Today the 34th General Synod of the United Church of Christ (UCC) comes to an end. A delegation from the Protestant Church in Hesse and Nassau (EKHN) led by Church President Dr. Volker Jung was invited to attend together with delegates from the New York Conference of the UCC – partner church of EKHN.
One of the highlights was the election of the new „General Minister and President“ (GMP – church president) Rev. Dr. Karen Georgia Thompson. As the first woman and Woman of Color, she succeeds Rev. Dr. John C. Dorhauer in the office, who did not run again after 2 terms (8 years) and is now going back to community service.
Karen Georgia Thompson was born in Jamaica, her family has African roots and is thus connected to the crime of slavery. Until she takes office on August 1, she is still the UCC’s associate general minister for global concerns and for the interreligious relations of her church. She is committed to bringing her worldwide ecumenical experience to her new ministry:
„Being church means we are locally rooted and globally focused, connecting the issues we see in ways that allow us to bring justice to the world.“).
Thompson sees critical engagement with the colonial era and overcoming its consequences, including in the church, as a particular challenge:
„Decolonizing the church includes our commitment to racial justice and more. Being anti-racist and inclusive requires that we decolonize our institutions in ways that afford all to be present and participate equally. This is a commitment to equity for all.“
In addition to the approximately 700 delegates, many guests also take part in the 5-day synod meeting. For all, these are days of encounter and an opportunity to make new contacts. Lectures, joint worship services and booths with a variety of content provide inspiration for the work in the local congregations. Some things are more reminiscent of „Kirchentag“ than of synod meetings in our church.
Important decisions were made and resolutions adopted in the plenary sessions. Among other things, the synod decided to meet every three years in the future. Here, too, cost-cutting considerations and the overburdening of staff play a role. There are also a number of resolutions that support and encourage the congregations‘ commitment to anti-racism work, climate protection and justice issues. For example, one resolution calls on congregations to address „white supremacy“ and create „White Supremacy Free Zones“ in their own congregations. Educational materials and programs for these processes should be developed. The UCC also wants to get involved in the debate about reparations for injustices suffered as a result of slavery.
Summary by Church President Dr. Volker Jung:
„During these days I felt how important it is to deal with racism and racist structures – in society, church and in our own actions. The UCC is a church that tries again and again in an impressive way to live the community of people in all their diversity. Therefore, questions of sexual diversity and justice in all areas of life also play a major role. I take with me many questions and suggestions. I was particularly touched again and again by the fact that the fundamental questions are closely connected with the message of grace and freedom of the Gospel.
All in all, it was a time of valuable encounters and intensive conversations with John C. Dorhauer and his successor Karen Georgia Thompson. There was a reunion with former GMP Geoffrey Black, who initiated the EKHN partnership as Conference Minister of New York, and former New York Conference Minister David Gaewski. He did a great job of promoting the partnership. So does Marsha Williams as his successor. She has invited us to meet with New York Conference delegates. We talked with UCC ecumenical officer Peter Makari about the future shape of UCC partnerships in Germany.“