11. ADMISSION OF MINISTERS FROM ANOTHER DENOMINATION (Standing Committee)

That the Assembly

 

authorize the Assembly Standing Committee, on the advice of the Legal Reference Committee, to delete Regulation 2.5.1 (Admission of Ministers from another denomination) and replace it with 

APPLICATION BY A MINISTER OF ANOTHER DENOMINATION TO SERVE IN A PLACEMENT

x.x.1    (a)         This Regulation shall apply to any minister of another denomination

(i)         whose ordination to ministry of that denomination is approved by  the Assembly and

(ii)         who desires to apply to serve in a Placement in the Church.

(b)        The application shall be made to the Synod.

(c)        A placement or placements shall be for no more than three years in total unless

(i)         x.x.1 (g) applies; or

(ii)         the Synod or the Assembly (in the case of an Assembly placement) determines to extend the placement beyond three years where it is determined that the applicant has engaged in the process for admission in good faith and that process has or will not be completed within the three year period, and it considers it reasonable to do so;

(d)        The Synod shall assess the suitability of an applicant to serve in a Ministry of the Church having regard to:

(i)         whether the applicant is of good standing in the denomination in which he/she has been ordained and in each denomination in which the applicant has subsequently been in ministry;

(ii)         the commitment of the applicant to the Church;

(iii)        the educational attainments of the applicant;

(iv)        if the applicant is not an Australian citizen, the applicant’s

             immigration status;

(v)        the English language proficiency of the applicant; and

(vi)        any guidelines or requirements laid down by the Assembly. 

(e)        The Synod shall seek confirmation from the Assembly that the ordination of the denomination from which the applicant comes has been previously recognised and, if not, request the Assembly to consider such approval.

(f)         The Synod shall determine whether the applicant is required to complete any ongoing education or formation.

(g)         In conjunction with the Presbytery, the Synod shall appoint a mentor who will work with the applicant to ensure any education or formation requirements under x.x.1(e) are met.

(h)        The Synod or the Assembly (in the case of an Assembly placement), may at the time of approval of an applicant or at any other time after application is made, decide that the requirement of Regulation x.x.2(c) shall not apply in the case of the minister.

 (i)        A placement shall not be extended where an application made under Regulation x.x.2 has been completed and the result of that application was that it was rejected or deferred.

ADMISSION OF A MINISTER FROM ANOTHER DENOMINATION

x.x.2    (a)         Any minister of another denomination whose ordination to ministry of that denomination is recognised by the Assembly may apply to a Synod for admission as a Minister of the Word or Deacon.

                       (b)        A minister of another denomination whose ordination to ministry is recognised by the Assembly and who serves in a placement in the Church for three years shall apply to the Synod for admission as a Minister of the Church unless the Synod, or the Assembly in the case of Assembly placements decides otherwise.

           (c)         The Synod will not process an application by an applicant who has had no, or limited, prior experience in the Church until the applicant has served in a placement in the Church for at least 12 months unless the Synod decides to shorten the period of prior service by reason of exceptional circumstances.

(d)        In considering an application, the Synod shall

(i)   take account of the

  • matters referred to in Regulation x.x.1(c);
  • standards for ministerial education and formation prescribed by the Assembly;
  • experience of the applicant and the Church in a placement; and

(ii)   determine whether the applicant is required to undertake formation for ministry in the Church.

(e)        The Synod shall then proceed to determine the application in any one of the following ways:

(i)         acceptance subject to issue of a certificate of completion by the Assembly;

(ii)         provisional acceptance, subject to satisfactory completion of all requirements of the Assembly and the Synod within such period as the Synod shall determine;

(iii)        deferment for further consideration; or

(iv)        rejection. 

(f)        A minister of another denomination whose admission as a Minister of the Church is approved shall be recognised as a Minister of the Word or a Deacon in a service arranged by the Presbytery in accordance with provisions laid down by the Assembly.

(g)       Any person whose application for admission has been rejected by the Synod under Regulation x.x.2(c) may appeal on the grounds that the process followed did not comply with these Regulations. The appeal shall be dealt with under Part 8 of these Regulations.

 OTHER

x.x.3

(a) The Assembly shall establish guidelines for assessing the suitability of, and requirements for the education and formation of, ordained ministers of other denominations who apply to serve in a placement for a Minister in the Church or for admission as a Minister of the Word or Deacon and shall provide such guidelines to the Synods. 

(b) The guidelines referred to in Regulation x.x.3(a) shall include a requirement that, unless there are special circumstances, the applicant shall have received an education (academic study and ministerial formation) comparable to that of certified candidates for the corresponding ministry in the Church or attained competency comparable to that required of a Minister.

(c) The Assembly shall provide oversight of the process of the application, assessment and admission, and will establish and maintain a list of ordained ministries of denominations of the church catholic that are recognised for the purposes of this Regulation.

(d) In determining if a person’s ordination to a ministry in a denomination of the church catholic shall be recognised by the Church for the purposes of this Regulation the Assembly or the body which it designates to make the decision shall consider

(i)      if the person  seeking admission as a Minister  of the Word, or to serve in a placement in the Church to fulfil substantially the responsibilities of a Minister of the Word , has been ordained to the ministry of the Word and Sacraments in a denomination of the church catholic.

(ii)      if an applicant seeking admission to the ministry of Deacon or to serve in a placement in the Church to fulfil substantially the responsibilities of a deacon, has been ordained to a  ministry  in a denomination of the church catholic that is comparable to the ministry of Deacon in the Church. 

(e) On the advice of the Synod in which the application is made, the Assembly shall issue a certificate of completion of requirements for admission of an ordained minister of another denomination as a Minister of the Word or Deacon. 

(f) If the Assembly refuses to recognise the ordination of a person to ministry in another denomination in a case where the person is applying to serve in a placement in the Church or to become a Minister of the Church, the applicant may appeal against the decision of the Assembly and the appeal shall be dealt with under Part 8 of these Regulations. 

Rationale:

The process that led to this proposal began in August 2009 with the appointment of a Task Group by the Standing Committee. This work was undertaken in response to concerns raised by the Assembly’s Reception of Ministers Committee and other parts of the church which identified a number of areas of difficulty in the operation of a system of recognition and admission which included both Assembly and Synod Committees, and a context very different to the one that existed at the time the current Regulations were drafted at the time of Church Union.

The Task Group undertook its work over 2010. Broadly speaking the following topics and issues are seen to be important as the new regulations take shape:

Ø Education, competency and ministry formation issues
Ø Culturally and linguistically diverse applicants
Ø Was there a need for a recognition process for lay ministry workers?
Ø The relationship between secondment and the recognition of ministers
Ø The respective roles of the Assembly and the synods
Ø Good standing
Ø Confusion over the current regulations
Ø Principles for any change 

Wide consultation was undertaken and although there was not a sense of a crisis driving demand for change it was accepted that the process could be improved and change was worthwhile.

There is no standardised term used to describe the process for a minister from another denomination becoming a minister within the Uniting Church in Australia. The terms “transfer” (cl. 17 of the Constitution), “reception” (Basis of Union and regulations), “admission” or “recognition” (also used in the regulations) are used. Nothing perhaps seems to turn on this however it would be appropriate to use consistently just the one term. The word adopted in the draft regulations is “admission”.

The Standing Committee supported the view of the Task Group that a number of principles which should undergird any changes to the current process for the recognition of ministers from other denominations. The Standing Committee has sought to reflect these principles in the draft regulations. The principles are: 

Ø A missional responsiveness and a denominational identity: flexibility and responsiveness are required in a culturally and linguistically diverse church in providing ministerial leadership. At the same time, the Uniting Church’s unique charism needs to be preserved.

Ø Educational and Formational Standards: the Church should test the educational and formational standards of all people who wish to serve the Church in ministry.

Ø A personal relationship required with an applicant: before a final decision to receive a minister is made, the Uniting Church needs a well formed relationship with an applicant. This does not need to take place before the applicant begins the process of recognition, but certainly before the formal decision to recognise that person is made.

Ø Knowledge of the Uniting Church: all ministry workers, whether lay or ordained, before serving in ministry within the Uniting Church, must have demonstrable knowledge and understanding of the Uniting Church, its Code of Ethics, and a familiarity with and affirmation of the Basis of Union.

Ø Be a minister in “good standing”: all ministry workers, whether lay or ordained, before serving in ministry, must have evidence that they are persons of good standing within their former denominations before serving in Uniting Church ministry. . 

Ø At all times those undertaking ministry, whether lay or ordained, and including those seconded from a partner Church, should be subject to the discipline of the Church with respect to their ministry within the Uniting Church

Ø As soon as practicable, all people formally exercising ministry within the Uniting Church, should be brought within its established framework of discipline.

Ø The process for reception as a minister: the process should be clear, streamlined and appropriately maintain national standards. Only one body should directly manage the application of a ministry worker, lay or ordained, from another denomination. As much as possible, duplication of responsibility and delays in the process should be avoided.

Ø Available quantifiable standards to be employed: where available, such as in the area of English language competency, objective testing should be utilised when required. 

The ASC recommends that there should be a new framework for recognising ordained persons seeking to serve in ministry in the Uniting Church. Broadly speaking the Assembly body should set guidelines, rules and standards (and ultimately determine matters relating to ordination), and a synod based body should manage the application and make appropriate determinations in accordance with Assembly-set standards. In addition, such a synod body would manage and oversight any request of an ordained person from another denomination to serve in ministry in the Uniting Church, whether or not that person seeks to be recognised as a Uniting Church minister. A model for the operation of this new framework would be the interrelationship of the Ministerial Education Commission (MEC) and the synod based Ministerial Education Boards. The MEC does not manage individual candidates for ordained ministry and yet it sets the relevant national benchmarks.

Many persons who subsequently seek to be recognised as Minister of the Uniting Church have served in placements within the church. This phase is often referred to as secondment but apart from one small reference the Regulations silent on this subject and there is no process named in the Regulations for how a person is to be assessed prior to taking up such a ministry opportunity. The proposed new regulations make normative this practice of serving in a UCA placement prior to seeking admission as a Minister of the UCA and set out specific steps in the assessment of a Minister of another church who seeks a placement within the UCA.

A critical assessment in the process of recognition is the need to assess the applicant’s “formation for ministry in the Uniting Church”. This again requires a personal and face to face relationship with the applicant. It is something that can only be done effectively through interview and sustained contact with the applicant, and not simply on the basis of “the paper qualifications” of the applicant. For this reason it will become the requirement of persons seeking admission as a Minister of the UCA that they will already be serving in a UCA placement for at least a year.

There is currently a significant amount of role confusion between the responsibilities of the Assembly and Synod Reception of Ministers Committees. This is not surprising given that at a number of points there is ambiguity on the respective Committee’s responsibilities and is not clear which Committee bears responsibility for the management of the application. It is proposed that the new arrangements make clear that the Assembly continues to determine whether the applicant is from a church which has its ordination recognised by the Uniting Church and, like the MEC, set the broad educational and formation requirements. The Synod Committees will manage the relationship with the applicant and take responsibility for the timely fulfilment of the process.

The Standing Committee has also come to the view that, except in exceptional circumstances, an ordained person from another church should not serve in a placement for more than three years unless they are seeking admission as a Minster of the Uniting Church. Except in situations where the case can be made that an exception should apply, long term ministry in the UCA should be undertaken by persons who are committed long term to the life and ministry of the Uniting Church and so it is the expectation in the draft regulations that an ordained person serving in a placement will complete an application for admission as a Minister of the UCA before the end of three years otherwise the placement must end. Provision is made for situations where in good faith a person has not been able to complete the process of admission but the norm is clearly set out in the new regulation that three years is the normal length of a placement for ordained persons who serve in a UCA placement.

The Standing Committee has submitted draft regulations to the Assembly on what is a very complex process. In doing so it recognises that it is possible to spend a great deal of time at the Assembly doing drafting work from the floor. However the particular process of review on this occasion has allowed time to develop a high level of detail in the proposal and while recognising that more work probably needs to be done on the drafting, including adding some clarity at points, decided that it was important for the Councils of the church to receive this material in good time to allow for comment and for the members of the Assembly to have the benefit of that reflection; rather than keep polishing the draft until close to the time of the Assembly meeting. It is noted that the Standing Committee and the Legal Reference Committee will have further opportunity to develop the regulations prior to implementation, based on the feedback from the church at this stage in the process.