Located within Associations (and Conferences acting as Associations), Committees on Ministry embody the crux of the United Church of Christ's covenantal relationships. At their best, the committees invite and facilitate critical participation of authorized ministers, calling bodies, Members in Discernment, lay leaders, Associations and Conferences in that covenant in order to foster the relationships needed for healthy and effective ministries. Promoting and clarifying the Committee on Ministry role to local congregations can benefit those covenantal relationships; sample brochures from York Association (Maine Conference) and Western Association (New York Conference) can be adapted by COMs for this purpose.
2020 Online Trainings for Committees on Ministry
The following online trainings are available throughout 2020 for members of Committees on Ministry and authorized ministers. Each training is hosted by MESA via the Zoom platform, with a maximum of 50 participants per training. Registration is required: attendees click on the appropriate Zoom link to register at least an hour in advance (but as soon as the training is posted). Questions about a particular training can be directed to the listed MESA Team member.
November 18, 7:00 – 8:30pm ET
Pastoral Relations Committees with Rev. Tara Barber and Rev. Stephen Boyd Pastoral Relations Committees provide essential leadership in the life of a congregation. This workshop explores what the purpose of a PPR Committee is and is not. We’ll be talking through a newly developed PRC covenant to help name the priorities and commitments of a well-functioning PRC. Stephen and Tara will share best practices from around the church and be prepared to answer your questions.
For orientation to Committee on Ministry work:
Members of Committees on Ministry can explore their vocation and the basics of their work using the Committee on Ministry Toolkit, a comprehensive and interactive resource designed to aid in the training of Committees on Ministry. The COM Toolkit includes orientation resources for new committee members, case studies, guidelines for ministerial oversight, scholarship and education programs for Members in Discernment, and a breadth of forms needed for Committee on Ministry Work.
The foundational Manual on Ministry is available online, as is a compilation of UCC polity resources. Both the COM Toolkit and the Manual on Ministry are useful webpages for Committee on Ministry members to bookmark.
Also useful to Committees on Ministry is the discernment resource, Marks of Faithful and Effective Authorized Ministers, developed from the 2005 Pronouncement on Ministry Issues. In particular, Committees on Ministry might use the Marks Assessment Rubric and Journaling the Journey for concrete application of the Marks in conversation with Members in Discernment and authorized ministers.
For an overview of the diversity of Committee on Ministry structures and procedures across the United Church of Christ, committees are encouraged to read and reflect upon the Committee on Ministry Research Report (conducted 2014).
For work with those seeking ministerial standing:
Access to the Ministerial Profiles Portal [PDF]
Access to the UCC Ministerial Profiles Portal depends upon a person’s ecclesial status (Member in Discernment, Privilege of Call, Ordained Ministerial Partner), ministerial authorization (Licensed, Commissioned, Ordained), and ministerial standing (e.g. leave of absence, retirement, termination). Please review the PDF to understand how the actions of Committees on Ministry correspond to individuals' access to the Profiles Portal.
“Discerning a Call to Ministry in the United Church of Christ
An overview of the process of discernment and the roles of each partner covenanting in this stage of preparation for authorized ministry in the United Church of Christ can be found at this link: Discerning a Call to Authorized Ministry Other resources can be found in the Manual on Ministry Section 3 Resources for Section 2, Article 1, “Members in Discernment".
Regional Theological Education Programs
There are a variety of UCC-sponsored and other regional education programs available locally. Some of their offerings may be appropriate for part of the preparation for authorized ministry; other RTEP offerings may be used for continuing education of authorized persons. Contact your local Association and/or Conference for additional information about RTEP opportunities. Regional offerings of UCC History and Polity Courses are curated online by the UCC History and Polity Teachers Network in conjunction with MESA.
Dual Standing and Privilege of Call [PDF]
This document clarifies the distinction between "dual standing" and "privilege of call" within the United Church of Christ for those ordained in denominations other than the UCC.
Formula of Agreement/Orderly Exchange (FOA) [PDF]
Significant understandings have been developed between the UCC, Presbyterian Church (USA), Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and Reformed Church in America, whereby we recognize and honor each other's faith, practice and ministries. The Formula of Agreement for the Orderly Exchange of Ordained Ministers allows ministers of one denomination to be invited to consider serving a congregation in one of the other denominations. Such invitations are extended by judicatory staff, thus allowing ministers in one denomination to serve congregations in another denomination. More information can be found in Manual on Ministry Section 3 Resources for Section Article 2: Ecumenically Ordained Ministers or by contacting Conference or association staff.
Formula of Agreement/Orderly Exchange (FOA) and Ordained Ministerial Partner Standing (OMPS) [PDF]
There are distinct differences between the Formula of Agreement and the Ordained Ministerial Partner Standing agreements. The Formula of Agreement for the Orderly Exchange of Ordained Ministers, an agreement among the United Church of Christ, Presbyterian Church USA, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and Reformed Church in America, provides the opportunity for the minister of one denomination to be invited to consider serving a church in one of the other denominations. The Ordained Ministerial Partner Standing, an agreement among the United Church of Christ, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and the United Church of Canada, provides the opportunity for ministers in each denomination to search for a position in the other communions. The document, Formula of Agreement/Orderly Exchange (FOA) and Ordained Ministerial Partner Standing (OMPS) [PDF] outlines the processes to be followed for the FOA/Orderly Exchange and OMPS. A simplified flow chart may be found in the document Ecumenically Ordained Flow Chart . More information can be found in Manual on Ministry Section 3 Resources for Section Article 2: Ecumenically Ordained Ministers or by contacting Conference or association staff.
For work with authorized ministers:
Information Review Form for UCC Ministers [PDF]
The regular information review between authorized ministers and Committees on Ministry is a basic tool for attending mutually to the covenantal relationship.
Leave of Absence
Leave of Absence is a good and unbiased standing in the UCC for those authorized ministers who are neither active nor retired. This flowchart, Leave of Absence [PDF], can help Committees on Ministry discern when to grant Leave of Absence. Other resources Committees on Ministry may find useful are a Sample Covenant for Leave of Absence and an Application for Leave of Absence found in the Manual on Ministry Section 3 Resources for Section 2 Article 3: Ordained Ministerial Standing.
“Three- and Four-Way Covenants
Relationships among a Local Church, an Association, the person who holds a form of United Church of Christ ministerial standing, and the ministry setting beyond the Local Church (if applicable) are made explicit with a Three- or Four-Way Covenant. United Church of Christ Ministers serving a United Church of Christ Local Church work within a three-way covenant, while those who serve a setting beyond a Local Church are work within a four-way (or more) covenant. Four-way covenants are written uniquely according to the setting of ministry and in conversation between the minister, Association, Local Church and place of ministry/employment, as a matter of both support and standing. These covenants reflect that all authorized ministers in the United Church of Christ need to be active and participating members of a Local Church of the United Church of Christ and that calling bodies have the responsibility to the ecclesiastical system when they employ an ordained minister. Sample Three-Way Covenant and Four-Way Covenants and other resources can be found in Manual on Ministry, Section Resources for Section 2, Article 5: Calls, Covenants, and Endorsements.”
Government and Professional Endorsement
Ecclesiastical endorsement is verification by the denomination, to a government or professional organization, of an authorized minister's good standing, experience and maturity. Not all employers require ecclesiastical endorsement. Sample endorsement letters and application forms are included on the Ecclesiastical Endorsement page.
"Support for a Fitness Review
Digital or in-person training for COMs, Conference Staff, or Association Response Teams regarding the Fitness Review process is available from the MESA team. The training offers an introduction to the principles, priorities and processes of a Fitness Review. To schedule a training, contact MESA team leader Rev. Elizabeth Dilley. More resources, including a Resource for the Response Team, can be found in the Manual on Ministry Section 3 Resources for Section 2 Article 6: Accountability and Support.”
Boundary Awareness Training
Committees on Ministry and Associations/Conferences often cooperate in planning boundary awareness training for authorized ministers. Please review these Marks of Faithful and Effective Boundary Awareness Trainers when planning such events; these guidelines have been developed by the Ministerial Excellence, Support & Authorization (MESA) Team.
“Guidelines for Authorized Ministers
All Authorized Ministers in the United Church of Christ are held in covenant to the UCC Ministerial Code. More information and discussion of the ethical expectations and accountability guidelines for Authorized Ministers in the United Church of Christ can be found in A Sure Foundation: Resources for the Relationship Between Pastors and Congregations, which includes best practices for social media boundaries, ethical departures, annual reviews/assessment of ministry, Pastoral Relations Committees, sabbatical leave, as well as ethical codes for pastors and congregations.”
For work with congregations:
Resources for Local Church Leaders
Including committee guidelines, liturgies and study guides, the Leaders Box, and more
Manual on Church: Perspectives and Procedures for Association and Local Church Covenantal Partners [PDF]
This resource explores the covenantal relationships between local congregations and Associations (or Conferences acting as Associations). It is to be used by and with Committees on the Ministry, Association and Conference staff, and local church leaders to foster dialogue and increased understanding of what it means to "walk together in all God's ways" as expressions of the church.
“Ministry During the Interim Time
A Guide for Interim Ministers and other resources, including a Guide for Congregations during the interim time and the Call Agreement Workbook can be found at https://www.ucc.org/ministers_search-and-call.”
Considering a New Church Covenant in the United Church of Christ [PDF]
This booklet describes a process of mutual exploration which will help a non-affiliated church explore the United Church of Christ along with a UCC Association. The goal of the exploration process is to decide whether to enter into a formal covenanted relationship.
Congregations Sharing Ministry
Two primary documents are available for congregations considering sharing programming, staff, space and/or merged ministry. GEMS (God's Ecumenical Ministry Shared) is for churches of different denominations considering shared ministry. Getting Together: Models and Processes for Local Church Cooperation describes five different models to consider (Yoked, Cluster, Federated, Union and Consolidated) and some considerations for collaborating.
When a Church Leaves the Denomination [PDF]
A 2004 address by Barnet M. McKee to the Council of Conference Ministers.
"The gifts Christ gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ." - Ephesians 4:11-12
An increasing number of Members in Discernment and clergy feel called to serve in specialized ministries: from spiritual direction to campus ministry, from hospice chaplaincy to pastoral counseling, from intentional interim ministry to CPE supervision, and many more. Explore further information about Specialized Ministry in Professional Organizations and Specialized Ministry in Government Organizations.
Within the broad range and varied titles of specialized ministries, "chaplaincy" denotes institutional ministry—ministry on behalf of the church but outside a traditional church setting—in places like hospitals, prisons, and the military services. Chaplains especially must demonstrate the ability to work well independently and to function in religiously and culturally pluralistic environments.
While the United Church of Christ affirms multiple paths to authorized ministry, it should be noted that organizations employing chaplains and specialized ministers often require a Master of Divinity degree from an accredited seminary, credits in Clinical Pastoral Education, and special training; they also may have requirements for age and physical condition.
Many (but not all) specialized ministry settings ask for Ecclesiastical Endorsement by a minister's denomination. There is a distinction between "standing" as an authorized minister within the United Church of Christ and "eccleciastical endorsement" by the United Church of Christ. The granting of ministerial standing (ordination, commissioning or licensure) means that a person is deemed sufficiently prepared and equipped for ministry in and on behalf of the United Church of Christ. Ecclesiastical endorsement is verification by the denomination that an authorized minister is in good standing, has gained the necessary qualifying experience, is willing and capable of working collegially in a religiously and culturally plurastic setting without prejudice, understands that they are not to evangelize in a specialized ministry setting, and has the maturity to represent the United Church of Christ to the calling institution. Collected here are requirements and forms for Ecclesiastical Endorsement in both professional and government organizations; please note that not all employers require ecclesiastical endorsement.
Special Message: More UCC Chaplains Needed
The United Church of Christ currently has 46 clergy serving as chaplains in the military services. A generation ago, we had three times that many. The decrease can be attributed to a number of factors, including the denomination’s stance as a Just Peace church, fewer seminarians and clergy who can meet the age and physical requirements and, in the past, the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
Other mainline Protestant denominations have experienced a similar decline in the number of chaplains provided to the military and other government agencies. This has led to a void that more conservative denominations have been ready and able to fill. This influence has not been benign. Women, gays and lesbians, persons from liberal or non-Christian backgrounds, and others have been negatively affected. And our national interests have also been jeopardized.
Recently there has been renewed interest in chaplaincy by UCC clergy and seminarians. If you or someone you know may be willing to consider a call to chaplaincy, please get in touch with the Minister for Chaplains and Specialized Ministers. For the good of service members and their families and for the good of our country, we need to ensure that our chaplains will continue to be there to serve them.
Witness for Justice (WFJ) is a weekly editorial opinion column for public distribution which identifies timely or urgent justice issues. WFJ is a theologically based perspective founded on historic commitment to justice and peace of the United Church of Christ.