Search PNC News for stories of people and churches in our UCC Conference:

Pastor keeps his politics and religion separate

Jim CastroLang, part-time pastor at First Congregational UCC in Stevens County and chair of the Spokane County Democratic Party, keeps his political and religious lives separate.  The common thread is progressive values.

Jim CastroLang

For seven years, he has been part-time pastor at First Congregational UCC in Colville.

In 2008, he became treasurer of the Spokane County Democrats and in 2013 was elected chair.  This year, he was a delegate to the National Democratic Convention.

“There is a close alignment of the core principles and values of my faith and the best of the Democratic Party,” he said.

“Inclusivity is a key value—including as many people, by giving them power and opportunity.  Society is filled with people who suffer from prejudice and people who benefit from privilege they do not know they have,” Jim said.  “We need to overcome prejudice and cut down privilege to provide opportunities to those who are disadvantaged.”

His faith and political values both recognize that no one succeeds alone, even though many people of privilege think they succeeded because of their own hard work and skill.

“The theological understanding of the Body of Christ says we do not succeed alone.  The arm needs the leg.  Success comes in understanding who we are in the context of our community.  We are not the whole body.  We are part of the body and succeed because other parts of the body support us,” he said.

So Jim said that while many Republicans may see taxes as the government taking away “my resources,” many Democrats see that taxes provide resources for the community “to decide what together we can do together that we can’t do alone—public infrastructure like roads and social services.

“We support use of taxes to help everyone succeed,” said Jim, who saw that in the theme of the 2016 National Convention and campaign, “Stronger Together,” in contrast with the Republican promising to “Make America Great Again.”

In the Colville church, Jim works with Democrats and Republicans in the context of the church’s commitment to being inclusive.  In 2012, the church’s vote to be open and affirming was supported by Republican and Democratic members, expressing openness to people despite their differences.

“We believe there is more than one way to understand God, and we are in church to help each other explore our faith,” he said.

The church has a gay couple and a lesbian couple.  Some of them are on the church council.

“Part of being open and affirming is to be inclusive of people who are not open and affirming, but willing to keep trying,” said Jim, who performed what was likely one of the first legal same-sex couple weddings in the county when it became legal.

Jim seeks to bring a sense of respect and dialogue with his involvement with the Colville Ministerial Association. He has helped coordinate forums, in which local pastors have deepened respect for each other as they have shared their faith and attitudes about other’s faiths.

“What we do in the UCC is to try to open doors of understanding, while some try to slam the doors shut,” he said. “It’s part of the culture wars that some fear losing something and seek to close the door.”

Jim grew up Catholic, became a priest and then left the priesthood in 1982. While doing youth ministry he met and fell in love Andy, whom he married after he moved to Tacoma and she followed in 1983.  They did lay jobs with Catholic churches in Bremerton and Bellevue, but soured when Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen was being investigated.

In 1988, they moved to Olympia. Jim worked with the House Democratic District Office, supporting Democrats in the state’s House.  He also was involved with Associated Ministries of Thurston County.  Jim and Andy visited Disciples of Christ, Church of the Brethren and Catholic churches, and the United Churches of Olympia.

The United Churches—UCC and Presbyterian—was looking for a youth minister.  Andy was hired.  As it evolved into a family ministry, she was licensed. 

In 1992, Jim completed a process with the PNC Committee on Ministry that granted him privilege of call in the UCC. Andy started at San Francisco Theological Seminary in 1995. While there, Jim worked as intentional interim of South Berkeley Community UCC and as head of operations for an Internet Security software startup company. 

After Andy graduated in 1998 and went to serve a church in Nebraska, He worked in technology there. They moved to Spokane in 2002 when Andy became pastor of Westminster Congregational UCC.

Jim served two years as an interim at Walla Walla and two years in Ritzville, and worked as a consultant with Plymouth Congregational UCC in Colfax and did sabbatical coverage and consulting with Veradale UCC.

Through the years, he has been involved with the Democratic Party, from licking stamps for campaigns to attending conventions.  He was a delegate to the 1980 Colorado State Convention and to 1986 Washington State Convention. He also attended the 1984 Democratic National Convention in San Francisco.

In Olympia, he was treasurer of the Thurston County Democrats for two years, and in Nebraska, he was also involved with the Democratic Party.

While Jim seeks to keep his politics in Spokane, some in the church know about it because of a newspaper article.

“It’s good I’m pastor of a church outside the county.  Two years ago, I wrote a press release on an ethics investigation of the region’s Congresswoman. The Colville newspaper’s headline said, ‘Colville pastor’ calls for the ethics investigation to be settled. The press release was from me as chair of the Spokane County Democrats, not me as a pastor,” he said.

At the 2016 National Convention, as a Bernie Sanders delegate with a long commitment to the party, Jim sought to engage new people, some of whom were protesting, to work for local candidates and serve the bigger cause of making change.

“I saw a maturing in the group.  It was exciting to see the process move from disagreeing to working together for a cause,” Jim said.  “That happens in churches too, when we set aside our selfish interests and so we can progress."

For information, call 509-998-7203 or email


Copyright © September 2016 - Pacific Northwest Conference United Church of Christ News


Share this article on your favorite social media Bookmark and Share