Written by J. Bennett Guess
General Synod delegates must give final approval
A search committee's recommendation that the Rev. John H. Thomas be elected to serve a third and final term as the United Church of Christ's general minister and president was affirmed by the UCC's Executive Council on March 12, during its regular meeting in Cleveland.
The "call by election" process now goes to General Synod, July 1-5, in Atlanta, where delegates will have an opportunity to affirm or reject the Executive Council's recommendation. The UCC's constitution and bylaws do not allow names to be submitted from the Synod floor, so Thomas will be the sole candidate up for consideration for the 1.3-million-member denomination's highest office.
"We are confident that John has the commitment and perspectives, the skills and abilities, the personal qualities and characteristics, and the background and experience to continue to excel as general minister and president," said Sandy Casmey, search committee chair.
Before the executive-session vote, Thomas said, "I continue to have the stamina for this work. . I continue to be willing to bear the costs that this responsibility exacts."
Thomas, 54, said his hopes for the UCC include "focusing on the things we can do, rather than wringing our hands about the things we can't do. We often forget what we have done and can do together."
Thomas said he is especially proud of the positive impact of the UCC's Stillspeaking Initiative on the whole denomination, and how its message of "extravagant welcome" is being received so positively by those outside the UCC, as evidenced by the many heart-warming messages his office has received.
"Without us, that grace would not have been experienced," he said.
Reflecting on the past five-and-a-half years, Thomas said his saddest day in office was an occasion where he witnessed "blatant racism" within the UCC.
"The day I can no longer be profoundly disappointed by that, it will be time to move on," he said.
Thomas said he draws strength and purpose from the "very first question" of the historic Evangelical Catechism.
"What shall be our chief concern?" Thomas quoted it as asking. "To seek the realm of God and God's righteousness."