Report on General Synod 32, Milwaukee Wisconsin, 2019
What is General Synod? General Synod is a gathering of the entire United Church of Christ that happens every two years. Synod is comprised of national staff, the board of directors, our ministry partners, honored guests, and around 800 delegates from across the denomination, of which, I was proudly a member. As a delegate my responsibilities included committee work on two resolutions, bringing these resolutions to the floor during a plenary session for approval, and voting on the issues that were brought before the entire body. (Remember, these are called resolutions and not “laws” or “rules” because the General Synod speaks to the local church not for us. In other words, these resolutions are recommended to the local churches for prayerful consideration, implementation, or action. But it’s the local congregations themselves who finally decide how to most faithfully respond to each resolution within their own context)
The 32nd General Synod passed a number of resolutions. We passed resolutions affirming our opposition to private prisons, religious bigotry in all forms, white supremist ideologies and racism of any kind, all forms of violence, the use of plastic foam products (i.e. Styrofoam), and the growing threat of nuclear war.
We also passed resolutions in support of the Energy Innovative and Carbon Dividend Act, the Green New Deal, an observance of “Break the Silence Sunday” supporting survivors of sexual abuse and assault, (The Break the Silence resolution came from the Wisconsin Conference!), for the protection of immigrants and their families, and to reestablish a relationship with the UCC in Puerto Rico.
The committee I served on considered and passed two resolutions that granted “historically underrepresented group” status (HUG) to the Mental Health Network of the UCC and The Colectivo De UCC Latinx. This status will give each of these groups increased representation by granting them 4 delegates to each General Synod as well as increased exposure across the denomination.
In addition, we passed resolutions of witness to lift awareness of forced global migration, to encourage the use of non-binary gender language in our churches, and to recognize opioid addiction as a local and national health crisis.
Finally, we sent the board of directors two resolutions for consideration and implementation. One to consider the relationship between our autonomy as congregations and our promise to be in covenant with United Church of Christ. This action constitutes the first steps toward creating a denomination wide Manual on Church. The second resolution sent to the board of directors challenges them to create a set of guidelines for the scope and type of materials that might be displayed in the exhibition hall during General Synod.
Now, on a more personal note. This was my first General Synod and I didn’t really know what to expect. But it was a great experience! I was filled by four unique and wonderfully arranged worship services, inspired by some the best preaching I’ve ever heard, educated in workshops on Environmental Justice and alternative vespers worship, and enriched by new and renewed relationships within and beyond the Wisconsin delegation.
I was honored to serve the national setting of the United Church of Christ in this capacity and I thank you for the opportunity. Now, delegates are chosen to serve at two General Synods, therefore, I must conclude by saying, “Kansas City here I come” for General Synod 33 in 2021. Blessings and Shalom, Pastor Phil