By the time you read this, my son and I will be in Tampa, Florida, where we will be attending the United Church of Christ’s General Synod XXIII as delegates from the Fairfield West Association of the UCC. I attended GS XVI in Hartford back in 2007, as a visitor, when we celebrated the 50th anniversary of our United Church of Christ, but this will be the first Synod that I have attended as a delegate. I’ll also be serving as a “Shepherd” for our youth and young adult delegates from the Connecticut Conference.
Every two years, members from all of the associations of the United Church of Christ gather for General Synod. In the UCC, we work hard to have the folks representing us be a mirror of God’s people, so the delegates are comprised of every conceivable race and ethnicity, a wide range of ages, sexual orientations and gender identities, physical abilities and disabilities, as well as a good mix of clergy and laity. Much like our congregation’s annual meeting General Synod takes care of the business of the church, electing officers, passing budgets, and passing resolutions that speak to our congregations and to the world.
This year, a major issue that is facing the delegates to General Synod is the question of restructuring the governance of our denomination so that all of the four covenanted ministries (Justice & Witness Ministries, Wider Church Ministries, Local Church Ministries, and the Office of General Ministries) would be governed by single board of directors that would make decisions for all of them instead of four separate boards (each with as many as 150 members!) that operate independently, as is now the case. I believe that this proposal for unified governance will not only be good stewardship of our OCWM dollars, but will also make it easier for our denomination to respond to the needs of our churches.
A second issue that will be discussed at Synod is an agreement between the US College of Catholic Bishops and several denominations from the Reformed tradition by which we will formally recognize each other’s baptisms. While this may seem like a no-brainer (and I think it IS a no-brainer) the agreement formalizes several decades of improved relations between Catholic and Protestant churches and settles one of the issues that have divided us since the Reformation.
Of course, Synod is also a chance for a UCC family reunion. I’m looking forward to catching up with colleagues from the other conferences in which I have worked as well as seeing old friends from my days serving on the board of Justice and Witness Ministries. During the lulls in the business, fun will be had!
You can follow all of the events that will take place at Synod by visiting the Synod page of the UCC website at ucc.org/synod where you’ll find live streaming video as well as archives of each day’s events. I’ll also be keeping in touch personally by Twitter (Follow revpaulucc) and on Facebook (facebook.com/revpaulucc. Friend me!!). As time allows, I’ll also be blogging about what I see and do in Tampa, at www.paulbryant-smith.blogspot.com.
Have a blessed summer!