It’s possible that denominations don’t matter to you.
Or maybe you feel anxious about spending time with a bunch of Baptists.
Like many churches these days, First United Church is home to people from all kinds of backgrounds – Methodist, unchurched, Roman Catholic, Lutheran, atheist, Episcopal, Jewish, Pentecostal, Quaker, and more. In the midst of this great diversity, we maintain ties with two denominations – the American Baptist Churches USA and the United Church of Christ.
“Two Denominations? How did that happen?”
We began as an American Baptist Church. In the 1970s, a small United Church of Christ congregation began meeting in our chapel. The two churches found that they liked each other and began worshiping together. Eventually, they merged into one church. Everyone who chooses to be a member of First United Church belongs to both denominations.
Because both of our denominations have a “bottom-up” hierarchy, we find that belonging to both denominations is simple. In both denominations, individual churches have authority over how they are run, and the larger denominational structure simply provides a network of support. There are actually quite a few ABC/UCC churches out there, the most famous being Riverside Church in New York City.
“You’re Baptist? Really?”
Yes. There are many kinds of Baptists in the United States. The American Baptist Churches USA is a group of about 1.3 million members in 5,500 congregations in the United States. Following centuries of Baptist tradition, each congregation enjoys virtually complete autonomy.
American Baptists have their historical roots in the 16th century English Reformation. Early on, believer (or adult) baptism distinguished Baptists from otherwise theologically similar nonconformist groups. Baptists stressed the primacy of Scripture and respected the right of the individual believer to interpret Scripture according to his or her own conscience. Having their origins in a movement opposed to an official church, Baptists have historically supported strict separation of church and state.
“The United Church of Christ – is that the same thing as Church of Christ?”
No. The United Church of Christ is an entirely separate and unrelated denomination. The UCC is a fusion of several different Christian traditions. From the beginning, the UCC has affirmed the ideal that Christians can enjoy great diversity in terms of beliefs and still choose to live together in community. Its motto—”that they may all be one” (John 17:21)—is Jesus’ prayer for the unity of the church.
The UCC came into being in 1957 with the union of the Evangelical and Reformed with the Congregational Christian denominations. The Congregationalists grew out of the pilgrim and Puritan settlements of New England. The Christian Church emerged in the nineteenth century as a free-church expression on the new American frontier. The Evangelical and Reformed Church traced its beginnings to congregations of German settlers in Pennsylvania and the Midwest.
The UCC affirms the primacy of Scripture, justification by faith, the priesthood of believers, and the principle of Christian freedom. Congregational independence is the basis of UCC polity. The UCC sees as its primary task the proclamation of the good news of God’s love as revealed in Jesus Christ.
Learn more about the American Baptist Churches USA:
Rochester-Genesee Regional Association of the ABC (our region)
Learn more about the United Church of Christ:
Indiana-Kentucky Conference of the UCC (our conference)