Saturday, June 27, 2009

Good Officers for Aspirants and Candidates?

Yesterday, an aspirant told me that she had overheard a proposal here at General Assembly that there be "Good Officers" for aspirants and candidates.

"Good Officers" are ministers who have been designated to investigate and mediate disputes between ministers and congregations. The aspirant stated that an aspirant or candidate unhappy with the decision of an RSCC or the MFC may not feel comfortable discussing that decision with a representative of the body that made it. Talking to a knowledgeable third-party could be of benefit.

The aspirant is a student at the Starr King School for the Ministry and can turn to the experienced and knowledgeable faculty there for guidance. But what about the many UU aspirants and students who do not attend UU seminaries?

I believe that this suggestion has sufficient merit to warrant further exploration by the UUMA. What do you think?


  1. I think it's a great idea. As you point out, while there may be an option for those attending UU-affiliated seminaries, that leaves most of our students still out in the cold.

    And for those at SKSM and MLTS, that idea is at best a palliative. The issue may really be something that ought to be attended to--and the faculty member turned to (assuming that nothing goes awry...) has no UUMA-supported/understood role.

    Based on a modest sample of conversations with students at a UU-affiliated school, I think that such problems are far from uncommon. And the common wisdom among the students seems to be that it's best to suck it up and figure out how to go along.... It's a wretched model.

  2. Amen, amen, amen. I would add that this should be a "Good Offices Person with Teeth," someone who can actually step in when the MFC or RSCC is being unclear, unreasonable and/or uncommunicative. We've got plenty of people in the process to look after the _ministry_, but at least one person needs to look after the aspirants and candidates. If the good offices person is just someone who is just there to justify the ways of "gods" to humans, then the position would be worse than useless.

  3. Dear Earl,
    Thank you for your interest in my proposal; however, I would like to clarify my thoughts.

    I am proposing that aspirants who have been postponed in becoming a candidate have the option of turning to a Good Officer for pastoral care. The RSCC's have a supportive role in an aspirant's discernment process, but there is also a degree of being evaluative as well. As such, an aspirant who has been postponed may be willing to ask the committee for insight into further preparation, but not for support in dealing with the pain of postponement. I was lucky in having a very supportive advisor, partner, and therapist, but that may not be the case for other students, particularly those in schools with a small UU presence where the candidating process is less known. Since the emphasis is on pastoral care, I don't know if a Good Officer is the appropriate position to which to turn.

    I did not propose that the Good Officer mediate the decision of the RSCC. By giving postponed aspirants a second meeting, the RSCC's already have provided a forum for aspirants to respond to the committee's questions and concerns. In addition, the recent cutbacks to one meeting per year already threaten to overload the RSCCs' plates.

    Thank you,
    Susan Donham