Jackson declines additional term as Justice and Witness Ministries' executive
Bernice Powell Jackson, executive minister of the UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries, announced on Sept. 16 that she will not seek re-election to a four-year extension in office.
"After much prayer and thought, I have decided not to place my name as a candidate for executive minister of Justice and Witness Ministries," Jackson wrote in a letter to JWM's board of directors. "It was not an easy decision and one that I have taken a few months meditating on. I think you know how much I love JWM and the United Church of Christ, so, believe me, it was not easy.
"However, I truly believe that God is saying to me that, after nearly 20 years on national staff, now is the time for me to leave. I believe with all my heart that it is not only the right decision for me, but also the right decision for JWM. There comes a time when an organization needs new energy, new vision and new ways of being and I believe this is the case now. In addition, I really feel in my body and soul that I need a more balanced life."
Jackson, 55, estimated that, during the past 5 years, she has spent 75 to 80 percent of her time traveling—a draining reality that has negatively impacted her most valued personal relationships, as well as her physical and spiritual well-being, she said.
Jackson was first elected to the JWM post in July 1999, and by virtue of her office, has been a member of UCC's five-person Collegium of Officers. In 1999, when the shared-leadership Collegium model was first introduced as a centerpiece of the denomination's national restructuring, its inaugural members were elected to staggered-length terms. Jackson was elected to a six-year term—the longest of any of the initial five members—but she still was eligible for an additional four-year stint in office if elected at General Synod 25, scheduled for July 1-5, 2005, in Atlanta.
An activist on behalf of civil, women's and human rights for more than 25 years, Jackson headed the UCC's former Commission for Racial Justice before it became part of JWM at restructure. She also has served as executive associate in the UCC president's office, as director of the Bishop Tutu Southern African Refugee Scholarship Fund, as a staff member to New York Governor Hugh Carey and on the communications staff of the National Urban League. This past summer, Jackson was elected as a co-president of the World Council of Churches.
"To serve JWM and to serve the United Church of Christ has been wonderful and challenging and at times exhilarating," Jackson wrote. "I know that God has already chosen the next leader for the next phase of the life of Justice and Witness Ministries and I lean on the confidence of that knowledge."
Thomas and Malayang desire four more years
Meanwhile, the Rev. John H. Thomas, the UCC's general minister and president, and the Rev. JosZ A. Malayang, executive minister of Local Church Ministries, have announced that they do plan to seek additional four-year terms, which would be the last available to each of them due to term limits. Both were first elected in July 1999.
UCC bylaws require a complete search committee process be conducted for each open Collegium position, regardless of whether the post is being sought by an incumbent candidate. The application deadline is Oct. 20.
Separate search committees will engage in a time of interviews and discernment before presenting a single candidate for each office to its respective board of directors and the UCC's Executive Council. A "call by election" will be held for each candidate at General Synod in July.
"I desire to be a candidate for a third and final term [as general minister and president] beginning in 2005 and concluding in 2009," Thomas, 54, announced by letter on Sept. 23.
In announcing his own candidacy, Thomas said he regrets Jackson's decision to not seek another term, but understands and supports her decision.
"She has given and will continue to give gifted leadership to the United Church of Christ and to its witness in the world and for that I am profoundly grateful," Thomas wrote. "Let us all keep her in our prayers as she discerns a new setting for ministry in the future."
In a letter to Local Church Ministries' staff on Sept. 21, Malayang, 65, wrote, "This is to let you know that I have sent a letter to the LCM Executive Minister/Officer of the Church Search Committee indicating my intention to be an applicant for the position. É My sense of call to this ministry in the national setting continues to burn within me, my passion for what we, together, can do for our beloved UCC churches energizes me."
The remaining two members of the Collegium—Edith Guffey and Olivia Masih White—are not up for re-election. Guffey, 51, associate general minister, was re-elected to her post last year at General Synod 24 in Minneapolis. At the same time, White, 67, was elected to a first term as executive minister of Wider Church Ministries.
For application information or details about the Collegium search process, click here.