Synod closing gavel signals change in UCCB leadership

Moderator Penny Lowes signaled a change in UCCB leadership with GS 33’s closing gavel.

A transition in leadership for the United Church of Christ Board took place at the end of General Synod 33. The closing gavel ended the term of Board Chair Yvette Wynn and signaled the beginning two-year terms of new Board Chair Cameron Barr and Vice-Chair Julia Gaughan.

Barr and Gaughan were elected to their new offices during the May 28 meeting of the UCCB. Barr is senior pastor of the United Church of Chapel Hill, N.C. Gaughan is a member of Plymouth Congregational UCC in Lawrence, Kan.

“Serving as the chair of the United Church of Christ Board has truly been a joy,” Wynn said. “I can honestly say that I have not had a bad day, just some days with challenges that come with any leadership role. In those challenges, my consultative leadership style led me to seek out trusted opinions, prayerful God had something new for me in those voices. I am very proud of what God has accomplished through our UCCB ministry.”

COVID’s challenges

Retiring UCCB Chair Yvette Wynn

Many of the challenges the board faced in the last term involved the pivot to online ministry, meetings … and even General Synod … because of COVID-19.

“In February 2020, I remember a call with John Dorhauer about whether or not to proceed with an in-person March UCCB meeting. He was in a similar discernment about the staff and travel and ultimately, I made the decision to shift to Zoom,” Wynn said.

“Some of our larger decisions this biennium include proceeding with a virtual General Synod, which sounds like a no-brainer given COVID-19.” But as she pointed out, there was no provision for electronic meetings is the UCC Bylaws, which an amendment before Synod was designed to address.

“The pandemic increased our motivation to embrace adaptive changes in every setting of the church,” said Barr, elected to succeed Wynn after serving with her as vice-chair. “In the National Setting, the pandemic has led us to ask new questions about the necessity of travel, increased our comfort with remote work arrangements, and caused us to reassess how we reach decisions as a community.” 

New UCCB Vice-Chair Julia Gaughan

“The United Church of Christ, both through Synod and the UCCB, is learning alongside the rest of the world what it means to come back together,” Gaughan said. “As the body of Christ, we need to be examining this in the context of being the church. We’ve learned valuable lessons about accessibility and innovation. How can we continue to utilize our new tools and embrace options for in-person gathering and stay mindful that we are not post-pandemic?”

Racial equity work ahead

The new leadership team will also continue the work begun this biennium around racial equity and inclusion, climate change … and in the stewardship of resources involving the national setting.

“Our racial equity work with consultant partners Culture Brokers is just beginning and has already generated conversation and a call to action in other UCC settings,” Wynn said. “We are not the first to do this work and we can learn from the work already underway in other settings.”

New Chair of the UCCB, the Rev. Cameron Barr

“I think it’s clear that the 3 Great Loves initiative has actually set up our Join the Movement campaign for success,” Barr said,speaking of the racial justice initiative launched at General Synod. “Rev. Traci Blackmon, Dr. Velda Love and other leaders for racial justice have developed valuable resources for us in becoming an anti-racist church. So we hope that by showing our own commitment to this work we will also encourage churches and conferences to join us in prayer, self-examination and committed action that is necessary for transformational change.”

“We’ve long known in the UCC that our work for justice requires constant attention and intention,” said Gaughan, speaking about building on “the momentum from this past year to further, deepen, and broaden our justice work and commitment.”

Climate, budget and sustainability

“The Pacific Northwest is experiencing record high temperatures, and climate change impacts are being felt and seen around the world,” she said. “The interconnection between how we do church, how we engage in justice work, and how we steward creation demonstrates the need for us to work urgently and creatively.”

“During this biennium we’re likely to witness the sale of our Church House at 700 Prospect Avenue in Cleveland,” Barr said. “Although it is a sad experience to say goodbye to any building where we’ve experienced God’s presence, we believe a more nimble workspace would be an aid to our ministry and we have a stewardship responsibility to focus our resources on our mission. I like to think the UCCB is setting a good example for other institutions with this choice — we want to be more focused on our mission than on our buildings. 

“Along the way, we have our day-to-day responsibilities to honor and live into, following the example of Christ. I look forward to prayerfully and joyfully working with the UCCB, our officers and national setting staff, and the UCC throughout our various settings to do so.”

“The UCCB is the critical ministry partner of our General Minister and President, John Dorhauer, and our Associate General Ministers, Karen Georgia Thompson and Traci Blackmon,” Barr said. “Their leadership is moving us toward a more just, sustainable and missional future. In the next two years, our board is going to do all we can to support our officers and amplify the exceptional work of everyone who works in the national setting. We couldn’t be more proud of our national staff and the ministers God has called to lead our church.”

Parting thoughts

“There is so much that I am proud of this biennium and over the entirety of my board service,” Wynn said. “I’ve met and worked closely with amazing, gifted board members and feel blessed to find these ministry partners. In coming together to govern, know that we have healthy, productive discussions in reaching our decisions.

“Perhaps what I am most proud of is this board’s ability to make difficult decisions in a thoughtful, informed manner. I hope the bandwidth our work creates enables the UCC to continue being a voice for justice and extravagant welcome in the world.

“My parting words of wisdom for Cameron and Julia are to be good listeners, engage in activities that promote the healthy functioning of the board and trust God to lead the board’s work.”

Categories: United Church of Christ News

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