Boards Approve New Conference Documents to Bring Before Delegates
By Tiffany Vail
Associate Conference Minister for Communications
Inspired by the vision discerned by the leadership of our conferences, and because they believe that there are unlimited faith-filled possibilities when we combine our strengths to live the love and justice of Jesus, the Boards of Directors of the Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island conferences have all given their approval to a covenant agreement, set of bylaws, and a process for nominating a Board of Directors for a new, unified conference.
The "Covenant and Affiliation Agreement" is a legal document that creates a new non-profit charitable corporation made up of the three UCC conferences of southern New England. The bylawswould then govern that new entity. Both the agreement and bylaws will be brought before Annual Meeting delegates June 15 - 16, along with the slate of officers and Board members for the new Conference. The Boards are in the process of making nominations for that Board now.
Delegates from the three conferences will be meeting together for their second joint Annual Meeting June 15 and 16 at the Mass Mutual Center in Springfield, MA They will attend worship and plenary together, but will vote on this proposal in separate meetings during that gathering.
Last June, at the first ever joint Annual Meeting, delegates from all three conferences overwhelmingly voted support for moving forward with plans to form a unified conference.
"This initiative has been years in the dreaming and planning phase. Our three boards have prayed and met together and discerned that the Spirit is moving us to deeper and substantive collaboration," said Connecticut Conference Minister The Rev. Kent J. Siladi. "We are members of the United Church of Christ which proclaims and witnesses to unity and our forebears in the faith brought this communion to life mindful of ties that bind us as followers of Christ to one another."
"The planning team has invited feedback, prayers and comments all along the process and we have heard strong support for this mission and ministry driven effort," he said. "We believe that by joining together we can make a greater impact as God’s people and work with partners across this region to help this part of God’s world be more just, more loving and more compassionate. We believe this will help us to live the joy and justice of Jesus."
If the June meetings approve the documents, the Attorneys General of three states will review them, and the national UCC General Synod in 2019 will need to ratify the new conference. Then, in January 2020, the new entity will become operational as a “conference.” After that, the three “historic conferences” will continue to exist, but their function will be primarily limited to overseeing endowments that are specific to each conference.
The new conference is referred to as "Together, As One" in the documents, but the board plan to seek input about the name following the June votes, assuming the proposal goes forward.
Planners have resisted using a geographic name because of an innovative aspect of the new entity which will allow for "associate members." Religious bodies and other organizations that are not UCC churches, but who want to "align with and act in common cause with the purpose" of the conference, may be able to become associate members of the new conference. (The three historic conferences are the full members, with voting privileges.)
The documents also do not contain any decisions regarding the structure of the new conference's staff, or where its offices may be located. Those decisions will be left to the new unified Board that is appointed by the Annual Meeting. This is in keeping with how all three conferences have traditionally made staffing decisions.
The Board will be made up of five members from each of the three conferences plus six officers.
The Boards of Directors of the three conferences are planning to send representatives to as many Association meetings as possible this spring to discuss and take questions about this proposal. Conference leaders also held lunchtime information sessions at Super Saturday, and will be holding a number of online forums for those who wish to learn more. Watch the three conference websites for details.