Press Release: Church Systems Task Force Report Released

For Immediate Release
May 26, 2011

Contact: M. Colette Nies, Managing Director, Communications
(847) 866-4296 or cnies@gbophb.org

Glenview, IL—The Church Systems Task Force (CSTF) jointly convened by the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits (GBPHB) and the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM) today released the final report on the impact of the employment systems of the Church on clergy physical, emotional, spiritual, social and financial health.

General Conference 2008 directed this task force to bring findings and possible recommendations to General Conference 2012. The 21-member CSTF, chaired by Bishop Hope Morgan Ward (Mississippi Annual Conference), concluded a multi-phased research process in 2010, identifying thirteen factors impacting clergy health, and with this report delivers its recommendations associated with General Conference 2012 legislation.

CSTF Examination

“The importance of health in the Wesleyan tradition and the relationship among the clergy, local churches and the communities they serve guided the efforts of the CSTF,“ said Bishop Ward. The CSTF examined clergy health and identified the impact Church employment systems and structures have on it. Objectives, findings, considerations and recommendations are described in the report as a basis for General Conference 2012 legislation to address Church systems and practices with the long-term goal of improving the health of clergy and, by extension, that of congregations and the Church itself.

CSTF Recommendations

The CSTF recommendations are intended to assure competent, cared-for and thriving clergy who are able to live authentically, with accountability and with abundance. The recommendations draw upon connectional relationships in a community of trust as important underpinnings for clergy health.

The CSTF believes it is time that the intersection of Church systems with clergy health is addressed and that needed changes to sustain the Church’s mission are made. “Clergy health impacts us all and can strengthen our ministry. Without a denomination-wide appreciation for the value of healthy ministry and a commitment to change what negatively impacts it, we risk our ability to continue and strengthen our connectional mission,” commented GBPHB general secretary, Barbara Boigegrain.

The CSTF recommendations to improve clergy health are directed in five areas:

  • Entering ministry—stronger screening of candidates for ministry; standardization and strengthening of the residency program during the provisional period; providing a provision for career]long mentor and/or spiritual guide for clergy, apart from the DS
  • Guidelines for healthy work/life balance—championing and monitoring clergy health and wellness; being familiar with and promoting conference resources; providing support to clergy, spouses and families
  • Itineracy and appointment-making—use longer-tenure appointments to mitigate the stress on clergy and, by extension, stress on the connection; encourage use of interim clergy
  • Supervisory systems—definition of the role of district superintendent (DS)
  • Exiting ordained ministry—voluntary transition for a grace-filled exit from ordained ministry

The recommendations on improving clergy health followed a process of testing, understanding, clarifying and framing the research findings. The preliminary recommendations drafted by the CSTF were refined, incorporating clergy perspectives, wisdom and insights gained from Church-wide listening sessions.

CSTF Report Intersects with Ministry Study Commission

“The CSTF report adds another perspective on Church employment systems that has intersections with the GBHEM Ministry Study Commission and further illuminates other recent denomination-wide studies,” said GBHEM general secretary, the Reverend Kim Cape. Disciplinary and non-disciplinary legislation associated with the recommendations contained in the CSTF report are now under evaluation and consideration for approval by the boards of GBHEM, GBPHB and GBOD.

A denominational appreciation for the value of healthy ministry, and the resolve to change what negatively impacts the Church, undergirds the ability to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

View the Church Systems Task Force Report and the Church Systems Task Force Report Online Appendix.

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About GBOPHB

The General Board of Pension and Health Benefits (GBOPHB) is a not-for-profit administrative agency of The United Methodist Church, responsible for the general supervision and administration of the retirement, health and welfare benefit plans, programs and funds for more than 74,000 clergy and lay employees of the Church.

GBOPHB is the largest faith-based pension fund in the United States; with approximately $17 billion in total assets under management, it ranks among the top 100 pension funds in the country. As a socially responsible investor, GBOPHB is actively involved in shareholder advocacy, proxy voting, portfolio screening and community investing.

About GBHEM

The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM) leads and serves The United Methodist Church in the recruitment, preparation, nurture, education, and support of Christian leaders—lay and clergy—for the work of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. GBHEM’s vision is that a new generation of Christian leaders will commit boldly to Jesus Christ and be characterized by intellectual excellence, moral integrity, spiritual courage, and holiness of heart and life.

GBHEM is the church’s advocate for educational, institutional, and ministerial leadership. It serves as an advocate for the intellectual life of the church. GBHEM’s mission embodies the Wesleyan tradition of commitment to the education of laypersons and ordained persons by providing access to higher education for all persons.

 

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