Denomination that includes Cathedral of Hope reports $1.2 million increase in 2007
Despite predictions by some that the United Church of Christ’s 2005 resolution in support of same-gender marriage equality would spell financial ruin for the 1.2-million-member denomination, gifts to the connectional ministries of the United Church of Christ increased by more than $1.2 million dollars in 2007, according to a statement released this week by church officials.
Dallas’ Cathedral of Hope, the largest predominantly LGBT church in the world, is the fourth-largest congregation in the United Church of Christ.
UCC leaders said the increase marks a trend reversal for the Cleveland-based national offices, and that they see the increase as a "significantly positive sign."
Church officials said that year-end financial reports indicated that during 2007, voluntary contributions to Our Church’s Wider Mission, the denomination’s shared fund for connectional ministries, totaled $29,637,048, up from $28,409,202 during the previous year. In addition, 25 of the UCC’s 38 regional conferences posted increased giving to the national church and three of the denomination’s four national special mission offerings, which support targeted projects, posted gains during 2007.
The Rev. John H. Thomas, general minister and president of the UCC, said last year’s gains are "not a cure all," but that the increases are "a promising, encouraging sign for many, especially after the somewhat rocky year we experienced in 2006."
The UCC lost more than 200 of its 5,900 congregations in 2005, after the denomination’s General Synod in 2005 passed a controversial resolution supporting same-sex marriage.
Thomas said the financial upswing in 2007 "represents the work of many pastors and lay leaders who have spoken up about the importance of supporting our shared ministries as the United Church of Christ. It’s also proof that our best years, indeed, can be before us."
In the UCC, congregations are not forced to pay apportionments or dues to the national church, but instead remit contributions voluntarily to a regional conference office. Each conference retains a portion to support its own ministries before passing along the rest to the UCC’s national setting, which oversees the church’s national and international efforts, church officials explained.
In 2007, the UCC’s Conferences — which retained an average of 67.8 percent — netted $19,996,075 for their ministries, an increase of $873,576 over the previous year, officials said, adding that the national offices, in turn, received $9,640,973 or an increase of $354,270.
Officials said that while members’ overall giving to UCC churches has increased each year since the denomination’s founding in 1957, local churches, on average, have been retaining more and remitting less, a trend that has been observed by many denominations across the theological spectrum.
"Our members and churches have always been generous," Thomas said. "In communities across this country, the impact of UCC giving is impressive, and we give thanks for that. But we also appreciate the fact that UCC members and churches are increasingly paying attention to the covenantal nature of our faith. When we give locally, it should also reach beyond our own community to touch the lives of those in New Orleans, or in Sudan, or wherever there is need."
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 21, 2008