Letter to the Members and Friends of the United Churches

October 24, 2017

Dear Members and Friends,

Over the past couple of years, I have felt called to the United Church of Christ. In January I joined the church and discussed this sense of call with the council. I then began a polity class. In the summer, I had Psychological evaluation. I wrote my papers and turned in everything required to meet with the Committee On Ministry. I had that meeting early September. It was fun to talk about my theology, faith and ministry. The Committee On Ministry surrounded me, laid hands on me and prayed for me. I thought this would be the first of several meetings, and was surprised when I got a call that night that I had been transferred to the United Church of Christ.

I want to share with you what I wrote as part of my paper for the COM: A Statement of Reasons for Seeking Ordination in the UCC and for leaving the PCUSA.

I had not thought about the United Church of Christ until I was called to serve the United Churches in 2010. I understood what it meant to be congregational as I had grown up in the Southern Baptist church, but I soon realized that even though both churches were congregational, they were not congregational in the same way. I learned through my polity class that The United Church of Christ values each setting in which it finds expression: the local church, the Associations, the Conferences and the General Synod. Each setting moved by the Spirt of God and by those that gather and minister together in each, speaks to one another in relationship. Because each setting is in a covenant relationship with the other settings, ideas and actions are received with respect and interest. I realized that these covenant relationships are very adult, in the same way that we might find ourselves in covenant with other adults, working hard to preserve and deepen the relationships, so that we all experience transformation.

As I have travelled with this congregation on and off over the last seven years and with colleagues in the Pacific North West Conference, I have been struck over and over again by the relationships of covenant and by the call of unity in the United Church of Christ. “That they may all be one.” (John 17:21) “In essentials–unity, in nonessentials–diversity, in all things–charity,” are statements that resound in the depths of my soul. The UCC has so many images of freshness and inclusion such as the “doors and windows flung wide open” and the reminder of “God’s still speaking voice” that call to the deepest part of my being. The history of the United Church of Christ is a history of inclusion: early denominations joining forces to share strengths to further the gospel of Jesus Christ, the UCC and its predecessor denominations being the first against slavery, the first at anti-war efforts, the first at improving race relations, the first at ordaining women, the first at ordaining GLBTQ clergy. The United Church of Christ has taken brave and bold steps forward to being justice and peace in difficult and sometimes dangerous times. The UCC by its very structure through its bylaws ensures fair representation of diversity among all of its settings, including age and race. I believe that ensuring that participation of all at the table has undergirded the prophetic stance of the UCC.

            I want to be part of a denomination of hope and possibilities, where clergy and members are invited to join with others in unity, experimenting with fresh ways to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news that brings hope, healing and justice to the whole world.

 

I joined the Presbyterian Church in the late 1970’s. I was ordained in the PCUSA in 1990 and received both of my degrees (MDiv and DMin) from Presbyterian Seminaries. I have held nearly every volunteer office one can hold in the Presbyterian Church. I have lead national youth events, peacemaking events and volunteered for two General Assemblies. I believe our Presbyterian members have no fear about my caring for them and my representation of them.

 

I hope that this step that I have taken shows you that we all learn and change in our faith as we follow the Spirit of God.

Blessings and Peace.

Rev. Dr. Tammy L. Stampfli

 

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