Unity in Christ and in combatting racism: Churches United in Christ recommit to mission at triennial conference in Montgomery

June 28, 2019

Churches Uniting in Christ (CUIC), a covenant organization of 11 different US denominations/communions who have pledged to live more closely together in expressing their unity in Christ and in combating racism, held its triennial plenary session in Montgomery, Alabama from June 6-9, 2019. The meeting began with tours of the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, the Legacy Museum and the Legacy Memorial founded by the Equal Justice Initiative to memorialize the 4,000 plus lynchings that have been documented.

“The formation of CUIC in 2002, of which The Episcopal Church was a founding member, came from the recognition that racism, as much as church doctrine, is a ‘church dividing’ issue,” said The Rev. Margaret Rose, ecumenical and interreligious deputy to the Presiding Bishop. “Exposing this injustice is the first step in healing those divisions.”

“This year’s meeting in Montgomery put this commitment in sharp focus,” said Rose. “The visit to the Legacy Museum, for me, connected the dots between slavery and mass incarceration as never before.  Later, walking in silence through the Memorial, known as the lynching memorial, I found myself praying for the people in each County noted. When I got to the metal block for Carroll County Georgia, where I grew up, the names of James McClure and Jack Johnson, lynched in the 1880’s, became forever inscribed in my heart. Where are their families now?  What repair has been made?  These are the questions we must ask as a church and as denominations.”

The remainder of the triennial gathering was devoted to visioning and planning for the next three years. Reports were given by the Racial and Social Justice Task Force and the Young Adult Task Force, the two primary foci of CUIC since it last met in 2016. The two Task Forces have sponsored live forums and webinars addressing issues of racism, mass incarceration, and mental health.

CUIC’s foci for 2019-2022 are: 1) to continue and expand the work of the Young Adult Task Force to include a component to equip additional young adults as ecumenical leaders 2) to work with other organizations who promote grassroots activity to combat racism and 3) to envision a new structure or new entity that will provide continued opportunities for bilateral and multilateral agreements among the member denominations/communions. This work will be directed by the Coordinating Council, which includes three members from each member organization.

“I am grateful for the work the CUIC Young Adults and others who are carrying us forward, insisting that there is no real unity without justice,” said Rose. “In recent years, the work of the CUIC Young Adult Task Force has taken this work to heart, creating webinars on race and mental health, participating in the Black Lives Matter Movement and more.  The participation of the eleven member churches has meant that we do this work both ecumenically and interracially.”  

Also representing The Episcopal Church were: The Rt. Rev. Eugene Sutton, The Episcopal Diocese of Maryland; The Rev. Brandt Montgomery, The Episcopal Diocese of Western Louisiana, and Mr. Richard Mammana, associate for ecumenical and interreligious relations.

Videos and various statements from CUIC can be found on the website, www.ChurchesUnitingInChrist.org.

CUIC member churches
African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME)
African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (AME Zion)
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Christian Methodist Episcopal Church (CME)
The Episcopal Church
International Council of Community Churches (ICCC)
Moravian Church-Northern Province
Presbyterian Church USA
United Church of Christ (UCC)
United Methodist Church (UMC)
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) as a partner in Mission and Dialogue.

About Churches United in Christ

The story of CUIC (Churches Uniting in Christ) begins on December 4th, 1960 when Rev. Eugene Carson Blake, then the Stated Clerk of the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., preached a sermon at Grace Cathedral at the invitation of Bishop James A. Pike of The Episcopal Church. This sermon proposed creating a united Protestant Church which would have been named the Church of Christ Uniting. Thus, COCU (the Consultation on Church Union) was created, and its efforts continued for 40 years. Although the vision of Rev. Blake and Bishop Pike did not become reality, the central motivation for creating unity among Christians has remained alive and well in CUIC. Leaders of nine member communions met on January 20th, 2002 at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee to inaugurate CUIC as a successor to COCU. CUIC intends to "live into unity" rather than simply "consulting" about unity, and is committed to the elimination of racism as a barrier to unity within and among member communions.

In 2002, 11 Christian communions pledged to live more closely together in expressing their unity in Christ and combating racism through Churches Uniting in Christ. In the midst of war, terrorism, disasters, economic collapse, strident political polarization, and increasing wealth disparity, these church bodies are deepening their relationships and extending their common life. They look forward to a greater public witness of reconciling the baptized and seeking unity with justice.