Last edited: January 01, 2005

Chronology of Actions in the UCC on the Ordination of Gay and Lesbian People

Contacts: Bill Johnson, Hans Holznagel United Church of Christ Office of Communication, March 1, 1996


There are more than 180 "open and affirming" congregations. Three are predominately lesbian and gay congregations: Liberation United Church of Christ in Cleveland, Spirit of the Lakes United Church of Christ in Minneapolis and Phoenix United Church of Christ in Kalamazoo, Mich.


University Congregational Church, a UCC congregation in Seattle, calls the first gay clergy couple in history to serve a mainline Christian denomination. A three-fourths majority of the congregation votes to call the Rev. Peter Ilgenfritz and the Rev. David Shull as associate minister.


UCC leaders, including the Rev. Paul H. Sherry, president, join the "March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Equal Rights and Liberation."


In testimony to the House Armed Services Committee, Sherry urges Congress to lift the ban on military service by gays and lesbians. "To allow the military to discriminate is morally intolerable and contrary to the values that undergird our society," he says.


Hours after President Clinton authorizes military commanders to dismiss lesbians and gays from the armed forces, General Synod — in session at the time — votes by a wide margin to denounce the ban on homosexuals.


The UCC publishes the only comprehensive curriculum for AIDS awareness and prevention designed for use in Christian education.


The General Synod "boldly affirms, celebrates and embraces the gifts of ministry of lesbian, gay and bisexual persons."


General Synod declares opposition to all "sodomy laws" and resolves to witness publicly against laws criminalizing homosexuality whenever meeting in a state where a sodomy law is still on the books.


The General Synod calls on all UCC congregations and bodies to study homosexuality and declare that they are "open and affirming."


The Rev. Diane Darling becomes the first openly lesbian woman called to parish ministry in the UCC, as pastor of College Avenue United Church of Christ in Modesto, Calif.


Early in the AIDS epidemic, the General Synod declares "compassionate support" for people with AIDS and urges increased funding for research.


The Synod passes a resolution recommending to UCC regional associations that "in considering a candidate’s qualifications for ministry, the candidate’s sexual orientation should not be grounds for denying the request for ordination." The Synod also "advocates that sexual orientation not be a basis for discrimination within the United Church of Christ in the employment of staff or use of volunteers."


In Virginia, the Rev. Anne Holmes becomes the first openly lesbian woman ordained in the UCC.


The General Synod declares that sexual orientation is not a legitimate ground to deny civil liberties. The Synod supports federal, state and municipal laws to protect equal rights for all citizens.


The UCC Executive Council, the main deliberative body of the church between biennial Synods, recommends that sexual orientation should not bar qualified candidates from ordination. The UCC Gay Caucus receives official standing at General Synod. The caucus will later change its name to the United Church Coalition for Lesbian/Gay Concerns.


The Rev. William Johnson becomes the first openly homosexual person ordained in modern times to the ministry by an historic or "mainline" Christian church. He is ordained by the Golden Gate Association, a grouping of UCC congregations in Northern California.


Two months before the Stonewall uprising in New York — generally recognized as the beginning of the modern gay and lesbian rights movement — the UCC’s Council for Christian Social Action declares opposition to all laws criminalizing private homosexual relations between adults. The council also opposes the exclusion of homosexual citizens from the armed forces.

For further information:

Hans Holznagel
Office of Communication United Church of Christ
700 Prospect Avenue
Cleveland, Ohio 44120-1100
(216) 736-2214

The Rev. William Johnson
United Church of Christ
700 Prospect Avenue
Cleveland, Ohio 44120-1100
(216) 736-3270

[Home] [Advocates]