The United Church of Christ was founded in 1957 through a federation of four related denominations sharing roots in colonial Congregationalism: the Congregational churches, the Christian Church, the Evangelical Synod, and the Reformed Church in the U.S.
The Calvinist Reformed movement, the English Reformation, American Congregationalism of the colonial period in New England, and 20th-century ecumenism all influenced the beliefs and practices of the United Church of Christ.
Some of the most creative theologians in American history were Congregationalists whose ideas laid the foundations of the United Church of Christ. These include Cotton Mather (1663-1728), Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), Charles Chauncey (1705-1787), Horace Bushnell (1802-1876), and Washington Gladden (1836-1919).
The word of God found in the Christian Bible, rather than tradition or clerical hierarchy, has ultimate authority in the United Church. UCC Christians generally do not advocate reading the Bible literally.
The historically liberal orientation of the United Church of Christ has produced great scholarly interest in its theological and social ethics, especially its stance against racial discrimination and its active promotion of social justice rooted in the 19th-century Social Gospel movement.