Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Ministerial Credentialing: Four Questions from Wayne Arneson

My perception is that there have been four major questions about the architecture of the current accreditation system mentioned on this web discussion so far.

1) should the UUMA be responsible for accrediting ministers or should the UUA? Several people posting have suggested that it should be a UUMA responsibility although without much elaboration on the practical difficulties of that proposal. Clyde Grubbs has noted that the position of the UUA Board always has been that credentialing must be owned by the congregations, not the ministers, and their view is unlikely to change.

2) should there be a centralized credentialing process or should it be done by regional systems? Some colleagues posting believe that a regional system would be inherently more intimate and authentic than a national system and that there would be no issues with consistency among regionally based systems.

3) should there be an interview? So much anxiety seems to focus on the interview. Would our credentialing process be just as effective without it? Steve Eddington argues it would.

4) should there be preliminary fellowship? or should those who complete the documentable requirements be ordained, allowed into settlement, and then evaluated for fellowship one time, after three years of service.This is a possibility that Christine Robinson has explored.


ogre said...

Thanks for this, Wayne (and Christine!).

1. I think that part of the problem is the mixing of different things. There is *nothing* that the UUA or UUMA can do to keep a UU congregation from ordaining a minister--and our tradition and polity insists that we respect that. The flip side is that there's also a traditional expectation and desire for a well-educated ministry, and competence (the latter being damned hard to measure, though we know it when we see it...). My personal temptation is to suggest that it's the UUMA's job to accredit ministers as being in fellowship (meaning that they meet the standards/expectations of the body of ministers). But that the UUA ought to perhaps relax a little--and permit non-accredited, ordained UU ministers into the settlement process, specifically noting as an issue for congregations to be aware of and to consider carefully that a minister is/not in not accredited (making a distinction for those who have been removed from fellowship--if the UUMA formally acts on that, I think it reasonable as a matter of policy to not permit them into the setlement process). This would create angst for those inside the walls... but also real (and *useful* pressure to ensure that the education and process that creates and accredits UU ministers is worth it, particularly for the congregations. One of the critiques currently (and inevitably, always) is that there are all kinds of nifty bells and whistles and chrome... that are required, but aren't important on the road (as it were). What better check on such accretions than to have congregations in the position of reviewing the results of the process... and choosing or rejecting its results?

2. More regional than current. We now have a process that explicitly favors those who can make a good presentation to people who don't know them (and should not, given the system), under very stressful conditions (intent or no, facing the panel with such momentous results... is very stressful). But the people who've had ongoing contact and know the individuals in their districts/clusters, and their ability and gifts... are merely references, if that. This is more institutional, and less human--and ministry is really mostly about human....
(I'd strongly urge/require institutional inclusion of someone(s) from outside in each regional system to provide interconnections and the critique of unfamiliarity.) How could that interview NOT be anxiety inducing?

3. I'd replace "a meeting" with "a series of meetings." Multiple meetings, not a few meetings. The RSCC, some aver, was to provide something of "in care" -- and has failed dismally at that. If cluster/district chapter meetings (and the like) explicitly were charged with "get to *know* the ministerial candidates so that you can evaluate them," with a process that would take place over three (or more) years, we'd see a wide range of insights and concerns, thoughts, blessings....

4. Appealing thought. Though I do think that this would require some sort of very early filtering (around the career asessment, perhaps?), and I have to ask what "allowed into settlement" means. If coupled with a more familiar/informed local/regional process, this would make a lot of sense.

Unknown said...

Hi Wayne, you've done an excellent job in summarizing the structural issues of the current accreditation system. I wonder, however, if these questions might also be informed by asking questions around our values as UUs or a visioning process? For example, asking "within this process, who is being left out?" The financial burden on those moving forward is tremendous. Or, "is our system still geared toward supporting to the young, single, wealthy, no-kids, white, male?"

The UUA and the MFC I know are dedicated to a fair and just world. Might it be possible to begin with the competencies needed in ministry and then looking at different avenues for obtaining those competencies?

As you have articulated it here, I understand your focus of evaluation of the mfc to be more structural and internal, rather than vision. I'm not sure that you can fix the one without first dealing with the other.

I am deeply appreciative of this conversation. In the interest of full disclosure, I am currently a candidate who is struggling with the financial burdens of the process. I am aware that any changes will most likely not happen by the time I get before the MFC (1.5 years fingers-crossed), but I am very concerned for the future of our ministry and I would love to be a part of this conversation.

You have my gratitude for all the hard work you and the MFC do to help make our denomination and our ministry stronger. I think we all want this. :-)


Rev. Earl W. Koteen said...

Thanks to Wayne and Christine for these questions. Please see my replies here at the "Calling Ministers" blog.

Anonymous said...

As someone struggling with the credentialing process in its current form, I'm in strong agreement with Ogre's comments # 2 & 3 above!!