To be both clear and brief, UU congregations can call and ordain anyone they like to be their minister – you, me, or anyone else. But unless that person is credentialed, neither the UUA nor other UU congregations will recognize their status as a minister, meaning opportunities for career development and advancement are extremely limited. This forces all ministerial candidates into the same channel, regardless of their age, experience, ministerial gifts, or financial situation.
The average UU minister leaves seminary with around $60,000 in debt. This is not only a personal burden, it severely restricts employment possibilities. Many ministers simply can’t afford to take a position with a smaller congregation that has limited financial resources.
As someone who had to deal with the impact of a poor (albeit credentialed) minister and then chaired the search committee that found our current ministers, I have a great appreciation for the need for a gatekeeper and for ministerial standards. At the same time, I have no use for arbitrary hoops to jump through, particularly when those hoops keep gifted would-be ministers from pursuing their vocations at the same time they fail to identify and eliminate poor ministers.
I’ll be following the iMinister blog reports closely.