|Rev. Michael Denton, Conference Minister|
Rev. Mike Denton was ordained in 1999 after graduating from Chicago Theological Seminary. He has been working in churches and religiously affiliated institutions for about 25 years. His positions have included working as a street-based outreach worker for youth, a housing rights activist, a local pastor and an Association Co-Minister for the Chicago Metropolitan Association (CMA) of the Illinois Conference of the United Church of Christ. He began his ministry with us in January 2008.
Mike grew up in Northeast Ohio and his family still lives in the area. His father is a retired United Methodist minister and his mother works for the community mental health system of Summit County. He has one sister (a teacher) who lives with her husband (a musician), a daughter and two sons just outside of Cleveland. His wife is Lauren Cannon, a Member in Discernment with standing in CMA, who was recently called by Keystone UCC to be an Associate Pastor on staff starting Seattle’s first UCC Young Adult Service Committee.
The neighborhood where Mike grew up in East Cleveland was part of a community that, due to "white flight," was changing from a predominantly European-American community to a predominantly African-American community. The church Mike's father was assigned to serve was a European-American congregation that most of its members commuted to. Part of Mike's father's charge was to work to integrate this congregation. During this same time, Mike's mother taught at the elementary school down the street (the same school he and his sister attended) while it went through its own demographic transition.
In many ways, it was in this experience where Mike's faith-based social consciousness found roots. In this setting the dividing lines between church-life, community-life and social-life were blurry, at best and most often intertwined. It's been out of these roots that he has continued to work through, with, within and, occasionally, in spite of the Church on issues including race relations, reproductive freedom, gay rights, labor organizing for low income workers and violence reduction.
The realization of how these issues were shaped and enforced by the larger culture and its institutions lead Mike to begin to study more about how human systems work, generally, and some of the theological and psycho-social system understandings, specifically. It was while he served a local church that he began to do a lot of thinking about how what happened within that local setting was related to the wider church and how the wider church was shaped by the local settings of ministry. It was this understanding that lead him to an interest in judicatory work.
Mike has both celebrated the interconnectedness between the local church and the wider church and named the ways that the health and wholeness of each depends on the other. He frequently calls his vocation "administry" in recognition that he is called to work in which pastoral and administrative sensibilities are equally important.
Recognizing that the health and wholeness of the church is strongly interrelated with the health and wholeness of its pastors, he strongly advocates for pastors taking the time they need to strengthen their relationships with God, their families, their friends and themselves.
With his own time off, Mike reads, writes, exercises, calls a friend or sees a movie. He's teaching himself to play guitar and occasionally plays music with others. But most of all he loves sitting in the company of friends and family with a table full of tasty food having a good conversation that lasts late in to the night.