A proposal by the UCC's five-person Collegium of Officers calling for a "streamlined" national structure was greeted with mixed reaction from the five autonomous boards that would be asked to consolidate into one governing body, if the proposal moves forward.
During fall meetings, the Executive Council and boards of Wider Church Ministries and Office of General Ministries gave support for the proposal. The boards of Local Church Ministries and Justice and Witness Ministries voted non-support for the plan.
A meeting is scheduled for early January when leaders of the boards will meet with the Collegium to discuss concerns and explore possible next steps, if any.
Ultimately, the necessary constitutional changes would require support from all Covenanted Ministry boards; affirmation of two-thirds of delegates attending next summer's General Synod 26 in Hartford, Conn.; and ratification by two-thirds of the UCC's 39 Conferences. Any "streamlined" governance structure could not be implemented until 2009, at the earliest.
Opponents have expressed fears that streamlining would consolidate power into too few hands and that some of the church's historic mandates might get lost or given low priority in the new configuration. Some are concerned that diversity in representation will suffer if the total number of board members is significantly reduced. Currently, about 350 people sit on one of the five boards, while the new structure calls for a single governing body of about 90.
Supporters argue it is nearly impossible for the denomination's national setting to act strategically or respond "nimbly" when policy is set by five sometimes-competing interests. Some say there are more-potent ways to invest resources than by having large numbers of people travel to participate in governance. Instead, some say, more money should be allocated to bring more people into the life of the national setting through bridge-building events or mission interpreter training, for example.
Members of the Collegium, which now report to two separate boards - the Executive Council as well as their respective Covenanted Ministry board - have said those dual allegiances create multiple challenges, especially when the two bodies are not in agreement.
Despite disagreement within and among the boards, the Collegium met on Nov. 2 and released a statement indicating it remained committed to the "process and timeline" established by the Executive Council.
"The Collegium began developing plans for a gathering of representatives of the Executive Council, the boards of the Covenanted Ministries, the Associated and Affiliated Ministries, and the Council of Conference Ministers in early January to assess the response and consider possible way to move forward," the Collegium statement reads.
Reports on each of the boards' decisions are available at news.ucc.org.