By Tiffany Vail
Associate Conference Minister for Communications
The resolution that would bring the Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island conferences together into one conference is wending its way toward General Synod in June. A Synod subcommittee, after requiring some alterations, is recommending that the motion go forward to plenary.
The United Church of Christ Board will make the final decision on submitting the resolution to Synod in early March. The 32nd General Synod is being held June 21 - 25 in Milwaukee, WI.
The summary of the resolution states:
"This motion asks the Thirty-Second General Synod to recognize a new Conference in Southern New England and vicinity, provisionally called 'the TA1 Conference of the United Church of Christ,' and to grant it standing as a Conference of the United Church of Christ, terminating the standing of the Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island Conferences, the Associations of which will become Associations of the new Conference."
When the three Conferences voted last June to join together, they voted to form a new Conference of which the three historic Conferences would be "members." That was the understanding at the time for how to form the new conference while keeping the historic conferences intact for purposes of managing endowments and other legal matters.
Upon further research by national staff, however, it has become clear that while forming a new nonprofit corporation in this way paves a way forward legally, it does not comply with the ecclesiastical requirements of the denomination. Associations, churches and members cannot belong to both an historic conference and a new conference - they may only belong to one conference. That is why this vote, from a denominational standpoint, will eliminate the three historic conferences and replace them with a new conference, which is provisionally being called the "Together, As One Conference."
The three historic conferences will continue to exist as nonprofit corporations, with their own Boards of Directors, in order to handle endowments that were left to those conferences. But for ecclesiastical purposes, the UCC will only recognize the new conference.
The new Together, As One Conference will have its first annual meeting Nov. 1 - 2 at the DCU Center in Worcester, MA. Delegates will likely need to approve revised bylaws for the new conference, given the changes required by the national setting.
"We are called to outgrow an attitude of 'Yankee Independence' that has been prominent in our polity for more than three hundred years," the resolution states. "We are called to build a stronger and larger network of covenants through which we can become stronger as the body of Christ in Southern New England."
Crafting the resolution has been just one of the tasks being tackled by the newly formed Together, As One Board of Directors. Subcommittees of that board have also been:
Working on a thorough due diligence process, where legal and financial documents from the three Conferences have been reviewed to ensure there is nothing behind-the-scenes in any of the conferences that could jeopardize the legal or financial security of the new conference;
Working on development of a staff structure for the new conference. A subcommittee is working on this by examining the structures of the three historic conferences, other UCC conferences, other denominational bodies and other nonprofit organizations.
Working on development of a unified budget for the new conference that would go into effect Jan. 1, 2020.
Working on ensuring that the resources, programs, insights and activities on which the new Conference will focus are in alignment with its vision.