Tuesday, July 24, 2007

What does an ex officio member DO anyway?

One of my surprises after agreeing to run as a candidate for the PCD trustee position was that I was expected to attend more than the 4 annual UUA Board meetings and additional associated sub-committee meetings. I automatically became an ex officio ("by virtue of one's position") member of the Pacific Central District Board, which also meets at least 4 times per year (and more like 6). This actually makes a lot of sense - if I represent the District, and the Board is elected by the District, there should be a strong linkage.

So what does an ex officio member do anyway, except in this case not vote?

As I listened to the conversation at the PCD Board meeting last Saturday in the beautiful UU Fellowship of Santa Cruz County sanctuary in Aptos, it occurred to me one of my most important functions might be to insure that the two Boards I am on actually understand each other's positions and logic. Not necessarily agree, but definitely understand.

So with that in mind, here are some of the comments from the PCD Board on issues currently under discussion by the UUA Board.

Somewhat to my surprise, the Independent Affiliate (IA) topic had more energy around it than the theological funding issue, but that may have been because it was first. Most PCD Board members disagreed with the underlying criteria by which IAs were now being evaluated:
"We appear to be shoving them away rather than bringing them in."
"Why would we diminish the impact of Unitarian Universalism by pushing people away? Don't we need all the allies [with common values] we can get?"
"Most of these groups are too small to have a national presence or work with individual congregations"
"Many of these groups may not have credibility to work with local congregations without national affiliation."

There was particular concern about the retired ministers' group not being affiliated:
"They have served their congregations and their faith for years [but now that doesn't count]"

Around the funding issue, there were some strong views on the need for a UU view to be inculcated into our ministers, with belief that could be done best at our own schools. There appeared to be a general sense that there should be accountability on the part of the schools for how funds were spent, but there was greater concern about the quality of the ministers being trained.
"We are asking the wrong questions. We see far too many seminary candidates who do not have a call to serve - it is all about them."
"Something is broken at screening and recruitment."
"We appear to have more work towards anti-oppression than parish ministry."
One board member indicated his opinion might change based on what percentage of the students from Starr King and Meadville Lombard became UU ministers.

The PCD Board is a group of hard working, intelligent people who care about Unitarian Universalism. All of us had other things to do rather than attend another meeting. But we did so willingly, in a collegial atmosphere with respect and kindness towards each other, punctuated by laughter. May it continue to be so.


SC Universalist said...

It doesnt surprise me that the IA topic has more energy than the theological funding issue; the IA is more connected to non-ministerial UUs than the seminaries are.
Indeed one of the things that surprised me about the whole IA disaffiliation thing is that apparently there are a fair amount of folks who identify more with an IA than with an UU congregation. In the short term, that isnt bad and certainly could add current strength - but it seems to me to be worrisome in the long term.

Cilla Raughley said...

I love your blog, Linda, and I'm so glad you've taken this step toward establishing a two-way communication link! I have a small correction to offer, just to keep the record straight: the PCD's very hard-working and dedicated Board do, in fact, meet 6 times a year, their Executive Committee meets an additional 6 times a year, and their committees and task forces meet as well. This is a marvelous group to work with, and the amount of work they do should be applauded. :-)

G-man said...

While the IA disaffiliations have been in process for quite some time, I have to admit I find the decision perplexing. I understand all the warm fuzzies about strengthening the association of congregations, etc. But across-the-board disaffiliations, particularly of theologically based organizations seems short-sighted. Our aspiration to being a "big umbrella" religious organization, that allows individual theological exploration, seems to me to call us to embracing the varieties of religious expression that many of these organizations provide. While I hear us saying that our covenant provides a path of being in the world, many seem to seek a more structured spiritual practice, which some of these affiliates offer. I don't disagree that 60 (or whatever the number was) seems like a lot of affiliates, but just cutting them all seems counterproductive.

Regarding the quality of ministerial candidates & "call": I've heard one person present a persuasive argument that one of the problems that UUism, in its current incarnation, has is that strong and well-integrated faith development/practice opportunities (except, of course, the Eucharist of the Coffee Bean) creates a developmental vacuum that many people feel they can logically fill by going to seminary. "I've topped out in my Church experience, but want more. I guess if I want to be a better UU I need to go to Seminary." It would be my thesis that cutting these IA affiliations will increase the problem, rather than ameliorate it.

Thanks for your thoughtful discussion of the matter. I've found it difficult to find anything other than the vaguest generalities at uua.org.