United Church of Christ
The United Church of Christ, a church of the united and uniting church family, was created in 1957, as a union between the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the Congregational and Christian churches. Its roots grew out of German Lutheranism, German and Swiss Reformed traditions, Anabaptist Christian Church traditions, and English Congregationalism. The UCC also expresses its Reformed heritage through the presence of the non-geographic Calvin Synod from the Hungarian Reformed tradition. The Congregational churches were descended from Puritan and Separatist forebears in England and New England. Their roots are in the Calvinist and free church traditions, but include influences from a variety of Reformation-era traditions. Seeking the simplicity of first century Christianity, and on the cusp of the 19th century "Second Awakening", the Christian Church arose from three diverse traditions: the Methodist, Baptist and Presbyterian churches.
The Congregational Churches and the Christian Church came together in 1931 to become the Congregational Christian Churches. The German Reformed Church was established by early 18th century Swiss and German immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania and the surrounding area. The Evangelical Synod of North America was born of the Evangelical Church of the Prussian Union, a 19th century Reformed-Lutheran union in Germany. Settlers in the Mississippi Valley during the westward movement of the 19th century were gathered into congregations through missionary efforts. In 1934 these two churches united to become the Evangelical and Reformed Church.
The settings of the United Church of Christ are bound together by covenantal relationships. Authority rests in the individual congregation, and functions with a blend of congregational and presbyterial polity. Local churches are autonomous, own their property, and call their pastors. Congregations have membership in regional associations, which have the authority to ordain and grant ministerial standing to pastors. Associations are in turn gathered into conferences. The United Church of Christ meets biennially in general synod to establish priorities, make statements on public moral and social issues, recommend policy, vote on budget, and make programme recommendations. The general synod consists of delegates elected by the conferences, members of the four covenanted ministries of the national setting, and representatives from various other settings of the church. The head of communion for the United Church of Christ is the general minister and president, and the general synod elects four additional officers to give leadership to the church. These five together form the "Collegium of Officers."
At its inception the United Church of Christ was, and has continued to be, a diverse communion, including congregations of many racial and ethnic origins: African American, Hispanic, American Indian, Asian American, Pacific Islander, and many others. As a result of its diversity and commitment to being a united and uniting church, the United Church of Christ has sought to engage the various ecclesial and liturgical perspectives brought by its members. It has continued to articulate its united and uniting vocation by naming a commitment to becoming ever more intentionally multi-racial and multicultural, open and affirming to the gifts of gay and lesbian persons for membership and ordained ministry, a church accessible to all people, and dedicated to the pursuit of ecumenical relationships. These commitments are seen to rest clearly in the stream of the Reformation tradition of a church "reformed and always reforming". This same commitment fosters a concern for justice and peace in the church and throughout the world.