2019 General Synod Delegate Summary:

Donna Smith-Pupillo

Resolution: Stewardship of Exhibit Space as a Resource for a Mission of Justice  


Being on the committee to consider this resolution was emotionally wrenching and theologically struggling.  In the UCC, we declare we welcome all – but does that include welcoming those whose theology that is not as inclusive? How big is the tent that allows everyone in one space – does it include the exhibit space at General Synod? The resolution as presented would have banned the Faithful and Welcoming churches from having an exhibit table at the General Synod exhibition space. 


In an emotional debate at the committee level, the committee heard from a variety of people – the proponent of the resolution from the Michigan Conference, Andy Lang from the Open and Affirming Coalition and Rev. Robert Thompson from the Faithful and Welcoming Churches. Rev. Robert Thompson from the Faithful and Welcoming churches, admitted that there had been hurt from the group to others and that he and those who have a more conserving theology needed and wanted the UCC . In Andy Lang’s presentation, he stated that the Coalition was opposed to the passage of the resolution as presented. In the written statement from the Coalition that was given to the committee members was this: “... the ONA movement cannot continue to grow if this General Synod sends a message that conformity to its resolutions is a precondition for participation in public spaces in our church. The result would inevitably be the departure of many non-ONA congregations from the United Church of Christ. And that would be a serious blow to our movement. As a movement and a church, we need to stay in relationship with non-ONA churches, otherwise there is no possibility of transformation.” The proposal from the ONA Coalition was “invite the leaders of Faithful and Welcoming churches, the proponents of the resolution and UCC National setting to a serious and honest dialog”.  


The Committee struggled in how to edit the resolution and in the end decided to present only one therefore be it resolved as:  “Therefore be it resolved that no group opposing civil, human or ecclesial rights for any UCC designated historically unrepresented group shall be afforded space in the General Synod exhibit hall.” 

The committee, in split decision, made the recommendation of rejecting the passage of the resolution to the body of General Synod.  After heart wrenching debate on the General Synod floor, the resolution was tabled with the motion that the UCC Board work with historically underrepresented groups to create a behavioral covenant for future General Synod’s exhibit space usage. 

Summary of your General Synod experience.

General Synod, the national gathering of the UCC church, was filled with joy, worship, tears, struggles and family. It was delight to see clergy I knew from across the country that I had taught in the CREDO program for the Pension boards. It was uplifting to hear from a Jewish woman who devoted her passion to protest weekly at the Homeland Security office in Milwaukee. I will always remember her surprise and joy that hundreds of UCC people joined her that day. While I struggled with committee work on the resolution regarding the exhibit space but I learned what it means more fully to be the United Church of Christ. Most of all, I will never forget the gracious transformation that Andy Lang with the ONA Coalition has for the work that truly welcomes all. 

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