Duties and Relationship of Moderators to the Church of the Brethren Organizational Structure
2004 Annual Conference Statement
Whereas: The Church of the Brethren as a denomination has not considered the role of moderator for congregations since 1965;
Whereas: the Congregational Structure Paper adopted by the 2000 Annual Conference, makes mention of the duties of the local church moderator in a very general way;
Whereas: the guidelines for the moderator at the local church level are nonspecific and thus open to a broad range of interpretation;
Whereas: the role and practice of the moderator may be different in the local church versus the District and/or Annual Conference;
Whereas: the thinking and range of practice found in the denomination about this vital office could be invaluable assistance to the congregations and newly appointed or elected moderators and persons considering being moderators, and
Whereas: the Church of the Brethren has published guidelines and helps for deacons, for congregational structure, and for pastors, in the form of manuals and assembled literature;
Therefore, we the Saint Joseph Church of the Brethren congregation, meeting on May 6, 2001, petition the Church of the Brethren denomination to study the office of the moderator, to bring together existing practices, to recommend guidelines for the selection, qualifications, responsibilities, role and action of the moderator and then to publish such a study for denominational use.
Approved and passed to the Missouri/Arkansas District conference by the Saint Joseph Church of the Brethren Council meeting, Saint Joseph, Missouri, May 6, 2001.
|James Smith, Board Chair||Patricia Dennison, Recording Secretary|
Action by the Missouri/Arkansas District Board: The District Board meeting June 16, 2001 at Cabool, Missouri, recommended this query by adopting and passing it on to the District Conference.
|Kenneth Steckly, District Board Chair||Marie Petty, Board Secretary|
Action of the Missouri/Arkansas District Conference: Passed on to Annual Conference by the Missouri/Arkansas District Conference meeting on September 7-9, 2001 at Camp Windenmere, Roach, Missouri.
|Ida Mae Campbell, Moderator||Marie Petty, Writing Clerk|
Action of the 2002 Annual Conference: Ann Eberly, a Standing Committee member from Mid-Atlantic, presented the Standing Committee recommendation that the Annual Conference Council direct a revision and update to the existing Annual Conference statements regarding moderators, to use current language, to answer the concerns of the query, and to bring the revision back to Annual Conference for approval in the year 2003. The delegate body adopted the Standing Committee recommendation with one amendment that is incorporated in the above recommendation.
THE FUNCTIONS AND QUALIFICATIONS OF THE LOCAL CHURCH MODERATOR
Church of the Brethren
The office of Local Church Moderator in the Church of the Brethren originated following the decline of the free ministry and the advent of the paid ministry. Accompanying that change was the disappearance of a position formerly called “Elder-in-Charge.” The Elder-in-Charge was usually one of the free ministers, normally one with the most experience, who was recognized as the official head of the congregation. He presided at business meetings of the congregation. During the transition to paid pastors, some churches retained the position of elder, and he also functioned as an advisor to the pastor. Eventually, the position of elder was dropped from the organization structure of the local church and the term “moderator” came into general use. The moderator also did not retain the prerequisite of being called to the set-apart ministry; a wise and dedicated lay person could be called to the position. Additionally, terms of service were established for the position of moderator. At the beginning of the calling of local church moderators, approval of the person called had to be given by the district before the person could assume office. Some districts still continue that practice.
Current Functions of Local Church Moderator
In the Congregational Structure paper, adopted by the 2001 Annual Conference, the Moderator is considered to be the head of the organization of the congregation. He or she presides at the business meetings that involve the entire membership (called the Congregational Forum in the Congregational Structure paper), and the moderator is vice-chair and a member with vote on the Leadership Team, the group that oversees the administration of the church program. The moderator also serves as an ex-officio member without vote of the Leadership Calling Team and all project group meetings.
It is generally understood that the moderator is the organizational and official head of the congregation and the pastor or pastors the executive head and spiritual counselor and shepherd of the congregation. The congregation and the pastor are free to assign other roles to the moderator that will enhance how either accomplishes his or her tasks. For example, some pastors look to the moderator for frequent counsel and consultation on the status of the church or in improving relationships therein. In some churches, the moderator is recognized as an “ambassador” for the church, representing the church in community functions and in visiting persons who are invited to consider church membership. Some congregations take care to call a moderator who can be a catalyst for unity and understanding in the church.
Qualifications for a Local Church Moderator
The local church moderator can be a woman or a man, from laity or clergy, who exhibits in faith and character Christ-like qualities, including love, encouragement, wisdom, graciousness, faithfulness to Christ, and dedication to the church. More specific considerations might be consecrative living in home, church, and community; faithful service and leadership experience in the congregation; understanding and commitment to the traditions, ministries, and polity of the Church of the Brethren; familiarity with parliamentary procedure and models for consensus-building and discernment; and listening skills which seek and invite open, forthright sharing and willingness to strive for reconciliation of differing points of view.
Although it is not specified in the current congregational structure, the functions assigned the moderator would suggest that he or she could generally come from the membership of the local church, rather than soliciting the leadership of someone beyond the congregation. The assumptions are that a local church member would know the congregation better, and attendance at the required meetings beyond the Congregational Forum would be facilitated. In rare instances in which a dispute within the congregation must be decided and in which the moderator may not be able to be completely objective, it would be possible to call in someone from beyond the congregation to serve as moderator-pro-tem for the business meeting, or to seek assistance from the district’s Shalom Team (formerly Discipleship and Reconciliation Team – “D & R”).
It is further suggested that the moderator be considered “a member of the assembly” over which he/she presides with the privilege of voting in the Congregational Forum. It is recommended that a moderator not hold an additional major office in the congregation during the moderator’s tenure.
The call process, as outlined in the Congregational Structure document of Annual Conference, shall be followed in the selection of a moderator.
Term of Service
The term of office for the moderator shall be three years. A moderator may be eligible to serve a second term, but no more than two terms in succession.
It is recommenced that each moderator serve as a mentor for his or her successor, and that immediate past moderators serve as parliamentary advisors for Congregational Forum (Business) meetings for one year beyond their term of service.
It is also recommended that Districts provide at least one training workshop for local church moderators annually. The workshop could include such topics as the role and function of the moderator, the development of listening skills and methods of facilitating a business meeting, appropriate counsel for use by moderators in business meetings, relationship between moderators and pastors, and mediation and reconciliation skills.
Action of the 2003 Annual Conference: Earl Ziegler, chair of the Annual Conference Council, presented the recommendation from the Council. After considerable discussion regarding the variety of practice across the denomination in relation to the role and qualifications for moderator, the delegate body referred the paper back to the Annual Conference Council with the suggestion that the Council appoint a committee to assist them in rewriting the answer to this query.
The Functions and Qualifications of the Local Church Moderator
Church of the Brethren
The office of local church moderator in the Church of the Brethren originated following the decline of the free ministry and the advent of the paid ministry. Accompanying that change was the disappearance of a position formerly called “elder-incharge.” The elder-in-charge was usually one of the free ministers, normally one with the most experience, who was recognized as the official head of the congregation. He presided at business meetings of the congregation. During the transition to paid pastors, some churches retained the position of elder, and he also functioned as an advisor to the pastor.
The 1955 Annual Conference adopted the term “moderator” for the presiding officer of the local church and indicated that moderators could be either ministers or laypersons. The action recommended that “the moderator…be a resident member of the church which he serves where there is a person available who meets the qualifications… Otherwise, the moderator should be chosen from outside the church which he serves.” Additionally, terms of service were established for the position of moderator: “The moderator shall be elected by a majority vote for a term of one, two, or three years. He shall be eligible to serve not more than six successive years in the same church, but after one year shall be eligible for election again.” At the beginning of the calling of local church moderators, approval of the person called had to be given by the district before the person could assume office. Some districts still retain that practice.
The 1955 Annual Conference identified the moderator as “the official head of the church, working through the church board and church council in (the) formulating of polices, transacting of business, and approving of the plans for the work of the church.” The pastor was identified as the “executive head” of the church, with leadership responsibilities in the church program and as the congregation’s spiritual counselor and pastor. Moderator and pastor were to work amiably and closely together, supporting and respecting each other’s roles.
Historically, the office of moderator was filled by ordained elders who were part of the district elders body and answerable to that group in the district. When the elders body was dissolved by Annual Conference action (1967), the responsibilities formerly cared for by the elders body were transferred to the district board.
The policies and procedures relating to the local church moderator that were instituted by the 1955 Annual Conference basically have been followed by congregations for nearly fifty years. In isolated cases there has been disregard for tenure and occasionally a moderator has assumed an excessive or ill-advised amount of control over the program and nature of the church. That the vast majority of congregations have found the 1955 model for moderators congenial and workable affirms several valid points in that model.
The current design for the organization of a Brethren congregation, “Congregational Structure,” approved by Annual Conference in 2000, proposes a role for the moderator that is consistent with one of the duties proposed for moderators in the 1955 paper. The Conference delegates in 1955 adopted a statement that said, “He (the moderator) should be a member of the church board, church cabinet, or board of administration, and when a resident member, may serve as chairman.” The 2000 “Congregational Structure” paper calls for the moderator to not only preside at business meetings of the congregation when the entire membership is assembled but also to act as vice-chair, with vote, of the principal administrative group of the church (named the Leadership Team in the current structure; similar in nature to a church board or its executive committee). The moderator also serves as an ex officio member without vote of the Leadership Calling Team (a.k.a. nominating committee) and all project group (committee, commission, or task team) meetings. It is recognized that congregations are not required to automatically adopt a new organizational design, and churches in which it may not be feasible for the moderator to be so integrally involved in the day-to-day functions of the church may define the duties of the moderator in a way that best serves their objectives and mission.
The current congregational organization model still recognizes the moderator as the organizational and official head of the congregation and the pastor (or pastors) the executive head and spiritual counselor and shepherd of the congregation.
Qualifications for a Local Church Moderator
The local church moderator can be a woman or a man, from laity or clergy, who exhibits in faith and character Christ-like qualities, including love, encouragement, wisdom, graciousness, faithfulness to Christ, and dedication to the church. More specific considerations might be consecrated Christian living in home, church, and community; faithful service and leadership experience in the congregation; understanding and commitment to the traditions, ministries, and polity of the Church of the Brethren; familiarity with parliamentary procedure and models for consensus-building and discernment; and listening skills which seek and invite open, forthright sharing and a willingness to strive for reconciliation of differing points of view.
Annual Conference has been consistent in suggesting that congregations look first to their resident membership for candidates for moderators. However, a person from outside of the congregation could be called if there are no qualified or willing persons for the office within the church, or if circumstances within the congregation would suggest that a more “neutral” party would be desirable to conduct the congregation’s decision-making. It is suggested that the moderator always be a member of the Church of the Brethren, preferably from the same district. The district may also make available a list of potential candidates who are pre-approved to serve as local church moderators. (The selection of a non-Brethren moderator should be made only after consultation with the district executive and/or district board.) It is further suggested that the moderator be considered “a member of the assembly” over which he/she presides, giving the moderator the privilege of voting on all items decided by the congregation. The moderator may exercise his or her privilege to vote only in the event when the moderator may choose to break or create a tie in the best interest of the church.
Selection and Term of Service
The process of selecting a local church moderator should follow the same process used in selecting other church leadership persons, whether that be a call process or by election. The term of service and tenure for the moderator should be specified in the congregation’s organizational documents. The traditional term of service for moderators is three years, eligible to be re-elected to a second term; with no more than six years in succession.
Since there is limited information available to describe the dynamics of the moderator’s position and role, congregations may wish to consider providing for a time of overlap in terms when the time approaches to select a new moderator. The outgoing moderator could thus provide some mentoring for his or her successor. It also may be helpful, where convenient, for the immediate past moderator to serve as a parliamentary advisor for congregational business meetings for one year beyond their term of service.
It is further recommended that districts provide at least one training workshop for local church moderators annually. The workshop could include such topics as the role and function of the moderator, the development of listening skills and methods of facilitating a business meeting, appropriate counsel for use by moderators in business meetings, relationship between moderators and pastors, and mediation and reconciliation skills.
The moderator is chosen by a local church and is primarily accountable to the congregational business meeting. The local church moderator also is accountable to the district board and should seek the counsel of the district, through the district executive, in regard to all problems emerging within the congregation related to district and denominational programs, policy, and polity.
The above descriptions and recommendations for local church moderators are applicable to established congregations. Denominational guidelines for the organization and development of new fellowships and church projects call for the moderator to be named by the district until such time as the new group is recognized as a self-sustaining congregation.
Action of the 2004 Annual Conference: The paper as revised by the Annual Conference Council was adopted by more than a two-thirds majority.