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General Synod 27
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> Gen Synod 27

New York at General Synod 27
Grand Rapids, MI – June 26 – 30, 2009

New York at General Synod 27
Grand Rapids, MI – June 26 – 30, 2009
Also See “New York Picture Gallery”
And Rick Cowles Blog at


New Yorkers in their Geoffrey Black t-shirtsFor many New Yorkers attending General Synod 27 in Grand Rapids, MI, the highlight was electing New York Conference Minister Geoffrey Black to be the UCC President and General Minister effective October 1, 2009.  We showed our support by wearing bright green t-shirts emblazoned with Geoffrey’s picture and “Our Gift to You!  New York Conference.”  J. Martin Bailey’s story in the June 30 UC News describes Black’s election and the affirmation of the ministries of M. Linda Jaramillio as Executive Minister of Justice and Witness Ministries and Stephen L. Sterner as Executive Minister of Local Church Ministries.

We also celebrated the ministry of John Thomas who will become Assistant to the President at Chicago Theological Seminary when he completes his ten years as our current UCC President and General Minister.

Glorious videos, photos, full texts of resolutions, PDF files of the daily Synod newspaper and articles about almost every aspect of Synod can be found at http://www.ucc.org/synod.  The Wrap Up Video at http://www.ucc.org/synod/videos/ will give you a quick taste of the “flavor of Synod”.

Waterfall in convention centerTheme for General Synod 27 was “Immerse Yourself”, a wonderful play on words for days that often began at 6 AM and ended at 10 PM (or after) on the shores of the Grand River.  A waterfall and baptismal pool at the front of the convention center hall helped carry the theme through both business and worship experiences.

As can be seen in the Wrap Up Video, music and dance were part of each worship service.  Our preachers included Otis Moss, III of Trinity UCC in Chicago; John Thomas, President and General Minister; Patricia E. de Jong, of First Congregational Church of Berkeley, CA.

“River City Saturday” was the umbrella title for over 120 events which gave Synod Registrants the opportunity to hear nationally known speakers and artists and/or participate in workshops from “Art and Drama for Justice” to “Where Are the 20-Somethings”.  (No X, Y or Z this time.)  And if these weren’t enough options, the Exhibit Hall was open from Friday noon to Tuesday noon with more than 80 booths from Americans United for Separation of Church and State to Yes! Magazine. (No Z this time.)

Sunday morning provided thirteen opportunities to engage in Sacred Conversations on Race, dialogues which began with the April 3, 2008 pastoral letter from the UCC national officers (Collegium).  As predicted in the announcement, “sacred conversations can, and often do, honor the value of diverse life experiences, requiring an openness to hear each others’ viewpoints”.

Sunday evening through Tuesday afternoon were devoted to the work of committees and plenary sessions.  Two major votes affecting the operation of the church were passed after years of preparatory work, effective committee deliberations and lively debate on the plenary floor. 

Part I of the resolution “Toward Unified Governance for the National Setting of the United Church of Christ” requests “the Executive Council and the Covenanted Ministries Boards to engage in further sacred conversations on race, especially around what it means to be an anti-racist, multi-cultural, multi-racial church.”  The final section of this resolution requests that “the Executive Council and Covenanted Ministries Boards bring to the Twenty-Eighth General Synod a proposal for a Unified Governing Board with changes in the Constitution and By-Laws necessary to begin implementation of a Unified Governance structure.”

Changes to the UCC Constitution and By-Laws regarding authorized ministry carried four themes:

Emphasis on authorization of all UCC ministers – ordained, commissioned and licensed

Responsibility of the Association in determining fitness for ordination

Discernment in the authorization process in all settings of the church

Importance of covenants of mutual responsibility


Sixteen other resolutions were acted upon, many of which provide opportunities for local churches and other settings of the UCC to focus on issues Synod delegates felt worthy of special study and action.  Full texts of all 18 resolutions are linked from http://www.ucc.org/synod/resolutions/.

For glimpses of some of the New Yorkers at General Synod 27, visit the New York Picture Gallery.

Reported by Lucy Werner


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