Ministerial excellence is a presumption in the United Church of Christ. Individuals authorized for professional ministry in this denomination are held to professional standards as outlined in section 3 of the Manual on Ministry, called the UCC Ministerial Code. Because we understand ourselves in the United Church of Christ called to be a safe place where we can be in right relationship with God and our neighbor in a spirit of love, we do not tolerate actions which violate the sacred trust between a ministerial leader and another member of the church.
While attention often is drawn to sexual misconduct, it is important to note that there are many other types of ministerial misconduct that are equally unacceptable for professional leaders. This includes manipulation, breaking confidence when it is unnecessary to do so, utilizing one’s position for personal gain, demonstrating partiality, and many other actions that are unbecoming of an Authorized Minister.
If you wish to make a formal complaint regarding ministerial conduct, it must be in writing to the attention of Conference Minister the Rev. Davena Jones (Click Here to Email or 1-510-359-7208). Either the Conference Minister or the ACMs may receive the complaint. The complaint must include:
- The name of the person raising a concern regarding a minister’s fitness for ministry.
- The name of the Authorized Minister in question.
- An adequate description of the observed or experienced misconduct, including date(s) and location(s) as possible.
Once received, the Conference Minister will forward the complaint to Section E of the Committee on Ministry which is tasked with investigating these questions and potentially convening a Fitness Review, a formal process of ministerial accountability in this Church. You may review the Manual on Ministry’s discussion of ministerial support and accountability processes to learn more about what the Committee will consider in its initial review.
If you are unsure misconduct is happening or has taken place, and you wish to discuss the situation, you may reach out to our Associate Conference Minister, Rev. Dr. Celestine Fields | Click Here to Email | 1-925-644-1484
Ecclesial processes are not civil or criminal processes. The United Church of Christ in all of its settings cooperates with civil authorities where ministerial misconduct is also a civil or criminal matter. Its processes, however, are separate and distinct. In addition to reporting suspected misconduct to the Conference, if an individual is aware of criminal misconduct by an Authorized Minister, they should contact the appropriate law enforcement agency immediately. This is important in each instance, but especially important when considering activities that violate the personhood of minor children, vulnerable adults, or senior citizens.
The Northern California Nevada Conference may or may not be the final adjudicating body eligible to investigate misconduct. In order for our Committee on Ministry to have authority, the following must be true:
- The minister in question holds Ministerial Standing in this Conference
- The minister in question continues to hold Ministerial Standing in this Conference through the entire accountability process
If a minister does hold Standing in another Association or Conference of the United Church of Christ, or holds an authorization with another denominational partner beyond the United Church of Christ, this Conference will work cooperatively and collegially as a partner in the investigation and adjudication of a disciplinary process. Our authority in such cases is limited or non-existent.
The pastoral care and safety of victims of ministerial misconduct are our first priorities. Each individual raising an informal or formal question regarding an Authorized Minister’s fitness for ministry will have an opportunity to express the needed supports for their own well-being and wholeness to the Conference Minister or ACM. The Conference will seek to provide appropriate and necessary resources in each instance; please let us know your need.