Changes Proposed for Transfer, Settlement
Presbyteries/districts will be asked by remit to change the existing transfer and settlement process that places ordinands and commissionands in pastoral charges. Commissioners to the 40th General Council approved a motion to add more flexibility to this process.
The proposed changes would no longer require individuals to agree to accept the transfer and settlement system at the time they become candidates. Instead, by February 1 of the year of anticipated ordination or commissioning, they must choose transfer and settlement or call/appointment. This choice would be final for that year.
The transfer committee would no longer use the formal term “limiting conditions” to describe circumstances restricting where a candidate could be placed, but would “continue to honour reasonable accommodation, especially, but not exclusively, related to human rights concerns.”
Several commissioners expressed concern that the changes might adversely affect smaller pastoral charges and congregations.
“I fear that if this is accepted or passed we shall not, or may not, receive order of ministry persons in our charge,” said Charlotte Griffith, from Montreal and Ottawa Conference.
David Hewitt from Maritime Conference said he worried that pastoral charges with “some attractiveness” and “ a little more money” would be able to call students and the perceived “less attractive, marginal pastoral charges will become even more marginalized.”
Other commissioners said the change was needed.
Caryn Douglas, from the Conference of Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario Conference, said the current process “has not bred a desire to stay.” She said people who are settled can leave their first charge with “an attitude that I did my time.”
Retaining the current process unchanged would be “acting as if we still have a hundred people wanting to get into ministry,” said Bruce Hutchinson, from Bay of Quinte Conference. “We don’t.”
“It is hell,” said Sarah Bruer, from Alberta and Northwest Conference, referring to the settlement process. “I can’t encourage anyone in good faith to go into ministry because I have been harmed by this process.”
The proposed changes would be evaluated after five and 10 years of implementation. If adopted, financial incentives for those choosing transfer and settlement would be established by the Executive of the General Council.
The proposed changes will be voted on in a remit going to presbyteries/districts and pastoral charges. The changed policy will come into effect on July 1, 2010, provided that the remit is approved by two-thirds of the presbyteries of the United Church.
Commissioners also approved a motion directing the Executive of the General Council to review the requirements for the discernment committee process, particularly the requirements that presbytery representatives must be in place and call the first meeting in order for the process to begin, and the length of the process.