United Church of Christ

January 2019

How is Lay Ministerial Standing different than licensure? Can we continue to license or commission ministers since those forms of standing are still in the bylaws?

“There are instances when an Ordained Minister is not available to represent and serve the Church. In such circumstances and in the confidence of the priesthood of all believers, lay persons may be called to bring their gifts and graces to particular roles in which they represent the United Church of Christ and for which the United Church of Christ, through an Association, provides support and accountability in a formal ecclesial relationship of ministerial standing.” – 2018 Manual on Ministry, p. 67

Lay Ministerial Standing is a temporary, accountable covenantal relationship between the Association, the lay member, and a Local Church of the UCC. It is granted to a lay member of the UCC for a season in one ministry setting, with the expectation that the Association or Conference, the ministry setting, the Lay Minister, and the Committee on Ministry will engage in collaborative conversations about the best options to meet the ministry setting’s long-term needs for ordained ministerial leadership. Lay Ministerial Standing is renewed annually by the Committee on Ministry in order for the Lay Minister to continue their service in the same ministry setting. Persons with Lay Ministerial Standing are subject to the same oversight from the Committee on Ministry; they are not eligible to have their standing transferred, go on a Leave of Absence, or hold Exempt Standing.

Lay Ministerial Standing is limited to a single setting and for a recommended maximum of seven years. For those who feel called to subsequent ministry settings, and/or who are called to serve for a period longer than seven years, it is recommended that the individual with Lay Ministerial Standing seek to enter the Member in Discernment process with the Committee on Ministry. One may, but is not required to, hold Lay Ministerial Standing while engaged in the MID process. Once in the MID process, it may be possible to receive Lay Ministerial Standing when a specific ecclesiastical need arises.

Our denomination has a desire for consistent practices of authorization, so as the 2018 Manual on Ministry is implemented, moving to Lay Ministerial Standing will be important. Currently Licensed Ministers should be encouraged to discern whether ordination may best represent the needs of the church in this time, or if their authorized ministry to the church will cease at the close of this season of Licensure. For Commissioned Ministers, that standing may continue until the individual is no longer serving in the church-related ministry for which they were Commissioned.

Committees on Ministry are required to complete due diligence of candidates before granting Lay Ministerial Standing, including an interview with the COM, a Criminal Background Check, and a Psychological Assessment. The full text related to Lay Ministerial Standing is located in Section 2, Article 4 of the 2018 Manual on Ministry.

Any Constitution and Bylaw changes related to the 2018 Manual on Ministry are expected to be brought forth at the 2021 General Synod. Please be assure that there is nothing inconsistent with the new 2018 MOM and the current Constitution and Bylaws which provides for multiple forms of ministerial standing as determined by the Church. It is perfectly fine for Conferences and Associations to begin utilizing the new MOM even if they are not practicing 100% of the recommendations – what is asked is that each MOM is consistent with all MIDs and clergy with any processes they do adopt or maintain..

Questions for consideration:
What work of education do you as a COM need to do with yourselves and within the Association to educate about Lay Ministerial Standing?
How many currently Licensed Ministers have standing in your Association? How many Commissioned Ministers have standing in your Association?


Other COM News:
The MESA Team is dedicated to supporting your vital COM work through regular trainings offered online. Please check this site regularly for updates. MESA will host a number of sessions introducing the new Manual on Ministry to the Church in 2019. This year, we are requiring advance registration, so click the link at least one hour in advance of the training (but as early as desired).

  • January 23, 2:00 – 3:30 pm ET “Welcoming Ecumenical Ministers” with Holly MillerShank. Come to learn about the variety of denominational agreements across the United Church of Christ and how they impact the UCC Search and Call process. We’ll share information about the differences between Ordained Ministerial Partner Standing, Dual Standing and Privilege of Call; in other words, receiving temporary or permanent UCC standing for clergy ordained by other denominations.
  • January 31, 7:00 – 8:30 pm ET “Conversations on Diversity in Search and Call” with Malcolm Himschoot. A series of videos for search committees was newly released at AM21! Preview the videos in advance of this Zoom and come prepared to discuss in conversation how to use these short films with search committees – stretching beyond bias to practice discernment.
  • February 13, 2:00 – 4:00 pm ET “Fitness Review and Response Team Training” with Elizabeth Dilley. This training provides an overview of the Fitness Review Process, with an emphasis on the role of the Response Team.
  • February 26, 7:00 – 8:30 pm ET “Pastoral Relations Committees” with Stephen Boyd. This webinar focuses on the purposes and benefits of a Pastoral Relations Committee, addressing concepts like fostering healthy communication, appropriate and inappropriate roles of a Pastoral Relations Committees, and practical aspects such as setting up and maintaining a healthy committee.

We share with mixed emotions the announcement that after eight years as MESA Team Leader, the Rev. Holly MillerShank has accepted a new call as Interim Pastor at Olmsted Community Church in Ohio. Her last day with the national setting will be February 8, 2019. We have deep gratitude for her faithful and visionary leadership, and give thanks for the ministry she has shared so generously.

With gratitude,
The MESA Team


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