November 2014

November 2014

November 01, 2014
Written by Rachel Hackenberg

Dear colleagues on Committees on Ministry,

The Manual on Ministry is a primary resource for Committee on Ministry work. As the Habakkuk Group continues the work of reimagining MOM, we strive to keep you up-to-date on the Habakkuk Group's conversations regarding authorized ministry. Here is the report of the Habakkuk Group's most recent meeting in October 2014; if you have questions, please do not hesitate to email me.

Spirit

• We felt the presence of the Spirit among us
• We tried to be intentional about being aware of and responsive to the Spirit
• We were led by the Spirit through our discussions of the theology of authorized ministries


Theology of Authorized Ministry

• We acknowledged that the historic church is in the midst of enormous changes and this informed our conversations throughout our meeting
• We talked at length about the theological grounding present in the UCC's understanding of ministry — that of the whole people of God, as well as of that of Commissioned, Licensed, and Ordained Ministers
• Our discussion was shaped by theological expressions found in the UCC's Constitution & Bylaws, Statements of Faith, as well as by prior work on the theology of ministry that has taken place in our denomination, particularly in the development of the Ministry Issues Pronouncement
• We had consensus that clarity about these theological understandings is always important but, in particular, important for a church that is in the midst of being reshaped by the Holy Spirit
• We acknowledged that the theology of authorized ministry has served the Church in the past
• We also acknowledged that realities about how we are currently using these forms of authorized ministry, as well as an awareness that the Church is being called to new ministry approaches and settings, demands that we carefully re-evaluate how we are articulating this theological grounding for ministry and the extent to which it is consistent with practice
• In discussing the UCC's three forms of authorized ministry we acknowledged the tension between functional and sacramental views of ordination that exist within our denomination
• Moreover, accepting that this tension is not to be resolved but to be honored, we explored the degree to which our understandings of ministry and that of our particular forms of authorized ministry reflect this in theologically consistent ways
• There was general agreement that our stated theology of ministry and how we are using our forms of authorized ministry in practice seems to be out of sync
• A next step for the group is to address how these theological understandings might be re-expressed, how our forms of authorized ministry can better reflect them, as well as how this work can also make space for new ministry settings and approaches to which God is calling the Church


The Context for Our Work

• In addition to acknowledging and honoring the theological heritage of our tradition, we also took up our work with responsiveness to and an appreciation for two other important contexts — history and ecumenism
• There was deep respect for how our forms of authorized ministry — which have shifted over time — have blessed the Church and the ministry to which God has called it
• As we move forward in our work, seeking to affirm the ministries that will help us faithfully respond to God's call now and in the future, we will continue to refer to what has gone before
• In particular, we will honor our ecumenical commitments regarding authorized ministry, seeking to situate ourselves within them


Our Work before Next Meeting (Spring 2015)

• Overall, the next stage of our work will be to further clarify the issues and themes raised in our discussion, to refine our articulation of them as well as some of the possible new directions that emerged within it
• Task teams will explore four key areas: 1) the forms of authorization and their theological grounding; 2) the ministry of Committees on Ministry; 3) the Marks of Faithful and Effective Authorized Ministers, as well as their relation to ministerial codes of conduct; and 4) the culture of call within the UCC


Discernment

• We continue to value and affirm discernment as a foundation for our work on ministry issues
• We are seeking to be intentional in our awareness of how the Spirit of God is working within and among us
• The sense of God's Spirit present in our work on behalf of the church is palpable and energizing as we get down to the nitty-gritty of some very challenging work
• We continue to feel blessed by the wide-ranging diversity reflected within the group that brings a broad spectrum of perspectives from across the UCC


Blessings and a Happy Thanksgiving to you,
Rachel Hackenberg
 
The Rev. Rachel G. Hackenberg
Minister for Committee on Ministry Resources & Conference Support
Ministerial Excellence, Support & Authorization (MESA) Team
Local Church Ministries, United Church of Christ
ucc.org/ministers

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