Delegates to the SWC Annual Meeting will be asked to consider ratification of changes to the UCC Constitution. The Executive Board voted not to ratify the changes and is recommending that delegates also vote not to ratify the changes. Writing for the Executive Board, secretary Karen Richter explains the Executive Board's rationale.
Per the motion of the board, our Nay recommendation is warranted due to 3 factors:
- The package of 3 different sections of amendments (clarity and inclusion language in the ministerial authorization section, full communion with UC-Canada, and governance changes) were sent to conferences with a single up-or-down vote required even though they were approved separately at GS17.
- Transparency and communication around the documents, their purpose, and their enactment in advance of ratification are all problematic.
- The changes may represent a decreased commitment to Local Church (in that, under the proposed changes, there is no longer a requirement for the national setting to have an executive minister for Local Church Ministries).
These are all good reasons, but my primary reason is that hierarchical governance is not our polity. Democratic polity is evident at each setting of the UCC. At the microcosm, that means that a person is not ordained until some part of the church affirms their call. It's clumsy and frustrating. At the macro level, our polity means that a single person does not have authority. Decisions are always worked out in community. It's clumsy and frustrating! But it is who we are. John Dorhauer taught me this. I have developed a passion for the UCC, as a truly democratic institution, with every setting of the church talking with and to every other setting, from a lay member in a pew to the GMP.
When times are tough (and there's no denying that it's a difficult time to be the church), it's tempting to resort to "cut to the chase" "fish or cut bait" "the buck stops here" or some other leadership figure of speech. In challenging situations, we want to lean on strong, decisive leaders. Indeed, some of those from our own SWC delegation to General Synod who voted to approve these changes referenced their comfort and familiarity with corporate/business structures. It's the kind of leadership we expect... the kind of leadership that our culture teaches us is right. But the church is called to be something different. We are called to mutuality, to covenant, to community - not to hierarchy. We are not a business, and our leadership and decision-making structures need to reflect our identity and our core values.
The Executive Board is also asking this year's annual meeting delegates to approve a prudential resolution to the General Synod asking that Article V of the UCC Constitution be revised. It seemed contradictory to ask delegates to ratify a Constitution that the board is already suggesting needs changed.
Please be in prayerful discernment regarding these recommendations. May the Church, and particularly local congregations, be strengthened by our decisions at our annual meeting.