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
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
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.