Sunday, May 3, 2009

We get to decide

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

In response to my question about what the fifth principle was at last weekend's District Assembly, a woman in the audience said "we get to decide". Certainly one aspect of "the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within congregations and society at large".

How well do we use the democratic process? I have posted on this before, and have indicated some concern about the casual way many congregations choose their delegates for district and national events, part of our congregational myopia. [Full disclosure: I have been there too.] The result is often a combination of "DA/GA junkies" and those attending their first GA, at least some of whom never set foot in a plenary session, delegate or not. Realizing the money and time prohibit many from attending, the Board funded several years of GA registration for congregation presidents.

Needing additional creative thinking, the Board also chartered the Fifth Principle Task Force, led by former moderator Denny Davidoff to identify ways to change General Assembly to make it more accessible and insure a solid voice in governance. The Task Force has been making appearances at District Assemblies across the US, including PCD last weekend, led by Joe Sullivan, one of the very talented and dedicated people on this Task Force.

Changes like these require revision to our by-laws. The Task Force will be making their recommendations at the UUA Board meeting next January (2010), which would put it on the agenda for final decision in 2011 (a two year process).

Yes, we get to decide.

Next post: Excellence in Ministry


kimc said...

I sent this to Cilla, and she suggested I send it to you, and linked to here.

We read the article in the Currents about ending GA as
we know it. We would like to know why? The article suggests no
reason at all that it can't go on as it is, though it states rather
emphatically that it can't.
We are troubled by the sense that the lay members seem forbidden to
know the reasons for things the UUA does unless we attended one
particular meeting at one particular time. We have run into this before.
UUA seems to keep forgetting that the average UU is
smarter than average, and treats us like unruly children.
So, WHY is GA no longer viable as it is? why is making it less fun
going to improve it? Why is narrowing its focus so that only us nerds will be interested, an improvement? Are they planning on retiring the UUA altogether? Will we break up into regions
instead? Are we giving up entirely on national cohesion? Or are we all just too broke to go? (and isn't that temporary?)

Linda Laskowski said...

Thank you for your passion and interest in General Assembly! I hope you have had a chance to look at the presentation given at District Assembly that is linked in both Currents and my post above -- as well as my post of November 22, 2009, that addresses some of the reasons. There have been far more opportunities than "one meeting at one particular time" to get information about what is going on - in addition to what I have identified above, there will be another workshop at General Assembly in Salt Lake.

The short version of the reason the Board (and thousands of UUs across the country) believe change is needed is that GA does NOT currently represent our membership - delegates are self-selected based on who has the time and money, and there is too often a loose selection process by the congregation that does not necessarily represent the wishes of that congregation. We are currently the only major polity denomination who does our national assemblies that way we do.

kimc said...

Well, I read that outline a couple of times. It helps, but it's just bullet points. The info is pretty sketchy.
We might continue going to the annual thingy (what's it called? It's no longer a gathering.) if we were still delegates, and if UUA pays for it. We have found that the Plenary Sessions were the most interesting part of GA in the past. but we also felt we needed the relief of some lighter stuff in between Plenaries for a break. And we loved the workshops, when we could get in. But, most of all, we loved being with thousands of UUs. The atmosphere of being surrounded by people of like mind was the real highlight. We get the same feeling at District Assembly, but smaller. I, for one, and my partner too, would really really miss the huge group of UUs gathered together just to BE UUs together. If you are going to separate the business from the fun, I would definitely vote for continuing to have a fun gathering in the intervening years. Maybe we could have longer discussions of the issues -- like those great ones we have had in Plenary that always seem to get cut off before everyone has had a chance to say what they want to say because of the limited time for all the business....
I do know that I have heard people complain that they don't get to vote because they can't afford to go to GA. On the other hand, many of the people who complain about that seem to have enough money to do other things I can't afford to do. Sometimes it's priorities.