Discerning what's next for the NTA
The associations of the South Central Conference are entering intentional discernment of what comes next for us. Two of our associations have approved plans to dissolve and allow the conference to act as an association for them. This page will help track our process in considering what is next for the North Texas Association.
Why have this conversation at all?
The NTA is running well in our current state. Our finances, while tight, are stable, and while there are several open positions we've yet to find volunteers to fill, most essential roles are operating as they should.
Though we are in an okay position, the NTA is down to 13 actively participating churches, and those 13 churches are being asked to run one of the most active Committees on Ministry in the nation, considering an impressive amount of ministerial candidates while assisting in a rising number of clergy fitness review cases. We are operating in a separate way from any other association in our conference. As other associations in our conference vote to allow the conference to act in their place, our responsibilities and burdens would only increase beyond our limits.
A quick polity discussion
What does a UCC associaiton do? Can the Conference do those things?
Recognizing Jesus Christ as the only head of our Church, the UCC recognizes four co-equal settings of the Church: congregations, associations, conferences, and the General Synod/national setting.
Among shared projects, missions, and a relationship to Master's Workshop Camp, one of the NTA's primary responsibilities has been to authorize, support, and review ministers and to welcome churches into the United Church.
The South Central Conference has traditionally helped more with search and call, outdoor youth ministry, communication between settings, and resourcing congregations.
Because associations hold ministerial authorization in the UCC the role of the association cannot and should not be dissolved. That role, however, can be given to a conference acting as an association. Both conferences and associations are regional bodies of local churches working together and speaking to one another. As our denomination has matured since 1957, some conferences have found it helpful to consolidate these bodies with overlapping responsibilities to combine resources and draw from a larger group of people to form committees and make decisions.
Congregational polity is maintained no matter if the association is a separate entity or not. Separation of powers is maintained as local, regional, and national settings of the church are recognizable in both models. Congregations still send members to participate in committees and boards, send delegates to meetings, and can submit their clergy to regional authorization and fitness review. Our conference then still sends delegates to the General Synod every biennium (soon to be triennium).
Where are the other associations in this process?
How could this work in the NTA?
So what is next for the NTA?
That's up to us! We want to hear from a wide variety of voices and discern the movement of the Spirit together here. This is a dynamic process with no pre-determined outcome, so we can only really project two or so association meetings.
Fall 2023 NTA Meeting: First mention and discussion with the whole association. Gather questions, input, and cast a vision for what a future could look like.
Spring 2024 NTA Meeting: Discuss new findings/responses to the questions asked. Possibly form a team to create a recommendation, vision, or motion going forward. Planning for possible listening and work sessions.
2024 South Central Conference Meeting: The conference will consider and vote on constitution and bylaw changes that would allow for association processes to be completed at the conference level.