United Church of Christ

General Information

The United Church of Christ was established in 1957 as a union of the Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Church. With a current membership of approximately 1.7 million communicants located in more than 6,400 congregations in 39 conferences (state and regional organizations), the United Church of Christ is the "youngest" of the major Protestant denominations in the United States. Its roots lie in the teachings of the 16th century reformers, particularly Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli, and in Congregationalism.

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The basic unit of the United Church is the local church, which is guaranteed autonomy, or freedom, in the decisions it makes. That freedom is the "freedom of the gospel," however, and every corporate body within the church, whether a local church or a conference or the General Synod, is supposed to make its decisions in the light of the gospel and out of a sense of responsibility to the whole fellowship.

The General Synod of the United Church of Christ, which meets biennially, is the representative, deliberative body composed of 675 - 725 delegates elected by the conferences. The officers of the church and the General Synod are the president, secretary, and director of finance and treasurer. The national program agencies include the United Church Board for World Ministries, United Church Board for Homeland Ministries, Office for Church Life and Leadership, Office for Church in Society, Office of Communication, Stewardship Council, United Church Foundation, and Commission for Racial Justice. The United Church of Christ is a member of the National Council of Churches, the World Council of Churches, and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches.

Avery D Post

L H Gunnemann, United and Uniting (1987); H P Keiling and F L Battles, eds., The Formation of the United Church of Christ (1977); B B Zikmund, Hidden Histories in the United Church of Christ (1984).

Evangelical and Reformed Church

General Information

The Evangelical and Reformed Church was a Protestant denomination established in 1934 by the union of the German Reformed Church (Reformed Church in the United States) and the Evangelical Synod of North America. These two religious bodies shared a German-language heritage, a similar form of church organization, and evangelical enthusiasm.

The Evangelical and Reformed Church was governed according to the presbyterian system; legislative authority was vested in a general synod, which met every three years. The denomination conducted missionary work, operated hospitals, and maintained homes for the elderly, children, epileptics, and the retarded.

The church recognized the Heidelberg Catechism of 1563, Luther's Catechisms, and the Augsburg confession as standards of doctrine. Separate congregations were permitted latitude in choosing specific points of faith and worship, but certain forms and hymns were recommended by the general synod. Baptism and the Eucharist were considered the only sacraments authorized by the New Testament. In 1957 the Evangelical and Reformed Church merged with the Congregational Christian churches to form the United Church of Christ.

The individual articles presented here were generally first published in the early 1980s. This subject presentation was first placed on the Internet in May 1997.

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