Polity and Ministry Definitions

Daniel L. Johnson       2008


ASSOCIATION – Comprised of local UCC congregations and ministers in a geographical area with a Conference.  Associations authorize ministry and hold the standing of ministers and congregations, and provide formal guidance for persons preparing for ministry.


COMMISSIONED MINISTER – A lay member authorized by an Association for a specific church-related responsibility not requiring ordination or licensing.


COMMITTEE ON CHURCH AND MINISTRY – The Association Committee responsible for (1) guiding persons preparing for ministry; (2) guiding and examining candidates for commissioning, licensure, ordination and installation; (3) responding to issues brought to its attention concerning a need for pastor and/or congregational support, and concerning allegations of misconduct or other problems in a congregation.


CONFERENCE – Comprised of the local UCC congregations and Associations in a geographical area (usually by not always having the same boundaries as a state).  Conference are served by professional staff who provide vision and guidance for Conference work, and who serve as pastors to pastors, and who provide consultation to congregations.


CONGREGATION – The basic local worship and mission unit of the UCC, officially gathered and ordered within UCC polity, having Standing in the UCC through membership in an Association.


DELEGATE – A church member elected to attend, speak and vote at called meetings of the Association, Conference and the General Synod.


DUAL STANDING – Standing granted by an Association to a minister of a denomination other than UCC or Disciples of Christ who wishes to retain that membership while serving as pastor of a local UCC congregation; or who is serving in an ordained capacity in a church or agency related to both the UCC and another denomination.  Dual Standing is limited to the duration of the pastorate or position.


ECCLESIASTICAL COUNCIL – A called meeting of an Association for the purpose of receiving and acting on the recommendation of the Committee on Church and Ministry in order to ordain and/or install a qualified candidate.  Delegates have the responsibility to ask questions, to be satisfied that the candidate is prepared and fit to serve as a pastor.


GENERAL SYNOD – Comprised of delegates representing all UCC Conferences, and the national officers.  The General Synod meets every two years to worship, hear Christian leaders, elect officers, approve a budget, experience the reality of the wider church in one setting, debate and vote on resolutions and pronouncements, and enjoy a huge family reunion.  The General Synod sets policy for national offices, but not for local congregations.


INSTALLATION – The action of an Association in cooperation with a local congregation to authorize and celebrate the beginning of a pastorate


IN CARE STATUS – (presently) the recognition and authorization by a Committee of Church and Ministry and an Association of a person preparing for ordained ministry (In Care Status will soon be revised and redefined as a guided process of discernment of the various ways God’s call may be received and understood).


LICENSED MINISTER – A lay member of the UCC who is authorized by an Association to perform specified duties in one designated local congregation, mainly preaching and leading worship for a designated period of time under the supervision of the Association.  The license may be renewed.  In special cases, and at the request of the congregation which the person serves, the Association may grant the Licensed Minister the right to administer the Sacraments and rites of the Church for this one local congregation.


NATIONAL OFFICES – located in Cleveland , Ohio .  Consisting of the Office of General Ministries, Justice and Witness Ministries, Local Church Ministries, Wider Church Ministries, the Pension Boards (located in New York City ) and several concils and agencies with specific tasks.


OCWM (Our Church’s Wider Mission) – Financial support from local congregations to and through Conferences to the national and world ministries of the UCC.


ORDINATION – The official rite of the Church which sets apart a person called to ministry by God for authorized service as a pastor to a congregation.  An Association is the ordaining body.


PRIVILEGE OF CALL – when an ordained minister of another denomination wishes to enter the ordained ministry of the UCC, he or she applies for Privilege of Call to the Association with whose bounds he/she resides.


SACRAMENTS – Baptism and Holy Communion (Eucharist) are the two sacraments of the UCC.  Administration requires ordination or, in special cases, licensure.


SEMINARY – A three or four year graduate school, training students in theology, ministry, Biblical studies, church history and various professional skills as equipment and preparation for pastoral service.


STANDING – (1) the recognized, continuing professional status of a minister, by membership in a local Association, and (2) the recognized UCC membership of a local congregation in and through it local UCC Association.


Italicized words are defined within this glossary.