In last week’s post, I introduced the types of multiply-affiliated (or ecumenical) congregations within the United Church of Christ and promised to begin sharing the results of our office’s study of these congregations in subsequent posts. Here is the first installment in this series, which offers a general statistical picture of these churches.
Two-thirds (66.5%) of all UCC ecumenical congregations self-identified as dual churches, and 27.5% identified as federated churches (which usually maintain separate memberships for each respective denomination). A smaller percentage (5.5%) of congregations identified as Union, of which the majority were formed out of a specific historic agreement between Lutheran and Reformed (now UCC) churches. The few churches listed as “other” included yoked, larger parish, and unknown affiliated churches. A few congregations identified as both dual and federated, but those were categorized as federated in the chart below for more robust statistical analyses.
The vast majority (88.4%) of ecumenical congregations in the UCC were “dual” in the literal sense of the word—they were affiliated with only one other denomination. However, a couple of congregations (0.4%) identified with as many as four other denominations in addition to the UCC (making a total of five different affiliations).
The greatest number of denominational affiliations among UCC churches were with the United Methodist Church (115 affiliations, 25.3% of total ecumenical congregations). While the polity of the UMC and UCC are not generally congruent, the reason for this large number of affiliations could perhaps be due to the sheer number of UMC churches throughout the country, especially in more rural areas. In smaller cities and towns, merging and affiliating makes sense financially and logistically for many congregations.
American Baptist Churches USA constituted the second largest number of affiliations with UCC churches at 15.2%, perhaps due to similar congregational polities within both traditions. The Presbyterian Church (USA) constituted 13.0% of all affiliations, and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)–arguably the UCC’s most closely-related denomination–constituted the fourth largest number of affiliations at 9.5%. Take a close look at the chart below to see all of the affiliations that were present in at least two UCC ecumenical congregations.
Several of the affiliated denominations in the chart above are denominations that were formed in relationship to the Congregational Church or Congregational Christian Church, the UCC’s predecessor bodies and are strongly tied to a particular ethnic group. Additionally, a couple of these denominations were formed as a result of the merger in 1957 in order to preserve the tradition of a particular group of churches (for example, the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches—NACCC—was formed in 1955 because of the pending merger to form the UCC).
There were other denominations or traditions which were identified as each affiliating with only one UCC ecumenical church. They included the following:
– American Evangelical Christian Church
– Church of God in Christ
– Community Christian Church
– DC Baptist Convention
– Episcopal Church
– Evangelical Covenant Church
– Iglesia Cristianas Congregacionales de Mexico
– Independent Baptist
– International Council of Community Churches
– Kosrae Congregational Christian Church
– Missionary Baptist Churches
– Reformed Church in America
– Samoa Council of Churches
– Metropolitan Community Churches
As you can see, the theological diversity of the UCC’s multiply-affiliated congregations is quite incredible. Who would have guessed that there existed a UCC / Church of God in Christ congregation?
In future posts, we will look at comparisons between multiply-affiliated and solely-affiliated UCC churches in terms of worship attendance, membership, finances and giving, demographics, and attributes of worship, among other things. Stay tuned!