UCC Board closes spring meeting with Synod decision, new leadership
Another debate about the frequency of General Synod is underway, with potential changes expected to unfold within the next two years. The United Church of Christ Board of Directors approved a bylaws change that, if approved by Synod delegates, could alter how often the denomination’s governing body gathers.
During its spring meeting March 19-21 in Cleveland, a large majority of the board approved the bylaws change, which eliminates the language that General Synod must be held “biennially,” replacing it with “regular intervals as established by the United Church of Christ Board.”
“It would take a long time to do anything about frequency if we don’t address it this time in the bylaws,” said Elizabeth Walker, chair of the board’s Governance Committee.
The frequency of General Synod was last debated in 2011, when delegates voted the proposal down. If this proposal is to pass, it needs approval from two-thirds of the delegates during General Synod 30 (June 26-30) to take effect.
The Rev. Geoffrey Black, UCC general minister and president, said that a working group he convened about a year ago is examining changes to General Synod. Those recommendations are not expected until 2017.
“We’ve had the experience with General Synod not deciding to make changes to the frequency,” Black said. “The working group we’ve assembled is likely to come forward with some changes to Synod.”
A $50,000 gift to the Southern Conference
One year ago, the UCC Board of Directors voted in favor of bringing the historic lawsuit that eventually overturned a same-sex marriage ban in the state of North Carolina. But that lawsuit created some internal strife within the Southern Conference of the UCC.
Conference Minister the Rev. Edward Davis updated the board about disagreement from congregations within the conference that did not support the lawsuit. This difference also negatively impacted the level of giving to the conference.
To help rectify that, the board voted to share $50,000 from the Executive Council Foundation Fund with the Southern Conference.
“The denomination understands the collateral consequences of the conference and is supportive of them, knowing they incurred some hardship as a result of it,” Davis said. “This is a bold gesture, a wonderful gesture. We’re grateful to the leadership of the church and their sensitivity [in the matter], that we walk together and share the pain of our brothers and sisters we are in covenant with.”
The board also asked for the formation of a task force to “address the differences in the theological, biblical, cultural and ethical spectrums across the wider church, and to find ways to live in covenant with each other.”
New Chair and Vice-Chair chosen
One of the final pieces of business at the board’s spring meeting was its selection of a new chair and vice-chair, since this was the final meeting before General Synod when new members will join the board.
Current vice-chair of the board Dale Bonds was voted by her colleagues to become the next chair, and Frank Bolden was selected as the incoming vice-chair of the board.
Bonds is a member of Central St. Matthew UCC in New Orleans and is retired from the IBM Corporation as a systems availability engineer. A Hurricane Katrina survivor, Bonds is the immediate past president of the board of directors of the UCC’s Back Bay Mission in Biloxi, Miss. She served as assistant moderator of General Synod 29.
Bolden, a member of Christ Church UCC in Summit, N.J., retired from the Johnson & Johnson Company, where he served as corporate secretary, associate general counsel and vice president for diversity. Prior to his work at Johnson & Johnson, Bolden practiced law privately. A former Army Airborne Ranger Infantry Officer, Bolden served as the chair of the board of trustees of the University of Vermont and on the board of trustees of the Atlantic Healthcare System.
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