Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Do the UUA's "Ends" violate congregational polity?

Eighth in a series of posts about the April 2009 UUA Board meeting

In his May 6 post, Rev. Fred Hammond expresses concern about the final draft of the UUA "global end", which reads:

“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.”

I actually agree with everything in Rev. Hammond's post with the exception of his conclusion and corresponding examples:

"The...statement is a directive to the member congregations and the subset ends that follow contain possible criteria for enforcing that directive.

An "end" is a statement given from a board to its executive (in this case, the UUA President) that describes what difference the organization will make in the world. We are not giving this statement to the congregations and saying "make it be so" -- we are giving it to the President and saying "make it be so". It will be up to her or him to inspire and create the programs that enable congregations to do what they told us they wanted to do at our ends development sessions at the last two General Assemblies and the past six months of discussion with trustees across the United States -- and up to the congregations as to whether or not they want to use what is provided. The reason the statement was changed from the original "the UUA will inspire" was the many people who pointed out that it should be clear that the UUA primarily worked through its congregations rather than directly "inspiring".

I love it when someone notices and cares enough to post. This is important -- even holy -- work.

Next post: UUA Presidential Candidate Endorsement


ogre said...

This is a good discussion to hold--more in the abstract of what is the UUA's purpose?

The congregations have the right to permit the UUA to intrude on congregational polity as much and as far as they choose--or not.

But this is something that really needs to be well aired and discussed and supported by the congregations. Really, really supported.

Since the UUMA/UUA have already created one policy (with good intent!) regarding seminarians that violates congregational polity (somewhat backhandedly, but the effect is the same), I think that the congregations really do need to draw that line, and grant the authority that they wish--and not permit intrusions that aren't.

Anonymous said...

THank you for expanding the conversation on end statements and the UUA that I began at my site. There seems to be confusion between the UUA as a non-profit entity and the UUA as an association of congregations. The two are not the same, they are distinctly different, albeit interrelated. The former is a non-profit 501 (c ) 3 organization recognized by the IRS with a board, mission, vision, and paid staff to implement the mission and vision as developed by the board and it's members. The Carver model of Policy Governance is to aid in the development and structure of organizations with boards, CEO and staff. This model is to help the non-profit organization to be more effective in achieving its ends in serving its members / clients / constituents.

To make the members (congregations) responsible for achieving the boards ends is abdicating the responsibility of the board.

The latter is an association that has empowered the non-profit to do its work on their behalf. The congregations in association with one another covenant to uphold certain premises. In order for the final proposed end statement to fly, the individual congregations of the association would have to covenant together in agreement with this end statement. The end statements are not meant to be covenants but rather guides for the Board, enabling the board to fulfill the non-profit UUA its mission.

I believe the UUA board has listened to people who not only confuse the two entities as being one but who also do not understand the purpose of end statements for boards and then made a statement that in order to work with our congregational polity needs 100% percent buy in by the congregations. Further there is no accountability in the proposed end statement unless the Board begins to excommunicate those congregations that fail to meet the litany of sub-end statements criterias. I do not see that happening. There is however, accountability built in with the first proposed statement, it is the staff that is held accountable to the board for implementing the end statement.

I stand with my conclusion that the current end statements violate congregational polity and move the non-profit UUA towards enacting a presbyterian polity.

OD/HR Min said...

Can't we split the difference w/ something like: "The UUA will support its member congregations in inspiring . . ."?

Leaving aside the question of congregation polity, good management argues for giving the UUA president an end for which s/he may reasonably held responsible.