Written by Gregg Brekke
Every General Synod marks a time of transition and the 2011 national UCC gathering in Tampa, Fla., is an extraordinary example, said the Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, UCC general minister and president.
“It’s one of the things I’ve been thinking about a lot,” Black told a gathering of about 150 at the post-lunch Executive Council meeting Thursday at the Marriott Waterside Hotel. “This Synod is particularly rich with transition. All transitions begin with endings, and I’m keenly aware of the endings.”
Black’s reference was to the three members of the Collegium of Officers whose terms conclude with General Synod 28 – Edith A. Guffey, associate general minister of the Office of General Ministries; the Rev. Cally Rogers-Witte, executive for Wider Church Ministries and co-executive of Global Church Ministries; and the Rev. Stephen L. Sterner, executive for Local Church Ministries.
“They have been so important to us over the years,” said Black. “It’s important that we acknowledge the fact that we’re going to miss their wisdom, leadership and courage.”
Guffey, whose overall service with the UCC spans 20 years, expressed gratitude to the church. “I’m certainly a different person than I was in 1991,” she said. “As a woman of color who has had the voice of a layperson, I appreciate the variety of gifts we all have. You have been a true gift to me and my family, and I am deeply, deeply grateful. I love, live and breathe the UCC.”
Rogers-Witte reflected on six years of Wider Church Ministries leadership, thankful for the “incredible privilege” and the opportunity to serve on the Executive Council.
“As a former executive, I will now look forward to sending out notes to tell you all what a great job you are doing, serving in support of our mission around the world and in our local churches,” said Rogers-Witte. “I’d like to take everything I’ve learned in the past six years and spread it around to all of you.”
Sterner, leading Local Church Ministries for the past two years, joked that he wanted to say something “profound” about his service. “But then I thought, ‘Why start now?’ ” he said to laughter.
Sterner expressed both gratitude for the opportunity and concern about the church’s success in attaining its goals. “Sometimes we’re so excited about where we’re going, we don’t focus on getting there,” he said.
The Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo, executive for Justice and Witness Ministries, said, “I will miss my colleagues deeply. Working together with them, I have a deep mutual respect for all of them, for going the extra mile to show we’re acting as one church.”
Candidates to succeed Guffey, Rogers-Witte and Sterner are scheduled to speak to General Synod 28 delegates over the next four days.
W. Mark Clark – president and chief executive officer of CODAC Behavioral Health Services, Inc. in Tuscon – will address delegates at 8:45 a.m. Monday as the candidate for associate general minister; WCM executive candidate the Rev. Jim Moos, senior pastor at Bismarck (N.D.) UCC, will speak at 8 p.m. Friday; and the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, minister and team leader of the UCC’s Publishing, Identity and Communication operations, will be introduced as LCM candidate and speak at 4:35 p.m. Friday.