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: http://uua.org/aboutus/governance/boardtrustees/index.shtml
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:
http://www.uuworld.org/news/articles/100284.shtml 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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,
PSWD UUA Trustee