A Peek at the New UCC Manual on Ministry Draft, and Two General Comments about the Streamlined Marks of Faithful and Effective Authorized Ministers and the Unified Ministerial Code

This post was originally published on the Vital Signs & Statistics Blog, on the UCC’s Center for Analytics, Research and Data (CARD), in April 2017.

So, I used to have this ministry colleague, George, who carried a stack of dog-eared 3×5 cards in his hip pocket. George had scribbled the Sermon on the Mount and assorted Bible verses on those cards, and he consulted them frequently, he said, in an effort to live a more virtuous and holy life. He kept this up for months. At the time I thought that George was odd and needed to lighten up, but then again, I probably was not as virtuous or holy as he was.

Over the past two or three years I have wondered if the United Church of Christ’s (UCC’s) Manual on Ministry (MOM), the Marks of Faithful and Effective Authorized Ministers, and the Ministerial Codes are like George’s 3×5 cards. Or perhaps, like the Boy Scout Law (“A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent”). Nice universal imperatives, but difficult to put into practice.

Recently, MOM, the Marks, and the Codes have undergone significant revision. MOM was written (and it still serves) as a tool to help UCC Committees on Ministry, churches, authorized ministers, and Members in Discernment (MIDs) understand the different forms of authorized UCC ministry, and negotiate the various processes of search and call and ministerial authorization and standing.

Perhaps the most controversial feature in the draft of a revisioned MOM is a proposal to streamline the three current forms of authorized ministry (i.e., Commissioned, Licensed, and Ordained) into just one: Ordained ministry. A big reason for phasing out Licensed and Commissioned ministry has to do with the inherent unfairness of the current three-tier system of authorization, which effectively relegates Licensed and Commissioned Ministers to a “second-class” ministry status, and allows them to be paid much less than (and often assesses them by different measures than) their ordained colleagues.

The Marks, you may recall, are an outgrowth of the Ministry Issues Pronouncement of General Synod 25 in July, 2005. They were developed as a tool for discernment and assessment of UCC authorized ministry, and consisted of 64 skills, aptitudes, and areas of knowledge that informed and defined such ministry. The new Marks are similar but have been reworded and pared down from 64 to 48 in number.

The UCC Ministerial Codes have been around for a long time, and parallel the standards and ethical rules that guide the work and interactions of physicians, lawyers, teachers, and other professionals. In the new draft version of MOM, the Ordained, Licensed, and Commissioned Ministers’ Codes have been consolidating into one unified Code consisting of 35 “covenants.”

Although the circulating draft of MOM will undergo another revision at the end of 2017 with wider church discussion continuing into 2018, you can read the draft version, which includes the new Marks and Code, here. In addition to updating the Marks and the Code, the “reimagined” MOM reflects the changed “landscape of ministry today,” including “the shift to ‘multiple paths’ of [ministerial] formation (including but not limited to seminary),” as well as “decline[s] in traditional expressions of church” (pp. 3-4).

My reaction to the new MOM, Marks, and Code is twofold.  First . . . .

To read more of this post, go to the Vital Signs & Statistics Blog on the CARD website, at https://carducc.wordpress.com/2017/04/17/a-peek-at-the-new-ucc-manual-on-ministry-draft-and-two-general-comments-about-the-streamlined-marks-of-faithful-and-effective-authorized-ministers-and-the-unified-ministerial-code/


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Chris Xenakis

Chris Xenakis is a pastor, an adjunct lecturer in political science, an old school black and white photographer, and a sometime amateur actor.