It happens nearly every month: someone contacts the national setting, either with a question about something related to ministerial authorization or sharing their frustration or displeasure at a decision of a Committee on Ministry or a Conference/Association, and asking the national setting to “do something.” It might be that their COM terminated the standing of a pastor they love and respect, or that the COM chose not to do a fitness review in response to concerns that had been brought to them, or they are unhappy with missional choices of a local congregation, Association, or Conference. Very often, people contact the national setting asking “How do I become a minister in your denomination?” Occasionally, someone is simply upset with the leadership of their local congregation (including their pastor).
While these situations sometimes stir the hearts of national staff, the role of the national setting is NOT to overrule decisions by local or regional bodies. The MESA Team, like all national staff, have a clear role: to empower and equip other settings of the Church (typically Committees on Ministry, Associations, and Conferences) to fulfill their mission. The particular role of the national setting is to provide consistent structures, resources (such as the Manual on Ministry) and trainings which power our collective faithfulness and effectiveness as a denomination. Authorization and oversight of ministers is held by Associations or Conferences acting as Associations, and those decisions are best and properly made in those settings. The national setting does not have the power to overrule decisions made in those contexts.
In our polity, the only decision that can be “appealed” to another body is a fitness review. Even then, the appeal is usually made to the Association (or Conference) executive committee and is narrowly focused on whether a Committee on Ministry faithfully followed the Manual on Ministry and their own additional processes (if such additional processes exist).
When the national setting is contacted by people who are frustrated or angry at decisions that have been made, we listen with compassion and care. Then, reiterating our processes and polity, we refer these individuals back to Conferences and Associations, where we fully trust that our COMs are empowered and equipped to do their work with faith and integrity.
When a Committee on Ministry seeks to gain more training on a particular matter, or if a situation arises that requires a special consultation, the MESA Team is ready and eager to offer such education and support. This training may happen in person, but it can also happen using digital gathering spaces (such as Zoom) or via conference call. (Check below for a list of upcoming trainings hosted by MESA.)
What support does your COM need from the national setting as you do your work faithfully and effectively? How do you handle conflict as a Committee representing the entire United Church of Christ? How do you respond to disappointment or anger in response to your decisions?
Other COM News:
The MESA Team is excited to welcome the Rev. Dr. Renee Jackson and the Rev. Dr. Tony Clark as, respectively, the Minister for Ministerial Formation and the Minister for Committee on Ministry Development and Leadership. They have begun their work with MESA in the past few weeks. Renee Jackson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and Tony Clark may be reached at email@example.com.
Manual on Ministry: The content work on the new Manual on Ministry is complete. The digital version of the MOM will go live in the next few weeks, with presales for print copies being received at the same time. MESA anticipates that print order will be mailed and delivered in mid-November. The digital version of Sections 1 and 2 of the new MOM, along with links to Section 3 Resources, will be available here. Section 3 materials will only be available online, and they will continue to grow and build over time.
The MESA Team is dedicated to supporting your vital COM work through regular trainings offered online. Please check this site regularly for updates – in November, MESA will host a number of sessions introducing the new Manual on Ministry to the Church.
- On October 23 from 7:00 – 8:30pm ET, best practices for Departure Ethics will be shared.
- On October 30 from 7:00 – 8:30pm ET, learn about the process of Ecclesiastical Councils.
- On November 7th from 2:00 – 3:30pm ET, explore best practices for Retirement.
- On November 15th from 7:00 – 9:00pm ET, there will be a training for members of Response Teams for Fitness Reviews.
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 gratitude,
The Ministerial Excellence, Support and Authorization Team
Local Church Ministries, United Church of Christ