GS UCC Bylaws Amendments
TO: United Church of Christ Settings
FROM: Rev. Cameron Barr, Chair, United Church of Christ Board
Rev. Marsha Williams, Chair, Governance Committee
Rev. John Dorhauer, General Minister & President
RE: UCC Bylaws Amendments for Three-Year General Synod Term
The purpose of this memorandum is to answer some common questions about the proposed
amendments to the United Church of Christ Bylaws (“Bylaws”), which will move the General
Synod from a two-year term to a three-year term.
The proposed amendments are in UCCB-22-10-GOV-08, Proposed Amendments to UCC Bylaws, which the United Church of Christ Board (“UCCB”) approved on October 21, 2022. The Governance Committee provided a memo to the UCCB explaining the amendments, UCCB22-10-GOV-09, Proposed UCC Bylaws Amendments. All line number references in this document are to UCCB-22-10-GOV-08.
1. Why is the UCCB proposing Bylaws amendments?
Currently the Bylaws require the General Synod to meet every two years. The UCCB is proposing amendments that would require the General Synod to meet every three years instead of every two years. The Task Force on General Synod Frequency, Form, and Function recommended the change in General Synod frequency in its report to the UCCB, UCCB-22-07-ExCom-03. UC News reported UCCB’s decision here.
2. Is the UCCB proposing any Bylaws amendments that do not relate to a change in
the term of the General Synod?
The only unrelated amendment is the correction of a typographical error, found in line 645.
3. When would the amendments be effective?
The amendments would be effective at the close of the General Synod meeting in 2023. But note that the amendments provide the first three-year General Synod term will be between 2025 and 2028.
4. What other changes are necessary to transition to a three-year General Synod term?
Several United Church of Christ offices have terms that are tied to the term of the General Synod. These include: United Church of Christ Officers, United Church of Christ Board, General Synod Nominating Committee, General Synod delegates from Conferences and Historically Underrepresented Groups (“HUGs”), and a few other related organizations. We discuss these changes separately below.
5. My setting has offices and terms that are tied to a biennial General Synod, but do not appear in the Bylaws. What should we do?
Your setting is free to amend its bylaws according to the procedures outlined in those bylaws, hold special elections, and provide for transitional terms as necessary to meet the requirements of its governing instruments and any applicable laws.
Questions About United Church of Christ Officer Terms
6. Who is a United Church of Christ Officer and how long do they serve?
The Officers are the General Minister and President and the Associate General Ministers. (Art. III, para. 214, lines 709-712.) Officers currently serve a term of two General Synods, or four years. They can be re-elected twice, for three possible terms of a total of 12 years. (Art. III, para. 216, lines 719-725.)
7. Will Officers continue to have the possibility of serving three terms?
No. If the amendments are adopted, Officers will have the possibility of serving only two Officer terms. (Line 725.) If Officers could be re-elected twice under a three-year General Synod term, they would have the possibility of serving up to 18 years, which was determined by the UCCB to be too long for an Officer to serve. The proposed change is for an Officer to have the possibility of being re-elected once, limiting their service to a possible 12 years.
8. How will current Officers be affected by this change?
It depends on when the Officer was elected and whether they seek re-election. The Officer
initially elected in 2017 (Associate General Minister Traci Blackmon) will have the possibility of serving up to 11 years. The Officer initially elected in 2019 (Associate General Minister Karen Georgia Thompson) will have the possibility of serving up to 12 years. The Officer elected initially in 2023 (the new General Minister & President) will have the possibility of serving up to 11 years. Officers elected in 2025 and subsequently will have the possibility of serving 12 years. A chart of transitional terms for Officers is part of the Bylaws amendments, as Appendix A. (Line 1760.) Moving to a three-year General Synod does require some transition years, where 3 some offices may have slightly shorter or slightly longer terms to accommodate the change. This is expected anytime there is a change of this magnitude. Efforts were made to align the transitional terms as closely as possible to original expectations. No Officer is guaranteed to be re-elected, and any Officer may resign at any time. The Bylaws amendments have contemplated those possibilities.
Questions About United Church of Christ Board Terms
9. How long do UCCB members currently serve?
UCCB at-large members currently serve one UCCB term, which is three General Synod terms, or six years. After their term is complete, they must wait at least one General Synod term to seek re-election. (Art. III, para. 229, line 892.)
10. How long will UCCB members serve under the Bylaws amendments?
If the amendments are adopted, UCCB members will continue to serve one UCCB term of three
General Synod terms, or nine years. (Lines 892-895.) After completing their term, they still must wait at least one General Synod term to seek re-election. (Lines 897-899.) Appointed UCCB members are not elected by the General Synod and their terms are not affected, except for Conference Ministers appointed by the CCM. These members will serve up to two General Synod terms of three years each, instead of two years each. (Lines 924-926.)
11. Nine years is a long time. Were alternatives considered to keep the UCCB term
Yes. A proposal that would have kept the UCCB term to six years by making it one term of two General Synods was seriously considered. You can review that proposal on the Governance Committee’s memo to the UCCB on the proposed bylaws changes, at Section I.B. That proposal had the advantage of a shorter term, but had disadvantages, including changing the number of classes of members of the UCCB. Right now, there are three UCCB classes—one third of the atlarge members rotate off each General Synod. This allows for leadership development and continuity on the UCCB, with members taking on successive roles of greater responsibility. For example, during a UCCB member’s first two years, they may be a committee member; the second two years, they may be a committee vice-chair; and during the last two years, they may be a committee chair. Changing to a UCCB term of two General Synods means that every General Synod, one-half of the board would rotate off, making it more difficult to develop a leadership structure. Also, the General Synod Nominating Committee would be charged with nominating 18 new UCCB members every three years instead of 12 new members. The Governance Committee, with the affirmation of the UCCB, settled on the nine-year term with the knowledge that if proves to be unworkable, it can be modified by a future meeting of General Synod.
12. What happens if a UCCB member can’t serve the full nine years?
Even with the current term of six years, sometimes a member cannot serve the full UCCB term. The Bylaws already provide a mechanism for electing a new member to an unexpired term, and that provision will continue to apply. (Art. III, para. 236, lines 992-995.)
13. How will current UCCB members’ terms be affected?
It depends on when they were elected. The current class of 2027 (elected in 2021, with a term currently expiring in 2027) will become the class of 2028 if the amendments are adopted, serving a seven-year term instead of a six-year term. The class of 2031 (elected in 2023, with a term expiring in 2031) will serve an eight-year term. These transitional terms allow for the change from a two-year General Synod term to a three-year General Synod term while keeping the UCCB fully constituted. A chart of transitional terms is provided in the Appendix. (Line 1737.)
14. What if some members of the class of 2027 don’t want to serve an extra year?
There is always the possibility that a UCCB member may resign. The Bylaws already provide a
mechanism for electing a new member to an unexpired term, and that provision will continue to
apply. (Art. III, para. 236, lines 992-995.) The transition to a three-year General Synod term
must include transitional terms to be effective.
Questions about the General Synod Nominating Committee
The term of the General Synod Nominating Committee (Art. III, para. 206, lines 610-664) is being treated the same way as the term of the UCCB, so the questions asked above will also apply to the GSNC. A chart of transitional terms is provided in the Appendix. (Line 1749.)
Questions about General Synod Delegates from Conferences and HUGs
15. How long do General Synod Delegates from Conferences and HUGs currently
They currently serve two General Synod terms, or four years, meaning they are asked to be present at two regular meetings of the General Synod and to be available for any special meetings that may take place during their term. They may not be re-elected until a full General Synod term has passed. (Art. III, para. 196 and 198, lines 528-545 and 553-569.)
16. How long will these Delegates serve under the Bylaws amendments?
The UCCB proposes that Conference and HUGs delegates serve one General Synod term, or three years, meaning they will be asked to be present at one regular meeting of the General Synod and to be available for any special meetings that may take place during their term. (Lines 530-534 and 561-563.)
These delegates may be re-elected once, to serve two consecutive General Synod terms. After serving two full terms, they must wait until a full General Synod term has passed before reelection. (Lines 539-539 and 564-565.)
17. Why are the Conference and HUGs delegates’ terms being shortened?
The Governance Committee was informed that it is difficult to find delegates able to commit to serving two General Synod terms, and that new delegates frequently had be elected to replace resigning delegates. This change was made to provide both opportunity and flexibility under these circumstances.
18. How will Conferences and HUGs implement the amendments?
Rather than be overly prescriptive for these organizations, the amendments provide that Conferences and HUGs may extend terms or hold special elections as necessary to bring their organizations into compliance with the Bylaws.
Questions About Other Organizations
19. Which other UCC settings in the Bylaws are affected?
The Bylaws amendments specifically affect United Church Funds (line 282), Historical Council (line 1574), and the Council for Theological Education. For these settings, amendments are proposed that eliminate references to a two-year General Synod term (line 1540). They will determine the specific actions that their governing bodies need to take to comply with the Bylaws.