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Cultural Pandering No Boon for Shriveling United Church of Christ

By John Lomperis, IRD

Advocates for churches and Christian institutions reconsidering biblical teaching on sexual morality frequently claim that such cultural accomodationism is “needed” if Christian communities are to have any hope of surviving in an America whose secular culture is increasingly intolerant of moral boundaries for sexual expression (beyond consent).
If one is going to take such arguments seriously, it makes sense to consider how well that has worked in the denomination that has most prominently pioneered enthusiastic abandonment of biblical values on marriage and sex.
The United Church of Christ (UCC) attracted heaps of polarized public attention in 2005 with its embrace of a strong pro-same-sex-marriage stand, for church as well as society. But this was really a sadly unsurprising development in a denomination whose leaders had by that point already harshly excluded evangelicals (within the limits of the UCC’s congregational polity), aggressively promoted secular sexual values, and even allowed local congregations to dually affiliate with the Unitarian Universalist Association for many years.
UCC denominational officials defended high-profile homosexuality-affirming actions in the middle of the previous decade by, among other things, boasting of a presumably controversy-driven increase in traffic to the find-a-church section of the UCC website. To paraphrase this argument: “You naysayers protested, but just you wait and see all the people who will come flocking to our churches as a result of this!” In a rather similar vein, Chicago United Methodist Bishop Sally Dyck defended her recent promotion of same-sex marriage in Illinois (in which she notably misrepresented the UMC’s official position), by framing it as something that will attract non-Christians to attend United Methodist congregations.
So how has such pandering worked out for the UCC?
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