Thursday, April 23, 2009

What were they thinking?

Second in a series of posts from the April UUA Board meeting

Somewhat to my surprise, over 70% of the groups who provided feedback on the global end said it captured "most or almost all" of what they want the UUA to be. Over 80% of the groups said the nested ends reflected "most or almost all" of what they wanted.

I view that as high praise from Unitarian Universalists.

"They" in this title refers to our "sources of authority and accountability", which in Carver language is referred to as our "moral owners". The UUA Board has chosen to not use that language because of the shameful and very real history of ownership in the United States. Asked to consider these statements from the vantage point of someone more concerned about the sustainability and legacy of the organization than what they received from it, "they" characteristically also provided excellent suggestions for improvement.

"They" are 14 of the 19 districts that provided feedback on their meetings. This included 3 "at large" meetings, 10 district boards, 4 groups of ministers, 3 annual district meetings, 4 groups of congregational presidents, 3 groups of religious educators, and one theological school.

We incorporated significant trends into the draft, with a few notable exceptions.

The first change we made was to the “global end” (sometimes referred to as a mission statement) to clarify that the Association works through congregations to inspire and thus transform people and the world, rather than doing so directly. Changes to the “nested ends” (further detail) included:
- restructuring to allow each of the three levels of ends to reflect “within” congregations, “among” congregations, and “beyond” them. Our thanks to Laura Parks from Unity Consulting who originally gave us this construct.
- replacing the phrase “agents of mission and extension” with “growing congregations” and "living their mission within our communities".

We also got comments complaining about language that was either too secular or too spiritual - so made no changes in this arena. Some struggled with the term "Beloved Community" or "oppression and privilege" but we felt the conversations engendered by these words were the kinds of discussions we needed to have.

The resulting draft is a living document that will continue to evolve as we have these kinds of discussions with our "sources of authority and accountability" at General Assembly and beyond. It will be provided to the next President of the Association to begin writing interpretations of the language to turn it into something tangible -- and actionable. Note that this is NOT a "new mission" or "purpose" for the Association, though these words can be used to describe "ends". These are statements of what difference the UUA should be making in the world to whom - created specifically to provide direction from the Board, on behalf of the "sources", to the President.

ENDS for the Unitarian Universalist Association

1.0 Grounded in our covenantal tradition, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association will inspire people to lead lives of humility and purpose, connection and service, thereby transforming themselves and the world.

1.0.1 Congregations that unlock the power that transforms lives. In our congregations, participants deepen their spiritual lives. People:
a. Develop a personal spiritual practice
b. Participate in meaningful worship
c. Learn and practice empowered leadership and generosity
d. Find their ministry in the world Our congregations are:
a. Vibrant — joyful and excited about their ministries
b. Intentionally multi-generational and multi-cultural
c. Embracing and struggling with issues of oppression and privilege
d. Open and inclusive in their outreach and welcome
e. Ministries deeply shared by ministers and the laity
f. Active participants in ministerial preparation and development
g. Growing in membership
h. Living their mission in their communities

1.0.2 Congregations that live our covenant with other congregations in our Association through
a. A strong, articulated sense of UU and community identity
b. High expectations of their members
c. Full participation in Associational life
d. Networking with each other

1.0.3 Congregations that move toward sustainability, wholeness and reconciliation. Our congregations answer the call to ministry and justice work:
a. Grounded in the communities in which they live
b. Nationally and internationally
c. With interfaith partners and alliances The public engages in meaningful dialogue and takes action informed by our prophetic voice and public witness.

1.0.4 These are all at equal priority and are to be achieved within a justifiable cost.

Next post: We covenant...

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