Saturday, July 11, 2009

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: "When you say congregations, are you talking about the ministers of congregations, or the laity?"

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 laity in the larger churches, the association and the district are not as interesting or involving as the local parish.

On the other hand is the staff. UUA affairs are their daily work, and they are in regular contact with many lay people and ministers across the country, the UUA activists who attend district conferences and GA, and serve on various task forces and committees of the Association. They are viewed as the leaders of the UUA. Their career path does not necessarily lead them through larger congregations.

I think that there is a consensus that the staff needs more direction. Someone else needs to set the priorities and direction. Morales believes that the solution is for the President to be a better manager and administrator. I am not sure of what happened, but this seems to be what he took away from his experience on the national staff.

Hallman and Courter both believed that the problem was not management but governance and the solution was to strengthen the Board of Trustees in relationship to the President. Courter's emphasizes the Board as serving the congregations. Hallman based her campaign among the ministers of the larger congregations. But both saw developing a countervailing center of authority in the Association to the President and Staff.

In my never humble opinion, I agree that the Board represents the best vehicle to bring the concerns of the congregation into a position of power in the Association. But neither the election process of the President, nor the election process of the Board seem to work to represent genuine congregational (and ministerial) concerns very well.

I have two questions now.

1. What are the best practices of denominational affairs committees, especially in larger churches? How do we overcome the tendency of larger church congregation to be uninterested in UUA affairs?
2. What are the relationships between UUA Trustees from the Districts and the District UUMA chapter? Does it matter if the Trustee is a minister?

1 comment:

Steve Caldwell said...

LT asks:
-snip-
"What are the best practices of denominational affairs committees, especially in larger churches? How do we overcome the tendency of larger church congregation to be uninterested in UUA affairs?"

LT,

From what I've seen in my district, a non-interest in UUA affairs or UU events outside one's local congregation is not limited to just larger congregations. It's also true for smaller congregations.

However, I can see why a larger congregation's leadership would see less need to use district and UUA resources. They have a larger in-house pool of talent to draw from for programming at all age levels.

I view my role on our congregation's denominational affairs committee as a "gathering intelligence" role -- I try to collect information from various denominational and UU-related sources and summarize it for decision-makers (e.g. board members, GA delegates, etc).

I also try to raise awareness for UUA resources -- e.g. make sure that our committee chairs know about the resources for them on the UUA web site and through the various UUA-sponsored email lists.

During the run-up to this year's GA, my monthly report to the board and program council included updates on the Article II revision process (with explanation about how the process worked) and links to candidate appearance information (allowing our GA delegates the opportunity to see the candidate forums online since they didn't have a chance to see either candidate in person until the 2009 GA candidate forums).