What is General Synod?
General Synod is a biennial gathering of representatives of conferences chosen from local churches of the United Church of Christ (UCC). The national officers and board members of the UCC are elected at the General Synod. The General Synod also governs the finances and national structure of the denomination. It determines the relationship of the UCC with ecumenical organizations, world confessional bodies, and other interdenominational agencies and encourages conversations and even negotiations with other communions.
Resolutions and pronouncements are brought for consideration to General Synod by groups and members of the church. When passed, resolutions and pronouncements become the witness of the General Synod and are commended to all members of the UCC for consideration. They have significant influence on the mission and ministry of instrumentalities and other national bodies of the denomination and provide a significant teaching role for the church in all settings.
How are our Conferences involved?
Our Conferences send delegates to every General Synod. This year, we sent over 40 delegates to General Synod 33! Over the course of a week they participated in important decision making and elections, attended worship services, participated in workshops, listened to keynote speakers, attended celebrations, and much much more.
What was it like for our delegates to attend General Synod 33?
Read the quotes and click on the boxes to learn more about our delegates’ experiences. Interested in being a delegate next year? Contact your Conference staff and let them know!
I felt connected when...
- …when we would meet as a Conference caucus on Zoom and talk with each other on GroupMe. The people who made up the IA/NE/SD delegation were a wonderful group of people and I really enjoyed getting to know them.
- …the TCM staff reached out to check on us through extra group meetings.
- …I heard individuals speak and we all listened together to each perspective and experience.
- …honestly, I didn’t feel connected. Virtual is not for me.
- …our delegation shared “amens” during worship, words of affirmation when one of us spoke up in plenary, and a rich supply of color commentary via memes and jokes over our shared text thread.
- …we were typing as fast as we could over the GroupMe App to share with one another in real time. That was awesome.
- …whenever my phone buzzed from the GroupMe app. At my last Synod, we gathered in rooms around tables and felt community together. The phone app wasn’t the same, but was a suitable replacement to feel the connection with the other delegates of our three conferences.
I was challenged when...
- …process, policy and phrases like “that would never happen” where being heard. We are a church of Hope and new possibilities!
- …I listened to the Hawaii resolution and was unaware of how the native people of Hawaii felt about their perception of the United States and its treatment towards them as a Nation.
- …I felt my “called out” by workshops, keynote speakers, worship for my biases that I was not aware of, or willing to acknowledge out loud.
- …The times that the communal discernment work of our church looked more like power plays and politics. I was challenged when we could not share physical space for prayer, worship, play, and work.
- …I felt a tug to support our Native Hawaiian siblings without an adequate understanding of the history underlying their lived experience. I saw settler colonialism’s erasure of its own violence, and I felt moved to make sustained confession without immediate assurance of pardon. I felt a call to repentance whose shape I am only beginning to understand, so severed are my relationships from my Native and Indigenous siblings.
- …I spent so much screen time.
- …trying to keep all the details of what was going on straight.
- …Using the Zoom for the meeting was challenging itself and then being pulled away by that GroupMe thing was a bit annoying. But I’m a low tech kind of person.
“I noticed God in the depth of worship times, especially music. In the words of Rev. Traci Blackmon. In the care of our TriConference delegation for each other. In the care package on my desk. In the hours and hours of work the organizing teams, IT folx, and parliamentarians gave.”
– SD delegate Mollie Ronge, First Congregational UCC
I noticed God when...
- …I saw the work of the church being carried out in spite of the problems of a pandemic and the difficulties of connecting people virtually. Well done.
- …The Native people of Hawaii were speaking in favor of their resolution for their own sovereignty and asking for international and just-peace support from the UCC.
- …I saw the dedication to social justice throughout the UCC and its members.
- …our IA-NE-SD delegation was working together.
- …we worshipped virtually together. When I saw the number of viewers in the corner of the video, I was reminded me of how hundreds of people were worshipping God in many different places around the country at the same time.
- …I saw hearts change in regard to the resistance to the resolution on Native Hawaiian sovereignty.
- …I had conversations with other attendees as we struggled to find the Spirit’s direction.
- …during the guest speakers talks. All were very inspiring.
I felt lost when...
- …a keynote speaker had described her own feelings of hate and political bigotry towards people who she didn’t know.
- …the Hawaii Resolution did not pass. I sat on this resolution committee and I know the work that went into working on the resolution so it could be presented to the delegates. We also learned the intent behind the resolution, so it was hard when it was not adopted the first time it was brought up of vote.
- …I felt tired and hungry after a long session of committee meetings and votes.
- …Zoom wouldn’t respond to my commands. Although by the end of the week, I felt like I had advanced from ‘Zoom for Dummies’, to ‘Zoom for not so dumb.’
- …the use of parliamentary procedure effectively curtailed or silenced the voices of folx lined up to speak in favor of witness resolutions directly affecting them.
- …trying to understand all the moving parts of the Synod meeting, and the numerous reports about parts of the wider church I know nothing about.
- …parliamentary procedure was being debated and seemed to be unclear to many of us.
“I feel my relationship with the UCC is always evolving. But being able to virtually interact with those from our Conference AND national leaders helped strength my relationship with the UCC — as a whole.”
-IA delegate Jared Walter, Ames UCC
I felt empowered when...
- …I realized that the technology gave me the tools not only to vote, but also to speak for or against any issue, as well as make a motion or amendment. Knowing I had these tools gave me empowerment, whether or not I used them all.
- …throughout the entire General Synod. To be able to be with other UCC’ers and hear all that has been going on throughout the denomination.
- …I listened to Traci Blackmon, Valarie Kaur, and Adam Russell Taylor offered so much hope that I could help make a difference.
- …I saw my video alongside all the other delegates on Zoom. During the plenaries, I felt the weight and responsibility of all of us gathered to discern the Holy Spirit’s movement and follow in our discussion, voting and implementation processes.
- …we passed the resolutions that truly represents the UCC.
- …being involved in a committee and working to ensure a marginalized group had their voice and an equal place at the table.
- …I attended the educational sessions about different resolutions and wondered how I could take this into the local congregation.
“I enjoyed engaging with those who are a part of the other two conferences. While the three conferences border each other, we often don’t see and engage with one another. This is a wonderful opportunity to do so.”
-NE delegate Alex Wolf, Northwest Hills Church
I felt surprised when...
- …the Hawaiian resolution kept coming back to the floor of the GS to be voted on again, and again.
- …the entire group of voting members had changed their minds on a resolution — all in 1 day.
- …I felt so connected to a church service, a meeting, a story teller over the internet.
- …much of the weightiest business of Synod got compressed into the final two plenary sessions.
- …discovered UCC Twitter. I greatly enjoyed following many ministers, members, and cynics as they made a running commentary of Synod.
- …I realized how much I missed being in person because there are many ways that we are inadvertently church to one another in the unstructured time and space that surrounds Synod.
-NE delegate Coral Parmenter, Thedford UCC
I was inspired when...
- …Rev. Traci Blackmon gave her candidating speech to be reelected. She spoke about “WE” as the church and Body of Christ.
- …the Synod parliamentarians had ruled in favor of allowing for more democracy— by allowing us to vote on “revisiting” a resolution decision from the previous day!
- …we had a near unanimous vote to take the stance against conversion therapy!
- …our committee came through with an edited resolution that reflected the original intent of the authors as well as the complexity of the situation. I was also inspired when the Synod body decided to revisit the resolution and not allow the the resolution to be pushed to the side.
- …the Hawaii resolution made it back to the floor.
- …I watched and listened to the amazing music videos, sermons, and keynote speeches.
- I heard the stories of others from the Tri-Conference share where the Spirit was leading.
- …I experienced the opening worship service and realized the breadth and depth of the UCC.
“I wanted to know more about the national church and be a part of it. I would love to do it again to continue to be up to date on what is going on in the national church and continue being a contributing part of its missional life. I better see how my Conference fits into the greater whole, yet I also saw the contrast of how my Conference is not fully in sync with the wider church.”
-SD delegate David Jennys, First Congregational UCC