Progressive Identity

Old SouthMany people think of the United Church of Christ as a progressive Protestant denomination.  Since it is a congregational tradition, it is important to note that this tradition features congregations and members with views all across the theological continuum.  Individual congregations that claim progressive as a core part of their identity should be intentional in communicating that message.

Recently I encountered an exemplary example of how to tell the progressive story well on the website of Old South Church – a 340 year old UCC congregation in Boston.  The page that drew my attention appears below in its entirety.

Unabashedly Christian, Unapologetically Progressive

Old South is a church in the Protestant Christian tradition. We express a Trinitarian faith, experiencing God as Creator, Savior and Spirit. We are a member of the United Church of Christ (UCC), a Christian denomination that traces its roots to the Pilgrims and Puritans (we’ve loosened up a lot since then!). As a Christian church, we are empowered by the risen Christ to pursue tender ministries of mercy, justice and beauty.

At Old South, our faith is over 2000 years old, but our thinking is not! Ours is a progressive theology characterized by intellectual curiosity about God’s world and God’s peoples. We acknowledge the Bible as authoritative for faith and practice. That said, we take the Bible far too seriously to take it literally in all respects, and recognize that faith and reason are both gifts from God that aid us on this journey.

In the Bible, we find a story of Jesus’ ministry on earth that was profoundly countercultural, challenging the dominant powers and voices of his day. He preached and practiced a gospel of peace, reconciliation, and renewal, revealed a life of purpose to the aimless, and lived the promise of restoration and resurrection. We recognize that as followers of Jesus we are called to speak to and into the culture, institutions, and laws of our own times, seeking justice and liberation for all.

So What?

Unabashedly Christian, Unapologetically Progressive is an easy to remember tag line that effectively summarizes the approach of Old South Church.  Whether your congregation is best described by the term progressive or some other term (or group of terms), it is essential that this is communicated well to those already a part of the faith community as well as those beyond it.

  • What is the tag line or short simple language most often used to describe the overall niche your congregation inhabits?
  • On a scale of 1-10 how effectively is this message communicated within your congregation? beyond it?

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