The UCC has been many things and it's hard to sum up. In short it comes from 4 denominations that merged in the 1950s. Those "4 Streams" are the Congregationalists, Reformed, Christian, and Evangelical churches. We affirm all four of those histories, some extending all the way back to the reformation, while others were home-grown American Revolutions.
UCC has poked fun of itself calling themselves:
- a heady and exasperating mix
- unitarians considering christ
- utterly confused christians
- universalists christ crazed
- un-tied christians
- united and uniting
- reformed and reforming
- unity with variety
- unity in diversity
- looking for the living God
- affirming that God is still speaking
- believing "In essentials unity, in nonessentials freedom, in all things charity" (Eden Seminary's motto)
they were Calvinists and believed int he elect, primacy of scripture, and that all works are a responce to the freely given grace of God. they believe that creeds and confessions weren't all that important and cared more for conversation and education. the motif's in play were a sense of flexibility and adaptability, social awareness, realistic and practical, and great missional zeal.
some notables: Johnathan Edwards (Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God), John Wise (natural rights such as democracy, autonomy, and covenant is consistent with faith which lead to Congregationalist support of the American Revolution), and Washington Gladden (father of the social gospel: Christians must stand against injustice, rabid and selfish individualism, and economic exploitation).
Heidelberg Catechism. They focused that a highly structured church is a good thing and found freedom in the order as it provided helpful boundaries and easy identity.
Lancaster Theological Seminary where I attend was the only historical Reformed Seminary and also where Mercersburg Theology popped up. some notables include the hiding of the Liberty Bell during the revolutionary war, Philip Schaff, and John Williamson Nevin.
The Evangelical Church: didn't have a lot of money or members. They largely affirmed three things.
- Pietism that sits between orthodoxy and rationalism
- no creed but Christ crucified
- in essentials unity... that phrase listed above.
The Christian Church: was largely absorbed by the Congregationalists. they were largely a small confederacy, loosely affliated with one another, that was based on Enlightenment Principles and affirmed: Law, unity, passion with no trained clergy. they wanted warm hearted leaders with a keen moral sense.
so there are the 4 Streams in a nutshell. each brings their own story and contributes in a unique way. there is also a UBER-PROGRESSIVE history behind each of these as the UCC was the first to ordain a woman, african-american, and openly gay ministers. started the first integrated anti-slavery society, wrote the 'Serenity Prayer', argued to uphold the treaties made with the First Nations Tribes, as well as many other firsts. Read more about these firsts here! Plus it would stand to mention that President Obama was UCC in Chicago; NOT MUSLIM. but since Rev. Wright, he's stuck to the National Cathedral, which is okay, Darth Vader is on the outside of the church, so it can't be all bad, right?
Needless to say it's great to know that i'm part of a progressive strain that has been at the forefront of the issues. many want to call Christians closed-minded, stiff-necked, and out-dated, but here is a whole history that says otherwise. they affirm a generous orthodoxy and have been exempt from a lot of charges now leveled at many Christians today. i can't help but want to work to keep this proud history going! RAWK!