June 26 to 30, 2015, 740 delegates, 75 associate delegates, 2,319 visitors from across the country (and abroad) met for General Synod (GS) 30 in Cleveland, Ohio — the birthplace of the United Church of Christ. The Pennsylvania Southeast Conference was represented by 30 delegates, 32 visitors and 3 staff. Through worship, preachers and resolutions, we named some of the “Unexpected Places” where we hear God’s voice and other places where it needs to be heard. Highlights include:
Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer was elected as the new General Minister and President to succeed Rev. Geoffery Black joining Rev. Jim Moos (elected for another term as Minister for Wider Church Ministries) Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo (Minister of Justice and Witness Ministries) and Rev. Dr. J. Bennett Guess (Minister of Local Church Ministries) in the Collegium of UCC Officers.
Rev. Dr. Molly Baskette (author, Real Good Church), Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb (author, I Am a Palestinian Christian ) Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins (author, Whole: A Call for Unity in Our Fragmented World), preached inspirational sermons. Bishop Dwayne Royster (founding pastor Living Water UCC, Philadelphia) raised the Synod roof during Sunday’s worship in a prophetic call to “Change the Damn World!”
Our witness to the world is now shaped by General Synod resolutions that call for: the reunification of North and South Korea; a response to the racially motivated church shooting in Charleston, SC; divestment and boycott of companies that profit from occupation of Palestinian territories; an end to segregation known as “the new Jim Crow”; dismantling mass incarceration; reaffirmation of full equality for persons of any sexual orientation and gender identity; attention to orbiting space junk that threatens people and the planet; a name and image change to the racially-offensive Washington NFL franchise; commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide (thanks Rev. Nishan Bakalian [Philadelphia Association] for his testimony); entering into full communion with the United Church of Canada; a complete transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy by 2040; and a network of churches that are welcoming, inclusive, supportive and engaged (WISE) for mental health.
Delegates said “no” to a resolution naming the Israeli occupation of Palestine apartheid and a resolution encouraging mandatory identification of genetically-engineered foods. A UCC Constitution and Bylaws amendment to shift leadership of the national setting from the current four-person collegium structure to one general minister and president was defeated. Beth Walker, Esq. (Philadelphia Association) provided strong, graceful and faith-filled leadership to this contentious conversation.
Many, many more GS stories and information can be found at synod.uccpages.org. The Central Atlantic Delegation extended an invitation to the 31st General Synod that will take place in Baltimore, MD.
Photos from General Synod 30 in Cleveland, OH