General Synod 28 to vote on unified governance proposal
Written by Eric Anderson
July 3, 2011

Monday’s agenda at the UCC’s General Synod 28 includes consideration of amendments to the Constitution and Bylaws of the United Church of Christ intended to streamline the denomination’s governance. The proposal, prepared by the Unified Governance Working Group, would consolidate the boards of the Covenanted Ministries into a single United Church Board with oversight over Justice and Witness Ministries, Local Church Ministries, Wider Church Ministries, and the office of the General Minister and President.

The board of Justice and Witness Ministries (JWM) endorsed the proposal Friday morning, the last of the Covenanted Ministries to do so. In 2009, the JWM Board rejected an earlier restructuring plan, and General Synod 27 directed the Working Group to bring a new recommendation to this Synod. A primary need was a reduction of the cost of governance to relieve pressures on funding for mission.

The fifty-two member United Church Board would be responsible for “strategic planning and policymaking” for the national setting of the church. Though the Bylaws revisions specify certain ratios of men to women, laity to clergy, and persons of color, Working Group chair the Rev. Bernard Wilson stresses that the Nominating Committee’s greatest charge will be to find a diversity of skill sets and cultural competencies.

“We need attorneys, we need real estate people,” said Wilson. He recalled that a defining moment for the working group was when somebody said, “But what about the storytellers?”

“So we do need storytellers,” Wilson said, “and we need memory-keepers.”

Minority reports from other members of the Working Group raise distinct concerns about loss of leadership opportunities and the loss of connection with historic leadership movements such as the Council for Racial and Ethnic Ministries. Wilson, an African-American who pastors a majority white church in Weston, Conn., agrees that the concept of representation will suffer.

“Can we trust one another to care for one another when we are not visible to one another?” asked Wilson. “The answer, and I mean this sincerely, the answer as a church really has to be ‘Yes.’ Even if we aren’t there yet, the answer has to be ‘Yes.’”

Other Constitution and Bylaws changes would clarify the full membership of licensed and commissioned persons as authorized ministers of the United Church of Christ, clarify the role of the General Minister and President, and eliminate the office of Associate General Minister as a member of the Collegium of Officers. If voted by two-thirds of Synod delegates, the revisions will need to be ratified by two-thirds of the Conferences before they take effect.

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