Bethel Church breaks away from U.C.C., citing left-leaning activism
NEBRASKA CITY – Political division across the United States is making its mark on a local Nebraska City church that has voted to end its nearly 60-year affiliation with its national congregation citing concern over the political activism of the United Church of Christ.
U.C.C. news articles posted on the Internet say the denomination denounced discrimination based on sexual preference in 1975 and passed a resolution welcoming transgender persons and same-sex marriage in 2005. The denomination issued a framework this year for becoming a racial justice church that includes pastors taking racial sensitivity training.
The UCC also announced a progressive sexuality education program for children that includes LGBTQ information.
Although local churches remain autonomous regarding such issues, the UCC leadership recognized there is significant division among its membership.
A 2014 article published by the U.C.C. says the church is frequently referred to in terms of being one of the most liberal mainline Protestant bodies, but says a slight majority of church attenders identified themselves as conservative in a survey of 800 congregations.
In a press release to the news media, Pastor Keith Valenzuela did not state opposition to any particular U.C.C. position, but later said the vote to dis-affiliate makes the conservative majority in Nebraska City apparent.
He said there is a sense in the local congregation that the U.C.C. continues toward a left-leaning, radical social agenda.
Valenzuela said the Nebraska City church has always nurtured inclusive Biblical values, so the vote to dis-affiliate only changes the name for the local church.
Valenzuela: “Everyone is welcome to attend our church. You will hear sound, biblical teachings that will encourage, challenge and edify you, not matter what background you come from or skin color. We make no distinctions.”
He said the congregation welcomes people of different backgrounds or sexual preference, but will not embrace ideologies that are not aligned with the Bible.
He said the church’s mission remains to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ as it is presented in the scriptures.
Valenzuela: “Church is more than coming in to warm a pew; we are called to make a positive impact in our community and beyond.”
The church’s name is now Bethel Church of Nebraska City.
The church was originally organized as an independent evangelical Lutheran church in 1887. In 1961, the Evangelical and Reformed church merged with the Congregational Christian churches to form U.C.C.
The current sanctuary in Nebraska City was built in 1954.