Governance Institute

Syllabus and Readings

All required reading assignments may be downloaded from this website or from other websites.  These materials can be downloaded using Adobe Acrobat Reader. If you do not have this software on your computer, you can download a free version at Other practical field assignments may be made requiring interviews, site visits, or attendance at meetings. Additional reading related to the topics covered is encouraged, but not required. These UCC Institutes are enrichment opportunities for all members of the UCC who want to learn more about the history, governance, theology and ministry of the UCC.

Amber Henry Neuroth, Senior Pastor
Hope United Church of Christ, Alexandria, Virginia

Goals for the Governance Institute:
(from the Essentials document)

Participants will obtain knowledge of

* Constituent parts of the United Church of Christ i.e., local church, conferences and associations, national setting, General Synod (Constitution and Bylaws)
* Past and present structure of the United Church of Christ (“covenantal polity”)
* Patterns of accountability and autonomy in the various settings of the church

Pre-Institute Assignments:

Read the complete “Short Course on the History of the UCC”

1. What is UCC Polity?
Read Edward Long, Patterns of Polity: Varieties of Church Government, “Introduction” pps. 1-9 “Associational Congregationalism” pps. 119-128.
Read Toward an Understanding of Local Autonomy 1963

Review UCC Polity through the concept of “covenant:”
Jane Fisler Hoffman’s small book “On Covenant”
Read United Church of Christ Manual on the Church (draft, Jan. 2005)
Randi Walker, The Evolution of a UCC Style: History, Ecclesiology, and Culture of the United Church of Christ, Chap. 5 ”Covenant Community: Congregationalism and its Discontents.”

Consider the various settings of the UCC and how they affect our polity:
a. Constitution and By Laws of the United Church of Christ
b. Prism articles on Conferences and the Role of the Conference Minister
c. Peter Schmiechen, “The New Constitution and By Laws,” Prism 2000
d. “On Pronouncements” General Synod 1959
e. “Delegates” First Congregational UCC Washington, DC 1965

2. Visit the websites of three conferences.How is group A different from group B and how does CAC differ from other Conferences?

One from Group A:

One from Group B

And the CAC website –

Conferences in the UCC are going through hard times.  Many people think that the denomination needs to restructure the whole system of conferences, etc.  At the General Synod 29 in 2013, a resolution was passed by the Synod on this matter.  Read

The UCC has been in deep conversation over the past 6-7 years about its structure–how it has changed and is still changing. At General Synod 2013, the body voted to finalize the creation of a single UNITED CHURCH BOARD.  The most centralized polity the UCC has ever had.

Read the proposal for Unified Governance and the proposed new Constitution and Bylaws that were passed at the General Synod in July 2011

Since that time the required number of Conferences have ratified that action, and we are now at the moment of implementation.  Read the analysis of how it will look and some of the issues still being discussed

Since this action, a new debate has emerged on the style of leadership of the UNITED CHURCH BOARD.  Please read the Proposed Actions and the two Open Letters below, and be prepared to discuss the implications to UCC polity:

The UCC News Article on the Proposed Actions:

The Open Letter in Opposition to the proposed action:

Links to the specific points of contention:
Notice of Amendments 3-25-15
Proposed By-Law Amendments
Proposed Consitutional Amendments 

Read reflections on what has happened and is happening to UCC polity.

What is the debate about?

4. Please follow this link and locate the CAC Annual Meeting Agenda

Plan to attend a Hearing on Friday and at least one of the workshops being offered on Saturday write.  Be present for the two Plenary Business sessions.  You will be asked to about some aspect of your involvement in the meeting in your follow up paper.

5. If someone asks you when you get home, what’s an Association? and what’s a Conference in the UCC?  What would you say?  Come prepared to discuss your response.

Summary of Pre-Institute Assignments:
1. Read basic information about polity and what polity is. Read two major essays about “covenant” polity and how it works. Read the current Constitution and By Laws of the UCC and several articles about how the various settings of the UCC relate to each other.
2. Read the websites of three UCC Conferences, including CAC. Read about the idea of changing Conference boundaries.
3. Read resources various things about UNITED GOVERNANCE.  What will be different after July 3 in UCC polity?  INTERVIEW PEOPLE ABOUT THESE CHANGES before you come and be prepared to talk about them at the Conference.
4.  Plan to attend hearings, workshops and business sessions offered late Friday and Saturday.

(Updated 7/23/2019)