The Ministerial Fellowship Committee is one of the standing committees of the Board of Trustees, established by the bylaws of the Unitarian Universalist Association. The fourteen members include twelve persons appointed by the UUA Board of Trustees, including two members who are themselves Trustees, and two persons appointed by the UU Ministers Association. Eight members are clergy and six are lay members. The Committee has met three times during this year, a reduction of one meeting from past years, in cooperation with the request of the Board of Trustees and Administration, to reduce costs. We meet once in Boston, once in Berkeley, and once in Chicago, to accommodate candidates from the three historically related Unitarian Universalist seminaries , Harvard Divinity School, Starr King School for the Ministry, and Meadville/Lombard Theological School, and from non-UU schools in the various regions of the country.
Our primary charge is the jurisdiction of ministerial fellowship, beginning with the credentialing of candidates for Unitarian Universalist ministry. The basic requirements for fellowship, which are established by the MFC, include an undergraduate degree and a Master of Divinity degree or their equivalent, a career assessment program, a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education, an approved internship, sponsorship by a UU congregation, and an interview with the MFC.
Over the course of the past year, we have interviewed sixty-one candidates. This is a lesser number than we have seen in recent years. As part of the interview process, candidates preach a brief sermon, and we discuss with them the findings from the required components of their preparation, listed above, and expect them to demonstrate required competencies by answering questions in those areas. Those candidates included 24 men and 37 women; 45 were preparing for parish ministry, 12 for community ministry, and 4 for the ministry of religious education. Ages ranged from mid-twenties to mid-sixties. Twelve candidates attended Starr King School for the Ministry, ten were from Meadville/Lombard, and six from Harvard Divinity School. The remaining 33 candidates attended other theological schools.
Fifty-five of those candidates interviewed were accepted into preliminary fellowship, four were encouraged but required to return for another interview, and two were discouraged from continuing in the process.
Twenty-two of the candidates had participated in a previous interview with a Regional Subcommittee on Candidacy. All of those were granted preliminary fellowship. Now in the fourth year of experience, an evaluation of the RSCC process is underway under the direction of the Rev. David Pettee, Ministerial Credentialing Director, and chaired by the Rev. Dr. Gene Pickett.
Although the majority of meeting time (and many hours of pre-meeting preparation) is engaged in candidate interviews, the MFC also grants renewals toward final fellowship, considers complaints and other possible disciplinary matters, and is engaged in constant review of its own processes and procedures. Committee members met with faculty at SKSM and M/L to discuss areas of common interest and concern. After years of discussion and consideration, the proposal to grant preliminary fellowship without regard to category is moving forward. A Task Force under the direction of the UUMA Executive Committee and chaired by the Rev. Roberta Nelson has made recommendations on the process of granting final fellowship with specialization, and the MFC will be developing these procedures in the year ahead. We are appreciative of the collaborative efforts of the UUMA and the Board of Trustees in this work.
In keeping with the resolution of the UUA toward becoming an anti-racist, anti-oppressive institution, the MFC has dedicated time to conversations among ourselves and with invited guests on issues relating to ministers and candidates of color. We have come to recognize that, although we have credentialed a number of ministers of color as well-prepared for our ministry, the difficulties around successful settlement, especially for male African-American ministers, are of crisis proportions. We are working on several initiatives to address our own understanding of these issues, to strengthen the Anti-Racism competency in our requirements for fellowship, to consider support for ministers of color, and to examine our policies and procedures through an anti-racist lens. We have committed ourselves to further anti-racist, anti-oppressive and multicultural training and this work will continue to be a priority for us.
During the last two years, the Committee has welcomed eight new members, who have brought new perspectives and energy. Change has occurred at every level, and we have learned to thrive on change. The Executive Committee is composed of Rev. Dr. Leslie Westbrook, vice chair; Rev. Dr. Mark Belletini; Betty Bobo Seiden, and myself. The Working Group convenors are Rev. Jory Agate, Candidacy; Rev. Dr. Stephan Papa, Settlement; and Rev. Dianne Arakawa, Process. Committee members include Susan Stukey, Rev. Wayne Arnason, Les McGukin, Rev. Ken Reeves, Rev. Dr. Carolyn Owen-Towle, Abbey Tennis, and Dr. James Robinson. We are ably supported by staff members Rev. David Hubner, Rev. David Pettee, and Rev. Michelle Bentley, and are always most grateful for the services and support of Christine May and Griffith Bell.