Geoffrey Black elected general minister and president of UCC
Written by J. Martin Bailey
September - October 2009
Ministries of Jaramillo and Sterner affirmed
The Rev. Geoffrey Black, who served for nearly a decade as minister of the UCC's New York Conference, was called by election to succeed the Rev. John Thomas as general minister and president of the United Church of Christ. The June 30 vote took place during the UCC's 27th General Synod. Thomas was ineligible for an additional term.
Black's June 26 nomination speech invited all members of the church, in every setting — in local churches, in covenanted ministries, in theological seminaries, and as ecumenical partners — to work together. "In the UCC," he said, "ministry is not a social act. We are in this together."
He quoted scripture: "We do not lose heart. We are all of us in this ministry together." And he insisted that "we are adequately and incredibly gifted to serve the world." Black also spoke of the denomination's commitment to the struggle for justice and peace as "part of our identity."
It is possible, he said, "for us to be an inclusive church and still be a church of faith. This is why our voice is needed: so that all people will know that they are God's people."
The announcement of Black's election was greeted with a standing ovation. In brief remarks, the new general minister and president thanked the delegates and spoke of his high expectations of working with other members of the UCC's five-person Collegium of Officers. Echoing remarks made at the time of his nomination, Black affirmed, "We are in this together."
Prior to his service in New York, Black was pastor of local congregations for 15 years, a university chaplain, and was on the staff of the UCC Office for Church Life and Leadership. He is a graduate of Lincoln University and Yale Divinity School.
Also called by election to new terms were the executive ministers of two covenanted ministries. The Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo was re-elected as executive minister of Justice and Witness Ministries and the Rev. Stephen L. Sterner was chosen as executive minister of Local Church Ministries. All will serve four-year terms beginning Oct. 1, 2009.
Jaramillo oversees the denomination's work in human rights and social, racial, and economic justice. She told delegates earlier in the day when she accepted re-nomination that "when we are told that the church should not meddle in politics, we need to answer that justice is not political — it is theological." She also said that justice work requires interdependent leaders.
Ours is not an isolated task but requires many hands, she said. "A leader is most effective when he or she is barely visible."
Sterner originally was elected to complete the term of the Rev. José Malayang, who resigned. The present election was for a full four-year term.
Before coming to Local Church Ministries, Sterner had served local churches and as a staff member of the former United Church Board for Homeland Ministries. His pastoral experience was in historic old churches and in a new church start. At the conclusion of the elections, other members of the Collegium joined the newly elected three on stage. Following warm mutual greetings, Thomas stepped to the microphone and offered a prayer written by the Rev. Dale Bishop four years ago, when Bishop completed his service with the Collegium.
Complete coverage of General Synod 27 can be found at http://www.ucc.org/synod/news