Our own Beth Walker serves on the Board of Directors of the national setting of the UCC. In fact, she’s the chair of the Board’s Governance Committee.
In that role, Beth has become a leader for the proposed by-laws changes that her committee has drafted for the Board of Directors.
As is always the case in the UCC, there are a lot of opinions. And passion. And politics. And change, particularly structural changes — actually a slow but constant process in our denomination, whether or not we admit it — always lead to some pretty pitched battles. Beth is right in the middle of all this now; keep her in our prayers.
Beth will be presenting these proposals at General Synod. And she’s already involved in discussions with leaders across the church. She is trying to set up times with the Synod delegations from the various Conferences to discuss the proposed by-laws changes.
One of our members here at Old First received a request to sign one of the Open Letters traveling around the whole denomination about these changes. (Michael has already seen two Open Letters!) Before signing or not, the member thought to ask Beth about what’s going on… before she decided where she stands, she wanted to hear from Beth.
Beth will talk about the proposed changes and the Boards’ reasoning for recommending them in an Adult Forum on Pentecost Sunday, May 24 at 10 a.m. She will also be able to share some of the concerns and objections that are being raised.
Beth and Michael invite everyone to come out and be informed. First, our denomination is important to us. But second, as Beth points out, one of the ways her local church can help her is to discuss these issues with her, as she has to discuss them with so many others!
1) Replacement of the current 4-member Collegium leadership structure with an “accountability system” wherein the President and General Minister is the executive leader answerable to the United Church of Christ Board (UCCB). In this proposed change, the other Called Officers in the national setting will come under the oversight of the President and General Minister.
This proposal would thereby eliminate exclusive designated positions for the Covenanted Ministers for Local Church Ministries, Justice and Witness Ministries and Wider Church Ministries. Instead, the President and General Minister, together with the UCCB, would be able to designate responsibilities for the Officer(s) of the Church, providing flexibility as to the number and responsibility of Officers, and further integration and coordination of the national setting.
2) Changing the language in the by-laws that indicates General Synods must be held “biennially,” replacing it with “regular intervals as established by the United Church of Christ Board” in preparation for changes that could be recommended by a task force currently studying the frequency and composition of General Synod. Changes in the timing of General Synods would effect the terms of service for leaders elected at them.
3) Changing the method by the Board can determine the draw rate from the endowment. Currently, the by-laws include restrictions on the Board’s ability to set a draw rate that impair its ablility to fulfill its role of planning and oversight of the covenanted ministries.