The issue of changing the UCC Constitution and Bylaws to include multiple paths to ministry, first voted on by General Synod 25 four years ago, came to a vote again on Monday afternoon. After an extended discussion, it passed by a simple show of hands.
The Rev. Holly MillerShank of the Ministry Issues Implementation Committee introduced the necessary amendments by explaining the four themes that run through the Ministries Issues project and are reflected in the proposed amendments.
First is an emphasis on authorization of all UCC ministers: ordained, commissioned, and licensed. Second is the responsibility of the Association in determining fitness for ordination. Third is discernment in the ordination process in all settings of the church. Fourth is the importance of covenants of mutual responsibility.
Despite the years of planning and preparation for these changes, the value of having an "educated clergy" occupied most of the debate time, with several amendments being proposed and defeated.
Most persistent on this subject was Jonathan Page, a delegate from the Massachusetts Conference. "These things matter!" he insisted, while arguing that a bachelor's degree and Master of Divinity should be the "normative" path to ministry. "An educated clergy matters!"
"We want to affirm the inclusivity of our church," countered the Rev. Martha Ann Baumer, who chaired the committee bringing the amendments, "and this is one important way to do it."