Conference transitions underway in Calvin Synod, Illinois and Southern California Nevada

Conference transitions underway in Calvin Synod, Illinois and Southern California Nevada

May 24, 2010
Written by Gregg Brekke

The UCC's Calvin Synod recently elected its new Bishop while the Boards of Directors of two other UCC Conferences have voted unanimously to recommend Conference Minister candidates.

The Rt. Rev. Béla Poznán, who has served on the Calvin Synod's executive council for six years, is the new Synod Bishop (Conference Minister title within the Calvin Synod.) Poznan succeeds the Rt. Rev. Koloman Karl Ludwig, who became Bishop in 2004 and was re-elected in 2007.

"It is my hope that the 'extravagant welcome' that we in the UCC proclaim, can indeed accommodate those with differing viewpoints while still agreeing on the essentials of Christianity," said the outgoing Ludwig.

Meanwhile, the Southern California Nevada Conference board has selected the Rev. Felix Villanueva as its candidate, and the Illinois Conference has enthusiastically recommended the Rev. Dr. Jorge Morales.

Villanueva is to be confirmed June 5 at the SCNC annual meeting, with the vote on Morales taking place June 17-18, according to the Rev. Gayle Engel, staff to the search committees for both Conferences.

Villanueva, a native of Puerto Rico, has served as senior minister at the UCC of La Mesa, Calif., since 2005. He was ordained in 1982 in San Juan and served for 21 years as a U.S. Navy chaplain. Villanueva spent three months in Iraq in 2003, leading 28 chaplains representing 12 religious bodies. In addition, he has advocated for social justice issues involving LGBT persons, gender equality and immigration.

Villanueva holds a bachelor's in biology from the University of Puerto Rico; a master's of divinity from the Evangelical Seminary of Puerto Rico; and a master's in pastoral counseling from Princeton Theological Seminary.

Leading the fight for social justice and assisting the less fortunate in the community, Morales became one of the Chicago area's most revered community activists in 1976 when he founded San Lucas UCC. He served for 18 years at a grass-roots organizer at Centro para Desarrollo Comunitario y Liderato in Chicago where he spearheaded campaigns to improve community health, housing and employment issues, and to prevent youth street homicide.

Morales earned a bachelor's from Northeastern Illinois University, as well as a master's of divinity and a doctor of ministry degree from McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago.

"Jorge seems to have a readiness for a new beginning in a new role," says Engel. "I pray that Illinois will have a bright future and Jorge will make a contribution within CCM and beyond."

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