God’s Vision:__________________

How would you fill in the blank?

In worship and in workshop, Synod invited those present to imagine God’s intentions for us and for God’s world.

As always, General Synod becomes and leaves a kaleidoscope of experiences and impressions.  Worship is big and eclectic, meetings are manifold, and the hours are long.  The weather was more changeable than what one might expect in Southern California.  The Iowa delegation of 20 lay people and clergy was joined by 4 others who serve on the various boards of the national church and by a group of about 40 youth and chaperones who trekked to Long Beach on a bus (and experienced their own set of challenges on the trip westward).  All told, I suspect there were nearly 100 Iowans at General Synod 29.

If there was a singular issue for which this Synod will be remembered, it will likely be the resolution challenging the various settings of the church to divest from investment in companies doing business in the fossil fuel industries.  We came to Synod with the prospect of a messy conflict between advocates of divestment and those who prefer engagement with those same companies.  The committee process became an example of Synod at its best – a compromise was worked out which places highest emphasis on divestment but acknowledges the legitimacy of other strategies for combating climate change and in the end the Synod came together to endorse that resolution by a large majority.

As always, the Synod addressed a wide range of issues ranging from bullying to women’s issues to mountaintop coal mining.  We addressed the need for affordable housing, opposed drug related violence in Honduras and called for changes in our nation’s tax policies.  We struggled with the issue of seminarian debt and finally approved a watered-down version that expresses concern, but only asks for an unspecified future plan.  This resolution precipitated an action rarely seen at Synod – the adoption of a minority resolution – which calls for a church-wide buy cipro medicaid offering to help fund the educational process for members in discernment (disclosure:  I supported the minority resolution).  The final versions of these resolutions and more can be found on the UCC website.

Synod isn’t just budgets and elections and resolutions – it’s also worship and workshops and exhibitions and service projects (I gave blood) and sponsored meals and seeing old friends one hasn’t seen in a long time.  Synod includes programs for youth and for participants in the Next Generation Leadership Initiative (a Pension Boards funded program to build leadership competency in our brightest young clergy).  Synod traditionally includes a UCC History and Polity class and this year one of our own – Cameron Barr – was one of the instructors.

There’s probably more I should report, but from a structural perspective it may be that the most significant event of this Synod was a transition that was approved at the last Synod but finally and fully enacted at this conclusion of this one – the move away from separate governing boards for each of the covenanted ministries (with an aggregate of over 300 members) to a system of unified governance for nearly all of the national church settings (with about 55 members).  The new United Church of Christ Board was fully implemented (at least legally) on Tuesday.  I’m honored to serve as a member of the new UCCB.

The kaleidoscope of Synod can be dizzying and sometimes confusing and messy.  As usual it was all of these, but it was also inspiring and challenging and hopeful.

You can learn more (and see videos of many of Synod events) at http://www.ucc.org/synod/news.html.  Check it out!

Synod always exhausts me, but it also makes me proud to be part of the UCC.  Thank you for giving me the chance to attend.  Perhaps in two years you can also attend.  Begin planning now to attend General Synod 30 in gorgeous (!!) Cleveland, Ohio.  See you there!

Rich Pleva
Iowa Conference Minister

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