The United Church of Christ has elected a new president to replace the Rev. John Thomas, who – after a decade as the denomination's president – is ineligible for an additional term.
The Rev. Geoffrey Black, who served as minister of the UCC's New York Conference for nearly a decade, was called by election on the final day of UCC's 27th General Synod, which drew over 3,600 UCC members to Grand Rapids, Mich.
"This is certainly a moment that I cannot describe in words and I will be reflecting on for the rest of my life," Black told UCC delegates and members after his election. "I do want to simply thank all of you for not only the affirmation of this evening but also all of the kind and friendly supportive words, the promises of prayer participation, and also the advice I have received already. Thank you."
Black, who is the second African-American man to serve as UCC president, will take over as head of the 1.1-million member denomination which has been witnessing a large decline in numbers since becoming the first major Christian denomination in the United States to officially support same-sex marriage in 2005.
In 2000, the denomination spanned over 6,000 churches. Last year, the church body reported about 5,320.
Though a continued decline is expected, Black said the "big bleed is over."
"The churches that couldn't live with that (the 2005 synod vote) have made their way out of the denomination," he said, according to Michigan Live.
The president-elect also said he believes the trend can be reversed as churches welcome immigrants, single parents and people of color.
In his remarks Tuesday, Black reiterated the theme he intends to move forward with as leads the denomination over the next four years.
"As I've mentioned, my theme for beginning this ministry is that 'we're in this thing together' and we truly are," he said.
Black officially takes over as general minister and president of the UCC in October.