Written by Anthony Moujaes
In its effort to streamline the leadership of the national setting of the United Church of Christ, the UCC Board of Directors has approved a set of suggested amendments to the denomination’s constitution and bylaws for consideration at General Synod 2017. If approved next summer, they would more clearly define the roles and responsibilities of the UCC's elected leaders.
The set of changes would alter the leadership as follows: the leadership of the national setting would rest with a general minister and president, who is called by General Synod; associate general ministers (rather than executive ministers) would also be called by General Synod. Their scope of work would be determined by the general minister and president, with input from the board of directors; the associate general ministers would not be specifically designated to lead one of the three covenanted ministries (Local Church Ministries, Wider Church Ministries, and Justice and Witness Ministries); the number of associate general ministers will be determined by the Board of Directors.
Members of the UCC Board of Directors overwhelmingly approved proposed language changes during a Wednesday, Dec. 7 meeting.
"The proposed changes reflect 14 months of discernment by the United Church of Christ, including a survey of the wider church, work by the Governance Committee, reviews by the Council of Conference Ministers and deliberations by the UCCB," said Geoff Brace, who chairs the Board’s Governance Committee. "We owe a great deal of gratitude to every individual and group who had engaged this process. There is clearly a great deal of love for our beloved Church."
At the 2015 General Synod, a previous set of proposals to alter the national leadership of the church failed to gain the required two-thirds approval from delegates, sending the UCC Board back to the drawing board to recreate the most faithful way to outline a leadership structure for a changing denomination.
UCC General Minister and President the Rev. John Dorhauer believes the Board of Directors has fulfilled that task.
"This particular proposal is the middle ground reached in October by proponents of the previous recommended bylaw changes and by those who — for a variety of reasons — were strongly opposed to the previous recommendations," he said. "That the United Church of Christ Board was able to leave the October meeting [unified] in support of these changes signals a movement of the Spirit that Board members affirm was present in, and through, their deliberations."
Between now and General Synod 2017 in Baltimore (June 30-July 4), the board will seek to share the purpose of the changes to the UCC Bylaws and Constitution with members of the denomination.
Said Brace, "We look forward to continuing to engage the wider church in this process, mirroring the candor, courage and love for the UCC that has led us to this point."