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Historic United Churches in the US & Canada enter Full Communion

Historic United Churches in the US & Canada enter Full Communion

Over the summer the legislative bodies of the United Church of Canada (UCoC) and the United Church of Christ (UCC), meeting separately, approved full communion between the two historic united and uniting churches. The 30th General Synod of the UCC had met in June in the birthplace of the UCC, Cleveland OH. The 42nd General Council of the UCoC had met in August in Corner Brook, Newfoundland and Labrador. The full communion agreement took effect the evening of 19 OCT in Niagara Falls ON, when the leaders of the two churches signed the agreement during a worship celebration. The Revd John C. Dorhauer, newly elected UCC general minister & president and the Rt. Revd Jordan Cantwell, moderator of the UCoC met at St Andrews United Church and with Dale Bonds, chair of the UCC Board and Nora Sanders, general secretary of the UCoC and signed the full communion agreement. The Rt Revd Mark MacDonald, the National Indigenous Bishop of the Anglican Church of Canada and the president for North America of the World Council of Churches, was the guest preacher for the historic occasion.

The agreement embodies five main points;

  • the common confession that “God is in Christ”
  • the mutual recognition of each other’s members and baptisms
  • the common celebration of the Lord’s supper/holy communion
  • the mutual recognition of each other’s ordained ministries
  • a common commitment to the mission of each church
L to R, the Rev. John C. Dorhauer, the Rt. Rev. Mark MacDonald and Rt. Rev. Jordan Cantwell.

The United Church of Canada is the largest Protestant church in Canada. It has church union in it’s DNA that stretches back to the 1700s. The UCoC came about 10 JUN 1925 when the Methodist Church in Canada, the Congregational Union of Ontario & Quebec, 2/3s of the Presbyterian Church in Canada and the Association of local Union Churches united in the Inaugural Service held at the Mutual Street Arena in Toronto ON. On 1 JAN 1968 the Canadian Conference of the Evangelical United Brethren Church joined the UCoC. This is the first full communion agreement of the UCoC with another church.

The United Church of Christ is the merger of the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches. Each of those churches were the result of previous mergers. The UCC claims through its Congregational roots to be the continuation of historic New England Puritanism. The two churches gathered in the Uniting Synod in JUL 1957 in Cleveland OH. Prior to this full communion with the UCoC, the UCC has entered into full communion with five other churches, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Reformed Church in America, in the US and the Union Evangelischer Kirchen (Union of Evangelical Churches) in Germany.

The photos are from the story of the service of full communion at the UCC website.


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Rod Gillis

The Primate of ACC has also commented on this development. (see link below). There is discussion about ecumenical developments going deep but also wide. One hopes the development described in the article may produce positive outcomes with Anglicans. The United Church of Canada and the Anglican Church of Canada had a full scale Plan of Union on the table in 1972. The Plan was scuttled by the Canadian House of Bishops in 1975.

However, it is hopeful to know that ecumenism is not relegated to past glory days of abundance. Even now in times of scarcity for the churches ecumenical endeavors like this one, the ACC-ELCIC full communion agreement, and the work of the PORVOO group keep hope alive. These kinds of things are a refreshing offset to the rather sectarian like squabbles within.

And on that hopeful note …

Jay Croft

I’m a former UCC member but became an Episcopalian while at Union Theological Seminary, NYC.

One aspect that attracted me was that the Episcopalians at UTS would have weekly Eucharists at 7 or 7:30 on Wednesday mornings.

I’ve always wondered why the Episcopal Church reached full communion agreements with the ELCA, which comes from a German/Scandinavian background, while the Methodists would have been closer, historically, to us.

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