Written by Michelle May
The Rev. Cally Rogers-Witte was reelected without opposition to a four-year term as executive minister of the UCC's Wider Church Ministries. By virtue of this election she also will serve as co-executive of the UCC/Disciples' Common Global Ministries Board, and as a member of the denomination's five-person Collegium of Officers.
In an address to the 26th General Synod before her re-election, Rogers-Witte spelled out her vision for the denomination's work around the world.
She described an essential partnership between Wider Church Ministries and congregations and conferences. Citing her own 18 years as the pastor of local churches and ten years as a conference minister, she called for "more and deeper" ways to connect the work in the various settings.
She reiterated the pledge she had made when first elected to the post two years earlier to make "our global ministries into our global ministries." Offering such resources as "connections, information, knowledge and 'best practices'" from Wider Church Ministries, she called on congregations and conferences to provide "energy, excitement, passion and resources" to support the common work.
She also spoke of the global partnerships that the UCC and Disciples collaboration has enabled around the world. "We've turned 'doing to' and 'doing for' others, into genuine global partnerships." Mission, she said, is a "willingness to be transformed ourselves through our relationships with others."
An example that Rogers-Witte described happened after a devastating earthquake in Turkey several years ago. After supplying tents and food to meet the urgent needs, the UCC provided a $2,000 grant from One Great Hour of Sharing to a group of women who eventually formed a co-op to create colorful scarves. As a result many women now are able to buy school books and uniforms for their children and to equip a community center and a playground. The scarves are currently being sold in numerous UCC churches.
Rogers-Witte also challenged the church to respond to the anticipated influx of refugees from Iraq. "How will our congregations respond?" she asked, "with an extravagant welcome?" Delegates responded with enthusiastic applause.
Acknowledging the pain of recent budget cuts, Rogers-Witte offered a plan by which "even with shrinking dollars, we can maximize the number of persons we share in mission around the world." The model she suggested was the Partners in Service program, in which a retired couple, Mary and Bill Ruth, gave five years in volunteer service in several locations.
By co-incidence, Rogers-Witte turned 62 on the day of her re-election.