People asked a lot of questions about this.
The President made a statement.
The Moderator made a statement.
The Board made a statement.
Individuals made a wide variety of statements and counter-statements, trying to establish what has happened, what was really said and what was really meant.
The Bottom Line:
There has not been significant growth for UU congregations as a whole in several years, despite growth being the metric we have all agreed on for this whole time.
The strategies we have are not working.
The UUA Board would like to know what is working, what is not working, and a plan to make sure that our money is being spent to pursue strategies that have a good chance of success. They are frustrated because the Administration cannot. will not, or does not want to give them that information.
I am reasonably sure that the Board does not think that the Administration actually knows the answers to all those questions, but is keeping them secret. I am also very sure that the Board does not know the answer to all those questions but wants to see if the Administration can get the right answer on their own.
The most likely scenario is that nobody knows why we are not growing, about what is working and what is not working.
Now we can begin.
I think that we should clear the deck and declare the whole era of "UU Growth" to be over. "Salted with Fire" came out when I was in seminary in the late 90's. We have assumed that the potential for our growth has been very great for decades and it hasn't happened.
We should imagine a new goal and purpose now: a new way to organize our work. Maybe instead of trying to grow our membership, we should think about planting churches, or establishing networks, or evangelism into specific communities, or establishing inter-religious partnerships. Maybe we should try to see how many independent missionary/ministers we can deploy into communities of need. Maybe we should set a goal that every UU church or fellowship helps organize another liberal religious institution that worships in another language. Maybe we should see how many houses modeled after the Catholic Worker houses we can establish.
Maybe we should stop and think. What is the message of liberal religion, of Unitarian Universalism, stripped of all its institutional forms. If a person was plunked down in a strange city that had never been touched by UUism -- how would that person BE a UU.
I think that there are people all over the UUA, lay people, ministers, people on the staff, people on the district and region boards, people of the UUA's board that are ready and willing and able to take up a new start, and a new beginning.
Unitarian Universalism is a baby bird still trapped inside its shell. All this discomfort and wrestling around is going on inside the shell -- it feels awful. But we are wrestling around to get our tiny little soft beak in position to start poking on that shell, to start cracking it open, so we pop out first head and then a foot and then wings to fly. Maybe the shell is too hard; maybe our beak is too soft; maybe we are not ready yet. But someday, we will fly.