Monday, January 18, 2010

Revoking the Fifth Principle

Second in a series of posts about the January 2010 UUA Board meeting

At last summer's General Assembly, former UUA Moderator and widely respected Denny Davidoff threatened to introduce a motion to revoke the Fifth Principle if the General Assembly delegates does not pass significant reform of their meeting.


“General assembly” is defined in our by-laws (Article IV, Section C-4) as “[e]ach meeting of the Association for the conduct of business”, which go on to say “General Assemblies shall make overall policy for carrying out the purposes of the Association and shall direct and control its affairs.”

Note that there is nothing here about workshops, exhibits, or meetings of other UU organizations, as these were apparently not envisioned by our Founding UU Fathers. That does not mean these things are not important, or could not meet on any schedule that made sense to the mission of the Association. I have blogged before about my concerns about delegate selection -- since the UUA Board takes direction from the General Assembly, I would like to believe that the majority of delegates there are truly representative of the makeup and views of their congregations. I am even concerned with those congregations with excellent deliberative processes in choosing and informing their delegates, but do not fund the costs of attending. Many issues come to the floor and delegates must often vote their consciences -- if those consciences are mostly white, well-educated, affluent, and over the age of 50, we will perpetuate our own stereotypes.

So what exactly is this Task Force recommending?

True or false? The Fifth Principle Task Force is recommending:

  1. meeting as a national body every other year
  2. reducing from approximately 5000 delegates (of which about 2200 attend) to 2000
  3. subsidizing delegate expense in whole or in part
  4. allowing delegate status for one settled minister per congregation
  5. removing the automatic delegate status from UUA board members

1 and 2 are false. The rest are true.

1 was a trick question. The Fifth Principle Task Force recommends moving General Assembly to every other year, but has no specific recommendations for the other activities normally associated with later-year General Assemblies, other than the potential for a program extension to the General Assembly as an alternative.

And while the 2000 figure shows up in the report, it is clearly meant as an example. I personally think that is still too many delegates, mindful of the comment by Tim Brennan, UUA treasurer, that if the United Church of Christ had the same proportion of delegates to members as what 2000 delegates would be for the UUA, they would have 10,000, rather than their current 925. This issue came up in the context of subsidizing delegate expenses. It is essential to our values that our faith’s delegates are not only those who can afford the time and money to attend. For the record, UCC, the American Episcopalians, American Presbyterians, and Reformed Judaism pay 100% of their delegate costs, but have proportionately and numerically far few delegates.

So here are the actual recommendations:

A. Biennial Delegate Assembly in odd years:

· Content is governance-focused. The Assembly is for delegate teams, UUA Board & Administration.

· 2 ½ days over a weekend in August

· Smaller number of authorized delegates with delegate teams fully or partially subsidized by the UUA

· Settled ministers (one per congregation) part of the delegate teams

· Delegates elected and certified by their congregation or board serve in an accountable relationship with geographically neighboring delegate teams and with UUA trustees

· Some at-large delegates are selected by regions (clusters of districts)

· Teams can include alternate delegates without UUA subsidy

· Non-delegate observers pay a registration fee

· No delegates from associate member organizations or from the UUA Board of Trustees

B. Same as “A” except that the 2 ½ day delegate assembly is immediately preceded or followed by a 2-day program assembly:

· Content of the program assembly similar to current GA programming

· Non-delegate attendees pay registration fee without UUA subsidy

· Delegate’s registration for program assembly is paid by UUA subsidy. Delegate subsidy for room & board covers the delegate assembly only, not the program assembly.

The entire report starts on page 46 of the January Board packet.

Next post: Remember the Alamo

1 comment:

Laura said...

This is a little old, but since it came up at DA yesterday, it seems worth continuing the discussion.

I'm not clear that the Task Force's recommendations help us live our fifth principle; they seem better aimed to simplify GA than to clarify our democratic process. How does decreasing the number of delegates get us to a representative sample? How does paying for those who already get chosen (generally, older and white) solve it? Do all delegates need subsidization or should it be available for those who cannot afford to attend?