Definition of Relationship and Responsiblity of the Minister
The bylaws document is the place for the general description of the relationship of the minister and the congregation. Specific details and promises are better left to the letter of agreement. Using the letter of agreement for specificities removes the necessity of bylaw amendments when a change of ministers occurs or the priorities, duties, and responsibilities of the incumbent minister change. One facet that is often mentioned in the bylaws is the provision of a free pulpit to the minister. The free pulpit is a long-standing tradition within Unitarian Universalism, in that we allow our ministers to speak their minds rather than be restricted by a particular tenet or creed.
Spelling out the relationship between the ministers of a congregation in multistaff settings is also important. Is the "second" minister a "co-minister," an "associate minister," or an "assistant minister"? Does the congregation call all subsequent ministers, or does the governing body of the congregation hire them? Are they initially hired for a specific time frame, subject to the possibility of a later congregational call? Are they given the same rights, privileges, and protections as the settled minister, or are there differences that apply? The Ministry and Professional Leadership staff group can provide advice and guidance on these and other issues to congregational leadership as they contemplate expanding their ministerial staff. (Please see the Ministerial Settlement Office webpages.) The bylaws should note any substantial difference in responsibilities and in call or hiring, for in the absence of language to the contrary, all the articles dealing with "the minister" would apply to all ministers, regardless of the intended relationship between and among the ministers and the congregation.
The following provisions presume that in multistaff settings, all ministers would be subject to the same bylaws provisions.
Example 1: The minister shall be responsible for the conduct of worship within the society and the society's spiritual interests and affairs. The minister shall have freedom of the pulpit as well as freedom to express his or her opinion outside the pulpit. The minister shall be an ex officio member of the governing board and of such committees as the board shall designate.
Example 2: The duties of the Minister shall be as prescribed by the Board of Trustees, agreed to by the Minister in writing and approved by the Congregation. In general the Minister shall provide overall religious leadership and guidance in accordance with the established purposes of the Church, and shall be guaranteed freedom of the pulpit. The Minister is an ex officio and non-voting member of the Steering Committee, and of all Committees other than the Nominating Committee, the Ministerial Relations Committee and the Search Committee. The minister will be employed under written contract which clearly stipulates the duties, compensation and other conditions of employment.
Example 3: The Minister is the religious and spiritual leader of the church. He or she shall have freedom of the pulpit and of speech. The Minister is an ex officio member of the Board and of all committees, except the Nominating Committee.
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Last updated on Monday, June 20, 2011.
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