“Terminating ministers”

Like two other bloggers, I am concerned about the tone of the reportage of the Ministerial Fellowship Committee rule change [later. it has been altered] but even more about the subtle power shift it assumes. Ministers look more like employees and the congregations look more like an at-will employer, which might be a bit paranoid if it weren’t for the other changes within the Unitarian Universalist Association — say, concerning the independent affiliates — in the last few years.

There was a time in Universalist polity — from whence we get many of our current fellowship standards — that ministers and congregation alike were fellowshipped and subject to discipline. If ministers can be disfellowshipped for incompetence, why not congregations. I’m thinking of the clergy killers.

But there’s some liberation in this focus, and that’s liberation from equating the Unitarian Universalist Association and its business from the business of Unitarian Universalism. There need to be more robust and independent centers of power — say, the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association — that must, if need be, take a contrary and even adversarial role in intra-Unitarian Universalist politics. Bloggers can play an important role in news reporting and opinion shaping along new, unofficial channels.

Even as a small denomination, we’re too big to be one happy family.

Author: Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.

7 thoughts on ““Terminating ministers””

  1. Nah.

    No authority over congregations was suggested or asserted.

    I don’t see how this makes ministers more like at will employees. The MFC can’t terminate a minister’s call to a congregation.

    All this did was to permit the MFC to tackle cases where a minister’s displayed incompetence, in the same way that they can take on displayed misconduct. (Both require discernment on the part of the MFC.) One is willful, and the other not… but both can be just as damaging to a congregation (and future ministries).

  2. hey scott
    i was at the uuma business meeting when this issue came up. there was little opposition, i don’t think i heard any con speakers. i wasn’t at GA for the debate, looks like several folks got up there.

    i think it is a good, and for the current climate, novel idea to talk about congregational discipline.

    my understanding is that this issue is coming back to us next year?

  3. @Jaume. They needn’t care, but the minister who wants to move would care. Which is the dangerous shift from congregations being self-governing to sovereign: the church holds all the cards.

  4. I agree, Scott. I am just asking the questions that logically follow an extreme congregationalist polity. I personally do not agree with that kind of polity, and I just wonder about its consequences.

  5. @Joseph: The bylaw change regarding the MFC won’t come back for a second vote next year. The two-year requirement only applies to certain sections of the UUA bylaws (the so-called “C-bylaws”).

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