16 July, 2007

U.C.C. Congregation Frustrated to Simply Be "Old, Rich and White"

San Francisco, CA - The United Church of Christ has for many years now touted itself as being an "opening" and "accepting" church. The theologically liberal denomination whose motto is "God is still speaking" openly accepts into full church membership gays, lesbians and transgendered persons. The church is also one of only a few to officially sanction and perform same-sex unions, and prides itself in being a "church for everyone," including the poor, minorities, social outcasts, etc. But one U.C.C. congregation in the San Francisco area has been struggling to find its place among the denomination, and recently they have set about on a campaign for diversity.

"The problem is simple" said Rev. Dale Pendergrast, pastor of Bayside United Church of Christ. "We're just a bunch of old, rich, white people. We have no minorities in our congregation. We have no gays or lesbians. We have no poor people. The youngest person in our congregation is 55, and there isn't a person here who drives a car that costs less that $25,000. We are pure vanilla ice cream here."

Pendergrast's frustration has been exacerbated further by the fact that the nearby, conservative, Southern Baptist is more diverse than his own church.

"It's very frustrating" said Pendergrast. "We're supposed to be the church of acceptance and diversity, and here this Baptist church down the street has a sizable African American membership and even a Spanish service!"

TBNN spoke with Elbert Raulston the pastor of the the Baptist Church in question, Trinity Baptist Church.

"We're very diverse here" said Raulston. "Anyone is welcome through our doors, no matter who they are or where they've come from. But we are honest with people though about sin and salvation. We welcome homosexuals to our services, but we tell them that they need to repent of that lifestyle and be saved. And we have some people in our congregation who have come out of that lifestyle. So we model Jesus in that we turn no one away, but we model him also in telling people to 'go and sin no more.'"

But Raulston's theological position only further causes Pendergrast to wonder why his church is not growing more.

"It just doesn't make sense" said Pendergrast. "If homosexuals go to that church they'll be told they have to repent, change, believe everything the Bible says and all that nonsense. If they come here, they can stay just the way they are and keep living however they want. It just doesn't make sense. We're the accepting church. We're the open-minded denomination. We should have more diversity, not some Baptist church."

In an effort to hopefully remedy the church's lack of diversity, Bayside has begun a number of campaigns to hopefully change the makeup of their congregation.

"We're excited about these new campaigns" said Ellen Turner, campaign coordinator. "Each month we have one Sunday we call Bring Someone Gay to the Bay, where we encourage our members to bring someone they know or suspect is homosexual to our service. We've also put up some posters around town inviting people to come, and assuring them that they'll be loved and accepted here. But the one I'm most excited about is our Hip Hop and Don't Stop service that we're holding monthly to attract younger crowds. The whole service is rapped, and Reverend Pendergrast can really break it down for the kids."

"The campaigns, thus far, have failed to yield the diversity that we hoped for" said Pendergrast. "But, to be fair, we've only been trying for two months now. We got really excited just last week because we were pretty sure this one guy who visited our service was gay. But unfortunately he just turned out to be really well dressed. The last I heard he visited Trinity Baptist."

7 comments:

W.A. Foote said...

It sounds like the U.C.C. read Rick Warren's 40 ways to increase baptisms. Modified it, then created a campaign that would increase diversity in their congregation.
=)

www.millerpla.net said...

The second church sounds like our church! (Only we're Church of Christ. NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH THE UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST) Our church is in downtown Houston, so any type of person you can imagine is there.

My favorite part was:
"We got really excited just last week because we were pretty sure this one guy who visited our service was gay. But unfortunately he just turned out to be really well dressed. The last I heard he visited Trinity Baptist."

Good post!

pilgrim said...

Hmm, this is not so far off track from the United Church of Canada (A different denomination) They started as a union between Presbyterians, Methodists and a smattering of Congregationalists--so you combined 3 ecclesiologies with outward Calvinism and Arminianism--no wonder it's a mess--but they have ministers that sound like the minister of this "minister" So the fictional is not far off the factual.

Michael Joyce said...

LOL!

Sewing said...

This was funny, but based on my personal experience, too sadly true. The Gospel is going out to all the nations—and the nations are finding redemption in churches that preach the Gospel, which alas in this day and age does not seem to be the liberal, mainline churches. My own evangelical church is like a United Nations convention on any given Sunday—except that everyone at our church agrees that there is an objective, valid truth that we all assent to, very much unlike the UN!

Pilgrim's analysis of the UCC is spot on too, by the way.

David said...

I have a quick question. There is no entry for "Bayside United Church of Christ" on the UCC website, nor is a "Dale Pendergrast" mentioned anywhere on the Internet associated with the UCC. This is either a congregation the UCC doesn't know it has, or this story has some major factual errors.

www.millerpla.net said...

Your second guess is closest...

This whole blog is satire. (Not real news.)