Sponsorship of the Rev. Greg Martin

In December 2012, as we studied silence, we asked Chris Cleveland, Covenant Group Facilitator and Chair of Adult Religious Education, to reflect upon silence in her spiritual practice at UUCGL. In January, we asked Bob Swanson of the Internship Committee about the authority and responsibility of making the decision to sponsor the Rev. Greg Martin, our ministerial intern, for ministerial fellowship with the Unitarian Universalist Association. 

At the January 27 Congregational meeting, the Board of Trustees will ask the congregation to vote on whether we should sponsor the Rev. Greg Martin, our current ministerial intern, for ministerial fellowship with the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). In effect, this would allow Greg – already an ordained minister in the United Methodist Church – to become a UU minister after successfully completing his internship and all other requirements of the UUA’s Ministerial Fellowship Committee.

The authority and responsibility for such a decision rightly belongs to the members of this church. Under the UU principle of congregational polity, and in accordance with the UUCGL’s constitution and bylaws, we call our own ministers by a supermajority vote. While UU congregations may call anyone to be their minister, it is customary that they be credentialed by the UUA.

The UUCGL last called a minister in the spring of 2002, when we selected Kathryn Bert. At that time, Kathryn had completed the requirements for ministerial fellowship in the UUA but had not yet been ordained as a minister. The usual path to UU ministry is to be ordained by a UU congregation. Again pursuant to a supermajority vote of the congregation, Kathryn was ordained by us in the fall of 2002 and installed as our minister.

It is relatively common for a new minister to be ordained by the congregation which has called her or him to serve. However, a congregation also has the authority to ordain a minister who will not serve in its pulpit. With this authority to ordain a minister comes the responsibility to determine that the person is fully qualified and competent to serve as a UU minister.

The UUCGL has ordained ministers we did not call on at least four occasions. The first time was 148 years ago; the most recent was just last year.

In 1864, the Lansing Universalist Church ordained the Rev. Augusta Jane Chapin as the second woman ever to be a Universalist minister and the only female minister in Michigan. Eventually, the Rev. Chapin did serve as the minister of the Lansing church in 1875.

Last year, the UUCGL, pursuant to our bylaws, ordained Duffy Peet, who was our first ministerial intern. While not serving the UUCGL, the congregation determined that he was qualified and competent to be a UU minister and exercised our authority to ordain the Rev. Peet last spring.

The question of sponsorship for Greg Martin is similar to the ordinations of Augusta Chapin and Duffy Peet. Like these predecessors, Greg needs a UU congregation to exercise its authority to make him a UU minister. Because he is already an ordained minister, ordination is not an issue. But to become a UU minister, he must be sponsored by a UU congregation.

Because we are his internship church and the UU church with which he is most familiar, he has asked us to sponsor him. Although our bylaws do not reference “sponsorship” explicitly, they do outline the procedure for ordination. And given that in this case sponsorship is the functional equivalent of ordination, the congregation is being asked to vote to exercise its responsibility and authority to sponsor the Rev. Greg Martin as a UU minister.

This is both a high honor and a great responsibility. Please consider it seriously, and be sure to attend the January 27 meeting and vote.