CLEVELAND (TDB) -- Illinois Sen. Barack Obama is a member of the United Church of Christ, an old-line Protestant denomination with its national headquarters on Prospect Avenue in downtown Cleveland. It is not widely known that the UCC is based in Ohio, and that its roots go back to the Pilgrims who sailed on the Mayflower and landed at Plymouth Rock in the 1600s.
[UPDATE: Obama's pastor is having a tiff right now with The New York Times. h/t to Brewed Fresh Daily. And there is this report on the Cleveland church headquarters Web site.]
Earlier this year, as Obama began his campaign for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, church officials in Cleveland issued a BACKGROUND STATEMENT about the denomination and its history. Most of the attention about Obama's religious beliefs is focused on Trinity UCC in Chicago, a 10,000 member congregation. Trinity is the church's single largest American worship group. UCC leaders in Cleveland say they have concerns that their denomination's traditions and faith could be misrepresented during a presidential campaign. It is quite progressive -- or perhaps, revolutionary -- as the background document it placed online notes.
"Known for arriving early on social justice issues, the church's history includes being the first to practice democracy in church governance (1630), the first to ordain an African-American pastor (1785), the first to ordain a woman (1853), the first to ordain an openly gay man (1972) and the first to support same-gender marriage equality (2005).
"In 1773, Old South UCC in Boston helped inspire the Boston Tea Party and in 1777, Old Zion Reformed in Allentown, Pa., hid the Liberty Bell from occupying British forces."
Most of the church's members are in New England and the Midwest. Reinhold Niebuhr, a great 20th Century Christian theologian and UCC minister, wrote the SERENITY PRAYER that has become a pop culture icon. A link to the church's official Web site is HERE and offers a good peek at its philosophy and faith-based initiatives. Details about its history are HERE.