Some think that the core issue is that we are stuck theologically. We won't be able to grow and develop until we get over the aversion to God language in general and the Christian tradition in particular. Specifically, our theological consensus prevents us from talking about a whole range of subjects that people look to the religious life for: awe, wonder, hope for deliverance, expressions of dependence, the need for repentance and conversion, our own tendencies to sin and evil. We are stuck in a mid-twentieth century debate about the existence of God and the value of theological language itself. Most people find that discussion arcane and irrelevant.
Some think that we are stuck sociologically. The population that Unitarian Universalism now serves is so privileged that we are increasingly out of step with most people. The world is working out pretty well for most of our present UU's; this creates a tremendous resistance to change that is not easily overcome.
Some think extend the theory of being stuck because of who we are even further. Not only are UU's economically privileged white people, but we have our own special snobbery. We are the smartest people of our class. We are a self-selected subgroup of the well-educated middle and upper classes who want to be different than most people. The last thing that we want is to be thought to be like others. To many UU's, not watching television, not being on social media, not listening to popular music, and not seeing mainstream movies are signs of our specialness.
Some think that we are stuck because our professional religious leadership, the ministers, destroyed their credibility and authority through a scandalous pattern of sexual misconduct, which has never been resolved. The result is that Unitarian Universalism is bogged down in a quagmire of anti-authoritarianism and nips its own leaders in the bud.
The great irony is that the very people who are most concerned about our stuckness place all their hopes in the local congregation. If only the UUA better served the local congregation, then we would not be so stuck. But the local congregation is most stuck part of the whole system. If you want to see change, don't look to the local congregation because it is the most resistant to change.
Not to say that there are not local congregations that are making changes. Lots of churches are becoming more liturgically open and spiritually rich in their worship. Lots of churches are singing better than Unitarian Universalists ever did in the past. Some churches are building more vibrant ministries for young adults. There are signs that some churches are expanding their reach into the communities around them.
But in almost all cases, you can't say that these changes originated in the process of the local congregation. Most changes come into a UU congregation from the outside, from the overall UU environment. They are usually introduced into the local congregation by the minister, or by the new interim minister, who function as the change agent, convincing congregational leadership to adopt them.
Change originates in the hive-mind of Unitarian Universalism "above and beyond" the local congregation. That hive-mind is composed of an amorphous body of UUA staff people, the elected UUA leaders, the groups of ministers and laypeople joined together by common interests, the groups which used to be called independent affiliates, the leadership bodies of the districts and regions, GA junkies and even the UU Social media community, even humble bloggers It's in this hive mind that new ideas and practices are developed and through this network they are shared, until a minister, or some other religious professional, introduces them in the local congregation.
Name the change that happened in the whole history of the denomination since 1961, and I would bet that the process of this hive-mind of the collective leadership group was instrumental in its spread.
I have some more thoughts on how we talk about issues inside the hive-mind, but that will be for later.