; charset=UTF-8" /> Reflection on General Synod 28 : Connecting Voices
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Reflection on General Synod 28

by Carol Rainey, United Church of Christ of La Mesa

      I leave my computer for a few moments and the screen saver comes on.  Photos float by briefly on the screen…the UCC comma, musicians, ribbon dancers, our Conference minister dancing in a shirt and tie.  Can it be that 3 months have elapsed since General Synod 28?  “Imagine What’s Possible” was the theme of this most important convention at this critically important time in the life of our church and indeed of the world.  It is both refreshing and sobering to see these photos and remember.

     We, the United Church of Christ, met in Tampa, Florida to discover/rediscover who we are, remember what we do and work on our plan to move forward against the rising tide of apathy, disengagement and turmoil.  We are a changing church in changing times.    We saw videos and heard testimony about some of the lives we, the UCC, have changed.  We discussed, debated and then voted on structural changes in national governance to accommodate changes in the world, the economy and the faith community.  We explored the UCC Continuing Testament – what it means and how it is expressed.

     Committees met to discuss, debate and refine proposed resolutions to be voted on by the body of delegates.  Roberts Rules and the parliamentarian were put through their paces before we were done.  After all the “due process,” most resolutions were brought to the whole body for approval.  UCC democracy at work – not necessarily swift, definitely thorough.

     Decidedly, the hottest and most challenging topic at this General Synod was Governance:  a change from 5 separate boards – one for each Ministry -with a total of 300 members to a single, unified – United Church of Christ Board of Directors – with 52 members.  This proposed change has been discussed, debated, modified and, after years of study and work, affirmed by 27 of the 29 Working Group members and 30 of the 38 Conference Ministers.  A hearing on Governance was held on July 3rd to present the plan and allow for discussion and questions before it was brought to the floor for ratification by the 28th General Synod.  Questions and concerns were many and varied, including the following:

1) What effect will unified governance have on local churches? (response:  none).
2) Concern that the Unified Board will be composed of the “elite” and will exclude those who work but are not trained in management, are less well-educated or lacking in English language skills. 
3) Concern about providing fair representation for all groups and hearing all the diverse voices. 4) Concern that nimbleness (ability to respond to needed action change in a reasonable  time frame) will be achieved at the cost of thoroughness.
5) Concern that “community” be jeopardized.

     The hearing was long and, at times, heated.  On some points emotions ran high.  Later, when the Governance Resolution reached the floor, it passed.  The process of making this change will take some years.  This was only the first step. 

     After the vote, there was a change of pace with music, prayer, and visuals, to allow for reconciliation and calmness to return.  Opportunities were presented for each of us to see, hear, and appreciate who we are as the United Church of Christ in all our diversity here and throughout the world.  We are the United Church of Christ, where “God is still speaking to and through us.”  We have a “continuing testament.”  We are “changing lives.”  “Our faith is 2000 years old.  Our thinking is not.”

     As stated by UCC President and General Minister, Rev. Geoffrey Black, Synod is a time of celebration.  It is a time to “express in love a/our diversity of ideas.”  President Black charged us to “perceive this new thing God is doing and make it happen – to pursue it together as a church.”  He said it is time for us to make adaptive changes necessary to fit the realities of our day, noting that this will require us to dream new dreams, seek new vision and develop bold new goals.  We need to take a fresh look at our core values and discern what they mean for us today and how they serve us moving forward.  Where do we want to be in five, ten, twenty years and how are we going to get there?  As a national church, our goals will be measurable and accountable.  At the local level, we need to build relationships across lines that divide us from others, make environmental stewardship central to our understanding and practice of our Christian ethic, become ambassadors for Our Church’s Wider Mission (OCWM), actively support Mission: 1, and continue to extend an “extravagant welcome.”

     We worked hard at Synod.  And we celebrated exuberantly.  We studied, learned and connected.  We experienced “Fitness in Faith” by moving and grooving (a little zumba?) during plenary breaks and by taking up the walking challenge.  We sang and swayed; we worshipped and prayed.  It was exhilarating, exhausting, at times mind-boggling and overwhelming.  And, then, suddenly, sadly even, it was over and thousands of us headed to cars and planes going home.  Synod was over for another two years.  But not for us from the Southern California Nevada Conference!  It’s just three months since Synod ended and we are gearing up for the next one.  Did you know?  General Synod 29 is starting now…well, the planning is under way.  General Synod is being convened right here in Long Beach in 2013.  And boy, do we ever have some planning and baking to do!

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