djonn: Self-portrait (Default)

For those following developments regarding Sen. Obama and the remarks made by now-retired pastor Benjamin Wright:

It so happens that I grew up in a United Church of Christ church household (and attended several different UCC churches before eventually falling out of active church membership).  And it seems to me that little if any of the news coverage I've heard on the matter has acknowledged a key characteristic of the UCC that provide important context for the response (or lack thereof) to the Rev. Wright's statements.

Specifically: the UCC is a denomination in which there's a very high degree of congregational autonomy -- pastors are hired and employed by each individual local church, and to the extent that there's a central denominational hierarchy, its function is almost entirely administrative rather than theological.  An illustrative analogy: the Catholic church operates as a unified corporate hierarchy, in which local churches function essentially as branch offices or wholly owned subsidiaries, with everyone ultimately answerable to Corporate HQ in Vatican City.  By contrast, the UCC is essentially a coalition of hundreds of local, independently owned businesses -- while they all operate under the same brand name, and have set up regional and national networks to pool resources and manage the brand, each congregation is fully self-governing.

As a result, when a UCC pastor says or does something controversial, the only people in a position to easily discipline or fire him are the members of his own congregation, which is run in much the same way as any other mid-sized nonprofit organization.  Yes, this means precisely what you think it does: the committee structure and internal politics of a typical UCC church aren't all that different from, say, SFWA's....

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August 2017

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