For the love of God, place a period

BurnsAndAllenKevin Eckstrom of Religion News Service does a brilliant job this week of contrasting the United Church of Christ's "God is Still Speaking" ad blitz with its historic image:

The glitzy "God is Still Speaking" ad campaign by the United Church of Christ features a giant black comma with a quote from comedian Gracie Allen -- "Never place a period where God has placed a comma."

Some conservatives, however, worry that a punctuation mark has pushed aside the UCC's traditional logo -- with its prominent cross and crown of Jesus Christ -- and with it, the church's Christian identity.

As UCC delegates gathered in Atlanta last weekend (July 1-5) for the church's General Synod meeting, they considered a resolution to reassert the UCC's 1957 "Cross Triumphant" logo as the "central symbol" for its 1.3 million members.

Eckstrom teases out that clash of images by interviewing the Rev. David Runnion-Bareford, leader of the UCC reform group called Biblical Witness Fellowship, and Diana Butler Bass of Virginia Theological Seminary, who's leading The Project on Congregations of Intentional Practice, a two-year study of vital mainline churches.

One angle that does not become explicit in Eckstrom's story is the larger theological debate embodied by the comma versus cross debate: Is there a continuing revelation that contradicts what churches have historically held is God's definitive self-revelation in Scripture?

Just where this could lead, both theologically and grammatically, is evident in a column (16-page PDF; see p. 2) by Herb Gunn, editor of the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan's newspaper, The Record:

The idea that God's message is not finished yet but the real risk is that Christians have stopped listening is the strongest reason I can give for why I was drawn into the Episcopal Church from the Church of my youth, Presbyterian.

The UCC advertisement touches on precisely what I value in a church community and the "comma campaign" is . . . well, a stroke of genius. Not only does the comma suggest more is coming, but move it around.

God is still, speaking God is, still speaking God, is still speaking

If the UCC campaign continues attracting this kind of cutting-edge thinking, perhaps The Wittenburg Door might consider choosing Gracie Allen as its first posthumous Theologian of the Year.

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