Here’s the salient paragraph from 13 pages of bylaw changes, with the revised language in blue and the deleted language crossed out. It was approved Monday at the denomination’s biennial governance meeting.
ARTICLE V. LOCAL CHURCHES
The basic unit of the life and organization of the United Church of Christ is the Local Church. A Local Church is composed of persons who, believing in the triune 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.
In case you are wondering what difference that makes really, follow its connection to baptism:
From a UCC press release:
The two primary roadblocks to the agreement centered on language used during the baptismal rite and the manner in which water is used. … Research found that nearly 20 percent of UCC churches were using alternative language for “the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” for baptismal formula. …
I do not use the traditional language of “Father, Son and the Holy Spirit” during baptism as I try to refrain from using gender specific language for God in most cases. …
Actions taken by the General Synod of the United Church of Christ speak to but not for the local church. Therefore, as a minister in the UCC I am not bound by any agreement made regarding baptism and may (and will) continue to use the language that I currently do. Inclusive language is important in theology and a important trait of many UCC congregations and our denomination as a whole.
It seems that from now on we better check any baptism from the UCC on a case by case basis because any baptism not in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit cannot in confidence be a baptism at all.... just something to think about....
Read more here....
I am convinced that it is wrong to delete the Father from the Baptismal Formula. But here are a couple of passages from Acts that give me pause:
Acts 8: 14 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. 15 The two went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit 16 (for as yet the Spirit had not come upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus). 17 Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
Acts 10: 44 While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, 46 for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, 47 "Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" 48 So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.
I suppose that the difference is that in both cases above, the name of the Father was not omitted intentionally. The moment it is omitted intentionally it is no longer a valid Baptism, because the name of our God is “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” When you intentionally leave off the Father’s name, you baptize in the name of a God whom we don’t know.
Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart
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