December 2017

Dear colleagues,  

Leave of Absence is a formal category of standing for an Ordained Minister who is neither actively seeking nor engaged in professional ministry for a temporary season. Reasons for a minister to request Leave of Absence are diverse, and might include family leave to care for a new child, an aging parent, or a sick family member; study leave to begin an academic program; vocational discernment when an individual reassesses their professional paths; sick leave following a serious accident or health crisis, or other relevant reasons.

Leave of Absence is not a penalty for misconduct. It is not appropriate to use with a program of growth, which serves an entirely separate purpose related to a Fitness Review or other oversight process. Furthermore, Leave of Absence is distinct from and not related to a ministry setting’s decision to place a minister on administrative leave from employment for any reason.        

A minister requests a Leave of Absence in writing to the Committee on Ministry where they hold ministerial standing. In conversation with the Committee, expectations for the duration of the Leave of Absence are outlined, including:

  • the minister’s continued responsibility for (or temporary leave from) standing requirements such as boundary training, continuing education, or diversity/anti-racism training;
  • the minister’s ongoing relationship with their Local Church of membership;
  • the minister’s authorization (or not) to provide pulpit supply, preside over Sacraments, officiate at weddings and funerals, etc.;
  • the agreed-upon method for renewing Leave of Absence annually and for assessing when Leave of Absence comes to an end. 

A minister on a Leave of Absence meets annually with the Committee on Ministry for a period of up to five years. At the conclusion of the Leave of Absence, the minister may request in writing to the Committee that they to return to active ministerial standing in order to seek a call, or to resign standing without bias as a permanent departure from authorized ministry. As a form of ministerial standing, Leave of Absence may be transferred between Associations.   

Are there ministers in your association who are not currently serving in a ministry context, not seeking a call, and not retired? How can you open the conversation with them about exploring Leave of Absence? What further questions do you have about this form of standing?   

Other COM News:
UCC Scholarship Applications are now available online for a variety of individuals and groups. Ministry Education scholarships are available for Members in Discernment (some additional requirements may apply); Program Grants are designed for congregations and/or congregational leaders. Leadership Development Scholarships are intended for United Church of Christ undergraduate students, future seminary professors, African-American laywomen, and gifted persons with disabilities, among others. Global Ministry Scholarships support individuals within a United Church of Christ overseas partner church or international seminary. 

The MESA Team is dedicated to supporting your vital COM work through regular trainings offered online. On January 9 at 2:30-4:00pm ET, learn about MESA’s new Ministerial Assessment and Evaluation resources for clergy and congregations. On January 23 at 2:00 -4:00pm ET, Response Team members are especially encouraged to attend a Fitness Review Training that focuses on the work of the Response Team. Each training is hosted by a member of the MESA Team, with space on Zoom for up to 50 participants. No registration is required; click on the title of the training you want to attend at the time it is scheduled to start.  

Blessings and peace as Christmastide gives way to Epiphany this week, bringing more light and more revelation to our common life,

Elizabeth Dilley
Minister for Ministers in Local Churches
Ministerial Excellence, Support & Authorization (MESA) Team
Local Church Ministries, United Church of Christt

Categories: Column COMma

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