Written by Gregg Brekke
The UCC's 90-member Executive Council voted overwhelmingly on Oct. 17 to affirm a plan to form a single governance structure for the church's national setting.
Meeting in Cleveland, the Executive Council became the second of the UCC's five autonomous boards to give its approval to the Governance Follow-up Team II (GFT-II) proposal. Seven persons voted against the action; one abstained.
Local Church Ministries' board of directors affirmed the proposal one week earlier. The remaining three boards – Justice and Witness Ministries, Office of General Ministries and Wider Church Ministries – will take up consideration at their respective meetings in the coming three weeks.
"The Executive Council's discussion was extended, thoughtful, and candid," said UCC general minister and president, the Rev. John H. Thomas. "The relatively lopsided nature of the final vote should not obscure the fact that sharp differences remain."
The first day of the Council's three-day meeting was devoted to considering the single-board plan, with much of the discussion focused on the number of representative seats that would be allotted to the five groups that comprise the UCC's Council for Racial and Ethnic Ministries (COREM).
Thomas noted some representatives of underrepresented groups fear the new board will marginalize thier voices. "Those fears cannot be ignored as we go forward, but neither should we ignore that many believe this new governance structure can enable the church to claim its risk taking vocation with far greater clarity and sharper strategic focus."
Under the GFT-II plan, 68 board positions would be filled through the existing nominating process, with at least 50 percent of these being held by people of color and women. Ten seats would be held by those specifically appointed by COREM bodies, with two seats each being slotted for the Council for American Indian Ministry; Council for Hispanic Ministries; Ministers for Racial, Social and Economic Justice (MRSEJ); Pacific Islander – Asian American Ministries; and United Black Christians.
The Executive Council considered but ultimately defeated two proposed amendments that sought to provide four – then three – representatives to each COREM body, instead of two.
"I welcome the restructure," said the Rev. Marvin Morgan, moderator of the 2009 General Synod. "But I would not want the restructure in a way that would diminish the COREM bodies."
The Rev. Graylan Hagler, senior minister of Plymouth Congregational UCC in Washington, D.C., and national president of MRSEJ, said it was important that COREM not become "a footnote in our life together."
The Rev. Yvette Flunder, pastor of City of Refuge UCC in San Francisco, Calif., and a member of the GFT-II team, said times are changing and people of color are joining and becoming active in the UCC without necessarily "coming through" the COREM bodies.
Halger responded, "I'm thankful for change each and every day, but the question always becomes, 'What kind of change?' "
The Rev. Krista Betz of the Missouri/Mid-South Conference argued that composition of the new board had been thoroughly vetted during the GFT I & II processes in order to safeguard diversity while keeping the board's size manageable. Betz said that any increases in representation by COREM bodies might not be received well by the UCC's 38 Conferences, which are slated to have one representative each.
The Rev. Bob Molsberry, Ohio Conference Minister, said that, in the past, the "holy grail" of non-profit board composition has been "representation." The new model, he said, is "results."
Pending approval of the GFT-II proposal by all five boards, work will begin on drafting constitutional changes and bylaws to enable the recommended changes.