Our faith is rooted in the lives of Jesus and his apostles who gave birth to Christianity more than two millennia ago. It has grown through many changes, divisions, and reunifications within the Christian family. Our emergence as a distinctive denomination really begins with the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century.
EARLY HISTORY OF REFORMATION TO THE CREATION OF THE UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST IN 1957
Martin Luther in Germany, Ulrich Zwingli, and John Calvin in Switzerland were foremost among reform-minded clergy who protested many practices and traditions of the Catholic church. Among other things they held that:
- Christ, not the Pope, is the head of the church
- the New Testament, not church doctrine, is the foundation of moral authority
- the last supper of Christ is more symbolic than literal
- most importantly, that the grace of God is a matter of faith, not a transaction
Reformers in England considered their task “purifying” the Church of England and called themselves “Puritans.” Facing persecution and violence, a group of Puritans fled in 1607 to Holland and, in 1620, became the “Pilgrims” who sailed on the Mayflower to the New World. They were joined in 1630 by another group of Puritans who established a colony in Salem. Their churches came to be known as “Congregational” – because each congregation was independent, not subject to the authority of a Pope or an Archbishop.
Similar movements among immigrants to the American colonies gave rise to “denominations” generally described as Christian, Evangelical, and Reformed. In 1931, the General Convention of the Christian Church and the Congregational Churches merged into a body called the Congregational-Christian Churches. Then in 1957, this group merged with the Evangelical and Reformed Church to become the United Church of Christ – “That they all may become one.”
The United Church of Christ has continued to be a leader in the church world and the community, leading the way in social justice and pronoucning God's extravagant welcome to all peoples. Check out some of our "firsts" in an interactive timeline on the UCC website: http://www.ucc.org/about-us/ucc-firsts.html
That they may all be one
-- John 17:21