At a special meeting on April 30, 1961, the church membership voted to become a member of the United Church of Christ by a vote of 95 for and 38 against.
The United Church of Christ was the result of 30 years of cooperative efforts, beginning with the 1931 merger of Congregational Churches and the Christian Church, the 17 years of working toward the union of the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the Congregational Christian Churches, and culminating in the 1961 adoption of the United Church Constitution and By-Laws by the two groups. Much of the planning and negotiating of this major merger were under the guidance of Douglas Horton, well known for his outstanding ecumenical leadership.
What is the United Church of Christ? What makes it so different from other protestant denominations? Horton said, ” It is a church free to act for Christ as a church but with its parts free to act for Christ themselves too.” The three main parts could be described as:
- It is a church of Christ, and we are called to carry out his mission in today’s world.
- It is a free and responsible church, with no governing body at the national level; free to make decisions in the light of the gospel but out of a sense of responsibility to the whole fellowship.
- It is a church of the people – people gathered together for worship, work and witness; people with personal commitments, but in the community of faith.
The United Church of Christ has over 6500 congregations, 200 associations, 40 conferences, and a national synod. In actuality, the local congregations are the governing body with the regional conferences and associations providing programs, resources and services.