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Proposal for the Redesign of Preliminary Fellowship, December 7, 2003

After a full day of preparatory work, the Ministerial Fellowship Committee reached consensus on the document below for distribution to the UUA Board , the UU Ministers Association, and other interested constituencies for their review and feedback. The Broad Goals section below and Areas of Agreement 1-6 were affirmed by straw votes. Areas of Agreement 7-11 represented the approach that had broad support within the MFC but where we did not employ straw votes. The MFC is intentionally avoiding formal voted actions at this point to allow for full consultation with stakeholders. The MFC will continue to work on this proposal at its March and September meetings in 2004.

Broad Goals for a Re-designed Fellowshipping Model

The goals we are seeking in our re-design of preliminary fellowship include:

  • Encourage successful ministries.
  • Affirm all ministries.
  • Recognize specialized skills, knowledge, and competencies achieved.
  • Re-design preliminary fellowship so that it is the beginning of a process of lifelong professional discernment and development, rather than merely a conclusion to credentialing.
  • Encourage a broad range of skills among all ministers
  • Clarify congregational and community expectations of ministerial skills and MFC responsibilities.
  • Educate congregations and community constituencies about:
    • the ministries available to them.
    • their responsibilities to those ministries.
  • Educate ourselves on the varieties of ministries and their forms.

Areas of Agreement

* denotes areas where the MFC feels wording or conceptual clarity needs more work. The phrase “full fellowship” below refers to what we call “final fellowship” now, and is responsive to the goal #4 above, re-framing this process as the beginning of continuing education rather than the end of credentialing.

  1. The granting of preliminary fellowship will be for “preliminary fellowship in UU ministry” rather than for preliminary fellowship in a category of ministry. AFFIRMED.
  2. The MFC will strive to ensure competence in the five competency areas of ministry defined by the UUMA Task Force March 2003 (pastoral, prophetic outreach, teaching, practical arts, and worship) for all ministers receiving preliminary fellowship. AFFIRMED.
  3. In any re-design, the MFC will retain control of Fellowshipping and the process for recognition of specialization. AFFIRMED.
  4. Just as we plan to award Preliminary Fellowship without requiring declaration of a specialty, we will also award Full Fellowship* in UU Ministry separated from specialty recognition. AFFIRMED.
  5. All ministers in preliminary fellowship must develop a self-designed program for achieving competence in a specialty in consultation with a mentor/advisor*. AFFIRMED.
  6. The MFC has responsibility for setting parameters for such plans for achieving competence in a specialty. AFFIRMED.
  7. The process for renewals of preliminary fellowship will remain essentially the same. It includes a self-evaluation, a review of progress by the minister's employer and/or review committee, and the MFC's own review of the evaluations received. We envision re-designing the paperwork requirements to reflect the five areas of ministerial competence cited above. We expect that preliminary fellowship renewal paperwork would include a request for an update on the work completed on the self-designed specialty recognition continuing education plan.
  8. We recognize that each of our traditional categories of specialty has possibilities for new more focused specialty definitions (such as campus ministry, youth ministry, chaplaincy, family ministry, interim ministry, administrative ministry, and advocacy/organizing ministry). We wish to explore these possibilities over time, assisted by self-developed continuing education plans our ministers in preliminary fellowship create. We expect that ministers could be preparing for more than one specialty recognition at the same time, and/or add additional specialty recognitions over the course of a ministerial career.
  9. Recognition in a specialty shall be ascertained: (a) through the minister's completion of their self-designed continuing education program, and the concurrence of their mentor/advisor * that this has happened, and (b) second renewal of preliminary fellowship as a UU minister and (c) the successful completion of an evaluative review of their knowledge, skills and performance by specialists in the field.* The MFC shall recruit people to serve on a Specialties Review Panel. Such panelists could include UU ministers in final fellowship, lay persons with expertise in certain areas of specialty, or ministers outside the UUA with suitable expertise. The minister shall choose three* people from among the Panelists available to serve on their own individual Review Panel. The responsibility of the Review Panel is to read the minister's paperwork documenting the completion of their continuing education plan, a perspective on performance from the minister's employer/COM, and to decide if the final written stage of evaluation is now appropriate. If so, the Review Panel prepares an evaluation tool involving essay questions to which the minister must respond in writing. The Review Panel receives the written* response, and decides whether the minister should now be recommended for recognition in the specialty, or whether additional work will be requested. The MFC receives recommendations from Review Panels regarding ministers who shall be recognized in a specialty. The MFC shall review these recommendations and may* formally grant the specialty recognition. The MFC could also grant specialty recognitions directly where standards of competence required in certain specialized ministries which have their own professional education and review processes have clearly been attained, or where previous career work demonstrates competence in the specialty.
  10. During Preliminary Fellowship, a minister is required to prepare a continuing education plan for recognition in a specialty. If such a plan is not prepared, full fellowship may be withheld. If a minister is not recommended for recognition in a specialty within seven years after preliminary fellowship is granted, the minister shall be asked to explain the circumstances that have prevented completion of the specialty requirement to the MFC. The MFC may require an interview, and may review the Fellowship status of the minister as a consequence of failing to pursue specialty recognition*.
  11. Ministers who have received final fellowship in a category of ministry shall be recognized as having achieved that specialty. Ministers in final fellowship as of the beginning of this new system of preliminary fellowship and specialty recognition are encouraged to consider entering the specialty recognition process if they wish to seek recognition in a new one.