A proposal to reduce the frequency of UCC General Synod gatherings was defeated Tuesday morning, though not because support was lacking.
Synod delegates meeting in Tampa, Fla., were asked to change the UCC bylaws so General Synod would meet “every 3 or 4 years” rather than the current 2-year cycle.
Rich Fluechtling, a delegate from the Wisconsin Conference and chair of the committee which brought the action to the floor, shared the committee’s concern that there was not enough information contained in the proposal to understanding the “direct impact” and the “unintended consequences” of its adoption. The committee’s recommendation to defeat the motion also included a request that the UCC Executive Council appoint a working group to address “all aspects of Synod issues” and seek alternatives that allow for effective governance and help “maintain community” — a hallmark of the biennial meetings.
The original proposal from the Illinois South Conference cited the increasing costs of meeting every two years and the financial strain of those expenses on both the national setting of the church as well as conferences, many of which underwrite some or all of the costs for sending their delegates. Costs for holding the meeting increased 115 percent between 1982 and 2003. The actions of General Synod have increased as well, putting a strain on a decreasing number of national staff who are asked to investigate, coordinate and implement those actions.
But less frequent meetings have other non-financial consequences including the cycle of selection of church officers and board members, “off-Synod-year” activities such as regional and national youth events, and the community building which occurs during the gatherings.
Ken Wells described his Iowa Conference’s caucus that morning where they read the New Testament passage about the woman anointing Jesus with oil. While acknowledging that General Synod is “an expensive ointment,” Synod is “How we anoint our youth” and prepare them to serve the church, Wells said.
In addition, several delegates expressed concern that with the approval of a new “unified” administrative structure for the national setting of the church, less frequent General Synod meetings could inhibit implementation.