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Showing posts from 2009

Call to Worship for Christmas Eve

Time to turn off the cell phones.Time to put the pagers on stun.It’s even time to put a piece of duct tape on the face of your watch.It’s Christmas Eve and time is standing still for a moment.
It is the time, maybe the only time of the year, when here and now drift away and we fall under the spell of story-time.
Tonight we are both here, AND on a lonely hillside outside of Bethlehem.
Tonight, we are with each other, friends and family, returning students and relatives from far away, AND we are also with the Magi, on a journey and such a hard time for journey.
Tonight we listen to our choir, AND we listen to choirs of angels, a whole heavenly host of angels we have heard on high.
Tonight, like every night, is new, a never happening before moment in onrushing time, AND yet, we have been here before, done this before, told this story before, and heard it before.
There is way that the story we tell tonight is always happening: birth and death and taxes, weary travelers with no place to stay, b…

Keeping the X in Xmas

Are we to be Wise Ones, with our eyes fixed on the star in the inky night sky, always looking up, each riding on our own camel, swaying under the starry sky?

Or are we to be shepherds, a band of what were surely brothers, who come and go out of the Nativity story as a group? 

The story reminds us of the two dimensions of religion – the vertical dimension that links each one of us with what is above us – what some call our Higher Power, God.  And the other dimension is the horizontal – the relationships between people, the community. 

The horizontal and the vertical.

Christmas is both vertical and horizontal.  On the one hand, we are to look up and see Jesus coming down from heaven and entering into the life of the Earth.  We are to look up and see the angels gathering to sing, and we are to look up and see the star as it leads to the stable the Christ child lays.

On the other hand, Christmas is horizontal – the gathering of friends and family – over the river and through the woods we go…

A Blue Dog with a Blue Nose

OK, I am able to comprehend that Kent Conrad, the only Unitarian Universalist serving in the US Senate, differs from me on the question of the public option in the health care reform debate.  It is not a matter of faith, after all.

But why on earth does a Unitarian Universalist vote $50 million for abstinence-only sexuality education programs in an amendment proposed by Orrin Hatch (R-Mormon)?  This really creeps me out.  I thought that it was a matter of faith to us that we told our kids the truth and gave them real information.

UUMA Politics -- 1000+ members & 3 hour annual business meeting

The UUMA is an organization of over 1000 people, with an volunteer board.  The organization meets for business once in a year in a business meeting that lasts a couple of hours in a hotel ballroom.  The members of the organization pay it fitful attention for 362 days a year.
The Exec is going to make proposals for how to go forward on a range of issues. They are going to publish them, and few people are going to read them.  But organizational democracy depends on people reading them and preparing their response.
The Exec this year did so for a dues increase and hiring an Executive Director.
When the organization gets to the business meeting, the proposals are pretty well set; there will be no opportunity for extended discussion and devising new proposals on the fly.  Really, there are only two alternatives available if you don't like the proposal presented by the Exec.  (1) Urge a "No" vote -- and have your arguments ready (2) Be ready with some amendments or substitutes th…

End of Life Issues

End of Life issues have become politically hot again. Last time, it was Terri Schiavo's sad case. This time it is Section 1322 of one of the Health Care Reform bills that permits doctors to bill Medicare once every five years for a consultation with a patient on end of life issues, including living wills, durable powers of attorney, dnr orders etc. Much of this discussion is outright lies and opportunism, willfully leaping from that relatively prosaic issue to the issues of assisted suicide and euthanasia.
But there is a religious dimension to these discussions. Some Pentecostalists believe that to discuss end of life issues at all is to deny the power of God to work a miracle and heal even the most mortally ill person. And, according to their faith, God does not arbitrarily heal some and allow most to die, but is guided by the purity of the faith of those praying for the miracle. To entertain the slightest doubt that God can and will save your loved one from death demonstr…

Going Away

I am heading out of country for a couple of weeks. I will not be accepting comments on this blog starting tonight until I come back. I may post a little, but probably not, and certainly not about UUA politics.

Factions Create Democracy

I have called for the creation of continuing groups of UU's to recruit candidates for District offices and Board Trustees: factions. I think that they are what we need to increase democracy in the UUA. I think that they are a better way than focusing our democratic energy into highly symbolic campaigns for the UUA President and Spokesmodel.
Factions create policy alternatives, through a process of competition with others and criticism of existing decisions. Policy alternatives create choices and choices create interest.
Factions orient voters to the overall situation. What I hear is that most UU's think that there are really just two factions: the insiders and the outsiders, and you can't tell one from the other. Actually, I would suspect that there are several groupings of people who have different priorities for the UUA. It would help everyone participate if we were to know who saw each other as allies, and rivals. Most of us use party affiliation as a tool for fig…

My argument for a Single Candidate Search Process

The proposal now floating around for reforming the UUA Presidential election process is for a Presidential Search Committee to put forward, after deliberation, at least two candidates for the UUA Presidency. Then the campaign begins.
I argue for a single candidate, chosen by the Search committee.
Why is one better than two?
1. The problem in the process is that campaign -- time and expense. Having two official nominees does not solve that problem. That problem will be solved to some extent by online and electronic communication.
2. The necessities of the campaign itself limits who can run. Prospects must be in a place in their career that they can devote that amount of time and energy. Others have identified who is in that pool: ministers in multi-staff churches, national staff, the retired and the independently wealthy. A more subtle inhibitor is also at work: the risk. A candidate in a multi-staff church, the national staff person essentially risks their present positi…

Gini Courter on the Election Process

On Election-L email list, there has been a discussion about the present method of electing the President and other officers of the UUA. Gini Courter weighed in with this statement, that I am reproducing here.
Friends -

A number of people who've posted recently assert that the current method of selecting the UUA President or Moderator "isn't broken" so it doesn't need to be fixed. The list of people who know that the current process IS broken includes Bill Sinkford, Peter Morales, and Laurel Hallman. I agree with them, and with the two candidates for Moderator in 2001 who were also critical of the current process. As far as I know, no one who has run opposed for President or Moderator in the past thirty years thinks the current nomination-campaign-election process is just, equitable, or compassionate, or that it truly reflects our values. (Perhaps some candidate fully affirmed the current process, but if so, they weren't vocal about it during the campaign.)

T…

Can't have it both ways.

On the one hand, it is widely agreed that the Unitarian Universalist Association has not, in its 40 years of existence, lived up to the potential of liberal religion in this country. We believe that there are at least a million people out there whose religious views are in sympathy with ours, but as a collective body, we cannot manage to put a welcoming, inspiring, inviting, culturally appropriate center of liberal religion into their path. We are an underperforming organization.
On the other hand, efforts to actually change one or more feature of the organization runs into a solid wall of "if it's not broke, don't fix it!". Our governance is fine the way it is. (But our inability to perform well stems from our governance !) The main definitional statement of who we are is fine the way it is (it has not communicated effectively for sustained growth for 15 years now !).
This dichotomy (we are great; everything we do is the very best that we can do vs. we are small…

More Democracy

To increase participation in elections, and help clarify the choices before the electorate, the UUA Board ought to recognize groups whose purpose is to recruit and support candidates for District offices and boards, and for the Board of Trustees.
People who wish to influence the UUA as a whole should have the opportunity to organize themselves, promote their views, and become part of the official leadership of the Association. Yes, we need factions and parties.

Another Process for the President

Let's elect the next President the same way that we call ministers in our congregations.
1. Elect a Search Committee that is broadly representative of all of Unitarian Universalism. 2. Give them lots of time to work, and consult with people in all areas of the UUA. 3. Let them interview prospective Presidents, looking for the one that seems to match what most people seem to want in the next leader. 4. Let them make a recommendation. 5. Let the people affirm their recommendation through a supermajority.
The result of that type of process in our congregations is that we usually end up with a leader who enjoys broad support in the congregation. The process of ministerial transition increases the unity and sense of common purpose in the congregation, rather than dividing it.
Our present election process exaggerates our differences. Whoever wins starts out with a sizable minority of UU's regretting the way it turned out, and skeptical of the new President's efforts.
If yo…

Frank talk 3

KJR in the comments offers this analysis of power in the UUAoC:
I think the President and staff set UUA priorities --- with the main limitation being finding donors willing to fund the priorities.
The obvious question that comes to mind is "where does that leave the Board?" And the second question that comes up is "What about congregations?" And the third question:"Whenyousaycongregations,areyoutalkingabouttheministersofcongregations,orthelaity?"
All these questions circle around the most important misalignment in the way that things work. On the one hand are the ministers of the larger congregations, who one could say are the most successful UU religious leaders among us. On a day-by-day basis, they lead the institutions in which a large proportion of UU's experience UUism and they are successfully meeting people's religious needs. The affairs of the association, however, are a part-time concern of these leaders. And frequently, to the lai…

Frank Talk 2

Philocrites in the comments offers the kind of concrete analysis of the powers that are at play within the UUAoC.
I am looking for some frank talk because I see that two stories out there about how the UUAoC is governed. One is the story that says that there is some shadowy group of others who actually run things while the story-teller is not powerful. The other is a Kum-Ba-Yah theory that emphasizes that everyone involved, no matter their position in the structure and their thinking, is a good person trying their very best and deserves our emotional support.
Somewhere in between there is a concrete analysis over who has power over what and why, and who wants some of that power to achieve different purposes and ends.
I would like some frank talk about some of these issues:
1. who controls our public presentation of ourselves as a national religious body? Ministers are frequently not on board with the themes and contents of our advertising campaigns, which pretty much guarantees t…

"We Can Become the Religion for Our Time"

I don't think that the Dalai Lama talks like that about his mission in the world.
I think Unitarian Universalism is honest and authentic. I think that it has changed my life, made me happier and made me a better person. I recommend it to everyone.
But its value, and its mission, is not dependent on its success, or even its relevance to the overall culture.

Frank Talk

I have teed off on the Kum-Ba-Ya Campaign as part of a general atmosphere which discourages frank talk within the Association about the Association.
For example: I had a brief talk with Gini Courter in one of those GA parties about a history of competing theories about UUA governance. There's a "Weak President/Strong Board" approach and a "Strong President/Weak Board" approach.
Who knew?
Just as an exercise in beginning to map out the politics of the UUA, do the following:
1. Rank the following groups in terms of their political power in the UUAoC. The Board of Trustees, The Moderator, The UUA President, the Staff, The UUMA Exec, The Senior Ministers of the Largest Churches, the Ministers of Mid-size and Small Churches, The regular GA attendees, the body of ARAOM activists, the District Boards, The Large Donors.
2. What do you think each of the groups named above want for the UUA, beyond finding the unicorns of growth, abundance and relevance?
3. Who are yo…

Hissy Fits

We all remember the time that Move-On ran an ad directed at General David Petraeus asking him to not "betray us" when he testified to Congress about the surge in Iraq. The GOP disingenuously interpreted that as an accusation of the General as being a potential traitor to the country. Oh, the hue and cry that went up, and the Democrats in Congress who were trying to stop war funding disavowed and condemned the antiwar group as being beyond the limits of decent Americans.
Some commentators, especially Digby at Hullabaloo, called the GOP response a "hissy fit." Manufacturing outrage at deliberately misinterpreted comments to change the subject of debate.
I think that what I call the Candidates Covenant for a Kum-ba-Ya Campaign provided the cover and context for a whole bunch of hissy fits, from the Morales campaign. People will want examples, and frankly, it is too tiresome to get down into the weeds of the particularities (which is the point of the tactic -- to bo…

The UUA Election

Nobody knows what the UUA President is supposed to do, so nobody knows how to choose a candidate for UUA President. I think that this was the small little fault at the heart of the recent election process.
A bigger problem, in my eyes, was that the wrong candidate won, but that's just me, and I'll get over it.
The biggest problem of all is the big wet blanket of sweetie-goo that smothered the life out of the campaign and cut off any process of real debate and challenge to the underlying logic of each campaign. It was a Kum-Ba-Yah campaign. As far as I could tell, the rules were that all speech about the campaign had to start from the presumption that each candidate was equally wonderful (and thus, essentially the same), and that one could state a preference only in terms of your own personal preference, based on which one inspired you more, but without making any real comparison.
You have wonder about the level of anxiety in an organization which tries to keep conflict and d…

I'm Back!

I never have time to blog during the church year, so I blog in the summer. Beats going to the beach or having fun.
I am overflowing with opinions right now, on such subjects as the UUA Presidential election and all, so let's get this party started.