2019 General Synod Delegate Summary:
Supporting Survivors of Rape and Sexual Violence Through An Ongoing Church-Wide Observance of Break The Silence Sunday (BTSS).
This resolution was submitted by St. John’s United Church of Christ of Cecil, Wisconsin with concurrence from a number of churches and conferences (twenty-one in total). Churches supporting this resolution from the Missouri Mid-South Conference were Epiphany-UCC, St. Louis, MO and Peace-UCC, Webster Grooves, MO.
In March of 2019, the BTSS resolution was considered by the full Board of Directors and meeting the requirement of Standing Rules it was submitted and designated as a Prudential Resolution for consideration at the 32nd General Synod, Milwaukee, WI.
Background: Rev. Moira Finley (Wisconsin) who created Break the Silence Sunday in 2016 as a resource for churches to actively support survivors of sexual violence, particularly in the content of worship. The goal was three fold (1) to help congregations learn about the reality and scope of the problem of sexual violence; (2) to create communities where survivors can share stories and be received with hope and love; and finally (3) for congregations to commit themselves to prayerfully consider ways in which they can support survivors, be advocates for change in the communities, and around the world. There is material available to include complete liturgies, prayers, scripture reflections, sermon suggestion, music resources, etc., which are added to the website (breakthesilencesunday.org) yearly.
Resolution Committee Discussion: Day 1 – We met the chair of our resolution committee, Rev Cheryl Lindsay, she provided her background and then allowed everyone on the committee a chance to give a brief introduction of who and where they were from. We were all then given a hand out with helpful definitions (written by Rev. Moira Finley) and some statistics. We discussed terminology, statistics and shared stories. Shockingly, every 92 seconds a person (age 12 and older) is raped or sexually assaulted in the United States each year. It quickly became clear in the beginning of our discussion that most if not all viewed the resolution favorably and it was a good starting point to building consensus.
Day 2 –The room seating configuration was changed to a circle configuration with a microphone somewhat centered. We started with prayer and the proponent of the resolution, Rev Moira Finley was given the opportunity to share her story of rape and why BTSS is needed now in our wider church. Her story was poignant and she answered many questions from the committee members. Next we looked the text of the motion (resolution) and the chair admonished us to look at the areas following the WHEREAS, as this section could only be changed with compelling explanation. There was a suggestion by one committee member to make the language more inclusive as it relates to people of color, LGBTQAI+, and people with disabilities (communities underserved, or underrepresented by BTSS). The committee also brainstormed other changes to the resolution to make the implementation by churches more flexible. After all discussion, changes, and consensus achieved, Rev Lindsey asked the committee to be in prayer as she prepared to present the resolution to the 32nd General Synod.
Conclusion: On the first day of resolutions being brought before delegates assembled for the 32nd General Synod, committee chairperson, Rev Lindsay delivered an awesome speech opening with the question “Do you want to get well?” and from there she went on to make the case for passing the BTSS resolution. The results of voting: 691 yes, 10 no and 0 abstentions. The resolution was adopted.
Summary of my General Synod experience.
As a first time attendee and delegate it was an absolute honor and privilege to be asked to represent the Missouri Mid-South Conference as a delegate. After reading some of the online materials and having attended an orientation via Zoom led by Rev. Tyler Connoley on what to expect at General Synod. I still did not fully grasp the magnitude of planning and execution that goes into orchestrating a United Church of Christ General Synod. I knew for sure that we were going to have some good church, and we did. However, I was most impressed with the intentionality of diversity and inclusion that was considered in all aspects of the General Synod. All walks of life were in attendance in a variety of roles and responsibilities. It was awesome to meet and fellowship with people from all over the United States with the goal of making our church welcoming to the body of Christ. Every UCC member should put attendance at General Synod on their “bucket list”. It’s my hope that when we host the 33rd General Synod in Kansas City (2021) that we will do an equally fantastic job of hosting a General Synod. The Wisconsin Conference did an awesome job in making us feel at home and welcomed to the City of Milwaukee, WI.
Find all resolutions in their final form at http://ucceverywhere.org/synod/.