Wednesday, April 2, 2008

United Church of Christ Ad Masks Decline

United Church of Christ Ad Masks Decline

WASHINGTON, April 2 /Christian Newswire/ -- The United Church of Christ (UCC) is attempting to turn the controversy over the Rev. Jeremiah Wright into a public relations bonus for the denomination. According to the UCC website, it has purchased a full-page advertisement in the April 2 New York Times proclaiming, "[W]e are eager to share the broad and diverse story of the United Church of Christ, which we celebrate."

The $120,000 ad does not name Wright, the recently retired pastor of Trinity UCC in Chicago and spiritual mentor to presidential candidate Barack Obama. Nor does it comment on Wright's controversial recorded sermons blaming the United States for the 9-11 terrorist attacks and the propagation of the HIV virus.

Instead the ad boasts, "We are a church of open ideas, extravagant welcome and evangelical courage." It claims the heritage of the Mayflower colonists, Declaration of Independence signers, and early abolitionists, asserting, "Our story is this nation's story." The ad declares, "Ours is a risk-taking church, because ours is a risk-taking God."

IRD Vice President for Research and Programs Alan Wisdom commented:

"Sadly, the real United Church of Christ does not resemble the denomination described in the advertisement. More than 90 percent white and rapidly aging, its membership has dropped steadily, from 2.1 million in 1967 to 1.2 million today.

"The UCC leadership is stuck in the liberal theology and politics of the 1960s. It treats historic Christian creeds as mere 'historic testimonies' of 'our ancestors.' The UCC is the only sizeable U.S. Christian denomination that has endorsed same-sex marriage.

"Conservative Christians have not felt welcome within today's UCC. The Biblical Witness Fellowship, speaking for those disaffected members, notes 'A growing emphasis on conformity to 'progressive' ideology has alienated many minority members in the United Church of Christ....'

"UCC leaders have moved a long way away from the orthodox Christian faith and robust American patriotism of their forbears. Unlike Senator Obama, they have not repudiated Jeremiah Wright's offensive statements. Indeed, they often echo the same kind of harsh leftist rhetoric. UCC President John Thomas has repeatedly denounced the Iraq War as 'conceived in deception [and] carried out in arrogance.'

"In a UCC news release, denominational leaders hailed Wright's Afrocentric congregation as 'a model,' and 'the flagship church of the United Church of Christ.'"

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