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Cradle UCCers teach polity to students at STM, in PNC

Retired UCC pastor Greg Turner and Fauntleroy UCC pastor David Kratz co-teach a two-part winter-quarter UCC polity class with the School of Theology and Ministry at Seattle University.

Greg Turner
Greg Turner

The 10-week class from 1:30 to 4:15 p.m., Thursdays, will focus on polity and ministry in 2011.  In 2012, they will teach a second class on history and ministry.  They offer the classes two of three years.

Greg and David also teach a weekend polity course in Eastern Washington, when the East Side Committee on Ministry recruits enough people, and they have led a polity seminar at Annual Meeting.

Their courses are authorized by the Committee on Ministry as pre-ordination courses or courses for people seeking privilege of call when they transfer from another denomination.

Greg also teaches a 25-hour 10-week polity course for people unable to take the STM course on the regular schedule.

“Many people come into the UCC from other denominations,” said David, “so it’s important for them to understand our ethos and the facts of our multi-splendored history.”

Both grew up in UCC churches—Greg the son of Dale Turner who was pastor for 24 years at University Congregational UCC, after serving a Lawrence, Kans., UCC church, and David, the son of a Reformed, Evangelical and Reformed and then UCC pastor in Allentown, Penna.  

Greg retired to Seattle to care for his aging parents.  Since his father’s death, he has been developing Dale Turner legacy resources with his father’s sermons, newspaper columns and five books, along with teaching at the STM and teaching adult education at University UCC.

“Covenantal theology and polity give us understanding of how ministry happens in a non-hierarchical church,” explained Greg, who earned a doctor of ministries degree in 1997 from Andover Newton Theological Seminary in the polity of covenantal theology.

“Students need to understand the joys and frustrations of working in a setting where relationships of substance honor many points of view and allow for the ability to provide administration to bring the many points of view together,” explained Greg.

UCC members have to be responsible because of the freedom and authority given, both said, agreeing that it’s not as easy as some other systems.

David Krats
David Kratz baptizes a baby.

Through history, Eden Seminary graduate David said, covenant has taken different shapes.

“It’s important to take time with the whole tradition of the UCC and its predecessor denominations back to the Reformation,” he pointed out.  “It’s about learning who we are and how we came to be where we are.  Some see the UCC as only open and affirming or as only social justice, because that’s what draws them

“Covenant is a real life issue about how we organize our life as the gathered people of God, people who make promises to each other about how they will live the live together as Christ intends,” he said.  “We are shaped not by rules or doctrine, but by our common commitment to each other, the wider church and to God.

“There is always a tension between the autonomy of the local church and a congregations’s relationship with the conference and national church,” David said, adding that one element in covenant is the recognition of lay authority.

Another facet of UCC theology is the ability to deal with doubting as an integral part of faith.

“It’s fun to grapple with issues and see students grapple with them,” said Greg, who served churches in Brussels, Denver, Corvallis and Concord (N.H.) after graduating from Yale Divinity School in 1970.

Based on students in the STM classes, he believes “we are good shape for the future.”

Similarly, David, whose 38 years in ministry have been at Olympia, in Lewiston and now in Seattle, enjoys the opportunity to walk students through the theological heritage of the UCC statement of faith, the Heidelberg catechism and the Apostles’ creed, looking at the different ways people formulated their beliefs.

“Some think that we can believe anything we want, but we need to be familiar with our heritage.  Having great freedom does not mean anything if it’s in a vacuum,” said David, who earned a doctor of ministries degree from San Francisco Theological Seminary in 2003.

While he believes many in the UCC may appreciate the intellectual aspect of faith, he feels that many move from their head-based faith to their hearts and following through with actions. 

“It’s not a matter of piety or politics, but recognizing that devotional life and personal morality lead to and from action with other people to have impact on the world,” David said.  “We try to help students reclaim and hold those elements of faith together.”

He recognizes that in his childhood, having Protestants and Catholics study for ministry in a Jesuit school would not have happened.

“The students have rich ecumenical relationships, while keeping and deepening their identities coming from different parts of the church,” David said.  “The school integrates and respects the students’ different traditions.”

For information, call 206-525-8885 or 206-932-5600.


Copyright Pacific Northwest Conference News © November-December 2010





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