Whit Johnstone (mylifemyfaith) wrote in ucc_peeps,
Whit Johnstone

Discerning A Denominational Home

I am currently a member of a UCC church. I left the Methodist church because I knew that I am not straight, which makes it impossible for me to be ordained in the UMC. However, my preference for weekly communion and a clear ecclesiastical hierarchy are making me reconsider.

Is there anyone else who has had to discern which denomination they were being called to?

Edit: My number one possibility for an alternative home to the UCC is the Episcopal Church. I am also drawn to the ELCA.

Son of Edit: Likes and dislikes about the UCC

Things I like about the UCC
1. I am free to interpret the Bible however I like, guided but not limited by the historic creeds and confessions.
2. The Heidelberg Catechism
3. The Calvin Synod's vestments (capes are sexy) and habit of handing the chalice to the people as they take communion
4. Being openly gay and sexually active
5. Leslie Taylor
6. My friends at Zion UCC, who I would miss terribly
7. The UCC's commitment to ecumenism- the standoffishness of the UMC bothered me a great deal, and the Episcopalians are in some ways more standoffish
8. being able to adapt liturgies to each local church's context rather then using the same liturgy everywhere
9. The commitment to social justice, which is not just present but historic as well. See abolitionism, women's ordination, etc…
10. Being a member of an O and A church not 10 miles from the seminary
11. Continuing to attend MTSO

Things I dislike about the UCC
1. The lack of churches in Texas
2. Zwingalian attitudes toward communion, and toward beauty in worship
3. Extreme liberalism (may be my imagination plus slanders I've heard)
4. Not saying the creed or a statement of faith in worship at least once a month
5. congregational polity
6. not having standards of faith to rely on (a paradox, given my number one like, I know)

Final Edit: I'm staying in the UCC for the foreseeable future. Gos planted me at Zion UCC for a reason, and there I will stay. Thanks to everyone in this community who provided helpful comments. :D
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Yes. I ended up in the Metropolitan Community Church. We have weekly communion, but not a clear hierarchy.
If I may ask, what did your discernment process look like?

The MCC is not a realistic option for me, because the closest MCC congregation is about 45 minutes away. Otherwise, I would be seriously considering it, because it's closer to the UMC in terms of its polity, but I have strong reservations about ministry in an exclusively LGBT context.
Well, okay, but I hope nothing I say will come across as putting UCC down, which is something I don't want to do, even when *not* in a UCC community...

-1- My heart got worn down from having the sexuality debate again and again in my faith home. I'm fine with it as an ecumenical discussion, but I can't *live* there.

-2- My heart grew restless to be in a more Christocentric setting. The UCC congregations and conferences I was familiar with put a major emphasis on God and the Spirit. Which is great, but it came to feel like Jesus was sitting off in a corner.

-3- Directly related to 1 and 2, I became convinced that my life would bear a stronger witness in MCC than UCC.

Ironically, my congregation is 45 minutes away from me also! We go and spend the whole day in that city. For us, it's nice, though I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't prefer it to be right around the corner.

As for ministry in an exclusively LGBT context...that just doesn't compute for me. I'm sure congregations vary, but there are straight people in mine. They're outnumbered, but not in a more lopsided way than the straight folks outnumbered the LGBT folks in the UCC congregations I was familiar with. Setting aside sexual orientation, I've found MCC to be a lot more diverse than UCC--economically, racially, ethnically, culturally, theologically. When I think of the mainline denominations these days, I think of *them* as the confined context for ministry, instead of MCC.
I have worked in and ELCA, UMC, and DOC church and am just finishing a CPE residency in an episcopal hospital. I have had peers that found the MCC to be a good option for them and mkille's comment about MCC is similar to what I've experienced, much more variety. Of course, jus tlike UCC, it has people raised in a variety of denominations and experiences. I came to the UCC in 2000, being raised in a fundamentaist church and a nature centered anti-establishment faith as an adult.

But if you are looking for consistency of doctrine and worship practice, ELCA is a great option. I find them to be much more open to ecumenicism yet very confident about who they are. I also am impressed with their intentionality to change national liturgies to be inclusive and creation centered. Not sure if they've gotten past the "don't ask, don't tell" policy for openly LGBT clergy.

My experience of the episcopal church this last year has been a bit stiffling for me. I do know that specific congregations are more open and accepting, but there are still plenty of exclusivism I've observed and not always liturgies that I appreciate.
The other thing I'm wondering is if your conference is mostly Congregational churches or E & R. My experience is that E&R churches often have a Lutheran flavor to them. They are the ones who, before the UCC joining, had bishops and hierarchal church structure and tend to appreciate more "traditional" liturgies. Of course, these are all generalizations. My experience has been that no matter the denomination, there is a variety of flavors in the local church. Is your current UCC church open and affirming?

Great question to ponder. I struggle with denominationalism in general... part of the reason chaplaincy fits me so well... I can meet and pray with a variety of faiths and traditions every day. I think just like family, denomination homes drive you crazy as much as you love them. Blessings on your journey!
The Ohio Conference is strongly E and R, and I fit in well at my local UCC church, which has a strong E and R flavor, and I fit in well at all the E and R churches that I've visited. However, the local Association, the Central Southeast Ohio Association is more Congregational then the other associations of the Ohio Conference, with a good smattering of former persons who consider congregational polity to be a theological commitment of the UCC, rather then simply one way of organizing the life of a denomination. I can accept congregational polity as simply one way of doing things, and it has its advantages- it avoids turning differences of opinion into denominational splits. However, the early Church adopted an episcopal form of polity very early in its life and it seems to have worked quite well for the first millennium of the church's exsistance, only breaking down when bishops became temporal as well as spiritual lords.

My current UCC church has just become O and A this very week, at Monday's council meeting (they abandoned the term consistory long ago, but that's what it is).

The ELCA would be ideal for me if I was straight, because, as you say, it combines the ecumenical commitments of the UCC with the doctrinal and liturgical clarity of the Episcopal Church, and their law and gospel theology is very appealing to me. However, they don't ordain openly gay individuals, and I'm not sure I want to go back into the closet!

Finally, I too struggle with the idea of denominationalism, which is why the UCC, with its formal commitment to working for Christian unity, has such an appeal to me.