Written by J. Bennett Guess
October 31, 2007
The boards of directors of the UCC's Local Church Ministries and Justice and Witness Ministries have affirmed some general-direction recommendations for streamlining the denomination's national setting.
Local Church Ministries, the largest of the UCC's four Covenanted Ministries, met Oct. 24-28 in Cleveland, where it voted 25 to 10 to accept "in principle" the recommendations of the UCC's Governance Task Force.
The LCM board also urged that further conversations include broad testing of the proposals across various church settings, and it listed several "affirmations, questions and concerns" to be forwarded to the inter-ministry working group.
Similarly, Justice and Witness Ministries' board of directors, which met the same weekend at UCC-related Franklinton Center at Bricks in Whitakers, N.C., affirmed the basic direction of the proposals. By a vote of 26 to 3, with one abstention, "JWM appreciates and honors the work of the Governance Follow-Up Task Force and encourages it to continue its work paying attention to the concerns forwarded by the board," according to the board's stated action.
Since its inception two years ago, the task force has been exploring how to create one governance board – both legally and ecclesiologically – for the entire national setting, as opposed to the five autonomous bodies that now exist: LCM, JWM, Wider Church Ministries (WCM), Office of General Ministries (OGM) and the Executive Council.
As the structure is currently configured, the elected members of the five-person Collegium of Officers report to different Covenanted Ministry boards, in addition to the Executive Council, meaning each has different allegiances – making strategic planning and comprehensive budgeting difficult.
Far from concrete at this point, the task force is proposing that the separate legal incorporations of LCM, JWM and WCM be retained and that their mandates be honored. However, the new structure would call for a single yet-to-be-named governing body – numbering perhaps 75 people. Each person elected to this single board would also sit simultaneously on each of the three incorporated boards.
The Office of General Ministries would be dissolved and its ministries would become part of an expanded common services unit.
The General Minister and President's office would be given expanded oversight over the whole of the national setting, but would still work collegially with the elected heads of each ministry body. An appointed Chief Operating Officer, reporting to the General Minister and President, would manage day-to-day operations.
(The Rev. John H. Thomas, the UCC's current general minister and president, is not eligible for re-election in 2009, meaning any new structure would not affect his time in office.)
The boards of OGM and WCM will take action on the recommendations when they meet separately over the next two weeks. The 90-member Executive Council approved the general direction of the proposals in early October.
If OGM and WCM give consent, the Governance Task Force would likely bring more specific proposals for consideration in April 2008 when the four boards and Executive Council will meet jointly in Cleveland.
The UCC's biennial General Synod still would have to approve necessary bylaw changes, and the UCC's Conferences must ratify any such alterations. Therefore, any new structure would not be implemented until 2011, at the earliest.