy of Christianity, few have done so to the extent of the United Church of Christ. One joke that has circulated among Unitarians suggests that UCC really stands for “Unitarians Considering Christ.” While it is a joke, it is hard not to see the truth in it. As official beliefs go, the UCC's main theological difference with the Unitarians would have to be the remnants of Trinitarian belief. Yet, as the denomination seeks to find new, inclusive language even for the Trinity itself, I wonder how long even that will remain within the beliefs of the UCC.

While I hate to say it, I honestly wonder how long we can continue to consider the UCC Christian rather than classifying with other “almost Christian” faiths such as Mormonism and Russelism (Jehovah's Witnesses). While a big difference that some evangelicals remain in the UCC, at least as far as official positions go, there is increasingly small common ground between the UCC and Biblical Christianity.

The denomination of my youth, I am sad to say, fits all the requirements of a non-Christian cult. While I pray for restoration and reformation, I fear it might be too late. The denomination, or whatever it is now, has become a liability for those evangelicals still in it and for seekers who do not realize its increasingly anti-Christian theology.

That is why 92.5% of the congregation at St. Paul's realized our time in the UCC was over. With that, St. Paul's became the second largest church up to that point to leave the UCC. In my next post I'll consider others who have left and what has formed around them to support such churches.

1 “BWF - 25 Years of Prophetic Witness.” The Witness, 12. Summer 2003.
2 From the UCC Our Whole Lives web site,

Tags: Faith

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4 comments posted so far.

RE: The Demise of the UCC, Part 2: Crisis in the Church

Wow. That is a sad story Tim. I had no idea.

Posted by Sophorist - Sep 06, 2003 | 2:26 AM- Location: MO

RE: The Demise of the UCC, Part 2: Crisis in the Church

Yeah, it shocks a lot of people when they first hear it, Soph. Actually, it keeps shocking me, I suppose. I just wish there was someway to stop it.

Posted by Timothy R. Butler - Sep 06, 2003 | 10:16 PM- Location: MO

RE: The Demise of the UCC, Part 2: Crisis in the Church

It is intriguing to hear one’s parent called a prophet. While it is true that my father was critical of plans to alter the UCC’s Book of Worship, it should be noted that his objection was raised in reference to the insertion of an indefinite article into the ordination vow where previously a definite article had appeared. The proposed wording asked the candidate if she or he accepted the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as a guide for Christian faith and practice (or words to that effect) rather than, as the E & R Book of Worship had had it: “the ultimate rule of Christian faith and practice.” As I recall, my father’s objection was noted and the resulting ordination service used the definite article.

Raised in an historically Evangelical Synod Church and a scholar of the Mercersburg tradition, my father would never support schism. If, as his hero Philip Schaff did, he found himself in a church at risk of losing its (and the) way, he would have marshalled his energies to combat heresy on the one hand and schism on the other. And he did until his death in 1987. I am sorry to see his name associated here with a movement toward what Philip Schaff called “atomism” in his 1844 address “The Principle of Protestantism.”

Posted by Theodore Louis Trost III - Mar 02, 2004 | 4:00 PM- Location: University of Alabama

Re: The Demise of the UCC, Part 2: Crisis in the Church

Tim, don’t give up on the UCC, yet. There is battle brewing within the UCC. Check out . It’s time for Christians to fight for what is right. The UCC has become a very large missionary field. Remember the final point of the Bible. God Wins!

Posted by Ray - Jan 30, 2005 | 5:51 PM- Location:

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