Written by Anthony Moujaes
Leaders of the United Church of Christ from around the country are confident they've strengthened their relationship and common vision, to lead the church into a bold, new future together. The four national officers of the denomination met with the 38-person Council of Conference Ministers Feb. 24 through Feb. 26 in Orlando, Fla., to outline financial, governance and covenantal priorities going forward.
The Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, general minister and president of the UCC, and the Rev. Kent Siladi, conference minister for the Connecticut Conference and CCM chair shared the highlights of the Council of Conference Ministers-Collegium meeting in a two-page letter to the wider church.
Though they didn't "solve" all the issues of the church that demand their attention, the CCM and national leaders believe they made progress together. Among the many subjects they discussed on the retreat were pressing financial issues facing the national setting of the denomination, committing to the Big Inspirational Goals (BIGs) of the UCC as the inspiration of their work, and seeking ways to enhance their collective relationship while maintaining the UCC's polity of autonomy.
"We gathered first and foremost as people of faith," Black and Siladi wrote. "We gathered as leaders who have been called to discern God's spirit moving among us. We gathered knowing that the Still Speaking God is inviting us to seek new ways to be the United Church of Christ and to continue our authentic witness as disciples of Christ."
During the last United Church of Christ Board meeting in October, the board approved a financial stability plan created by the UCC national leadership to address $2.3 million in cuts for the 2014 budget. The officers and conference ministers discussed part of that plan and promised to share more details.
"The Collegium is not planning on giving a final decision regarding the redesign of the national setting, including reductions in force at the upcoming March [UCCB] meeting," Black and Siladi wrote. "However, they do plan to share details of their strategy and approach, which will be completed by the end of 2014."
The letter cites an affirmation of the four BIGs, which were shared with the wider church during General Synod 2013. The four bold inspirational goals: A bold, public voice, reachable and welcoming congregations, engaged discipleship, and excellent and diverse leadership.
The officers and CCM also spent time examining the UCC conference boundaries as called for by a General Synod resolution, strengthening their communication and relationships with each other as leaders and across the church, and reflecting on the changes to governance. UCC polity allows each setting of the church – from congregations, associations, conferences and the national setting – to act independently, but those gathered at the retreat recognize their interactions are interdependent.
"We believe that we made progress during our time together," Black and Siladi wrote. "We prayed, met, engaged each other in authentic dialogue, and made specific commitments to addressing the challenges we face in our time."
Here is the complete text of the letter.