Search process begins for next UCC General Minister and President
Written by Jeffrey Woodard
April - May 2008

The Rev. John Thomas (r.) is shown with former UCC president the Rev. Paul Sherry in this 1995 photo. Thomas then served as the UCC's ecumenical officer. W. Evan Golder photo.
Thomas' term to end in 2009

Although 20 months remain in John Thomas' second term as the UCC's general minister and president, the official search for his successor has begun.

"It's an exciting time for our denomination to be engaged in this search process," said the Rev. Henry Simmons, search committee chair and pastor of St. Albans UCC in Queens, N.Y. "We see a great immediate future not without its challenges but an opportunity for a new era for mission and ministry."

Due to term limits set forth in the UCC Constitution and Bylaws, Thomas' service as GMP will end in October 2009 after his successor is named four months earlier at General Synod 27 in Grand Rapids, Mich.

First elected in 1999 to serve a partial two-year term, Thomas has gone on to serve two full four-year terms in office.

The 14-member committee - comprising a widely diverse range across lines of age, gender, race and sexual orientation - held its first meeting Feb. 20 in Cleveland. The group reviewed the GMP position description and looked at ways to streamline it slightly, said the Rev. Lynne Simcox, staff to the Search Committee. "They looked at terms of the constitution of the UCC, and at the General Minister and President's office and the way it fits into the structure of the church."

The committee considered materials used in previous searches and brainstormed about the experience, characteristics and abilities required for the position, said Simcox. To qualify, candidates must hold ordained ministerial status in the UCC or have ordained ministerial partner standing.

Other initial actions by the committee included discussion of advertising options for the position; the nature of the application form; development of a timeline for the search process; and setting up dates for the next meetings. In addition, Simcox said, the committee began to formulate a checklist, or grid, of qualities and characteristics that will help to facilitate identification of viable candidates. "The process is a way to sift through, on paper, what the committee is looking for."

Even though application forms likely won't be ready for distribution until late April or early May, Simcox encouraged interested applicants to begin updating their ministerial profiles. However, the application process will request additional information and attachments. "We would welcome applications beginning the first of June," she said.

If persons have questions, or would like to suggest names of potential candidates (their contact information is also requested and appreciated), send to gmpsearch@aol.com.

Applications will be accepted June 1 to Sept. 1. The committee will then review the diversity of the pool and, if necessary, said Simcox, the search process will be extended to ensure greater diversity. "Hopefully, they will have been proactive enough in the invitation and encouragement process that they'll have a good pool by Sept. 2."

At that point, the committee will decide which candidates it would like to interview by phone. "Those interviews should be completed in November," said Simcox, "and hopefully, in February, they will have final interviews with candidates and present their impressions to the governing boards of UCC in June 2009.

"One never knows who the Spirit will call," said Simcox. "If you feel called, apply."

The search committee is comprised of the Rev. Phyllis Baum, pastor of Hayshire UCC in York, Pa.; Andrea Cano, exploration minister, Latino Ministries/Central Pacific Conference and member of Ainsworth UCC in Portland, Ore.; Courtney Clayton (scribe), student at Princeton Theological Seminary and member of Mt. Zion Congregational UCC in Cleveland; Sachi Fujita, placement coordinator/ Hawaii Conference and member of Waipahu UCC in Honolulu; Michael Goze of All Nations Indian UCC in Minneapolis and chairperson, Council for American Indian Ministry; the Rev. Linda Jaramillo, executive minister for Justice and Witness Ministries and member of Archwood UCC in Cleveland; Gayle Klopp, co-executive of Charles Hall Youth Services, an agency of the UCC Council for Health and Human Service Ministries, and a member of Bismark (N.D.) UCC; the Rev. Ron Parker, retired Central Rocky Mountain Regional Minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and a member of Central Christian Church (DOC) in Denver; Kathleen Plumb of Minneapolis and member of Robbinsdale (Minn.) UCC; Phil Porter of Oakland, Calif., and member and minister of art and communication at First Congregational UCC in Berkeley, Calif.; the Rev. Riess Potterveld, president of UCC-related Lancaster Theological Seminary and member of First Reformed UCC in Lancaster, Pa.; the Rev. David Ruhe, senior minister of Plymouth Congregational UCC in Des Moines, Iowa; the Rev. Gary Schulte, New Hampshire Conference Minister and member of First Congregational UCC in Pembroke, N.H.; and the Rev. Henry T. Simmons (chairperson), pastor of St. Albans UCC in New York. 

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CONTACT INFO

Rev. J. Bennett Guess
Executive Minister, Local Church Ministries
700 Prospect Ave.
Cleveland,Ohio 44115
216-736-3801
guessb@ucc.org