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The Movement of Ministers

Read or download advice and guidelines on the Movement of Ministers.

1. Introduction and Outline Process

This information includes an overview of the process from the time a serving minister informs their pastorate of his/her intention to leave that post to the end of an induction period when a new minister has been called. This information does not deal with Church Related Community Workers, who are the subject of a parallel document ‘The Movement of CRCWs’.

Preparing to declare a post vacant

  • A serving minister informs their pastorate of the intention to leave
  • Concurrence to move is given by the Synod, coordinated by the Synod Clerk
  • Appointment of Interim Moderator(s)
  • Visit by the Synod Moderator sometimes with representatives from the Pastoral Committee
  • Identifying of the Pastorate Call Group
  • Confirm the configuration of the pastorate
  • Preparation of Pastorate Profile including Draft Terms of Settlement and housing arrangements and Summary Profile
  • Declaration of a Vacant Post

Calling a Minister

  • The Role of Synod Moderators’ meetings
  • The profiles
  • First visit by a candidate
  • Preaching with a View
  • Deciding on a call
  • Concurrence given by Synod
  • Induction Service and Induction period

2. Preparing to declare a post vacant

The best current practice in the movement of ministers contains the following elements. The order and timing of events will vary according to circumstance. Practice varies between Synods.

(NB: ‘Synod’ here implies ‘or the appropriately authorised committee or officers of Synod’. Synod procedures need to be clearly agreed and understood on such matters, including who can give concurrence to calls. Similarly ‘Elders’ stands for the equivalent group in an ecumenical or ‘special category’ ministry situation. A Pastorate can consist of one or several congregations arranged as a joint pastorate, group or cluster etc.)

2.1 The minister informs the Elders and Church meeting(s) of receipt of a call to another post, retirement or other reason for leaving; normally three months’ notice of a move is given, though in Local Ecumenical Partnerships (LEPs) and in the case of retirement it may well be known At the same time any call is referred to Synod, whose concurrence needs to be given.

Care should be taken as to the timing of the announcement and the way it is done, particularly in a group pastorate. A statement of the reasons for leaving the post should be prepared by the minister for sharing with the Synod moderator, Secretary for Ministries and the pastorate to enable reflection on learning and possible action to be taken.

2.2 Synod initiates discussion with the pastorate with a view to appointing an Interim Moderator (or sometimes more than one to churches in a joint pastorate or LEP). The role and duties of Interim Moderator(s) should be clearly If more than one Interim Moderator is appointed it is advisable to choose one of them to play a ‘coordinating’ role.

2.3 Ahead of the departure of the minister the Interim Moderator will chair any meetings about the future and will be the point of contact with Synod and the Synod Moderator.

2.4 Synod and the Synod Moderator arrange one or more meetings with the Elders, or other appropriate pastorate group, to explain the process of the movement of ministers and to discuss the mission needs and the scoping of the vacant pastorate.

2.5 After consultation with all involved the Synod decides on the shape of the pastorate and its “Scoping” is the term used for determining the ministry allocated to each pastorate. Thus, a pastorate may be scoped for a full-time or part-time Minister of Word and Sacraments or other form of ministry.

2.6 A ‘pastorate call group’ (also known as a vacancy group) is identified by the pastorate to help them through the process. Often this group is composed only of elders (some or all of the serving elders).

However, others may be invited to take part to enable appropriate representation including, if possible, a mix of ethnicity, gender, age In a multi- church pastorate, it is advisable to have at least one pastorate call group representative of each of the congregations in the group. In order to be most effective, it is recommended that the call group has no more than twelve members (in addition to Interim Moderator(s).

2.7 The pastorate prepares a Pastorate Profile and a summary profile which can be obtained from the Synod Office. A draft role description should be prepared as part of this (See Appendix 4). Draft Terms of Settlement and housing provision including details of the manse should be included.

2.8 Agreement should be reached on the procedures for decision-making in relation to a call. The decision is taken by those present and able to vote in church meeting. The size of majority that will be required in the voting must be agreed in advance. In the case of a joint or group pastorate, there are various options to consider. It is recommended that there be a joint church meeting so that the whole pastorate shares in prayer and discussion.

The vote may then be taken as a single vote of the pastorate, or separate ballot papers may be used for the different congregations. If separate church meetings are held, it is good for them to take place concurrently. If that is not possible, the decision of each meeting should be held in confidence until all have met and made their decision. In addition to agreeing an overall majority required for the issuing of a call, it is possible to set a lower threshold for the vote of each individual congregation within the pastorate. (See Appendix 11 for the procedure agreed by General Assembly for voting as one joint church meeting in a group pastorate.)

2.9 The pastorate prepares, and Synod agrees, draft ‘Terms of Settlement’, to be finally negotiated with a prospective minister. Synod needs to confirm the suitability of the Changes to the manse (or housing allowance) to accommodate a particular minister should be made before the induction.

2.10 The summary profile (one for the whole pastorate) is prepared and agreed.

2.11 A copy of the full profile and summary profile should be sent to the Synod Office electronically for the Synod Moderator.

2.12 When a pastorate profile and summary profile are completed, scoping agreed and Terms of Settlement approved in draft form, then Synod will declare the pastorate free to seek a minister and the Synod Moderator will seek a candidate through the Synod Moderators’ meeting.

3. Seeking and issuing a call

The best current practice for the movement of ministers follows the process given here. The basic framework will be adapted for particular circumstances, e.g. group pastorates, team ministries, ecumenical or ‘special’ situations. The process should be regarded as confidential to those involved.

3.1 The Synod Moderators meet 11 times per year to consider the movement of When the vacant post has been declared and the Pastorate Profile and summary have been prepared, the Synod Moderator gives information about the vacant post to the Synod Moderators’ meeting using the Summary Pastorate Profile. The vacant post is advertised through the monthly emailing to all serving ministers before any consideration of an introduction.

Ministers can view all Summary Pastorate Profiles via the website www.urc-profiles.org.uk . If candidates can be identified, or if any ministers have asked for it, they are shown the full Pastorate Profile and asked about letting their name go forward. Ministers seeking a move may be shown more than one profile, from which they may choose one to pursue.

3.2 If a candidate agrees, his/her Personal Profile is given to the Sometimes the minister attaches a covering letter for the pastorate call group to indicate why they feel they would like an introduction. If several ministers wish to be introduced, their Personal Profiles are given to the pastorate which has to choose one with whom to proceed. (See Appendix 7 for a description of the process as printed in Assembly Reports 2004 page 120.) It is important for the pastorate to understand that this is a call process and not competitive interview.

3.3 An invitation may then be given to the candidate to meet the Interim Moderator and pastorate call These meetings/interviews should be confidential and carefully handled; some guidance is offered in Appendix 7. Members of any ministry team and ecumenical representatives may be met at this point and the manse may be seen.

3.4 If the candidate and pastorate call group both agree, the candidate should be invited for a weekend, to include meeting with appropriate groups, leading of services, social gatherings, etc., consideration should be given as to whether joint services in a group pastorate might be more appropriate than leading worship several times in different locations.

3.5 Church Meeting(s) (with the Interim Moderator(s) chairing) will take place as soon after the weekend visit as possible normally within a The pastorate call group are free but not obliged to make a recommendation to the Church Meeting(s). If the candidate is willing to accept the call, the acceptance is provisional until Synod concurrence is given in writing. Email correspondence is sufficient. A provisional acceptance should therefore be communicated to the Synod Clerk as soon as possible, with a request for concurrence again in writing.

3.6 The minister will normally have a current Disclosure and Barring Service/Protecting Vulnerable Groups Scheme disclosure as these are issued every 5 years. The Ministries Office at Church House will be able to advise.

3.7 The Interim Moderator(s) works with the pastorate, Synod Officers, newly called minister and Synod Moderator to co-ordinate the preparation of the (Ordination and) Induction service, which is under the auspices of the Synod. The Interim Moderator may also work with the incoming minister on an induction process.

4. The Appointment, Responsibilities and Role of Interim Moderators

4.1  Introduction

The ministry of Interim Moderators has been recognised from the foundation of the United Reformed Church. Their purpose is to provide a continuing mutual link between the wider church and local pastorate during a time of ministerial transition. A function of a Synod is “to appoint, in consultation with the local church and the Moderator of the Synod, from among its members an Interim Moderator during a pastoral vacancy”. It is important that the Interim Moderator be able to act and to be seen as a neutral person – someone outside the local situation.

The Interim Moderator needs to be objective and sensitive to the church’s tradition, theological stance and ways of operating. The agreement of the local church in the appointment is essential. The Synod is responsible for the training and support of Interim Moderators. The Interim Moderator is the point of contact for the Synod Moderator and may be invited to report on the state of the pastorate during the time of ministerial transition to the Synod Pastoral Committee (or equivalent).

4.2  Appointment

When a minister receives a call to another pastorate or post, or is within six months of retirement, or for any other reason is leaving the pastorate, then the Synod initiates discussion with the local church and the Synod Moderator and appoints an Interim Moderator(s). The role and duties of the Interim Moderator should be agreed and clearly defined. Care should be taken in choosing a person with experience, knowledge of the area, insight into the needs and aspirations of the local church, time and a readiness to exercise the role. In a multi-church pastorate, each may have its own Interim Moderator and, if so, one of the interim Moderators should act as a co-ordinating Interim Moderator.

Best practice is for clearly defined terms of service to be agreed by all parties at the beginning. An appointment for a year at a time is helpful. All will then understand the time available to be used, the cost of the operation (Interim Moderators’ expenses are paid by the receiving local church) and the tasks which can be undertaken by the Interim Moderator. One of the first needs will then be to determine who will be responsible for what the Interim Moderator is unable to do. Note that the oversight by Elders and Church Meeting continues and, in many instances, flourishes during the time of transition.

4.3 Responsibilities

The role of the Interim Moderator will vary. Some will simply be responsible for the process of introducing a candidate, others may be willing to lead worship, chair all church meetings, make emergency pastoral visits, preside at the ordination and induction of elders and attend social functions. All of these depend on the availability of the Interim Moderator. So, the responsibilities of Interim Moderators shall normally include:

  1. Chairing Elders’ Meetings, Church Meetings or special groups where the calling of a minister is discussed
  2. Chairing all meetings with prospective ministers
  3. Providing a mutual link between the Synod and the local church
  4. Providing a mutual link between the Synod Moderator and the local church
  5. Providing a mutual link between the prospective minister and the local church
  6. Aiding the drafting and negotiating of Terms of Settlement, including housing provision
  7. Encouraging consideration of any relevant issues as a new minister is sought, in particular the denomination’s Equal Opportunities Policy (Appendix 8), noting that there is a helpful and important document ‘Equalities Training for Churches in Vacancy’ in the equalities section of the URC
  8. Informing both prospective ministers and/or the Church Meeting/Pastorate Call Group and the Synod Moderator of any
  9. Overseeing and co-ordinating the planning of the Induction Service in consultation with the Synod, Synod Moderator and future minister
  10. Advising on what is appropriate at each

4.4  The Role

The question of how much leadership to give and of what nature is difficult to prescribe because it has to be assessed in the light of varied circumstances. In this period, it can be helpful to reflect on such matters as the sense of ‘bereavement’ that the loss of a minister might bring, the anxiety about a time without a minister and any underlying conflicts that might have emerged during the previous period of ministry. This time can also be an opportunity for hidden gifts within the elders and members to be released in leadership, worship and pastoral care etc.

The transition time is not just a waiting time; the church can develop. The Interim Moderator can help the church grow in awareness and confidence in the process and be prepared to address difficult issues. If this growth and development does not occur the church will be restricted in its vision for the future.

It follows that good relations with the Interim Moderator are not enough if they inhibit the kind of in-depth appraisal and discernment for ministry, which may be essential for the future. It is better to take time in order to reach a fruitful outcome.

The Interim Moderator also has a role in helping a candidate through the process and in reflecting on it, whether or not a call is issued.

5 Special cases

5.1  Ordinands

See Appendix 6 for guidelines for Interim Moderators in introducing an ordinand to a pastorate although the process is not dissimilar to normal introductions. Ordinands prepare their Personal Profiles in time for meeting with the Synod Moderators normally in September of their final year of training. The October Synod Moderators’ meeting then seeks to offer each ordinand a suitable pastorate to consider. The ordinand should be available to serve anywhere within the United Reformed Church.  Most ordinands receive a call within their final year of training. Before proceeding to ordination and induction the Synod and the Assessment Board should be satisfied that training has been satisfactorily completed.

5.2  Married Couples

The settlement of couples is complicated and therefore requires sensitive and careful handling. It is likely that two call processes will be interlinked, and the Interim Moderators will need to liaise closely. Particular care will need to be taken over confidentiality, whilst issues such as housing, etc will be different from normal.

5.3  ‘Different’ posts

The Synod Moderators’ meeting produces each month a list of pastorates seeking a minister, which is circulated to all serving ministers. In addition, the summary pastorate profile is placed on the website so that they are available to be viewed. This is the way that posts are made known within the church. When a pastorate first appears on the list normally no names are considered by the Synod Moderators, normally for one month, so that all ministers have the opportunity to express an interest. A small number of posts (LEPs, SCMs, Chaplaincies) may be able to seek a minister through other means. If another route is permissible and chosen, that post will not be considered by the Synod Moderators’ meeting.

5.4  Fixed term appointments

Most calls to ministers to serve pastorates are open ended. But some posts are for a fixed period, for example the special category ministry posts, which are five years in the first instance but can be extended after review. Ecumenical posts are also often fixed term and this will be clear from the job description and stated on the summary profile.

Ministers on fixed term appointments should be encouraged to enter into the process 12 months before the end of their post.

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