After years in the making, the first full meeting of the United Church of Christ Board, held Oct. 9-12 at the national offices of the UCC in Cleveland, finally brought to fruition a single board of governance for the denomination. In addition to the scheduled business, which included approving a 2014 budget for the national setting, board members spent time learning about the work of the various ministries of the church, the vision of the church moving forward, and about their fellow board members.
But after a few days of working together as one board, it was noted that one interesting aspect of the new structure that reflects the past, with a committee created for each of the covenanted ministries — Justice and Witness Ministries, Local Church Ministries, and Wider Church Ministries.
"The ministry committees were a way for us to maintain that part of the former structure into the new," said Anita Bradshaw, who helped shape the UCC’s unified governance structure that took effect in July.
Bradshaw outlined the roles of the ministry committees by defining what they are, and what they are not. The members of the ministry committees are expected to learn and become experts of the work of each covenanted ministry, with members rotating each biennium among the ministry committees to learn the work of the UCC as one church. The ministry committees are not a ministry, Bradshaw explained.
The chair and vice-chairs for each of the committees are Thea Mateu (chair) and Kevin Peterson (vice-chair) for Justice and Witness Ministry Committee, the Rev. DeEtte Lundberg (chair) and the Rev. Ernesto Reyes (vice-chair) for Wider Church Ministry Committee, and Nesa Joseph (chair) and Noah Jensen Tabor (vice-chair) for Local Church Ministries.
The UCCB adopted a measure to set the number of conference delegates at 677 for General Synod 2015, which will take place from June 26 to July 1 in Cleveland. The number of delegates for each of the 38 conferences of the UCC is based on the number of members, with a minimum of at least three delegates per conference. For a breakdown of the delegates by conference, read the measure as it came to the board.
Also, during the morning session on Oct. 11, the UCCB adopted a new policy to that will encourage UCC-related organizations to obtain their own 501C3 tax-exempt status within 3 years. There were amendments to parts of the language to the resolution from the UCCB, including the timeframe for the organizations to obtain their tax-exempt status, and there was some debate about the balance of the fiduciary responsibility of the national offices versus the covenantal responsibilities.
The UCC previously had a practice, but no formal policy, that specified the inclusion of related organizations in its group tax-exemption ruling. The new policy doesn’t apply to local churches, associations and conferences of the UCC.
Don Clark, UCC general counsel, will have his office ready to assist in the process for the organizations that opt to pursue tax-exempt status. Clark said the resolution is an affirmation of the related organizational independence, and Heather Kimmel, UCC associate general counsel, added that the adopted policy would be consistent with UCC polity of allowing congregations to exercise their own autonomy from the national setting of the church.
"The next step will be working with Geoffrey and his office, and preparing a letter that will inform those groups and offer the resources to guide them in this process," Clark said.