Written by Gregg Brekke
Stating that the vision and scope of the Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ, Inc. has "grown significantly since 2004," the boards of the UCC's Office of General Ministries and Office of Communication, Inc. announced an organizational restructure effective Jan. 31, 2010.
A Feb. 2 press release issued jointly by the boards said the goals of the restructuring were to maintain a focus on media justice activities while fostering efficient denominational communications. To that end, the Rev. J. Bennett Guess will no longer serve as OC Inc.'s executive director and will focus his work in the UCC's communications ministries.
The press release, in its entirety, is included below:
The Rev. J. Bennett Guess
(for matters relating to the Office of General Ministries, United Church of Christ)
CLEVELAND – In an organizational move designed to meet the denomination's commitment to an efficient management structure and also maintain a strong focus on media justice, the United Church of Christ's Office of General Ministries (OGM) and the media-justice-focused Office of Communication, Inc. (OC Inc.) announced that they will operate independently from one another as of January 31, 2010.
Under the new structure, the Rev. J. Bennett Guess will no longer serve a dual capacity as the UCC's communications director and as executive director of OC Inc., the UCC's historic media-justice arm.
Precipitated by staff reductions in OGM last fall, the initial decision was made in early November by the executive committee of OGM's board of directors. OGM's board leadership felt that the denomination's mushrooming communication priorities, as well as the vital work of OC Inc., were too significant to allow Guess to serve in dual leadership roles in two parallel organizational structures.
"The vision and scope of OC Inc.'s work has grown significantly since 2004," said the Rev. Anita Bradsahw, OGM Board chair and minister-in-covenant at Mayflower Community Congregational UCC in Minneapolis. "The attention required of its executive director has increased to the point where one person can not possibly give adequate attention to both jobs."
Brian Lapis, OC Inc. board chair, said the board is actively exploring next steps. "We have retained the services of our policy consultant, Cheryl Leanza, in a staff leadership role to help us through this time of transition. While the infrastructure of OC Inc. may be changing, our strong, steady and unwavering commitment to media justice ministry on behalf of the UCC stays the same.
"The board wants to make it clear that even though this is a change in structure – that we will no longer use OGM resources – that doesn't mean the UCC is giving up on media justice," said Lapis.
Since November, Guess has been working to support a transition to an organizational model that can allow OC Inc.'s advocacy work to continue. He also will maintain an active role with the OC Inc.-based So We Might See interfaith media justice coalition.
OC Inc.'s board of directors will continue to be appointed by the UCC's 90-member Executive Council.
OC Inc. has transitioned to a new website at <uccmediajustice.org>.
As part of the denomination's national restructure in 2000, the day-to-day communications work of the UCC's Office of Communication (without the "Inc.") merged with other entities to form OGM. However, the separately-incorporated board known as OC Inc., which focuses exclusively on media justice advocacy, opted to remain independent of OGM because it feared that its historic role as a champion of media justice might get lost in a merged structure. Since that time, a separate OC Inc. board has been supported by OGM employees, including the denomination's communications director.
For 50 years, the UCC has been a leader in the fight for a media that is more accountable to local communities. Founded by the Rev. Everett C. Parker, OC Inc. continues to be a leading voice in Washington DC advocating for accountability of the media, localism and diversity. OC Inc. also sponsors every September the Everett C. Parker Ethics in Telecommunications Lecture, the only lecture in the country to examine telecommunications and the digital age from an ethical perspective.