Written by Anthony Moujaes
The leadership of the United Church of Christ is seen as steady, cooperative and professional in the eyes of the chairpersons of the respective covenanted ministry boards. That's why at General Synod, where themes of transition and change will be prevalent, the reelection of three officers – all unanimously nominated by their boards – can continue that stable guiding influence.
The vote falls to the delegates of General Synod 2013 to extend the terms of the three national officers for four more years. Up for re-election are the Rev. Geoffrey A. Black (General Minister and President), the Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo (Executive Minster of Justice and Witness Ministries) and the Rev. J. Bennett Guess (Executive Minister of Local Church Ministries). At General Synod in Long Beach, Calif. the officers need 60 percent of the vote from the approximately 865 delegates to be re-elected.
Before arriving at the UCC's National Offices in Cleveland for his first term in 2009, Black was the UCC's Conference Minister for the state of New York from 2000 to 2009, and a pastor at the Congregational Church of South Hempstead (N.Y.) for almost 15 years (1980-1994). He also worked for the national setting from 1994 to 2000 in the UCC's Office for Church Life and Leadership.
"Rev. Black received overwhelming support and many positive comments regarding his able leadership and compassionate pastoral presence in this time of continuing transition in the National Setting and throughout the Church," said the Rev. Penny Lowes, chair of the UCC's Executive Council. "He also listened carefully to constructive ideas and criticisms that will help to make him an even more effective leader going forward."
Black will address General Synod delegates at 9:40 a.m. on Saturday, June 29.
"It is our sincere belief that Rev. Black embodies the necessary gifts, creative skills and ongoing experience that will serve our beloved Church well during the next four years," Lowes added. "Geoffrey has a deep passion for, and a strong commitment to, the United Church of Christ. We praise God for his continued dedication and service."
Jaramillo, fluent in both English and Spanish, is the first Latina to serve as an officer of the United Church of Christ. She has been active in various UCC settings, including the UCC's former Commission for Racial Justice and former Coordinating Center for Women. She worked with the UCC's Central Pacific Conference, was a member of the denomination's Executive Council, and served as assistant moderator at General Synod.
The Rev. Alice Harper-Jones, representing the JWM Board, said her friend and colleague's feelings about her work are reflected in her leadership. "Under Linda's inclusive, knowledgeable leadership and guidance, I have grown tremendously in my position as president of the JWM Board," Harper-Jones said after the board re-nominated Jaramillo in late October. She added that Jaramillo's commitment of bringing together partners in the spirit of work "is reflective of God's love."
If elected, it would be Jaramillo's third and final term as executive minister. She will address the gathering Friday, June 28 at 7:40 p.m. during evening plenary.
Guess came to the national setting in 2000 as the communications director for Justice and Witness Ministries, and spent four years as the news director and editor of United Church News before serving as the director of the UCC's Publishing, Identity and Communication Ministry from 2007 to 2011. He was also a local church pastor in Kentucky for 12 years.
"Over the past 20 months, I have found Ben to be a strategic, creative, outcomes-focused leader," said Carol Williams-Swoope, chair of the LCM board. "Ben reaches across perceived organizational barriers to foster greater morale and collegiality. Ben is a curious leader who thinks outside of the box as he considers how our national setting can best serve our local congregations.
"With that, I have found Ben to be a skilled administrator who considers the impact of his decisions on people and processes. Ben is experienced as a very pastoral leader and articulate speaker and preacher.
Guess will address the delegates at 8:40 a.m. on Monday, July 1 during morning plenary. Guess is serving the final two years for his predecessor, the Rev. Steven Sterner, so if elected, he would begin the first of three possible terms.
"Because Ben has served as a local church pastor for over 12 years and has served at the national setting in roles with increasing executive responsibility for over 12 years, he has an expansive and in-depth knowledge of the UCC and its various ministry settings, its churches, and the ecumenical, interfaith community," Williams-Swoope said.
For more information about General Synod 2013, visit the Synod website online.