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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
January 27, 2006

Few churches have left the UCC over its marriage stand

Cleveland--The United Church of Christ�s resolution in favor of full marriage rights for same-sex couples cost it less than one percent of its congregations, the denomination reported on January 19.

Out of 5,725 churches, only 49 have separated from the United Church of Christ over the resolution adopted at the General Synod in July.

The most recent of these was Pilgrim Church in Toledo, whose members voted January 18 to separate from the denomination. Just over two-thirds of the members voted to leave the UCC.

Some members of the congregation left over the decision.

Financially, donations from the churches that left account for less than one-third of one percent of the total donations to the Our Church�s Wider Mission, the United Church of Christ�s shared purse.

The United Church of Christ, unlike many other denominations, allows congregations to retain ownership of buildings, allowing them more freedom to separate from it.

The Episcopal church has found itself in battles with disgruntled congregations who wish to leave the denomination over the ordination of an openly gay bishop. Church law states that congregations hold their property in trust for the denomination.

A judge in California ruled that two breakaway Episcopal congregations owned their property, and that canon law did not apply in legal terms, but that case is being appealed.

Despite the small number of outgoing congregations, UCC officials have been fielding many calls from churches that would like to join the denomination.

�We�ve seen great new enthusiasm for new church development,� said Rev. David Schoen, pointing to 42 existing churches in talks to join the denomination, as well as 20 individuals who would like to start UCC congregations.

He pointed to the Cathedral of Hope in Dallas, Texas, a 4,300 member congregation that voted in October to try to join the UCC because of the vote on same-sex marriage at the General Synod. The cathedral left the predominately gay and lesbian Metropolitan Community Church three years ago.

�The number of departing churches is far fewer than some had earlier projected,� said General Minister John H. Thomas. �We grieve the loss of any and every congregation that decides to leave, not only because of the loss of members but also for the loss of shared history, ministry and fellowship.�

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