The United Church of Christ Looks at Sixty: You Can’t Dismantle an Idea Whose Time Has Come

This post was originally published on the Vital Signs & Statistics Blog, on the UCC’s Center for Analytics, Research, and Data (CARD) website on June 19, 2017.

A year ago, on June 14, 2016, our Conference Minister, the Rev. David Gaewski, delivered his “State of the Conference” address to annual meeting delegates of the New York Conference (UCCNY). His words had a curious relevance for the United Church of Christ (UCC).

The UCCNY was “sewn together as a quilt from different swaths of cloth,” Rev. Gaewski noted; historically, its churches and Associations “had neither a common identity nor a common commitment.” And while diversity can transform a Conference into a beautiful tapestry, “if the stitching is weak or loose, [it] will not last.” Indeed, too often, “we have taken pride in identifying” ourselves regionally, but not as a Conference. “And this has [weakened] the seamwork of our quilt. Pride in our separateness is a misconception of the Body of Christ. In Christ there is no east or west, no north or south, no Congregational Christian or E&R, no urban or rural Christian.”

Broaching the subject of Conference finances, Rev. Gaewski outlined “a multi-dimensional plan” to eliminate the UCCNY deficit. Key elements of the plan included a new “Covenant Share” offering, which is “a hybrid to per capita giving;” a special appeal to “Friends of the Conference;” an annual “‘Fair Share’ in OCWM giving” program, which calculates an appropriate pledge amount for each UCCNY congregation; the incorporation of new church starts and affiliations into the Conference; and several staffing and administrative efficiencies.

Rev. Gaewski then expressed disappointment that the UCCNY’s Covenant Share appeal had not attracted more dollars from more congregations and individuals, but he speculated that many churches and Conference members still didn’t know about the new offering. Finally, our Conference Minister issued a warning: “We have three years to resolve our fiscal direction. And if we don’t, we’ll need to begin dismantling this Conference”—or at least, drastically reorganize the way it operates.

Rev. Gaewski was right to deliver this inauspicious message, and as I say, I think his statement is relevant to the entire UCC. I suspect that the financial challenges we are facing in the UCCNY are ubiquitous—they are evident in all UCC churches and in all mainline denominations—and we need to talk about them rather than ignore or hide from them. And we need to see how they relate to broader societal trends.

To read more of this blog post, go to the Vital Signs & Statistics Blog site, at


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Chris Xenakis

Chris Xenakis is a pastor, an adjunct lecturer in political science, an old school black and white photographer, and a sometime amateur actor.