By Pastor Raygan
From June 20th-26th, I will be attending The General Synod of the United Church of Christ in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (as will Kim!), which, for those who aren’t church-nerds yet, begs the question, “What is a Synod?” “Synod,” most simply, is a gathering of church representatives to conduct church business, and in the United Church of Christ, it is a very special gathering. The less official definition of Synod in the UCC is, “two-steps-and-a-hug,” because it feels like a giant family reunion.
Every two years, about 700 pastors and lay members of UCC churches and conferences from all over the country gather in rotating host cities to celebrate and support our relationships with our national and international partners in ministry, to learn and gain resources to support the work of our churches, and to make decisions on behalf of the national church. In the UCC, we insist on and celebrate the autonomy of every individual church, and enter into covenantal relationships with other churches, conferences, and the national setting of the church to do more together than we could do alone. So, when we have to make decisions as a whole denomination, our decisions aren’t handed down and doctrines aren’t proscribed, but passionate debates and faithful conversations are held, and when needed, votes are taken in an effort to reach consensus. We take care of the basic business like our national officers, board of directors, budget, but then we get to the good stuff.
A lot of time at Synod is spent discerning, considering, and voting on “Resolutions of Witness” that have been brought by local churches and conferences; which speak to matters of public life that need to be spoken into by the voice of faith, and when possible, have resources and efforts organized towards just outcomes. For example, this year the Synod will be considering resolutions pertaining to climate change, worldwide immigration crises, private prisons, opioid addiction, interfaith dialogue, and much more.
Additionally, because a gathering like this is an opportunity to learn together as a national church, we will hear from Matthew Desmond, this Synod’s keynote speaker. Desmond is the author of Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City. In preparation for his address, all of us attending Synod are reading his book in advance, as he has promised to build on the work of his Pulitzer Prize winning book. I am excited to learn what resources and ideas we can bring back, as we know that poverty is a particularly poignant issue in Fresno and the Central Valley. If you haven’t read it already, make room for it on your summer reading list, so we can continue the conversation and important work well beyond Synod. Will you join me?