We welcome your inquiry into the process of your congregation affiliating with the United Church of Christ. The purpose of this document is to introduce you to a three-step process of mutual exploration to guide your local church and the Southeast Conference of the UCC in deciding whether they wish to affiliate. The process is intended to move toward a mutual affirmation of covenant. The steps leading to this decision are; Exploring, Developing and Affirming Covenant.
Chronology of Steps Toward Affiliation
- The Pastor of a local church contacts the Conference Minister for an appointment, the purpose of which is to be introduced to the process of affiliation, and to determine whether to take next steps, and what those steps might be.
- An informal meeting is held with the Pastor, the Conference Minister (or a member of the Commission on Ministry (COM) Church Team) and appropriate leaders of the congregation to begin framing the questions that might arise from the congregation and the Conference and then determine a mutual process by which those questions can be addressed. This conversation may include expectations for the Minister(s) to obtain ministerial standing in the Southeast Conference.
- An Exploration Committee of 3-5 leaders is organized by the church.
- The COM Church Team selects a sponsoring church within the Conference to partner with the church seeking affiliation as it explores a covenant with the Southeast Conference, UCC.
- The Minister is encouraged to be in contact with the Preparation for Authorized Ministry Team (PAM) to discern the process to be used for being granted ministerial standing.
- If the congregation is currently affiliated with another denomination, the Conference Minister and leadership of the congregation determine how and when the denomination should be informed about the conversation.
- Elements of the exploration, with the COM Church Team may include but are not limited to:
- Meetings of the COM Church Team with leaders and members of the congregation in both formal and informal settings, including involvement in worship.
- Presentation to the congregation of an overview of the UCC and the resources available through the denomination
- A UCC History and Polity Class appropriate to the needs of the congregation and COM Church Team.
- Visits by Conference staff to worship, including possible invitation to preach.
- Attendance by leaders of the church to meetings of the Conference.
- Setting a date to evaluate the process to this point and determine whether or not to proceed to the next step. If the decision is not to proceed, the congregation may remain in ecumenical relationship with the United Church of Christ.
- The Church Team recommends to the Commission on Ministry that the church be accepted as a “Church in Covenant Development”, and that they be given voice without vote in the life of the Conference.
- Establish a Covenant Development Committee, comprised of representation from the church seeking affiliation, the sponsoring congregation, the COM Church Team and possible other representation from the Conference. The purpose of the Committee will be to review the process to this point and determine next steps to assure open and widespread conversations about the affiliation, full knowledge of and familiarity with the UCC in all of its settings.
- Begin drafting a Covenant between the congregation and the Conference, in which each names responsibilities and rights in relation to each other; each is called upon to honor and respect the other; and each offers to listen and carefully consider the advice, counsel and requests of the other (a sample Covenant will be provided).
- The Local Church in consultation with the other partners determines its readiness to enter into covenant with the Southeast Conference, and when ready, makes a formal request for standing as a congregation of the UCC. If the church does not wish to proceed, they may remain in ecumenical relationship with the United Church of Christ.
- The Local Church drafts changes in their Bylaws to reflect the relationship with the Southeast Conference, UCC.
- The Church in Covenant Development submits a formal request to the COM Church Team to be received as a congregation with standing in the Southeast Conference. The documents to be attached to this request are to include the following (the items can be modified by COM Church Team. Items will be placed in the Local Church file with the Conference):
- The Constitution and Bylaws of the church revised to reflect membership in the Southeast Conference and United Church of Christ
- Articles of Incorporation
- List of Officers
- Minutes of the Congregational Meeting at which the congregation voted to join the United Church of Christ
- Statistics of membership
- The most recent two Annual Reports of the congregation (this may vary based on the local church context)
- The most recent Treasurer’s Report
- A letter requesting membership in the Southeast Conference, UCC
- Bio(s) of the pastoral leadership
- A letter stating the intention of the minister(s) to seek ministerial standing in the Southeast Conference, UCC
- Overview of the program and ministries of the congregation
- The Covenant with the Southeast Conference, UCC
- Other information that present a picture of the church (i.e. news clippings, website, photographs, DVD’s, etc.)
- The COM Church Team reviews the material and meets with church leaders at the next available meeting and determines that all appropriate documents are received.
- At the next Commission on Ministry meeting, the COM Church Team recommends that the local church be considered for official affiliation with the Southeast Conference.
- The Commission on Ministry votes to call an Ecclesiastical Council to be held at least 15 days after the COM meeting and as soon as scheduling permits.
- In preparation for the Ecclesiastical Council to consider the request for Church Standing, the Commission on Ministry shares with the Conference the following: the request from the local church, the Covenant, an overview of the local church program and bio of the pastoral leadership.
- The Ecclesiastical Council votes to accept the church.
- A worship service is held with the Local Church, Conference staff and representatives present.
- The Church is introduced and celebrated at a Southeast Conference Meeting and at the General Synod of the United Church of Christ.