By Conference Minister Diane Weible
A few weeks ago, I was asked to speak to the leaders of one of our churches who were gathering as new committees and boards for the first time this year. I spoke about how important it is to remember that ministry is in the word administration and that I believe administration creates the solid framework and foundation for ministry and mission to be carried out. If the structure is strong the ministry can thrive.
Authorization for Ministry in the United Church of Christ is one of those pieces of the framework that insures healthy ministry can happen. Accountability and Life Long Learning are two pieces of Authorization that we take seriously in this Conference. Professional organizations require continuing education and other certification to insure professionals are prepared for the work that is before them. The United Church of Christ is no different in expecting the same kind of professionalism in our ministers. Authorization is a privilege not a right.
Last year, a new Manual on Ministry came out that outlined a process to be followed if a minister is out of compliance on their requirements for standing. The first step in the process is to send a letter to the minister to explain what areas of compliance have not been met and offer options for getting into compliance. In this process, the minister is given six months from the time of notification to get into compliance or standing will be suspended. If the minister meets the requirements, standing is re-instated and does not have to be disclosed on future profiles. If the minister does not address the compliance issue within six additional months, standing is terminated.
All Authorized Ministers received a letter last October explaining this new process for standing compliance. The letter told each minister where they were with their requirements for Authorization so they would know exactly what area they needed to work on. At minimum, each minister was asked to complete their yearly information review to verify their contact information is up to date. An April 5 Boundary Training was announced in that letter and registration opened so ministers out of date on Boundary Training could commit to attending before their busy calendar got filled.
In February, we looked at the number of people registered for Boundary Training and compared it to the number of people our records show need to take boundary training and found that there are still more than 200 ministers who have not signed up for the Training or have otherwise indicated the intention for maintaining their standing. We sent out letters to each of these ministers because we don’t know if our records may be in error or if there is another story. Since the letter went out, we have been answering a lot of phone calls and emails but we still have a lot of ministers who have not reached out to us.
Why am I sharing all of this? None of us on Conference staff or Committee on Ministry want to suspend standing for any of our ministers. And, our Life Long Learning requirements are part of that framework that allow healthy ministry and healthy churches to thrive and to be equipped to engage in ministry that changes lives. If a minister is not in compliance with all their Life Long Learning requirements by April 7, there will be no other option but to suspend standing. Our churches deserve it. Our ministers deserve it. The United Church of Christ deserves it.
We will continue to reach out to ministers in any way we can to make sure they are encouraged to fulfill their requirements for standing and we invite you to help. Ask your pastor or the specialized and retired ministers in your church if they are up-to-date on their requirements. Find out how you can support them in their ministry. Does your church leadership engage in conversations about the importance of regular vacation and funds for continuing education or Communities of Practice? Life Long Learning requirements support the health of our ministers and congregations. And, our congregations support the health of our ministers. It’s a win-win situation that promises our churches will be equipped to engage in the life-changing ministry God calls us to.