A number of years ago, I was considering getting ordained in the United Church of Christ (UCC), a denomination known for its "liberal" views of the Bible and the Christian religion. I've had friends joke with me about the real meaning of "UCC": Unitarians Considering Christ. El-O-el, eh?
There are some conservative churches within the UCC who would like to have conservative, evangelical pastors, so I wondered if this might be the right path for me. (I'm one of those knuckle-dragging conservatives who believes in the inerrancy of Scripture and the immutability of the character of God).
That's not exactly a UCC paradigm. Nevertheless, I took an internship at a small, country UCC church a couple of years ago, and served under the authority of a female pastor--something that went against the grain of my convictions of what Scripture teaches (pastors and elders being men). I wondered if I was a hypocrite for doing this, but I figured also that the Lord has provided me with the opportunity to serve others, preach and teach the Bible and love on some people, so I did it. (Plus, they paid me!). I have to say that pastor Anne was one of the best people I've ever worked for: when I made mistakes, she was very kind and forgiving. That's not my experience having worked in other Christian ministries (a homeless shelter and a Christian school).
Nevertheless, pastor Anne said to me after 10 months of service, "Chris: it has come to my attention that there exists between you and I--a great...theological divide." I laughed inwardly and said in my head "No kidding!" (I actually thought something else).
The UCC is known for ordaining its first homosexual pastor in 1972. In 1985 it took further steps toward sanctioning homosexual relationships, and in 2005 it decided to marry homosexuals. Immediately, some 250 churches in the UCC left the denomination. Anne was right: there does exist a great, theological divide between she and I. We still got along quite well, even amidst some of my administerial mistakes (a mission trip to Ethiopia).
But, I decided not to get ordained in the UCC. I figured I really didn't want to move to a new geographical locale with a family of five, and my wife having started a new job, with friends and family where we are (Hickory NC), a good local church, and well, now, we've just bought a home.
The other problems were the theology: I discovered that mainline Protestant theologians like Paul Tillich, highly influential in in the UCC, have a definition of sin that is out of accord with Scripture. Tillich's definition of sin is basically the Army's slogan in reverse: sin is the failure to be all you can be. The UCC, I've discovered, has a foundational paradigm concerning the nature of God that is more pantheistic, than theistic. Their slogan "God is Still Speaking" is rooted in the nature of god as an evolving Process. Therefore, what God said 2,000 years ago is not necessarily what He (or She--also a popular notion in the UCC) says today. I got an interesting phone call from a very kind Reverend in the UCC today asking me about whether I was still "in discernment' concerning getting ordained in the UCC.
I found out some interesting things!