By Associate Editor Joe May

As U.S. Senator Barack Hussein Obama advances to the forefront of the Democratic presidential race, many questions arise from his relationship with a group known as the United Church of Christ.

Obama, raised in both Catholic and Muslim schools, is a member Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ. The views of that group’s now former minister, Jeremiah Wright, have several wondering what connections members of churches of Christ have with the group with which Obama worships.

While the United Church of Christ has no connection with the churches of Christ that follow the Bible as their only rule of faith and worship, they do have a slight common ancestor in the secular sense.

In the United States, most congregations trace their roots back to the American Restoration Movement which is most commonly associated with Thomas and Alexander Campbell, Barton W. Stone, Raccoon John Smith and others.

At least two, if not more congregations of the Lord’s church in North America, though, trace their history back as a faithful church to before the Campbells arrived from Scotland. In addition, there are faithful congregations in Europe that date back several centuries. This effectively puts an end to the charges of “Campbellism.”

The United Church of Christ is a denomination made up of some 1.2 million members in 5,518 congregations. The sect formed in 1957 with the union of the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the General Council of Congregational Christian Churches.

The Congregational church dates from colonial-era America, having its origins in two dissenting English Protestant groups: the separatist Pilgrims, who established Plymouth Colony in 1620; and the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony who landed in 1629 and 1630 and settled the Boston area.

The Evangelical and Reformed Church began in 1934, having its roots in two 19th century movements that had Calvinistic and Lutheran roots. Both groups trace their origins to Germany.

A smaller segment of the UCC comes from the Restoration Movement through a splinter known as the Christian Connection, which was identified with James O’Kelly, who founded the Republican Methodist Church, which was also identified with the Christian Church. It merged first with the Congregational churches to form the Congregational Christian Churches in 1931 and that group merged later to form the UCC.

The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), which officially parted company with the churches of Christ in 1906 over the question of musical instruments in worship, is in full communion with the UCC.

In recent years, the UCC has been recognized as one of the most liberal denominations in America, recognizing abortion rights, feminism and homosexuality as viable Christian values, despite clear Scripture on each. The group also ordains women and practicing sodomites to the ministry. Churches that encourage homosexuality within the sect are known as “open and affirming churches.” Even those lacking the designation still are homosexual friendly.

Unlike the churches of the Bible, a single pastor oversees the churches, which are part of 38 United States conferences under the guidance of the General Synod, which meets every two years.

Instrumental music and non-weekly communion are also hallmarks of the denomination, which has marketed itself across the United States with television commercials touting only the most liberal of ideas, such as the open acceptance of homosexuality.