Wisconsin Conference Life Newsletter
July 6, 2023
5 things to know about General Synod
General Synod in Indianapolis lived up to its theme, “Making All Things New,” with key decisions on leadership and governance, an inspiring keynote and an honest new look at the UCC’s history. Here are five keys to understanding what went happened.
A history-making election
The Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson became general minister and president of the United Church of Christ in a historic vote on Monday, prompting delegates to sing “Amen, Amen” when the result was announced.

She also became the first African-American woman to lead the UCC. Thompson was the third woman ever nominated for general minister and president.

“Today, United Church of Christ, we created a first together,” she said after the vote. “It won’t be the last first.” A native of Jamaica, Thompson served before her election as the UCC’s associate general minister for wider church ministries and co-executive for global ministries.
Farewell from John Dorhauer
Thompson replaces the Rev. John Dorhauer, who spent eight years as general minister and president. In his final State of the Church address, Dorhauer gave thanks for the many rich experiences afforded by his ministry.

“You are the United Church of Christ, and you show up every day to do the work of the Holy Spirit,” Dorhauer said. “Lives are changed by it, and it has been my great pleasure to bear witness to that. And, my God, I will miss it.” 
New General Synod schedule
After a spirited exchange of views, delegates voted to change UCC bylaws so that General Synod takes place every three years rather than every two. The 2025 General Synod will go on as planned in Kansas City. The General Synod after that will be in 2028.

The issue generated vigorous debate, with advocates of the new schedule arguing that a three-year cycle would save considerable money across the denomination and that the proliferation of virtual meeting platforms had made it unnecessary to meet every two years. Opponents said they feared a loss of connection to the wider church. The bylaws changes required a two-thirds majority vote from Synod delegates and passed by a single vote, with 454 voting yes and 226 voting no. There were six abstentions. (Editor's note: Photo does not include the three paper ballots).
‘God is not done,’ says keynoter Bolz-Weber
The Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber, a Lutheran pastor, author and public theologian, struck a chord with delegates with a keynote centered on the themes of fear and anxiety, worry, regret and hope, and the ways Scripture addresses them – a talk she claimed was a “thinly veiled attempt to comfort myself.” The perspective offered by Scripture is vital in unsettling times, she said.

“When all we can see and feel and think about is all the personal and political crap happening now, it’s important to remember we are part of an old, old story,” she said. “One that starts in the beginning of time and brushes the skin of the present and reaches into the promised future, and the promise that God is not done.” 

She added: “When we stand on the rock of this big story, with one hand reaching back to the hope of the prophets and one hand reaching forward to the promises of God, we can stand firmly in the reality of the present and not have that reality consume us.”
Recovering the ‘Fifth Stream’
Delegates who attended the United Black Christians luncheon learned about the UCC’s “Fifth Stream” – the Afro-Christian Convention of the South – which is often overlooked when the denomination recalls its roots in the Congregational, Christian, Evangelical and Reformed traditions. Speaking to the group, Dorhauer said that “without the fifth stream, we can’t be the UCC.” He apologized for the UCC for “cutting off one of its limbs” and ”for making you wait this long for this.”

In her address to the gathering, the Rev. Yvonne Delk said that the Afro-Christian tradition has historically only been “recognized as a footnote to the four white streams of the United Church of Christ,” and that the UCC has lived “the flaw of seeing the Afro-Christian Convention as an object for ministry instead of a subject defining the UCC.” In 1989, Delk was the first woman ever nominated to serve as general minister and president of the UCC.

For complete coverage of General Synod, check out coverage from UCC News, or check out recordings of plenary sessions and worship (scroll down for the list of plenary sessions).
In this issue: scroll down to find these articles
  • WCC leader honored
  • OWL facilitator training
  • Host a digital equity session
  • Upcoming webinars
  • Help others
  • Conference transitions
WCC leader honored at General Synod
The Rev. Kerri Parker, a UCC pastor and executive director of the Wisconsin Council of Churches, received the Avery D. Post Ecumenical Award during General Synod for the guidance she provided to congregations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Kerri’s demonstrated leadership created and shared so much information about how to deal with COVID — the Wisconsin Council of Churches was clearly ahead of the game — that others from around the country were looking to them,” said the Rev. Mark Pettis, the UCC’s minister for ecumenical and interfaith relations. “In fact, while others were reducing staff during these unprecedented times, Kerri’s team was applying (for) grants to respond to needs for racial justice and COVID, allowing her staff to at least double in size.”

Over the course of the pandemic, Kerry and her team helped hundreds of congregations in Wisconsin and throughout the United States navigate safety protocols and the shift to online worship. Read more here.
Sign up today for August OWL training at Daycholah
The Minnesota and Wisconsin conferences will co-sponsor training for Our Whole Lives facilitators Aug. 25-27 at Daycholah Center. OWL is a lifespan-comprehensive human sexuality curriculum created by the United Church of Christ and Unitarian Universalist Association.

The August training will be offered at the elementary and youth levels, and each participant may take the training for just one age level. It’s a good opportunity for a team from the congregation to be trained to start or expand an OWL program.
The training, offered in partnership with the national setting of the UCC, is designed for lay leaders and clergy who plan to facilitate an OWL program in their congregation or community, as well as for those who simply want to learn about the program. For additional information, email Lisa Hart, associate conference minister for faith formation and justice ministries.

The event begins at 3 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 25 and ends at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 27. Cost is $425 for double-occupancy lodging, meals and training and $525 for single occupancy. The Ashley Fund and the Wisconsin Conference Youth Ministry Scholarship Fund are providing financial support. Register today.
Host a digital equity listening session at your church
The Wisconsin Council of Churches is looking for congregations to host community conversations that will inform policymakers working to ensure equitable access to broadband service and digital tools across the state. The project is made possible by a Digital Equity Outreach Grant to WCC and United Way of Wisconsin by the state Public Service Commission.

These one-hour conversations, led by a WCC staff member or volunteer, are intended to shed light on local experiences and barriers to the availability and affordability of high-speed, reliable internet service. They also will explore whether individuals have sufficient skills and information to use digital technology and to understand internet safety and security.

Funding is available to provide snacks, child care and a small stipend to the host congregation and each participant. Interested? Email the Rev. Breanna Illene, the WCC’s curator of content and ecumenical innovation coordinator.
Upcoming webinars
UCC Webinar -- Seeing through the Smoke: Wildfires, Climate and a Path Forward
How can we find a path forward in addressing the wildfires that have created a landscape of crisis in our climate-changed world? This webinar will feature leading thinkers and practitioners in answering this question. Panelist John Vaillant has recently released an acclaimed book titled "Fire Weather: A True Story from a Hotter World,” while panelist Kimiko Barrett from Headwaters Economics is a wildfire research and policy analyst who has been interviewed by national news outlets for her insights. Sign up even if you cannot make the webinar at its scheduled time, and we will send you a link to a recording of it.
Date: July 12
Time: Noon Central
Discover Your Why: How a Clear Purpose Strengthens Evangelism, Giving and Impact
Andrew Warner and Kent Siladi will talk about the importance of understanding the “why” of your congregation. You will learn methods to articulate this reason for being of your church. Together, we will consider how to use the why to motivate and engage people.
Date: July 26
Time: 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Help others by donating now
The General Fund of the Wisconsin Conference helps us connect, support and resource pastors, leaders, and congregations. Your gift allows the Conference to provide relevant and timely help during the pandemic and beyond. Donate to the General Fund
Conference transitions
Searching churches
  • No churches recently started a search. To see all searching churches, click here.

Wider Church searches
  • Career opportunities at the national setting: Details

New calls
  • The Rev. Kate Mackey has been called as associate pastor for children, youth and families at Orchard Ridge UCC, effective June 1.

Installations and ordinations
  • The Rev. Josh Simon was installed at Emanuel UCC in Hales Corners on June 25.

Of note
  • The Rev. Don Niederfrank has written a book, which you can find at this link.

In memoriam
  • The Rev. Alan S. McCalister died on June 14. Alan was a Presbyterian minister who served alongside some of our Wisconsin Conference clergy at University Christian Ministries at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, an ecumenical campus ministry. Obituary

The Conference Transitions feature appears monthly in the Wisconsin Conference Life. Please share your transition information, including church anniversaries, with the newsletter editor by emailing Nola.
The Kairos Call to Action Newsletter was created to support the efforts of congregations, families and individuals who want to be a part of the UCC’s Kairos Call to Action. Through this newsletter the Conference Creation Care Team will provide resources for study and worship, encourage advocacy on behalf of climate justice, and help congregations find and connect with partners who share this common concern and commitment.

Renewing the Soul of the Beloved Community is a communication dedicated to sharing resources and tools, wisdom and insight for congregations and individuals navigating these challenging days. Created by the Conference Supportive Ministries Team, this publication will highlight resources to aid in steering your path forward.
Ignite Your Fire, Feed Your Soul,
Build Your Faith... In Nature's Sanctuary

We invite all to subscribe to the UCCI email newsletter to receive our latest news and inspiration! Also, please consider liking and following UCCI on Facebook and Instagram. It's a great virtual community–you are an important part of it!

Join the Conference-wide Creation Care Team!

Are you passionate about Creation Care? Want to connect with others who are taking action to care for the earth? The Creation Care Team's primary focus is to encourage, support and provide resources to congregations in the Wisconsin Conference as they do what they can to care for creation. If you would like to be a part of this team, or for more information on the Creation Care Team, contact John Helt. You can also go to the Creation Care webpage to learn more.
Is your church considering an Open and Affirming Process? The Wisconsin Conference has a committee to help! Please feel free to use us as resources for your discussions and preparations. Contact Laura McLeod of the Wisconsin Conference UCC Committee on Ministry with LGBTQ Persons.

Also: check out the Facebook page for ONA churches!
Get Involved! A Conference-wide Racial Justice Task Force gathers resources and encourages congregations to engage in conversations around race. If you and your congregation are interested in participating in this group, you are welcome. Contact Lisa Hart get involved.

More information on the Racial Justice Task force is available on the Conference's Racial Justice webpages.

This newsletter is made possible by contributions to Our Church's Wider Mission Basic Support.

The Wisconsin Conference UCC is an Open and Affirming Conference, and an Immigrant Welcoming Conference.

Wisconsin Conference United Church of Christ
W1000 Spring Grove Road, Ripon, WI 54971