‘No greater evangelist than you’: Nominees needed for General Synod moderators, UCC Board
At a hearing Friday, July 1 for the United Church of Christ’s General Synod nominating committee, committee chair the Rev. June Boutwell made a bold challenge to her audience to help identify nominees: “There is no greater evangelist than you.”
She was answering the question, “How can we help you?” asked by Lacey Nalla, a delegate from Immanuel UCC in Catonsville, Md. According to Boutwell, who is also the interim minister for Camp Adams of the Central Pacific Conference, the hearing normally is a dull event that hardly anyone attends, but this hearing had a spirited and engaging discussion.
It started on Friday afternoon in the opening plenary session of General Synod 34 when Boutwell gave a passionate report from the nominating committee that highlighted the struggle the committee undertook to find and vet this year’s slate of nominees to serve as UCC Board members and Synod moderator and assistant moderator.
She also expressed her disappointment that this year’s slate is out of compliance with the UCC Bylaws, as they require one clergyperson and one layperson to fill the roles.
This passionate report brought a much larger than normal turnout to the hearing. Seventeen individuals gathered with five members of the committee to explore and learn more about this out-of-compliance report.
The Rev. Julia Bertalan, pastor of Packanack Community Church in Wayne, N.J., asked Boutwell, what is the best way to learn about the process and the issues with nominations.
Boutwell explained that the call for nominations goes out in November when congregations are busy with their Advent and Christmas planning, with a deadline for submission in March, which is in the middle of the busy Lenten season.
She noted that the application process is “cumbersome,” with seven pages of questions and multiple references required, but she argued that level of detail is critical for finding the best candidates to carry out the important work of the UCC Board.
She suggested that the nominating committee needs to make “significant language changes to empower people to understand the process.” She highlighted that this year’s slate is out of compliance because it has no nominees under the age of 30 and continues a worrisome decline in lay nominations. She argued that “all voices are important” and that the committee is “dedicated to the values of our Bylaws.”
Word of mouth needed
Boutwell doesn’t believe that changing the Bylaws is the answer; rather, she believes that the right questions need to be asked, that people need to be “willing to be considered” and that the entire UCC needs to be “building up the next generation of lay leaders.”
She challenged everyone to “talk, talk, talk” because word of mouth is the greatest recruitment tool.
Before the hearing ended, participants offered a variety of suggestions and insights especially for historically underrepresented groups.
Paulani Muraki — a Board member whose service ends at the conclusion of this Synod and who is from Kona Lanakila Congregational Church in Kealakekua, Hawai’i — shared that she feels it is now her responsibility to “help people to fill the nominating paperwork out.”
There was a strong consensus that everyone needs to be an evangelist for the nominating process.
The Rev. Jonathan Roach, a General Synod newsroom volunteer, currently serves as the Associate Conference Minister for the Hawai’i Conference. He lives in Kea’au, Hawai’i.
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