Thursday, December 18, 2008

Here is a new posting from UU World Editor, Chris Walton as Philocrates. Interesting take by an evangelical pastor on Unitarian Universalism and evangelicals.

Megachurch pastor: UUs just don't do transformation.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Report from Your UUA Trustee (from the Fall 2008 NetwUUrk)

The October UUA Board meeting is the busiest meeting we have each year. It is the first time we get together since GA and often have new people joining us. This year was no exception. It was jammed packed from Wednesday through Sunday. The highlight of this meeting for me was meeting with the New England Regional Group meeting in Worcester, MA. This gathering included four districts in New England. Over three hundred attendees. The UUA Board went in mass and used the opportunity to explore in small groups our newly developed mission and goals which we are working on in preparation for a transition to Policy Governance and developing our “Ends” statements.

The Ends statements answer the question “what difference do we want to make, to whom and at what cost?” We are still in the process of doing this but it was very helpful to bounce this off the people from many congregations and get some real feedback. It was well worth our trip.

At about the same time as the meetings in Boston were occurring the market was going through some of its most extreme moves. A 900 point gain one day followed by an 800 plus drop the next. The UUA Investment Fund has been structured to be balanced enough so that when some segments drop and others rise they tend to set each other off. In times like these though nothing is balanced and the fund has taken some significant losses. This will ultimately affect the UUA budget as a set percentage is transferred from the fund to our general fund each year. To prevent wild swings in income the amount transferred is based on average balances over 13 quarters. In the short term it will have little effect on the operating budget but it will have an effect for a number of years even when the markets recover. Of course time will tell and the finance committee, our financial advisor, Dan Brodie, and our treasurer, Tim Brennan are paying very close attention. The Board voted to approve a revised and lowered budget for the coming year to reflect these realities.

One highlight of the meeting was the presence through most of the meeting of the two candidates for president of the UUA, Reverend Laurel Hallman of Dallas and Rev. Peter Morales of Golden, CO. They had an opportunity to present a forum at the NERG meeting. To this point I have not endorsed a candidate. I encourage each of our congregations to look at the websites for each candidate and learn more about both of them. They are both fine people with somewhat different views of how they see the future of our Association. We will be voting at GA and I understand both candidates will have some time to be with us in the PSWD. Stay tuned.

The minutes for the Board meeting will be published shortly and be available online at

On a personal note, I have been asked to be the Board liaison to the Committee on Socially Responsible Investing. A great group of people who bring an interesting mix of investment expertise and social justice work together. In very practical ways they are working to help us make sure our investments are in sync with our values.

Some of you who have seen me recently know that I have been limping to the point of using a cane. It is degenerative joint disease in my left knee due to arthritis. This Friday, November 7th, I will have a total left knee replacement. I am looking forward to having full use of my knee and am encouraged by the success so many others have had with this procedure. I will let you know how it goes.

Finally, after much thought I have realized that I am very deeply involved in many aspects of my work on the UUA Board and feel that I need to continue my work on the committees, task forces and working groups I serve. I have been privileged to be put into some leadership positions and look forward to continuing this work. To that end I am pleased to announce that it would be my privilege to continue to serve you as the Trustee to the UUA Board from the PSWD. Nomination forms are out now to congregation presidents and I will be nominated by my own congregation for another term. Nancy Edmundson from Santa Barbara has agreed to be my campaign chairperson and I welcome her support and encouragement.

My offer to speak at your congregation continues to be open and I look forward to hearing from you about any questions concerning the UUA,

In faith and trust,

Tom Loughrey

Friday, September 26, 2008

Our Purposes and Principles: A Time for Some Changes?

Article II of the Bylaws of our Association is more commonly known to us as our Purposes and Principles. They come to us from the time of merger in 1961 and have had some changes over the years. Last year the UUA Board asked the Commission on Appraisal to review them on our behalf. Not only did they review them, they have revised them and posted the revision for the review of all of us. You can read the current P&P at and you can see the proposed changes at

To make these somewhat easier to view I am including them at the end of this article.

These have not just been tinkered with, they have really been amended significantly. There is hardly any statement we make, as a non-creedal religious body than our Purposes and Principles. They draw many of us to our commitment and for many form the covenant of faith we have with each other. They are not to be taken lightly, which is why I ask you to take a good look at the current and the proposed by-law change. You can then go to and leave your comments to the COA .

I am still in the process of studying these myself but I will leave my comments by the October 16 deadline and I will post them here.

You can also look at for additional information and links.

The bloggers are also into this and you can see the critical, the humorous and the mundane at for Monday, September 15th.

Here is the timeline for the whole process:

  • October 16, 2008 Deadline for congregational and other responses
  • October 23-26, 2008 COA meets to consider responses
  • December 15, 2008 Final draft of our proposal sent to UUA Board
  • June 24-28, 2009 General Assembly. At GA the CoA will hold a hearing, provide a written and verbal report, and host a Mini-assembly. Delegates will vote on preliminary approval (simple majority required).
  • June 23-27, 2010 General Assembly. 2/3 majority vote required for adoption.

As you can see the UUA Board will be asked to review the final draft at its January meeting. I would like to hear your comments on this. You can either leave them here or contact me at


ARTICLE II: Covenant

Section C-2.1 Purposes.

As a voluntary association of free yet interdependent congregations, the Unitarian Universalist Association will support the health and growth of existing congregations and the formation of new congregations. The Association will devote its resources to and exercise its corporate powers for religious, educational, and humanitarian purposes. It will empower the creation of just and diverse congregations that enact Unitarian Universalist Principles in the world.

Section C-2.2 Identity.

The Unitarian Universalist Association is composed of congregations rooted in the heritage of two religious faiths: the Unitarian heritage ever questioning and ever seeking the unity in all things, and the Universalist heritage ever affirming the power of hope and God’s infinite love. Both traditions have been shaped by heretics, choice-makers who in every age have summoned individuals and communities to maintain their beliefs in spite of persecution and to struggle for religious freedom.

Section C-2.3 Sources.

The living tradition we share draws from many sources.

Unitarianism and Universalism are grounded on more than two thousand years of Jewish and Christian teachings, traditions, and experiences. Unitarian Universalism is not contained in any single book or creed. It draws from the teachings of the Abrahamic religions, Earth-centered spirituality, and other world religious traditions. It engages perspectives from humanism, mysticism, theism, skepticism, naturalism, and feminist and liberation theologies. It is informed by the arts and the sciences. It trusts the value of direct experiences of mystery and wonder, and it recognizes the sacred may be found within the ordinary.

Wisdom and beauty may be expressed in many forms: in poetry and prose, in story and song, in metaphor and myth, in drama and dance, in fabric and painting, in scripture and music, in drawing and sculpture, in public ritual and solitary practice, in prophetic speech and courageous deed.

Grateful for the traditions that have strengthened our own, we strive to avoid misappropriation of cultural and religious practices and to seek ways of appreciation that are respectful and welcomed.

Section C-2.4 Principles.

In order that we might work together in harmony to make our communities and our world more likely to protect and nurture all that is positive and hopeful; and in order that members of our congregations might find spiritual challenge to become their best selves as they worship and work together to create the Beloved Community, we, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to honor and uphold:

The inherent worth and dignity of every person

At the core of Unitarian Universalism is recognition of the sanctity of every human being across the lifespan. We are relational creatures, capable of both good and evil. We have experienced enough brokenness, including in ourselves, to seek the power of forgiveness and reconciliation. We are called to make choices that help to heal and transform ourselves and the world, and to move toward solidarity with all beings.

Justice, equity, and compassion in human relations

Grateful for the gift of life and mindful of our own mortality, we seek to respond with generosity and loving action. We are called to live in right relationship with others.

Acceptance of one another and encouragement of spiritual growth

We seek to enter dialogue with one another in mutual love and respect, honoring our varied backgrounds and paths. We are called to stretch and deepen our faith through religious education, creative engagement, and spiritual practice in our congregations and in our lives.

A free and responsible search for truth and meaning

Unitarian Universalism is an evolutionary religion that encourages and supports lifelong spiritual exploration. Unitarian Universalist religious authority lies in the individual, nurtured and tested in congregation and wider community. In a spirit of humility and openness, we are called to seek truth and meaning, wherever found, through experience, reason, intuition, and emotion.

The right of conscience and the use of democratic processes

We seek to ensure that all voices are heard, especially those often left out on the margins. We are called to promote fairness, accountability, honesty, and transparency.

The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all

We seek to create, sustain, and celebrate multigenerational and multicultural communities where oppression cannot thrive and where hope and peace flourish. We are called to counter legacies of injustice and to foster reconciliation.

Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part

Inspired by the beauty and holiness of the Earth, we become more willing to relinquish material desires. We recognize the need for sacrifice as we build a world that is both just and sustainable. We are called to be good stewards, restoring the Earth and protecting all beings.

As free yet interdependent congregations, we enter into this covenant, promising to one another our mutual trust, kindness, and support. Should we break this covenant, we will seek to repair the relationship and recommit to the promises we have made.

Section C-2.5 Inclusion.

We strive to be an association of congregations that welcome persons of every identity while calling them to act in right relationship. We encourage the fullest participation allowed by law, with no person excluded solely on the basis of age or identity.

Structures of power have traditionally created barriers for persons and groups with certain identities, abilities, and histories. Dissatisfied with mere non-discrimination, we commit to structuring congregational and associational life in ways that empower and enhance the efforts and experiences of every participant.

Section C-2.6 Freedom of Belief.

Freedom of belief is central to the Unitarian Universalist heritage. Nothing in these bylaws shall be deemed to infringe upon individual freedom of belief. Although no statement of belief can be required as a creedal test for individual membership in a congregation or congregational affiliation with the Association, congregations are free to establish their own statements of purpose, covenants, and bonds of union.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

UUA Trustee Report for the fall PSWD NetwUUrk

It seems as though General Assembly was just a few weeks ago but the summer has come and all but gone as I write this. Just two weeks ago your PSWD Board of Trustees met for a weekend retreat with our Executive staff. It was very productive. One of the things I was surprised to find out about from other UUA trustees is that many of them do not meet at all with their district board. It had not occurred to me that would be the case. I value the time with the Board, the time with our dedicated staff and the work that is done on behalf of congregations in the Pacific Southwest. It really does make a difference, and making a difference is a question I have been increasingly thinking about in my work as your trustee. “How do we make a difference? “

It’s a great question to ask on almost every issue, large or small, which comes before us. If we cannot see that it makes any difference the challenge becomes one to either re-define the work, the process, the thinking, the implications or maybe even open up the thinking to new possibilities. Sometimes a light comes on and there is an “ah-ha” moment. But sometimes not; sometimes we (I mean me) spend way too much time even when we know we are not going to make a difference. Rarely though are things black and white. We usually do our work and make our decisions without all the information we would like or all the time we would want to think about and discuss even important issues. That’s just how it is though. The trick is to decide when it is either time to make a decision and move on to the next item or decide to invest more time. More often than not we depend on dividing the work up among us so we spend time in small groups that can focus on just a few issues. We end up making our decisions based on the trust we have in our fellow trustees and the information we get from staff. There is a lot trust that has to be given and that’s where things like retreats come into play. Getting to know the people we work with so that we can bring ourselves to trust the judgment of each other is key.

This is why I need to be an active participant with our District Board and the UUA Board. A retreat is precious time that ends up giving each of us the level of confidence and trust we need to get all the work done to make a difference in our District and Association.

We have several major issues in front of us right now at the UUA. In October we will start to do the “Ends” work of Policy Governance. It asks the question: what ends do we want to achieve for the congregations we serve? In some sense this is the same question as “what difference do we want to make”? I don’t expect we will finish that work in October but we will certainly make significant progress and commitment to them.

The next major issue is the change in leadership coming at GA in Salt Lake City next June we will elect a new president of the UUA. There are two candidates for this position, The Rev. Laurel Hallman, minister of the congregation in Dallas, TX and Rev. Peter Morales, minister of the congregation in Golden, CO. They met together at GA in a candidates forum which is online at
Laurel and peter have respective websites at and

For the time being, I am not endorsing either candidate. There is still more I want to know about each of them and how they think they will make a difference. I encourage you to look at the candidates, look at their websites, see who is endorsing them and talk to those people about why they are endorsing their candidate. That’s what I plan on doing. Fortunately, the UUA Board decided to invite both candidates to the Board meetings up to the next GA. One of them will be our new President and it seems like a good idea that they come in with some personal knowledge of the work the Board is doing right now particularly in the area of governance. I look forward to getting to know them both better.

Gini Courter our Moderator, and Dan Brodie, our Financial Advisor are running unopposed right now for their positions. It will be my pleasure to continue to work with them.

The last thing I want to leave you with is something that for me personally makes a huge difference in how I live my life: our purposes and principles. Our by-laws require that we periodically review them and it is that time. The Commission on Appraisal is doing this work now and will be reporting back to GA. Every person and every congregation is invited to participate in this process. An online survey has been set up at

You can go to this site and let the CoA know what you think. I encourage you to do so. It is at the heart of what we are about and comes as close to a creed as a creedless church can come.

As always, I invite your comments on what we are doing, or not doing. Please feel free to contact me at or call me at 714 997-1973. I am open to invitations to visit your congregation.

In faith and trust that we are making a positive difference,

Tom Loughrey
UUA Trustee

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

It's opening day at GA! Today is the first day without rain since we got here. We need some of it back home.

The day has culminated with a performance at the Opening Ceremony of Sources by Jason Shelton and Kendyl Gibbons. This cantata draws on the six sources and was a mixture of musical styles a s rich as our sources. What a close! It is available online at http// so check it out.

This afternoon we had the in-gathering of our own Pacific Southwest District. There are about 140 of us from the PSWD. Our new president elect, Michael Sallwasser from Long Beach, received the gavel from retiring president, Tom Stapelford. District field staff, Ken Brown and Tera Little led us in song and celebration to get us off to a good start. Representatives from various congregations shared some success stories of notable events going on in our congregations. Of special note is the fact that Pacific Unitarian Church is being honored at GA as one of only four congregations in the country to be listed as "break-through" congregations in the UUA this year. They are honored for their remarkable growth, commitment to service and strengthening Unitarian Universalism. Congratulations to all the members of PUC who helped make this happen.

We had a visit from Reverend Lindsay Ramsden, Executive Director of the UU Legislative Ministry in California. She reported on the remarkable success we have had in getting the laws on marriage equality to become real but she also talked about the proposition to remove this precious right in November. They have formed a PAC to raise funds to fight the good fight and get over 46,000 volunteers to help in the upcoming campaign. Those opposed to marriage equality will be well organized and funded and we need to now stand shoulder to shoulder to defend this new-won right. I am making a contribution to the PAC. You can too at:

More from GA in Ft Lauderdale tomorrow!


Greetings from Ft Lauderdale and the 2008 General Assembly!

Things get going officially on Wednesday with the Opening Ceremony at 5 PM Pacific time. It will be streamed online at If you look at it I would love to get some feedback on how it works for you.

Today was the UUA Board meeting which meets today and then next Monday following GA. Today we dealt with some reports from various committees about happenings of GA. We did do some business work though including appointing several people to committees. First and foremost I am happy to let you know that Michael Sallwasser has been appointed as co-chair of The Journey Toward Wholeness Committee replacing our own Reverend Monica Cummings. Reverend Greg Stewart, minister in San Francisco and formerly Minister of Religious Education at Neighborhood Church in Pasadena has been appointed as a member of the Ministerial Fellowshiping Committee. There are other appointments and they will be reported in the minutes for the meeting shortly.

We found out some good news and bad news about the UUA finances; first, the bad news: the attendance at this GA is significantly lower than projected with about 3,200 being registered. This is about one-half, or less, than Portland last year. The result is that it is expected to lose over $200,000. The god news is that the UUA as a whole is in the black this year, despite the projected losses of GA, by about $300,000 plus.

Do follow along with what is going on at GA both online and from my blog and let me know if there is anything you would specially like to hear about. I will be talking to you again soon!

In faith and trust,


Sunday, May 04, 2008

Here is my report to the 2008 PSWD District Assembly in Del Mar last week:

UUA Trustee Report to the Pacific Southwest District Assembly

I am amazed that it has been two years since I first had the privilege to serve as your trustee to the UUA Board. Time does go quickly. Let me bring you up to date on some of the major issues I think we are dealing with on the UUA Board and some of my impressions about that work. If you really enjoy details you can go to the UUA website and read the agendas and minutes for recent meetings at:

A major transition is occurring right now with the Board and its governance. We are moving to policy governance as developed and interpreted by John Carver. It is a model in use now by our District Board. The Board started their work on this new way of conducting our business before I came on the Board. At virtually every meeting we have had sessions to learn new aspects of policy governance and in the last year we have been making decisions about how this will all work with our by-laws, roles of elected leaders, congregational polity and traditions. It is sometimes tedious, controversial, logical, exciting and even occasionally emotional work. We will soon start the “ends” policies, to which I have been looking forward. This is where we begin to define how we want the work of the Board, the staff and the leadership to be making a difference in how we function. It is very intentional and will be critical to a process in which we have an enormous investment of Board time and resources. I will be updating you regularly on our progress but I hope if we are succeeding it will be readily apparent to you.

At the April Board meeting which is yet to take place as I write this, we will be discussing the future of the continental organization of YRUU. A recommendation was presented by the Youth Steering Committee recommending the dissolution of YRUU and that it be replaced by some other entity serving youth. This evolved from a Consultation To and With Youth conducted last summer in which 60 recommendations were made to the Board. This was later boiled down to 11 priorities. There is a very good article on this at the UU World website: and I would encourage those of you with a more detailed interest to take a look. From my perspective it is important to note that the Board has taken no action to dissolve YRUU nor have we approved a budget with no funding for YRUU next year. These things may happen but it will only be after a very thorough discussion. I very much would like to hear your thoughts and concerns after you have taken the time to inform yourself of the facts surrounding the issues. Please let me know what you think.

There are other issues we are dealing with; two years ago the Board approved a new approval process for Independent Affiliates. It has had the effect of dramatically reducing the number of Independent Affiliates. The idea is that we are an Association of Congregations and as such should be devoting our energy and resources to the support of congregations. Part of the approval process is to demonstrate the value of the IA to congregations. What it has not done is restricted any organization's right to continuing doing its work. It has reduced the ability to automatically have workshops at GA. Now former IAs have to compete for a GA slot as every other group does – on the merits of the workshop. The problem for me in this is that I think we may not be considering a new reality in what makes up a “congregation”. Of course, we have a definition of a congregation but it may be based on a model that does not really take in the way we congregate anymore. When I heard there is a UU congregation in Second Life I realized that the Internet, email and the interfaces to electronic communication have blurred the definition sufficiently that we may need to expand how we think about where devoted UUs find their “congregation”.

There are other issues, including our ongoing relationship with UU schools of theology and their support through the Panel on Theological Education; the upcoming election of a new president of our Association; the location of General Assembly in Ft. Lauderdale and the special requirements for entry to the convention center at this site; becoming a truly anti-rascist, anti-oppression and multicultural organization; developing excellence in ministry; maintaining relationships with the ministers, religious educators, musicians, administrators, district presidents, international congregations; filling important committee positions with qualified and capable volunteers; fund raising and budgeting and a hundred other no less important issues and tasks.

So what am I concerned about in the year to come and beyond? I remain a skeptic to be convinced that a governance based on a board that only develops policy and monitors staff compliance toward meeting defined ends is an improvement that will make a difference in our Association's work toward congregational success, social justice, institutional witness and bringing our saving message to a broader community. I am concerned that we have yet to find a right relationship with persons and groups that are committed to UU purposes and principles outside of traditional congregations. I am concerned we have failed somewhere in serving our youth and young adults in a way that honors them and their promise of new vitality. I am concerned about the demands on our resources and our inability to fully fund them. I am concerned about the influence that money and our fund raising efforts have on leadership, staff, programs and relationships.

And why am I encouraged that we can deal with all these issues? We are blessed with creative, intelligent, compassionate and very hard working Board members, volunteers, staff and leadership who are dedicated to addressing these issues head on and bringing to bear all their best efforts. It gives me hope that we can rise to each occasion, ask for help when we need it, get help when we ask, be forgiven when we fail and have to try again and most of all be focused on how our decisions will effect the people who ask us to serve and respond as faithful servants of Unitarian Universalism.

To that end I remain dedicated, I ask your assistance, your inquiry, your good wishes and your blessings for our collective work.

Please feel free to contact me at or just call me at 714 997-1973. I am available to meet with you and always appreciate invitations to congregations to celebrate, deliberate or just congregate.

In faith and trust,

Tom Loughrey
PSWD UUA Trustee
Here is my article for the May edition of the PSWD NetwUUrk:

UUA Trustee Report

What a busy and exciting two week period!First the UUA Board meeting in Boston followed by the PSW District Assembly in Del mar last weekend. It is always wonderful to be around so many devoted UUs.

This was the last UUA Board meeting before GA in Ft. Lauderdale and a good deal of time was spent on Friday going over preparations for workshops sponsored by the Board at GA. It appears the registrations for this year are falling short of where they were at this same point last year before GA. Nonetheless, it looks like we can still expect to see a gathering of more than 4,000 UUs at Ft. Lauderdale. GA will kick off with a pre-opening gathering of Districts. This will be an opportunity for us to get together with others from the PSWD to see who is there, meet some of the District leadership and hear from some of the UUA leadership. I hope you will make it a priority to be there then and I look forward to seeing as many PSWD folk that can be there.

The UUA Board is going through a process now that is nearing completion on changing our governance process to a form known as Policy Governance. This type of governance focuses on specific ends for the Association and defines some roles of the staff and the Board in that process. Have approached this work critically and have had to be convinced it is an appropriate way for a religious organization that has always depended on volunteers to conduct its work. As we approach developing these ends I remain critical but also supportive. We are taking our time, adapting the process as we need for a religious body such as ours and being guided by other UUs who have done this work before. We use this type of governance on our own district board and have been working with it effectively.

A major item for the Board at this meeting has been working with youth. Perhaps you have heard that YRUU Steering Committee has disbanded. You can see a letter on this at

The Steering Committee has inactivated itself and the Board has decided to work with youth to develop a successor organization that would develop a new youth organization that comes out of the work of the Consultation To and With Youth Ministry. The Board has not removed YRUU as a sponsored organization and it has given the successor organizing committee the same funding as was provided last year. The Board unanimously voted to place a motion before the GA on the empowerment of Youth and Young Adults. In passing this the following text was included with the recording of the vote:

“VOTED: The administration shall make the transition in youth ministry an institutional priority now. This process must be transparent and those responsible for implementation must be in authentic relationship with the youth community and its elected leadership. During this transition, the administration must provide monthly progress reports to the Board. The administration shall ensure that UUA support for youth ministry programming is maintained throughout the transitional period.”

The Budget for 2009 was approved and calls for a very modest increase in spending of about .4%. The 2010 budget was accepted and calls for a $2 increase per member in support of the Association from each congregation. This will make a total contribution of $58 per member by 2010.

I did vote for the budget this year (last year I did not) even though I have some reservations about the $2 increase. For every year for over twenty years the level of support has been increased by $2 each year. Obviously the $2 increase in recent years has much less purchasing power than the same $2 did nearly twenty years ago. Increases in the congregational support of the UUA have trailed increases in congregational budgets virtually every year. This means the UUA must find alternative ways to fund programs that are much less stable than congregational funding from the Annual program Fund (APF). I believe in paying our bills and being good stewards of programs we want. I think we can do a better job of funding these than we are doing now with less dependence on our endowed funds and fund raising appeals such as Friends of the UUA. I must note I have the same concern for our district and how we fund its work.

One of the most exciting events of the Board meeting came during the report of Beacon Press. First, we were thrilled to hear that Beacon Press is continuing to operate profitably. The only subsidy to the Press is for space at the UUA offices in Boston. But the best news came on several announcements: Mary Oliver's poetry continues to be very popular and a very good seller and should continue to do so. Second, the Press will be publishing the Graphic novel version of Howard Zinn's “Peoples History of the United States”. It is anticipated to do well. Finally, and most notably. Beacon Press is the only publishing company currently in negotiation with the family of Martin Luther King, Jr to publish all his writings, letters and sermons. This is not a done deal but we are the only ones they are talking to right now. This would be momentous on the order of the Beacon Press Publication of The Pentagon Papers. We shall see where it goes but we hope for the best.

The full agenda for the past meeting including all reports is on line at I encourage you to take a look. If you have any questions about any of he work we are doing (or not doing) please let me know. I would enjoy talking to you about it. You can also see my blog at

Tom Loughrey
714 997-1973