Ecumenical Partnership: Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); United Church of Christ

By Veliko, Lydia; Welsh, Robert | The Ecumenical Review, July-October 2006 | Go to article overview

Ecumenical Partnership: Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); United Church of Christ


Veliko, Lydia, Welsh, Robert, The Ecumenical Review


The Ecumenical Partnership between the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ in the USA, born from a desire to make more visible the unity of the church given by God, has continued to flourish in the years since the report to the last Church Union Survey in 2002. Below are detailed both the initiatives and the ongoing questions on which the two churches engage as we seek to live in this full communion relationship.

In a recent gathering of united and uniting church representatives, one participant noted that vision and goodwill often characterize initial ecumenical efforts--but the moment the churches experience divisive issues, the tissue holding them together begins to tear. It is good to report that, while the UCC and Disciples have experienced periodic divisive issues, the trajectory of the relationship, while not one of institutional integration, has been strongly positive. Of significance since the previous report in 2002, and of great assistance to the Partnership's ability to remain healthy, has been the re-establishment of a Partnership Committee. That body, which has gathered annually since 2004, reviews the life of the Partnership and identifies areas for further encouragement and attention. Comprised of representatives from various settings (the local, the national or general, and the regional judicatory settings), the Committee acts as the table where information is shared and the vision can be tested. The following topics, while not forming an exhaustive list, constitute a representative sampling of the ongoing discussion, and demonstrate engagement with the kinds of questions required to deepen a relationship beyond ecumenical platitude, to one of real trust and constancy.

Areas of common ministry

Common Global Ministries

Now ten years old, the Common Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ represents the most fully integrated ministry of the two denominations since the formation of the Partnership. While disaster relief and development offices remain separate, all missionary personnel, and most global church relationships, are now unified in a "common" ministry of the two churches. Common Global Ministries embodies both the positive vision for full visible unity, and the setting in which institutional stress can most easily occur. Different histories, expectations, patterns of work, and desired emphases take time to bring into a unified whole, and patience and constant attention is required. For both our global church partners and those working in missionary settings, however, the witness of the commitment to common mission has been very positive, and both churches have been able to accomplish far more together than they could have done separately. The governing board members and staff related to Common Global Ministries are now undertaking an evaluation of the ministry to assess what is working well, what needs additional support, what could be strengthened, and what we can learn from this first decade of unified global mission.

Ministry issues

The ordained ministries of the two denominations are fully reconciled in the Ecumenical Partnership. This enables each pastor, once having demonstrated proficiency in the polity, theology and ecclesiology of the other denomination, to obtain "ordained ministerial partner standing" and seek a call in the partner denomination as if it were his or her own. While both churches allow for temporary "dual ministerial standing" for pastors in many other denominations for a time of service in a pastoral setting, this ability to search freely for a call within both the UCC and the Disciples system represents a much more complete reconciliation of orders. The polity of both churches allows procedures for the authorization of ministry to be set in the regional judicatory context, without requiring compliance with a pre-determined set of protocols. …

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