The Joint Nominating Committee (JNC) appointed to lead the search for a new Lead Minister has developed this document to address the ‘frequently asked questions’ about the process that is underway.
Why are we needing to call a new lead minister?
Rev. Stu Cameron has accepted a call as superintendent minister of Wesley Mission, Sydney, commencing 1/11/20.
What are the selection criteria for the lead minister? Can I see the position description?
The position description was drafted by Stu and approved by the Newlife Elders, Presbytery’s Pastoral Relations Committee and the Synod Placements Committee. The PD indicates the key responsibilities and selection criteria. It is available here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1iYJZk5NwPOPo_TX5nei7XdqKnyVJXOnH/view?usp=sharing
Who determines the lead pastor’s salary and conditions (manse, car etc)?
Standard terms and conditions apply to every ministry placement in the Qld Synod of the Uniting Church, with flexibility on some matters (e.g., providing a house or paying a housing allowance; providing a car or paying a travel allowance; providing a phone and laptop, etc). Some matters may arise in the JNC conversation which are negotiated as part of a condition of call. These need to be ratified by the Church Council (Newlife elders). The Letter of Call to the minister lists the final set of terms and conditions.
How long is the new lead minister appointment for (e.g. 5 years? 10 years?)
A Uniting Church ministry placement is for up to 10 years. This may be extended by decision of the Presbytery, after consultation. After 5 years in a placement, a minister may be asked to consider a possible call elsewhere but they are not obliged to do so. Rev. Stu Cameron was granted two extensions (after 10 and 15 years).
What is a JNC and how is it selected?
A Joint Nominating Committee is the body elected to discern who to recommend to the Congregation for call to a ministry placement. The JNC comprises up to 6 members from the Congregation (elected by the Congregation or the Church Council), and 2 elected by the Presbytery. One of the Presbytery representatives chairs the JNC.
This JNC comprises 6 from Newlife and 2 from South Moreton Presbytery, one of whom, Rev. David Busch (the Presbytery Minister) is the Chair.
What is the usual UCA placements process and is that the process being followed here?
The UCA’s ministry placements process is outlined in the national Regulations and Qld Synod information, all publicly available. The UCA Regulations are on the web here (see Section 2.6 starting on page 105). This web page lists documents relevant to JNCs and the placements process as applied in Qld. The most relevant one for general information is this one: Newlife JNC is using the decentralised pathway which gives greater flexibility to the JNC (see Section 9).
Rev. Stu Cameron, Rev. Brad Foote and previous Newlife ministers were all called according to the usual UCA placements process.
Where was the position advertised and for how long?
The position was advertised within Newlife (email, Facebook, website blog); Presbytery of South Moreton Facebook; Uniting Church Qld Synod Facebook and ‘available placements’ list; Uniting News (Qld Synod broadscale weekly email); Christian Jobs Australia and Eternity jobs market (Bible Society). It was sent to the Propel Network and other Synods with a request to circulate. This was all instigated by June 11 and the closing date for applications was July 10.
Who was eligible to apply?
Applications were openly invited from people within and outside the Uniting Church, and from within and outside Newlife, lay and ordained, men and women.
Were particular individuals encouraged to apply? Was anyone ‘head-hunted’?
Members of the JNC do not actively solicit applications, but there is nothing to stop other people from encouraging suitable candidates to apply. The 1-month window was designed to maximise the opportunity for prospective applicants. Synod Placements Committee also may recommend ministers to the JNC or encourage ministers to apply.
How were the applicants shortlisted?
The Synod Placements Secretary (Rev. John Ruhle) and the JNC Chair did a primary sort to sift out any applications which are manifestly unsuitable (e.g., significantly under-qualified; visa issues for overseas applicants). The remaining applicants were given to the JNC for their shortlisting and follow-up.
Will all shortlisted applicants be interviewed?
The JNC shortlists and prioritises the candidates. A JNC is able to proceed to interviews (the UCA calls these ‘conversations’) with up to 3 applicants at a time. If more than 3 are shortlisted, the JNC may invite applicants to provide further information or make further submissions before it decides on its preferred 3 for conversation. If none of those 3 proceed to recommendation to the Congregation, the JNC may look at others on the shortlist.
Will all members of the JNC interview the candidates or just a subcommittee of the JNC?
The JNC exercises collective discernment, and so the whole JNC is involved in all aspects of consideration, conversation and decision about a recommendation.
If the JNC brings forward a recommended candidate, does that mean that candidate has already been approved by the Uniting Church?
Yes. The applicants provided to the JNC already have been assessed as potentially suitable to serve in this placement. If any of the JNC’s shortlisted applicants come from outside the Uniting Church, the JNC Chair liaises with the Placements Committee Secretary to confirm their suitability to serve in a UCA placement should they be called.
I’m concerned the Uniting Church will select a candidate that suits their particular requirements that may not align with the Newlife culture and DNA. How can I be sure that the new lead minister will be a fit for Newlife?
The UCA doesn’t select ministers for placement in the way this question suggests. That is the task of the Congregation, in considering a recommendation from the JNC. The JNC’s task is to prayerfully discern the person whom they believe God is calling for this new season for Newlife. The UCA’s requirements for those who serve in its ministry placements can readily be expressed within Newlife’s culture and DNA, as Rev. Stu Cameron and Rev. Brad Foote’s ministries demonstrate.
Does the recommendation of the JNC need to be unanimous?
Essentially, yes. The JNC must seek consensus on its discernment. Where there are disagreements, these need to be shared and discussed openly. If a JNC cannot reach unanimity, it needs to decide how it should proceed. The JNC Chair is to ensure that the integrity of collective discernment and decision-making is upheld.
Can the preferred applicant meet with people from Newlife other than the JNC?
While it is not normal practice, the preferred applicant and the JNC may agree that it would be appropriate for the person to meet the Church Council, or a wider group of members, prior to a decision to proceed to call. It is customary that those who will be team ministry colleagues have an opportunity to meet with the recommended minister prior to call.
TAKING A NAME TO THE CONGREGATION
What is the timeline and when can we expect to vote on the recommended candidate?
The timeline is open. The JNC is underway. It is aware of the desire for a timely outcome.
What does the JNC bring to the Congregation?
The JNC reports to a meeting of the Congregation. It brings the name of its recommended candidate, outlines the person’s relevant background and experience, and explains why this person is their discerned choice. Each JNC member speaks. There is opportunity for questions and discussion.
Will we receive more than one name?
No. The JNC is entrusted to do the deep, probing work of discernment with its shortlisted applicants until it is clear and confident about the name to recommend.
Can we hear the recommended candidate preach in church, or conduct a Q&A with them?
No. The JNC report will bring something to share about the person’s preaching, but the Uniting Church does not have a practice of a person ‘preaching for the call’. The JNC will have asked the person many questions relevant to a discernment about their suitability for the placement, and it will field questions from the Congregation. The Congregation meeting does not undertake the whole discernment process again. The people listen carefully to what the JNC has discerned.
If I have concerns with the JNC recommended candidate, how can I voice those concerns more than just a “yes” or “no” vote?
The Congregation meeting is open to all questions and comments, offered respectfully and in a spirit of shared discernment.
How is the vote conducted?
Secret ballot, yes or no, in answer to the question: “That Newlife Church call [name] to the placement of Lead Minister.”
Who can vote?
Members and members-in-association of the Uniting Church at Newlife.
What percentage support is required, and will the percentage be revealed?
A simple majority is mandated, but a Congregation meeting can choose to ‘raise the bar’ if it wishes (e.g., two-thirds). The vote is counted by scrutineers appointed by the meeting (usually 1 of the members of the JNC and 1 member of the Congregation). Whether or not the percentage is revealed is up to the Congregation Chair; there are reasons why this may or may not be helpful.
If the congregation approves the JNC recommended candidate, how soon will they commence their term?
This depends on the person and their current circumstances. A start date of 1/11/20 is preferred; even a week or two earlier to allow a handover with Stu. The person’s proposed start date will be included in the JNC’s information to the Congregation.
What happens if the congregation does not approve the recommended candidate?
If the ballot outcome is ‘no,’ then the Congregation can discuss possible next steps. One option would be to pause the process and appoint an interim lead minister. Another would be to re-advertise. New JNC members might be elected. The Presbytery Minister, who will be present as he is chairing this JNC, could inform this discussion.
Is there an example of a church our size and culture that has undergone a similar leadership transition? How did that go, what did we learn? How is that learning applied here?
As the largest Uniting Church Congregation, Newlife is unique but there are other Congregations of similar culture and complexity, if not size. The UCA placements process has served those contexts well in ministry leadership transitions – recognising that there is much more to effective transitions than the call process itself. The JNC has flexibility in how it engages its discernment with the applicants to confirm their suitability. But no new leader arrives with everything ready to go. The strength of the Newlife ministry team will be key to the effective transition to new leadership.
If I have further questions regarding the process, where can I take these?