Sen. Barack Obama with Rev. Jeremiah Wright
The United Church of Christ, the denomination whose Chicago pastor Jeremiah Wright blasted the United States and white people for years from the pulpit while Barack Obama sat in his pews, has decided to banish God “the Father” from its organizational documents.
A report from Eric Anderson on the denomination’s website confirmed that delegates to the UCC’s “General Synod 28” agreed late Monday to a series of proposed amendments to the constitution and bylaws. The vote was 613 in favor of the changes, 171 against and 10 abstaining.
The changes include a pointed deletion of a reference to God “as heavenly Father,” which has been part of Christendom’s description of the Trinity for millennia – the three persons of God being the heavenly Father, Christ the Son and Savior, and the Holy Ghost, the counselor and comforter.
In Article V, referencing local churches, the constitution previously said, “A Local Church is composed of persons who, believing in God as heavenly Father and accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and depending on the guidance of the Holy Spirit, are organized for Christian worship, for the furtherance of Christian fellowship, and for the ongoing work of Christian witness.”
The new language, which still must be reviewed by the denomination’s conferences, would be changed to say, “A Local Church is composed of persons who, believing in the triune God, accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and depending on the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”
Sen. Barack Obama with Rev. Jeremiah Wright
Other constitutional changes in the package approved by delegates meeting in Tampa, Fla., over the holiday weekend dealt with issues such as modifications in the church structure, the responsibilities of boards and committees.
Denomination spokeswoman Barb Powell told WND today that the change was made because the reference to “heavenly Father” was too restrictive.
“In the UCC, our language for God, Christ and the Holy Spirit … is preferred to be more open for different expressions of the Trinity,” she said. “Heavenly Father is just one vision.”
She told WND the denomination seeks to be “inclusive” in its language, “so therefore we will tend to change language that is more traditional to be more inclusive.”
She said some of the denomination’s pastors refer to God with terms such as “Creator” and “Father and Mother.”
“There are a lot of people who decided, if God still is speaking to us, there is more light and truth to break forth,” she said.
However, a group within the denomination, the Biblical Witness Fellowship, was critical of the editing.
“Rejecting God as Father in an age of fatherlessness is unthinkable,” said David Runnion-Bareford, a leader of the fellowship organization. “God acted toward us in amazing grace when He offered to be our Father through the sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ who offers us life in his name.
“This is not something we as humans made up in some other time. Rejecting our Father is [an] act of arrogant rebellion in the name of cultural conformity that only further alienates members, churches, but more importantly God himself.”
He noted the constitution had contained the reference since its founding in 1957, and said it “remains the covenant connection with the basic truths of Christianity that keeps many churches affiliated who are otherwise alienated by the denomination’s very liberal agenda.”
The organization, a group inside the denomination, warned that the UCC is “the leader among Protestant denominations in member loss.”
“This is indeed a powerful confession by the Synod of the UCC that, having rebelled against the word of God, is on sinking sand – with our members, churches, historic witness, and identity in Christ washing away before our eyes,” Runnion-Bareford said.
The organization explains on its website that it was “formed in alarmed response to decades of continued denominational decline that has resulted from the UCC’s theological surrender to the moral and spiritual confusion of contemporary culture.”
“The BWF attempts to network with renewal movements in other ‘mainline’ denominations as well as to expose churches to the rich diversity of resources available in the wider fellowship of the evangelical mainstream of the American church. In doing so, we hope to spark new vitality and faithfulness in the life of a denomination which seems to have strayed from its first love,” the organization explains.
“We are deeply concerned about the alarming rate at which the UCC is encouraging the ordination of those who choose ‘alternative’ lifestyles (i.e., homosexuality, bisexuality and sexual activity outside of marriage), embrace moral relativism, seek authority in human experience, or are ambivalent about such basic beliefs as the Lordship of Jesus Christ, the reality of the Resurrection and other doctrines of the church which are the foundation of our faith. Continued ordination of ministers who cannot accept even the simplest truths of the Christian faith will only contribute to the further collapse of our church to the prevailing mythologies of the culture.”
Anderson’s report from the Florida meetings said delegate Robb Kojina of Hawaii urged adoption of the changes. According to Anderson, Kojina said, “This structure of governance is a missional model for us to do ministry in a post-modern world, that makes us responsible to discern God’s voice in our settings.”
The UCC and its prominent Chicago pastor Wright made headlines during the 2008 presidential election because of Obama’s 20-year membership in the church.
Wright famously condemned America in God’s name and blamed the U.S. for provoking the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks by dropping nuclear weapons on Japan in World War II and supporting Israel since 1947.
ABC News reviewed dozens of Wright’s sermons, finding repeated denunciations of the U.S., based on what he described as his reading of the Gospels and the treatment of black Americans.
“The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing ‘God Bless America.’ No, no, no, God d— America, that’s in the Bible for killing innocent people,” he said in a 2003 sermon. “God d— America for treating our citizens as less than human. God d— America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme.”
In addition to damning America, he told his congregation on the Sunday after Sept. 11, 2001 that the U.S. had brought on al-Qaida’s attacks because of its own terrorism, ABC News reported.
“We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye,” Wright said in a sermon Sept. 16, 2001. “We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards. America’s chickens are coming home to roost.”
WND has reported the church itself has been revealed to have a strong African-centered and race-based philosophy.
Wright’s Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago is where Obama was baptized as a Christian two decades ago. Obama even borrowing the title for one of his books, “The Audacity of Hope,” from a sermon by Wright.
During the campaign, the first paragraph of the “About Us” section of the church’s website mentioned the word “black” or “Africa” five times:
We are a congregation which is Unashamedly Black and Unapologetically Christian. … Our roots in the Black religious experience and tradition are deep, lasting and permanent. We are an African people, and remain “true to our native land,” the mother continent, the cradle of civilization. God has superintended our pilgrimage through the days of slavery, the days of segregation, and the long night of racism. It is God who gives us the strength and courage to continuously address injustice as a people, and as a congregation. We constantly affirm our trust in God through cultural expression of a Black worship service and ministries which address the Black Community.
On another page on the website, Wright explained that his theology was “based upon the systematized liberation theology that started in 1969 with the publication of Dr. James Cone’s book, ‘Black Power and Black Theology.'”
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