Thursday, October 02, 2008

"Call to Action Regarding the Proposed UCC National Board Restructure"

There is a petition located here that UCC members are being encouraged to sign in opposition to the proposed restructuring of the various national boards into one overarching near-90-member (!) board.  This gets a little long, but here's the reasoning:
The next generation of the United Church of Christ will inherit the newly proposed structure. We have concerns and our voices deserve to be heard. Will you join us as we seek to assist in charting the course ahead?

Originated September of 2006

The mission of the Joshua Generation Leadership Team, supported by the Urban Ministries, of the United Church of Christ seeks to:

Provide training in which we recognize, develop, nurture, empower and educate relevant vanguard leadership for the 21st century Church and community with an intentional focus on Urban Ministries.
Create a network which serves as a group of innovative, motivated and courageous leaders who seek not only to witness or advocate, but to also bridge the past and the future with education and empowerment in the lives of those who are oppressed, especially those in the Urban context.
Support young adult PALANAs (Pacific islander, Asian, Latino/a, African, Native, Americans), advocate for a cooperative voice, and provide a safe space to address issues from the local to the national setting.

Here are just 5 of the many reasons why we need your help:

1) The process has been unjust.

a. Despite the multitude of serious and legitimate concerns that have been raised by several different branches of the church, including the historically underrepresented groups (HUGs), the concerns have been ignored and the process has continued ahead.

b. In a restructure of this magnitude, it would seem very appropriate that each of the incorporated board of directors of the Covenanted Ministries would have their own specialists, consultants, and legal counsel advising them on what is in their best interests as an independent corporation of the church. Instead, this process has been facilitated by one sole consultant, who was hired by one arm of the church.

c. Not all of the historic, elder leaders of the church were consulted about the proposed restructure in a timely fashion, despite public claims that the key past leaders were included in the process.

2) We have been a church that has historically chosen not to place power in any one place. Because of our congregational culture, power has always been in the local church however, this proposed restructure shifts the power to a central place. Also, where is the decision making checks and balances of a single governance board? A single governing board is a condensation of power with no checks and balance system. It also seems largely staff driven given that staff will have both voice and vote at the Executive Committee level.

3) We have always been a church who has fought, and continues to fight, against elitism. The single-board structure promotes elitism for the following reasons:

a. A smaller, single-board structure limits the amount of participation (and thus, the development of new leaders) from every single segment of the UCC.

b. We have always fought for economic justice, yet what about the class implications in a single-board structure? Because the board would shrink, the amount of decisions and responsibility of each board member would increase. Board meetings would thus be much longer. Only those who had a surplus of free time would be able to serve.

4) This has not been a mission-driven restructure; it has been a financially-driven restructure. We are a church, not a corporate entity driven by product. The missions of the church have not been the first priority in this restructure; instead it has been motivated by efficiency and money.

5) It is as if we are erasing the rich history of our church and are starting from scratch. The rich history of this church seems lost in this proposed restructure. It is as if we are beginning from ground zero and remaking the identity and culture of the church. We would be appalled if certain chapters of American history were removed from the textbooks, why should the history of the UCC be any different?

For more information please visit about the proposed restructure:

For more information about the Joshua Generation Leadership Team:

You can also contact us by email at:

The points that strike me the most are numbers 2 and 4.

This new proposal is a move toward centralized power, and the UCC was founded on tenets diametrically opposed to such a concept.  We're only 8 years removed from our last restructure, and the common wisdom is that it takes at least 10-15 years for something to truly take hold at a national level like that.  So 1) the checks-and-balances provided by the Covenanted Ministries will be eliminated in favor of one central board, and 2) we're at least 2 years shy of the last restructure truly finding its footing.  And how long until the UCC blows up this latest one in favor of something else down the road?

I'm not totally sold on how a 90-member board will be more efficient, but maybe I need to read a little more on the proposers' reasoning.  Nevertheless, condensing the various boards into one is indeed in the name of efficiency and not mission.
The other side of this, I admit, is what would a mission-focused structure look like?  For my own part, it'd involve less central bureaucracy and more empowering of the local church (kind of, you know, more of what we were founded on).  How will this 90-member centralized board serve the local church?

I think that that's a key question, especially in light of the fact that this isn't really being talked about in many settings other than the national setting (at least, I haven't heard anything...maybe someone can enlighten me with their own experiences).  There's sign #1 that this board probably won't do much for the local church.  If other settings, including the local church, aren't really being actively kept up to date on what's happening before the restructure is put into place, I'm very skeptical to how it will benefit the local church later on.

I haven't signed the petition myself, if only because I wonder how much good it'd actually do.  But I do think that the points made above are important to consider and discuss.