Our Congregations Are Our Pope

by Jeanine Elliott, Bethel Congregational UCC, Beaverton, OR

be_the_change stand upThe recent death of theologian Marcus Borg saddens me, because I have appreciated his voice as a liberal New Testament scholar and faithful Christian.  Another important current voice is Pope Francis, who courageously speaks about issues of justice.  His voice sometimes startles, sometimes challenges, and occasionally I don’t agree with him.  As head of the Catholic Church, he uses his authority to call for justice.  The pope is making a difference.

In the UCC tradition, we don’t have a pope. Authority is vested in the congregation.  If we don’t speak out and act for justice, who will?  The November 2014 gathering at First Congregational UCC Vancouver, “Stoking the Fires of Justice:  A Revival for Social Change,” brought together local churches and folk from the national UCC Justice and Witness office.  The intent?  To strengthen justice advocacy work in the UCC congregations of the Pacific Northwest.  The meeting raised a question for me:  “What issue does my congregation care enough about to develop a public voice on its behalf?”  Will our church speak like the pope?