• OUR BELIEFS

WHAT WE BELIEVE

BCUCC is an Open and Affirming hospitality-based community of faith. We welcome in worship and service all of God’s children of any race, origin, gender identity, sexual orientation, age or ability. We celebrate and trust the transforming power of God, which was manifested through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We work to provide an environment of peace, social justice, personal empowerment and spiritual growth. Our ethical guides are to honor Christian openness to share our beliefs, doubts, struggles and growth within the context of mutual respect. Therefore, our purpose is to reach out, taking the risk of opening ourselves to the possibility of making the stranger a friend.

Questions that a visitor might have about the Brea Congregational UCC

What are Jesus’ basic teachings?

We believe that the basic principles of Jesus’ teaching are very simple and are summarized most concisely in the Sermon on the Mount from the gospel of Matthew, but are found in the other gospels as well. Even Jesus simplified his own teaching with the call to love God with all your heart, mind, and soul, and to love your neighbor as yourself. The Greek language in which the New Testament was written had many different words for “love,” which are lost in the English translations. “Respect” is actually closer to the biblical meaning of the word. Respect is not primarily a feeling word, but an action word. The basic idea is to treat others with respect. It does not mean you have to respect the other, or like them, or agree with them. They may even be an enemy. Jesus’ primary ethical guide was to treat the other with respect; treat them the same way you would like to be treated. This is the Golden Rule. Therefore, in the spirit of Jesus’ teachings, our primary ethical guide is to treat the other with respect, which includes animals and the environment.

Jesus also taught non-violence and non-retaliation. Jesus believed that if the least important and the most vulnerable were taken care of, then the rest of society would embody justice. Focusing on the widow, the orphan, the poor, the sick, the homeless, and the outsider, is something we call the “trickle uptheory of economics. The social importance of working for the well-being of the least is to benefit all. We take Paul’s statement seriously: When one suffers, we all suffer, and when one is honored, we are all honored. 1 Cor. 12:26 Each one of us is part of a web of life. We are not individuals apart from the world, but we are embedded in the world. Our welfare depends upon the welfare of all.

Why is the Bible important to us?

Our sense of who we are as a Christian community is rooted in the Bible. We do not use the Bible as a weapon to exclude or control others, but we use it to guide us in understanding how God works in the world and in our lives. The many voices of the Bible, at their best, strive toward inclusiveness and diversity, peace and justice. We take the Bible seriously, but not literally. The four gospels are four different views of Jesus Christ from four different communities. They all point to Jesus as the one who described and embodied most powerfully an alternative to empire religion, what he called the “Kingdom of God.” The Bible, both the Jewish scriptures and the Christian scriptures, is the most effective and enduring critique of “empire” in our culture.

Why is Jesus Christ important to us?

Jesus Christ is important to us as a model of the divine power of Creative Transformation. In his teaching, he pointed to the persuasive power of God, and in his death and resurrection, he is a model of how God’s power is continually acting in every moment to bring new life out of all of our experiences of death. We are told that God is love. Love, by its very nature, is a persuasive power. So the nature of Divine power is persuasive, loving, compassionate, and healing. Jesus attributed this kind of power to God.

How do Jesus’ teachings shape BCUCC?

Concretely, as individuals and as a worshiping community, we strive to be an embodiment of the values that Jesus taught. The way we are to interact with one another in the church is with an attitude of respect. Conflicts, disagreements, and friendships, are based on the principle of respect. There are several ways we implement this principle. We welcome anyone into our worshiping community without question. Hospitality is respect in action: therefore, as Christians, we practice hospitality. The UCC denominational motto is “No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.” For example, we participate in a homeless shelter program where up to twelve people are housed in our fellowship hall for a period of two or three weeks at a time. We welcome them, get to know them, and support their efforts to get back on their feet. While they are with us, they are part of us. Another example of the practice of hospitality is through our grief ministry to those who are hurting because of significant losses. They are helped through grief support groups and individual pastoral care. When hospitality is practiced, it aligns us with Jesus’ teachings and allows for the Holy Spirit to be made manifest through us. It’s not the size of the church, but the embodiment of hospitality, that makes a difference.

Why is Brea Congregational UCC unique?

The most important goal of BCUCC is to create an environment of mutual respect, hospitality, and trust in God’s unfolding invitation toward life. We celebrate diversity and radical inclusiveness, believing that God creates and enjoys diversity.

We believe that the idea of omnipotence, that God wields all power coercively, as it has been understood by much of traditional Christianity, is a theological mistake. We do not think God is a cosmic moral judge. The Bible is not an instrument of control. We do not use shame, guilt, or fear to motivate people. Instead, our focus is on learning to trust the power of God for our lives. We believe God is continually working in our lives from moment to moment, inviting and persuading us toward our best future with fresh possibilities. We strive to embody the idea of persuasive (i.e. loving) power in our community. Therefore, our church is a true democracy. We have a co-pastor model of leadership. Pastors Rick and Jeanyne bring their own style of ministry, and complement the creativity, talent and dynamics of our worshiping community. We are all accountable to one another and do not have a hierarchical structure, neither in our church nor in our denomination, the United Church of Christ.

Why is it important to belong to a healthy church?

The Apostle Paul says in Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God–what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

To be conformed is to take the shape of, or to be defined by, the values and behaviors of the structures of the world. The structures of the world are the way the world is “set up.” Paul calls us to be transformed by renewing our minds. The best environment for this transformation is a healthy congregation that embodies the teachings of Jesus and worships God as Creator. The word “transform” literally means to change shape. We are shaped by the values of the family in which we were nurtured. We are shaped by the values of our culture. A healthy congregation is an intentional environment that can change and reshape our lives with different values, the values Jesus demonstrated in his life. We are called to be in the business of “faith formation,” for our children, for our families and friends, and for ourselves. We are called to change the shape of the way we think and act. We are called to embody different values and behaviors than those exhibited by the inherited world in which we find ourselves.

What does it mean to be an Open and Affirming congregation?

Jesus taught and practiced radical inclusiveness; we believe God loves diversity. As a church, we are not only open to those who are homosexual, but affirm them as created as such. Gays and straights, black and brown and white, female and male, all are an integral part of our church. Such a stance defines how we are to relate to others and to the world. Homosexuality is part of the diversity that God intends for the world. We believe that by being an Open and Affirming Congregation, we embody the teachings and spirit of Jesus. We cannot imagine Jesus excluding gay people: in fact, he would reach out to them and invite them into the Kingdom of God. All people are God’s children and as the UCC motto states: “No matter who you are or wherever you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.”

We have found that the few biblical references to homosexuality are a very poor argument for excluding people who are homosexual. Understood in their context, these scriptural references do not address sexuality in any way that we understand it today. We also feel strongly that those who use the Bible as an instrument of exclusion are operating against the love of God and stifle the movement of the Holy Spirit. The gospel narratives often show Jesus reacting in anger toward those religious authorities who used their scriptures to oppress and exclude people. For more information on this subject please visit the Soulforce website or visit our GLBT web page for additional resources.

Does God have a purpose for our lives?

Yes. We believe God’s call to each one of us is to live our lives to the fullest, given our talents, limitations, and opportunities. God wants us to live our lives well, therefore God is interested in promoting the common good. Since we are all God’s children, then we know that God wants for us what any good parent would want: for their child, to grow, to thrive, and to lead a meaningful life. God is not some divine ATM machine in the sky that delivers whatever we might request in prayer. God does not withhold from us a perceived good. God lures us and invites us into our own future with possibilities that emerge each moment.

What is empire religion?

Whenever religion functions to rationalize, legitimize, and support the powers that be, it is by definition empire religion. Government which justifies its policies based on religious approval uses that religion to support its power, obtained through oppression, violence, enrichment of the powerful, and impoverishment of the weak. Throughout history, religious structures have been used to sustain empires. Empires tend to create a larger and larger gap between the rich and the poor. We believe that it is important to question the use of violence and war, and to promote peace and justice. Empire religion is usually opposed to Jesus’ call to peace and reconciliation, opposed to Jesus’ repudiation of revenge and retaliation, and opposed to Jesus’ rejection of the religious and political use of coercive power.

Does the Bible support empire?

The Bible can be seen as a critical response to the rise and fall of empires, written mostly by those who are oppressed by empires. The first books of the Bible describe the enslavement and emancipation of the children of Israel by the Egyptian empire. Later prophetic books describe the oppression of Israel by the Babylonian and Assyrian empires. The New Testament was written in the shadow of the Roman empire. Empires come and go, with predictable attributes that apply to any empire. As the current great world power, the United States of America is the current empire. It is the nature of an empire to undermine any religion that would critique its reason for being. The prophetic voices of the Bible are clearly and squarely against the abuses of empires: oppression by violence and economic inequity. As Jesus prayed for his disciples, we are called to be in the world but not of the world. John 17:15-16.

What is our theological orientation?

Every expression of a religious view is held together by a philosophical framework, whether those who express it are aware of it or not. Our particular theology is informed by process philosophy and its religious expression is process theology. We believe that process theology is well equipped to bring together the best of science and the best of religion. We believe that process theology is profoundly biblical in its view of God, Jesus Christ, and the importance of the Bible.

What is Process Theology?

Western culture has gone through a paradigm shift beginning with the scientific revolution of the 17th century and continuing into the modern era. The rise of science and the scientific method of exploration of reality shifted the ground upon which traditional Christian theology was founded. Traditional Christianity is based on a particular understanding of the world that is called “substance” philosophy.

The ideas of this philosophy go back to the ancient Greek thinkers, especially Plato and Aristotle. St. Augustine in the fourth and fifth centuries interpreted Christian theology by using Greek substance philosophy and proceeded to work out Christian doctrines in light of this philosophical framework. Aristotle’s God was the Prime Mover, the one who gave the first push to the material world to set everything in motion. A theology based on substance philosophy became the dominant theology over the next several centuries and continues in many theologies today. It defines God’s power as coercive and manipulative. Traditional Christian theology, which has been based on substance philosophy, has been foundational for both Catholic and Protestant Christianity.

Traditionally, the world has been seen as a machine; that is, reality can be fully described as mass in motion. A popular way of expressing this metaphor is the “billiard ball” universe. This metaphor emphasizes external relations as the primary way the world works. God, then, functions as some sort of engineer, manipulating the machine with the use of external, coercive power, that is, power over others.

Unfortunately for traditional Christian theology, substance philosophy has been completely undermined and dismissed by modern science, which understands matter as energy. The newer model of “event” has taken the place of “substance” philosophy. Instead of the world being composed of inert matter in motion, we now see the universe as a vast web of momentary events. Each event is related to all other events in a dynamic unfolding of everything in the world.

“Event” philosophy, or process philosophy, was first definitively envisioned by Alfred North Whitehead in his bookProcess and Reality. Whitehead was a mathematician in England and, after retirement, came to Harvard to teach philosophy in the 1920s. It was during this period that he formed his ideas into a coherent cosmology based on modern science. He wanted to use the best religious thinking along with the best scientific thinking to envision a model of the world that accounts for all experience.

Click here for more information on Process Philosophy.

Process theology envisions Creation using a different metaphor: that the universe functions much like an organism, where everything is related to everything else both externally and internally. Rather than a static universe where change is simply a rearrangement of matter, this metaphor envisions the world as continually unfolding. If the world is more like an organism, then how is God related to it and to us? A way of expressing this metaphor is to think of God as related to the world much like we are related to our own bodies. The Divine presence is involved at every level and at every step of the unfolding of everything. God’s life is tied up with the life of Creation. The kind of power God uses is power with, rather than power over. There are other terms for this kind of theology: Natural theology, or Organic Theology, or Relational Theology. Jesus often used images from nature to describe the power of God. The Apostle Paul used the image of a human body to describe the church: the church is the body of Christ. With this model of relationship between God and the world, power is a two-way relationship.

The God portrayed in the Bible is a dynamic God who responds to the world from moment to moment and receives the world into God’s own experience, which God then gives fresh possibilities back to the world. This is the way love works. God learns and adapts to the decisions creatures make. One aspect of God is continually changing with the unfolding of everything in the world. Another aspect of God remains unchanged, in how God receives everything into God’s own experience and weaves it into the divine life. This is a power-sharing model where we are co-creators with God. Because we are in a dynamic relational world, what we do matters to God.

For more information on process theology go to www.processandfaith.org

How do we understand evolution?

We do not believe that God created everything at once in the recent past and now intervenes only occasionally through miracles. Instead, we believe that God has been creating for a very long time, and continues to create, in each present moment, in the unfolding of everything in the world. Everything is related to everything else in the creative advance of the universe. Therefore, we believe that God uses some form of evolution, which does not contradict the Bible. We do not believe that science and religion are opposed, but that they are in creative tension with one another. We do not subscribe to the current anti-science movement called Creationism.

How do we understand sin and blessing?

The the book of Genesis begins with blessing. When God created each day,  God called it good, and then on the seventh day, God rested, presumably in delight. This is our understanding of God’s creation as original blessing. Yet God did not stop there, but is continually at work creating the world from moment to moment. God’s creation is a process.

Sin is not the divine intent for creation. Sin literally means missing the mark, becoming less than we are capable of becoming. Degradation of any kind is sin, whether it be in an individual’s experience, or how others or the environment are treated. Triviality in any form is sin. God offers a range of best possibilities to us each moment and we are free to chose the best possibility that is relevant to us at that moment, or we can chose less. The more we chose less, the more our range of choices that God is able to offer becomes narrower. When we chose the best possibility, then that choice opens up a greater range of possibilities for us in the next moment. The choices we make matter to us, to those around us, to our environment, and ultimately matters to God, who receives our choices into God’s own experience. God’s desire is to bless creation. Therefore, how we treat ourselves, one another and the world, matters to God. In this way, we are co-creators with God.

Why do we call our church a Green Church?

We understand our relationship to the environment as an expression of our relationship to God. All of Creation is an ever-changing web of life that pulsates with God’s power of creative transformation. In a world where everything is connected to everything else, the health and welfare of all of creation matters to us. As Christians, and as children of God, we are called to be faithful to God, and to strive to be faithful stewards of God’s Creation. As a Green Church, we embrace the responsibility of achieving a sustainable earth. Through tangible steps such as adopting a holistic approach for our garden space to limit our footprint and conserve resources, we connect more deeply with God’s transformational power to create the world from moment to moment. Also in this way, we are co-creators with God.

Why are we a community of hope?

Our hope is based on our trust in the creative and transforming power of God. God is able to create something from nothing. God creates peace out of conflict, hope out of despair, life out of death. This hope is evident in the Bible, in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and in our own experience. Trusting God allows us to be resilient, courageous and life-affirming. We are a community of hope

If you have any other questions about the Brea Congregational UCC, please e-mail us.

“No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you’re welcome here.”

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