COMMITTEE ON MINISTRY REPORT
ILLINOIS SOUTH CONFERENCE ANNUAL MEETING 2020
The Committee on Ministry acts on behalf of the congregations and members of the Conference. Actions of the ISC COM are also on behalf of the entire United Church of Christ. We are incorporating the new version of the Manual on Ministry of the UCC and our COM follows these common guidelines for preparation and oversight of “Authorized Ministry.” Authorized Ministry includes ordained, licensed, and commissioned leaders acting in public ministry on behalf of the United Church of Christ. We aim to strengthen and uphold the covenantal relationships between the local church, authorized ministers, Conferences (and their Associations), and the national United Church of Christ.
The Conference Minister, The Rev. Shana Johnson works closely with the Committee on Ministry. The Committee consists of 12 elected persons. Since March 2020, the Committee has met virtually using Zoom meetings.
To assist and equip those “Members in Discernment” in their Preparation for faithful leadership as Authorized Ministers, the COM has established procedures that include:
- the support and guidance of the candidate’s home congregation;
- coordination of educational experiences (whether the traditional Master of Divinity seminary program or alternative paths of preparation, such as the LIFE program);
- the fuller use of the “Marks of Faithful and Effective Authorized Ministers” provided by the national United Church of Christ;
- mentoring and assessing readiness for Authorized Ministry.
Ordinarily, this process takes at least 2 but not more than 7 years.
Ordination requires theological and pastoral education, an Ordination paper, Clinical Pastoral Education or an equivalent, and ratification through an Ecclesiastical Council with delegates from Illinois South Conference congregation and a call to a congregation or comparable calling body. Ordination provides opportunity to be called to any UCC congregation and often (through varied processes) to partner churches (Disciples of Christ, Reformed Church in America, Presbyterian Church in the USA, United Church of Canada, and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America).
Licensed Ministry is a call to serve as Pastor in a specific ministry and licenses are renewed annually at the request of the calling congregation or organization. Current licensed ministers in the Illinois South are Tarrah Vaupel (Heartland Hospice), Karen Pepmeier (Bethel, Cahokia), Tom Ellison (St. Mark, DuBois), Matt Friz (St. Paul, Floraville), Cory Hartz (St. Peter, Red Bud), Tim Reed (Trinity, Belleville), John Mindrup (Salem, Alhambra), Norma Patterson (Good Shepherd of Faith, East St. Louis), Ken Schaefer (Immanuel, Carlyle), Brett Palmer (Friedens, Marissa). John Pawloski (St. Peter, Centralia).
At present, the Committee has endorsed Tarrah Vaupel for Ecclesiastical Council (she is serving in hospice ministry) and is continuing work with Members in Discernment Amy Brooks, Greg Seaman, John Pawloski, Bruce Jovaag, Brett Palmer, Josiah Arcola, Monty Jackson, Tim Reed, and Kevin Hirsch. They are at various stages of their discernment and formation. The COM asks for reflection papers for those in the LIFE program considering licensure. We have had one retreat for all MID’s and plan to have others when feasible.
There is ongoing and in-depth discussion about the content of theological and pastoral education both at Eden and other seminaries as well as alternative paths, including the LIFE program.
- The Committee reviewed the comprehensive History and Polity of the UCC course taught by our own Dr. Jill Baker at Eden. An online course is also available.
- Another significant concern is the usual requirement of a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education for those seeking ordination. Finding affordable programs has led the Committee on Ministry to endorse a program provided by Rev. Dr. Martha Brunell called Holding Space (Awareness and Compassion with Self and Others in Pastoral Ministry: a CPE Alternative).
Balancing the need for pastoral leadership especially in small congregations and maintaining standards is a significant challenge for your ISC Committee on Ministry. Other areas of the UCC and other denominations also struggle with this concern. The COM will be using retreats for MID’s in order to assist them in their preparation for Authorized Ministry in and on behalf of the United Church of Christ.
In its role of oversight, the Committee on Ministry seeks to support excellence in Authorized Ministry. The Committee on Ministry seeks to strengthen those serving in pastoral or commissioned leadership.
To that end the COM asks for Authorized Ministers to:
- participate in Boundary Training at least every 3 years as provided by the Conference;
- complete an annual Review form from which the Conference Minister and COM do follow up as requested.
COM also encourages them to do Continuing Education. The COM has discussed sponsoring clergy retreats and quarterly educational courses. Self-care of pastors is an ongoing concern for those serving in Authorized Ministry.
The COM provides updated annual Salary Guidelines for congregations and encourages churches to provide for their spiritual leaders in equitable and honorable ways.
The COM addresses the Authorization of individuals from other denominations seeking Privilege of Call and dual membership with a partner denomination while serving a Conference congregation. Dialog with Rev. Bob Morwell, serving St. John, DuQuoin, is underway at this time. The Rev. Jeremy Wood, called to and serving Salem, Alhambra, has completed the process.
The COM has noted non-UCC pastors serving Illinois South Conference congregations and has written letters to Eden Church, Edwardsville; Christ Church, Belleville; Friedens Church, Farina. The letter was also sent to Zion, Metropolis, but that congregation has since withdrawn from the United Church of Christ.
The COM periodically reviews the Conference pulpit supply list.
When significant concerns are raised about an Authorized Minister and especially their fitness for continued ministry, the COM addresses those concerns with specific procedures. These can include:
- a Situational Support Consultation – to assist in addressing concerns in the relationship of pastor and congregation. At times, such a consultation calls for mediation or other outside assistance;
- a periodic Support Consultation—to assist in a “tune up” of nurture and care for the clergyperson;
- a Fitness Review – to determine whether concerns are serious enough to warrant a program of personal growth, a temporary leave from ministry; or a removal from Authorized Ministry. This is a complex process.
The COM has had a Fitness Review since the 2019 Annual Meeting. As the result of a Fitness Review conducted by the Committee on Ministry, the ministerial standing of Rev. Douglas Seagle (formerly serving Friedens, Troy) has been terminated. The COM appreciates the diligent work of the trained Response Team (Rev. Gary Kniepkamp, Nancy Larson, and Rev. Kenneth Heasley). Because of a pending civil lawsuit for sexual harassment, the Committee also continued suspended ministerial standing for Rev. Phil Chapman. The Committee reinstated standing for Rev. Will VerDuin after completion of a program of growth. He is thus eligible for a call.
The COM and Conference Minister have found it helpful to meet with Authorized Ministers transferring their standing into the Illinois South Conference and with Intentional Interim Pastors. COM has met with:
- Dana Schindler (from Wisconsin Conference) serving Immanuel, Hamel
- Stephen Stark (from Missouri Mid South) serving Zion, New Baden
- Sharon Patton (Disciples of Christ) serving Zion, Hoyleton
- Joan Mier, serving Concordia, Belleville
The COM has not met yet with
- Steve Boorsma, serving St. John, Valmeyer
- Richard McCleary (CCCC) serving Godfrey Congregational
Rev. Chris Hill is on continuing Leave of Absence while maintaining his standing in our Conference.
When Authorized Ministers leave their present call, it has been helpful to have an Exit Interview with the Pastor and some representatives of the congregation. COM representatives often participate in the farewell rites during the final services, which have included
- Pastor Nancy Shubert, Holy Ghost, Darmstadt and Trinity, Biddleborn
- Cindy Bean, St. Paul, Pinckneyville
- Marvin Morgan, Interim, St. John, Collinsville
- Pastor Cherie Stolze, St. Peter, Stone Church
- Robert Goddard, St. Paul, Columbia
- Earl Crecelius, St. Paul’s, Freeburg
- Robert E. Lee, First Congregational UCC, Dupo
- Carol Shanks, Bethel UCC, Cahokia
The Committee on Ministry values your ongoing prayers as we seek to be faithful to God and helpful to the Church in our work together. May the message of Christ crucified be lifted up among us.
Submitted by Rev. Hugh Fitz, Chair of COM