The United Church of Christ came into being in 1957 with the union of two Protestant denominations: the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the Congregational Christian Churches. Each of these was, in turn, the result of a union of two earlier denominations.
The Congregational Churches were organized when the Pilgrims of Plymouth Plantation (1620) and the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony (1629) acknowledged their essential unity in the Cambridge Platform of 1648.
The Reformed Church in the United States traced its beginnings to congregations of German settlers in Pennsylvania founded from 1725 on. Later, its ranks were swelled by Reformed folk from Switzerland and other countries.
The Christian Churches sprang up in the late 1700s and early 1800s in reaction to the theological and organizational rigidity of the Methodist, Presbyterian, and Baptist churches of the time.
The Evangelical Synod of North America traced its beginnings to an association of German Evangelical pastors in Missouri. This association, founded in 1841, reflected the1817 union of Lutheran and Reformed Churches in Germany.
Through the years, other groups such as Native Americans, African-Americans, Asian Americans, Volga Germans, Armenians, Hungarians, and Hispanic Americans have joined with the four earlier groups. Thus the United Church of Christ celebrates and continues a wide variety of traditions in its common life.
Each congregation or local church is free to act in accordance with the collective decisions of its members, guided by the working of the Spirit in the light of the scriptures. But it is also called to live in a covenantal relationship with other congregations for the sharing of insights and for cooperative action.
Likewise, associations of churches, conferences, the General Synod and national boards and agencies of the United Church of Christ are free to act in their particular spheres of responsibility. Yet all are constrained by love to live in a covenantal relationship with one another and with the local churches in order to make manifest the unity of the body of Christ and thus to carry out God's mission in the world more effectively.
The members, congregations, associations, conferences, General Synod, and national instrumentalities are free in relation to the world. We affirm that the authority of God as revealed in Jesus Christ and interpreted with the aid of the Holy Spirit stands above and judges all human culture, institutions, and laws.
But we recognize our calling both as individuals and as the church to live in the world:
This is the challenge of the United Church of Christ.