All of this week’s postings focus on issues related to my denomination, the United Church of Christ (UCC) and my involvement with Faithful & Welcoming Churches (FWC)—a renewal movement within the UCC. Our church hosts a regional FWC meeting on March 15. In today’s post, I discuss the second concern raised by our Kansas-Oklahoma Conference minister—Rev. David Hansen—in his March 7th “Monday Musing.” The first concern is discussed in an earlier post below.
Rev. Hansen illustrates his second concern about FWC with an imaginary scenario of a controlling, manipulative husband who tells his wife that if she doesn’t meet his needs, he might have to look outside the marriage relationship. Rev. Hansen’s presumed point to FWC is that if a local UCC church is dissatisfied with the administrative process of the Parish Life and Leadership Ministry or—more importantly—dissatisfied with the clergy profiles received through that ministry, that local church should continue to remain “faithful” to the UCC’s established pathway of clergy search and call.
In particular, Rev. Hansen might have been concerned that FWC was providing a link on its website to clergy search resources of the Evangelical Association (EA) and thus encouraging local churches to search and call “unfaithfulness.”
FWC is committed to encouraging disaffected UCC churches to stay in the denomination and not leave. Providing a link to the EA—a group that includes churches that have left the UCC—raised a legitimate point about FWC’s commitment to the UCC. This explains why FWC President Rev. Bob Thompson—in response to Rev. Hansen’s observation—ordered the link removed.
UCC President John Thomas gives further support to Rev. Hansen’s concern about local churches going outside the denomination’s established process. In Rev. Thomas’ March 7th speech (see the post below on how to obtain a copy), he complains that the Biblical Witness Fellowship, “provides an alternative placement service for so-called ‘orthodox’ pastors and churches that refuse to use the denomination’s search and call process, thereby setting themselves outside the processes of oversight in the denomination.”
But in contrast to Rev. Hansen’s and Rev. Thomas’ stated opinions, our UCC Constitution—in Article V, paragraph 18—explicitly permits local churches the usage of any means in its search for a minister:
“Nothing in this Constitution and the Bylaws of the United Church of Christ shall destroy or limit the right of each Local Church…nor shall be construed as giving to the General Synod, or to any Conference or Association now, or at any future time, the power to abridge or impair the autonomy of any Local Church in the management of its own affairs, which affairs include, but are not limited to…call or dismiss its pastor or pastors by such procedure as it shall determine…”
FWC does not—despite the assertion of “Monday Musing”—have its own system of clergy call and placement. But in keeping with our UCC Constitution, it is well within the rights of any UCC local church to utilize the established UCC process or whatever resources it wishes in its search for ministers.
Fidelity is obviously important. Let’s all remember the rules of the covenant.