United Church of Christ History

Instructor: Rev. Dr. David Bahr
E-mail: david.bahr@missionhillsucc.org
Office Hours: email

Course Synopsis

This course is required as part of a student’s preparation for authorized ministry in the United Church of Christ.  It will include the history of the antecedents to the UCC and its continuing development – helping to understand UCC ethos and theology.  Knowledge of its roots and traditions will help provide the context for who the UCC is today and help authorized ministers to be interpreters of it.

Books for the Course

Living Theological Heritage (LTH) of the United Church of Christ.  It is a flash drive. Order immediately.  Previous students have discovered it can take a while to receive.  It used to be available by PDF but I can't find that.

It can also be purchased as an actual set of books.  If you buy the books, you will need only volumes 2-7.

Helpful hint:  If you order the flash drive, print out the contents page to help understand the contents of the whole seven volume set. https://www.ucc.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/lth-toc-vols-1-7.pdf

All other readings will be accessible from online sources at no charge.

Additional Items of Interest (not required)

What happens at General Synod?  Watch this 10 minute wrap up of a recent Synod in Baltimore: UCC General Synod 2017 Highlights Video or Milwaukee in 2019 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9TY3D5R_mEw

You may be interested in viewing then-candidate Barack Obama's address to the General Synod in 2007, introduced by John Thomas and Jeremiah Wright Barack Obama addresses General Synod 26 in Hartford

On June 25, 1972, William R. Johnson became the first openly gay person in history to be ordained to the Christian ministry. A Position of Faith tells the story of this landmark event and the process that made it possible. The story is poignant and inspirational, and includes a letter from Bill Johnson’s mother, interviews with Bill, young people and church leaders (clergy and lay), who either supported or opposed Bill’s candidacy. Filmed in 1973. A Position of Faith

A full-length movie about Malcolm Himshoot, one of the first transgender individuals ordained in the UCC: Call Me Malcolm

Other interesting videos include one of the most inspiring speakers I ever heard at General Synod, Vanessa Redgrave who spoke about finding the UCC after she discovered she had breast cancer: Lynn Redgrave Keynote at General Synod 26

Peruse the UCC channel or YouTube https://www.youtube.com/user/uccvideos for more interesting content.

There are a number of short videos on the UCC site to be used for lay history and polity courses.  You may view these for additional content, but this is a Master's level course that digs deeper than these videos. https://vimeo.com/showcase/4814431?page=1

Resources in the Library

Zikmund, Barbara Brown (series editor). The Living Theological Heritage of the United Church of Christ, Volumes 1-7

Zikmund, Hidden Histories, Volumes 1-2

Johnson & Hambrick Stowe, eds. Theology and Identity: Traditions Movements and Polity in the United Church of Christ, Pilgrim Press, revised 2007

Maxfield, Charles A. A Pilgrim People:  A History of the United Church of Christ and Its Antecedents , Lansdale, PA: Maxfield Books, 2008.

Walker, Randi Jones. The Evolution of a UCC Style: Essays in the History, Ecclesiology, and Culture of the United Church of Christ, Cleveland: United Church Press, 2005.

Course Overview: (review each page)

Course Overview

This course is required as part of a student’s preparation for ordination in the United Church of Christ.  It will include the history of the antecedents to the United Church of Christ and its continuing development – helping to understand UCC ethos and theology.  Knowledge of its roots and traditions will help provide the context for who the UCC is today.  

Course Objectives

1)         Students will become familiar with the four major historical groups and some of the most significant theological traditions of the UCC and how each shapes who we are today

2)         Students will be exposed to the many “hidden histories” of UCC and be able to discuss one at length

3)         Students will learn about current issues and be able to discuss how these relate back to historical developments

4)         Students will be prepared to interpret the UCC to people unfamiliar with it and teach local congregations about the varieties and influences of UCC history

5)         Ultimately, students will be able to demonstrate competency for ordination requirements


The following are guidelines to assign grades:

B work has all the basic elements of the assignment in place with coherent writing and evidence of adequate engagement with course materials and practices.


A, A-, and B+ work improves on the standard of B work with one or more of the following:  depth and originality of insight; quality of writing in terms of clarity, artfulness, concision, and organization; exceptional depth of engagement with course materials and practices.


B-, C+, C, and C- work has failed to meet the standard of B work in one or more of the following ways:  scanty or glancing engagement with class readings and practices; glaring grammatical, spelling, organizational or coherency issues;  failure to address one or more elements of the assignment; failure to document sources adequately.


D work is a grade of grace which indicates that the assignment has serious deficiencies but meets the most minimal requirements of the course. 

Policies and Services

Incompletes:  If incompletes are allowed in this course, see the Master's Student Handbook for Policies and Procedures.

Pass/Fail:  Masters students wishing to take the class pass/fail should discuss this with the instructor by the second class session.

Academic Integrity and Community Covenant:  All students are expected to abide by Iliff’s statement on Academic Integrity, as published in the Masters Student Handbook, or the Joint PhD Statement on Academic Honesty, as published in the Joint PhD Student Handbook, as appropriate.  All participants in this class are expected to be familiar with Iliff’s Community Covenant.

Accommodations:  Iliff engages in a collaborative effort with students with disabilities to reasonably accommodate student needs.   Students are encouraged to contact their assigned advisor to initiate the process of requesting accommodations.  The advising center can be contacted at advising@iliff.edu or by phone at 303-765-1146. 

Writing Lab:  Grammar and organization are important for all written assignments.  Additional help is available from the Iliff Writing Lab, which is available for students of any level who need help beginning an assignment, organizing thoughts, or reviewing a final draft. 

Inclusive Language:  It is expected that all course participants will use inclusive language in speaking and writing, and will use terms that do not create barriers to classroom community. 

Degree Learning Goals

Degree Learning Goals Supported by this Course:

MDiv 1.2

Demonstrate awareness of Christianity as a historically-situated movement that interacted and changed in relationship to its surrounding cultures and subcultures over time, resulting in various expressions of Christianity located within and influenced by social structures, historical events, and ethnic and cultural ideologies.

MDiv 3.2

Critically engage historical theological expressions of Christianity in relation to contemporary events and/or situations

MDiv 4.7

Clearly interpret one’s beliefs and behavior to the community one serves

Online Discussion Guidelines

Throughout the quarter, we will have several discussions which will compose a large part of our engagement with each other in this online learning space. For these discussions to be meaningful conversation spaces, we all need to take responsibility for consistent and substantial participation. Instead of grading discussions based on number of words posted or on frequency, we will assess discussions based on the degree to which you substantially engage in the conversation each week.

  1. Students are required to post, at a minimum, TWO responses  in every discussion (except the first discussion of the course), one to the original discussion prompts and one to another student's discussion post;
  2. Original post to the instructor's discussion questions should be no longer than 500 words; follow up response posts about be no longer than 250 words
  3. The first posting should arrive by the end of the day (11:59 p.m.) on Monday; (except the first week)
  4. The second postings, which engages other student comments, should arrive by the end of the day (11:59 p.m.) on Thursday;
  5. Please ensure that your on-line responses and comments show the same respect and courteousness as constructive, face-to-face conversations;
  6. Remember that your words might require extra consideration, since you cannot nuance your words with gestures or intonation;
  7. Proofread what you post.

 Over the course of a conversation, substantial engagement means:

  1. Extend the conversation - creatively and critically push the conversation forward, do not just regurgitate what has already been said. If 1 or 2 other students have already responded directly to instructor provided prompts for the week, do not simply write another response to the prompts unless it adds something new to the conversation. You need to extend the conversation by adding an additional or different insight from the course materials, by asking a new question that stems from one of the posts already offered, by offering a related and contextualized example of the issue being discussed from your own experience, or by creatively integrating your own perspective with what has already been posted. 
  2. Ask contextualized questions - situate your questions within the discussion by referencing the course materials and other parts of the conversation thread that inform your inquiry. Give us a little background as to why this question matters to you and how it relates to the course.
  3. Engage others in the course - thoughtful engagement with other students in the course and with the instructional team. 
  4. Engage the course materials - thoughtful engagement with readings, lectures, student presentations, and any other materials related to the course.Referencing and citing course materials in your posts where appropriate is encouraged. 

Each post need not do all of these things, but your overall participation in each conversation should demonstrate all of these components. You might have several short posts and a handful of longer posts in a week or you might have only a few strategic substantial posts. Either way, your overall participation in each conversation will be evaluated for substantial engagement. The goal of this discussion design is to encourage and reward interchange, so post often and engage each other with meaningful questions that open to other questions.


Students will be graded with the following rubric. 


  Full Marks No Marks

Engaged the course materials - thoughtful engagement with readings, lectures and any other materials related to the assignment. Referencing and citing course materials in your posts where appropriate.


5 pts 0 pts

Extended the conversation in the discussion - creatively and critically pushed the conversation forward.


5 pts 0 pts

Discussion entry follows the conventions of academic writing, with proper citations and few distracting spelling or syntax errors. The writing style of the discussion entry invites the reader in with engaging, personalized, and insightful prose.


5 pts 0 pts

Discussion entry was submitted in time.


5 pts 0 pts
Total Points: 20    

Questions about the course

Apr 01, 2022FriIntroductionsdue by 12:00AM
Apr 01, 2022FriLive Gatheringdue by 01:00AM
Apr 01, 2022FriTheology and Ethosdue by 05:59AM
Apr 08, 2022FriReformation to Puritans and Pilgrims to Congregational Churchesdue by 05:59AM
Apr 15, 2022FriChristian Churches: American Protest Movementsdue by 05:59AM
Apr 22, 2022FriThe Reformed Church in the US and The Evangelical Synod of North Americadue by 05:59AM
Apr 27, 2022WedProject: Hidden Historiesdue by 05:59AM
May 06, 2022FriProject: Local Church Historiesdue by 05:59AM
May 13, 2022FriLeading to the Union through 1961due by 05:59AM
May 20, 2022Fri1960s through the 1980sdue by 05:59AM
May 27, 2022Fri1990s Through Todaydue by 05:59AM
Jun 03, 2022FriFinaldue by 05:59AM
Jun 03, 2022FriUCC Futuredue by 05:59AM