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General Assembly 1999 Event 335
"Welcome to the Plenary from hell," said Moderator Denny Davidoff as she gaveled a five-hour-plus Plenary session to order on a sunlit afternoon in Salt Lake City. The plenary, filled with business and reports, featured an energy break and a fifteen-minute recess, but by the end of the session, delegates and observers were in need of fresh air and a dinner break.
The session opened with a chalice lighting and the song, "For All That is Our Life," which led by Reid Swanson, member of the General Assembly (GA) Planning Committee
The Board of Trustees Report was delivered by Vice-Moderator Jean Kapuscik, and was followed by the Report of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Finance Committee, which was given by Ken Carpenter (outgoing chair) and Gini Courter (incoming chair).
Ken Carpenter, Chair, Finance Committee, UUA Board of Trustees
This will be my fourth and final Finance Committee report to the General Assembly. Having served six years on the Finance Committee and as chair for four years. I have spent some time lately reflecting on changes in financial management that have taken place during the time I served on the committee, which happened to be the beginning of the current administration. The most significant changes fall in the following categories:
During my first year on the Finance Committee, I became aware that there was much work to needed to strengthen the basic financial management infrastructure. Changing Financial Accounting Standards for non profit corporations underscored the necessity to develop a larger staff with broader background and experience in non-profit accounting and audit procedures. Now, under the leadership of Jerry Gabert, we UUA have a Finance Department of an adequate size and with the qualifications needed to oversee and manage a very complex financial operation.
At the present time our Finance Department is converting the entire accounting operation to an enhanced tracking and reporting system which will permit more timely quarterly distributions, improved reporting and greater internal controls. In conjunction with the Information Services Department they are addressing Y2K and resolving problems on a system wide basis. The staff is also is also redoing our chart of accounts and converting the General Ledger to a windows based accumulation and reporting system, making it more accessible to managers for their continued monitoring and operational control of income and expenditures.
When John Buehrens began his first term, he found his stewardship responsibilities included more funds off budget than visible in the operating budget. In meeting both the goals of the current Administration and Board and in compliance with new financial accounting standards for non-profit organizations, the Finance Department has brought greater visibility to the operating budget of restricted fund activity. Restricted funds which were not a part of our operating budget in the past but which are now included in both our operating budget and balance sheet include the following:
We are not only proud of the development of a stronger financial infrastructure and the inclusivity of our budgeting process, but I think you will be as pleased as we are with the shift in the way in which we use our financial resources. John Buehrens campaigned for office on a theme of "Watering the Grass Roots". A review of expenditures from 1993 to the present reveals much progress toward this goal. In FY our operating income was $7,853,000 and our expenditures for "services to congregations" was $4,095,000. "Services to Congregations represented 52% of our operating budget. FY99 is a bit more complicated because of changes in accounting procedures, however, our "income for general services" was $12,195,000 and expenditures for services to congregations were $9,433,000. Folks, that is 77% of a much larger current budget allocated for services to congregations.
In this move to "water the grassroots," priorities have included the following: 1. An emphasis on decentralization by providing districts with additional program services funds to provide Religious Education, Youth, and program consultants. 2. An emphasis upon antiracism and social justice.—Our per cent of budget has doubled in the past six years from 5% of a smaller budget to 10% of a much larger budget in this area. 3. An emphasis on communications though our new department of Communications under the leadership of Tom Stites. The latest addition is an office of electronic communications to help institutionalize and carryon the marvelous work of so many volunteers who created our web site and 130 different list serves available for your use. Most of you are also aware of our latest publications "Interconnections" and "UU Leaders" 4. A greater emphasis on training and material for lay leadership in practical skills.
Many changes have taken place during the past six years. We have much to be proud of.
Now Gini Courter, my successor as chair of the Finance Committee, will present to you the proposed budget for FY2000.
Action on five Study/Action Issues for Social Justice was proposed, and each issue was supported by a two-minute address:
More than thirty minutes of debate followed, with speakers lining up at five different microphones in the Salt Palace Ballroom queued up to advocate for each of the five proposed Study/Action Issues.
The Rev. Mike Young of the Honolulu, HI, UU congregation spoke in favor of the Study/Action Issue around war on drugs, recounting his own experience as a subject in a psychedelic drug experiments years ago. He advocated for the responsible resumption of drug testing in the U.S.
The Youth Caucus advocated for the resolution on responsible consumption saying, in part, "As youth we are deeply concerned with the values of the society we are inheriting. We reject the self destructive paradigm and advocate for more responsible lifestyles…"
The Study/Action Issue on Improving Quality of Life for Youth was defended by a youth worker from New York City who works with incarcerated youth and who said that "services to youth are at a crisis level. Youth, especially, have been given short shrift. We need after-school tutoring, we need mentoring, he said. This proposal will improve the quality of life for our youth.
At the conclusion of the discussion period, a written ballot was issued to delegates to vote on the proposals, with the result that two proposed items, S-1, "War on Drugs: A Liberal Alternative", and S-3, "Responsible Consumption as a Moral Imperative," qualified for a run-off vote with 204 and 258 votes respectively. When Davidoff called for a runoff vote between the two, S-3, "Responsible Consumption as a Moral Imperative," was the clear winner.
By The Rev. Dr. John A. Buehrens, President
Thanks, Denny! This is my sixth report to the General Assembly. Two more to go. Lest there be any doubt about it, I hope the camera can see the two buttons I was given by my colleague John Gibbons: "No Third Term!" and "No Man is Good Three Times!" Thank you, Wendell Wilkie.
Wow! This is the largest crowd I have addressed in, oh, several months. Back in February I stood before 3,000 Unitarians, all tribal people, gathered for the 99th annual meeting of the Unitarian Union of Northeast India, in the Khasi Hills. Think of that: their 99th annual meeting. For us this is only number 38, my friends. Which may explain why I found in the Khasis some qualities that I think we might learn from. For one thing, they don't seem ever to think individualistically or tell themselves how enlightened they've become. Instead, throughout life, they know that they are always children of the same mystery, sisters and brothers in one human family. The Khasi language acknowledges the sense of spiritual connection in its very way of saying hello. Khublei, they say in greeting. In their tribal tradition,Blei is the name of the divine spirit in all things. Khublei, they say in thanks. God bless you, God be with you. They say it in parting also. Khublei. At the end of their assembly, all 3000 Khasi Unitarians stood and joined in a pledge, a re-covenanting, which said, among other things: "We pledge to remove selfishness, jealousy, foolishness, misgiving, and enmity among ourselves, so that we may build our holy religion of divine unity in the spirit of compassion, love, and trust. . . We pledge to respect other religious groups . . . We pledge to take care of our environment . . . We pledge to respect the conscience . . . of all . . . to support each other . . . and to uphold justice, righteousness, and truth."
One of these days I want to introduce our Khasi sisters and brothers to some of the people on the other side of India who we help support through our Holdeen India Program. Some of them are also tribal people, like the Holdeen partners that recently won the World Anti-Slavery Society's highest award, for freeing more than 15,000 people from bonded labor, not by paying off their enslavers, but by asserting their human rights. Our groups are devoted to the cause of empowering women among the poorest of the poor. Five years ago, when I first visited India, the group called Navsarjan was training dalit women, oppressed women in villages, as human-rights advocates. Since then, despite threats, assassinations, and deaths, they have been so successful in response to atrocities, in securing clean drinking water, sanitation, schools, and other basic services, that the program has spread from 50 to over 2000 villages. Their founder, Martin Macwan, is now a nominee for the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights award. He was born the same year as this Association—still young, yet full of courage, realism, calm, and passion for justice.
I mention those qualities because they are, more than anything else, what I want for our religious movement here in America. We have so much more power and privilege than Martin or our Khasi sisters and brothers. So much more. Over the past six years I have been reminded of that as I have traveled across North America, visiting now nearly 600 of our 1000 congregations. Here are pictures of just some of the places I've been. See if you recognize your own congregation in any of these images.
Many of these are new or expanded church buildings that I have been honored to help dedicate. Trying, not always successfully, to live out the promise I made when I was elected: "Build it, and he will come!" A promise Denny has had to help me fulfill, but which I've lived up to now on a hundred and seven occasions. Many of which you are now seeing whiz by. All of which has led me to reflect on where we are as a movement today. Think about it: these are the outward and visible signs of an inner and spiritual process we have gone through as a relatively young religious movement.
Oh, I know: our spiritual and covenantal roots are deep. They go back centuries on this continent. But as an Association born out of the consolidation of the Unitarian and Universalist traditions, we go back only to 196l. Many of our buildings, I've found, were first raised in the 50s and 60s, during our last great phase of expansion. But in the 1960s we suffered from a kind of childlike naivete as an Association. We were full of social ideals, we were energetic, but we as an Association we both overspent the allowance provided by the member congregations and ran through a good bit of one inheritance, too. So our expansion stopped. Above all, we were naïve about the way social evil, especially racism and other forms of oppression, are not just out there, in the world, but also in here, infecting the most well-intentioned.
During our adolescence, in the 70s, the whole culture seemed to go through a kind of adolescent crisis. 'The Me Decade' caused us membership losses and, at the Association level, we might have vanished had it not been for the intervention of the Veatch Program, helping to stabilize the UUA, to publish the Pentagon Papers, and to begin to build again.
By the 80s we were growing again, but largely through a baby boomlet of new churches, especially in the Sunbelt, through alarm at the rise of a new religious right, and through our willingness to be prophetic again, on issues like sexism and homophobia. The Women and Religion initiative is now more than 20 years old, and has helped us become the only historic denomination with over half of its ordained leaders now women. Our Office of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Transgender Concerns has been with us that long as well, and helped us become more fully inclusive in that way as well. And now? Well, this "householder phase" is no regression. Quite the contrary. All these buildings I've helped dedicate represent a kind of inward and spiritual maturing process. Many were built for more RE space. They represent concern for future generations.
They represent commitment to passing on our enduring values. They also represent deeper generosity of both wallet and spirit. More willingness to act the part of good citizens in interfaith dialogue and cooperation. Less self-marginalization. More willingness to say, "we need not think alike to love alike." Less demanding that other UUs look like us, read the same books, or have the same personal outlook or spiritual discipline. In short, still fairly young, growing, but maturing.
Lately I've been preaching on a theme. On the text in the Sermon on the Mount that bothered me when I was young. The one where Jesus in the King James Version is depicted as saying, "Therefore be ye perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect." But the word for "perfect" more accurately means "mature, complete." Clarence Jordan, the Southern pioneer in inter-racial community, has Jesus say this: "You all, you all should be mature then, taking everyone into account," even as the One who causes the sun to rise and the rain to fall on the just and the unjust alike is to you. [Cottonpatch V.]
Are we mature yet? I don't think so. In fact, I'm always suspicious of people who think they've arrived at maturity, enlightenment. I asked my own daughters, who this year are 24 and 22, what they think maturity is. The one who just graduated from college replied, "Maturity is when you reach a state of ignorance as profound as that of your parents." What her older sister said was this: "Maturity is when you stop doing all the stuff you have to make excuses for—and stop making excuses for all the stuff you have to do." I think there is much we have yet to do. Not a little involves our young people.
Consider for a moment a little demography. There are now nearly 275 million people just in the United States. Over 60 million are 14 or younger. About 55 million are between 15 and 30. Some 44 million are now in their 30s, 41 million are in their 40s, nearly 30 million in their 50s, 20 million their 60s, 16 million their 70s, and nearly 9 million in their 80s or beyond. All of us grow older physically, but the challenge of maturation in a religious community is to pay attention to all those younger than ourselves.
That's why we should all join in celebrating the 50th anniversary this year of LREDA, the Liberal Religious Educators Association. We haven't yet shown ourselves mature enough to recognize the full importance of their work to our future as a religious movement. But they keep showing us how to set forth what Jack Mendelsohn once called "a mature faith." Mature about things that other religious movements often evade or deal with only by fear or denial. Making us leaders, for example, in an approach to sexuality education that is courageous, realistic, mature, and concerned above all with issues of justice and equity in human relationships.
Today I am proud to announce the publication of a comprehensive program of sexuality education called Our Whole Lives. Here to tell us more about it is my colleague, the UUA's Director of Religious Education, the Rev. Cynthia Breen.
Cynthia mentioned that this effort has taken years of planning, a strong sense of our unique mission as well interfaith cooperation, and an investment of nearly a million dollars. Those too are outward and visible signs of our spiritual maturation. We're entering a phase of generativity. And concern for passing on our values to the young is just one dimension. The sheer amount of planning going on in our midst has increased enormously. Earlier this month we gathered over 80 UUA leaders to map the next five years on our Journey Toward Wholeness, toward becoming a truly anti-racist and multi-cultural denomination. Because we have become mature enough to know it can't happen even in one generation. Cynthia and other religious educators have begun the so-called "Essex Conversations," plotting new directions and methods for spiritual growth and learning for folks of all ages. The UUA Exec staff has recently completed a year-long strategic planning process. We have aimed at making maximum use of existing resources to improve services and programs that promote congregational health, growth, and vitality; that strengthen leadership training for laity, ministers, and religious educators; and that increase the visibility and voice of Unitarian Universalism as a force for good in the world. The UUA Presidents' Council has begun consideration of a new capital campaign to provide strategic investment in major new initiatives in those areas, with a goal of at least $30 million. The will, and many of the lead gifts, are there to do it—perhaps more.
Most importantly, the process called "Fulfilling the Promise," led by a Board-appointed strategic planning team, has called upon all member congregations to consider how congregational planning should involve more than just buildings and staffing, but also issues of mission—whom do you seek to serve, and how?—and of covenant—what hopes and promises and agreements are you willing to bring to the endeavor?
Growing up involves not only asking such questions of ourselves, but answering them—not merely with our lips, but with our lives. To the extent that our congregations, and this Association, are vital, healthy, and growing—and to a remarkable extent we are—it is because we are doing this. The principal work of the UUA staff is to help us, in a multitude of ways, to fulfill our potential as a religious people. They are hard-working, smart, devoted, and too often under-appreciated. I ask you now to join me in thanking the entire staff of the Association.
Madame Moderator, this concludes my report. With your permission, however, I would like to claim the privilege of introducing the next speaker. For the last five years he has carried perhaps the longest title on the UUA staff, "Special Assistant to the President for International and Interfaith Relations." In that capacity he has been in effect not only my representative, but our ambassador at large, from Tokyo to Translyvania, from the Khasi Hills to the Cotswolds, from Prague to the Philippines. He has been my mentor and friend for more than 25 years, from the time that I was chosen at the age of 25 to be his successor as minister of our congregation in Knoxville, TN. His first report on his important work building up our international work carried a title he attributed to me: "Here I am Lord: Send him!" Please join me in watching, for a few minutes, a video devoted to the travels and diplomacy of the Rev. Kenneth Torquil MacLean.
Ken has arranged for himself a semi-retirement which involves continuing to travel, between summers in England and winter ministry in Palm Springs, CA. Ken, please tell the Assembly about our international work.
Kenneth T. MacLean
Buehrens introduced a short video saluting the UUA's retiring Special Assistant to the President for Interfaith and International Relations, Ken MacLean. Immediately following, MacLean offered his final report from Overseas.
MacLean said that traveling from Boston to Tokyo or the Khasi Hills in India can provoke the feeling that one is in a time warp, and also raises questions of what we share in common in our faith traditions with our brother and sister Unitarians and Univeralists overseas. "We have an understanding of their religious tradition in greater depth than we ever had before," said MacLean. "If we are helping to make people healthier and stronger, then that is a good enough use of our resources. The biggest question is: what does the rest of the world have to do with us? Do we have to be involved?
"I tell you: we are more involved than you know. We are helping support the IARF (International Association for Religious Freedom), through which we are involved in interfaith dialogue with many important groups, and we are also represented in the United Nations in the slow and painstaking work of what getting consensus around religious freedom really means. We are providing leadership to the world conference on religion and peace, the largest interfaith group in the world, and they are doing some remarkable work in Bosnia and Kosovo. …We are involved with Buddhist and Shinto groups, who hosted Denny and Jerry Davidoff and me this spring. Denny addressed 8,000 members of the Rhisso Kosei Kai on Buddha's birthday.
"We are involved through the Partner Church Council…with an expanding network of church to church relationships which began in Transylvania and which is spreading. A man said to me yesterday, 'I am a city person...I wanted to go to Budapest ..not that little village in Romania. I didn't know how that little village would change my life…'"
"I leave this responsibility," said MacLean, with mixed feelings. "Pride in what has been accomplished in five years, and a sense of incompleteness about what needs to be done. Perhaps we have some greater clarity of what needs to be done…and a better sense of what might be done. I dream of the day when our collaboration with the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists and the Partner Church Council will enable every Unitarian Universalist in North America to feel some particular connection to Unitarians or Universalists in some other part of the world. I dream of the day when our partnership with Buddhist and Shinto groups will spawn projects that combine our passion for justice with their passion for compassion. I dream of the day when we will pull together the resources to support a ministry that will work with our partners abroad and train ministers and others to work with those communities who are poor, to build their spiritual lives, along with the quality of their life, their education, their wellbeing. We don't know how to do that now, but we could learn. These people may be far away, but they are part of us. And every time we get involved, we are changed, and our lives have greater significance. Thank you for what you have added to my life," said MacLean.
Following rousing applause, MacLean introduced Ellen Campbell, Executive Director of the Canadian Unitarian Council, to give the Report from Canada. The Rev. Meg Riley, Director of the UUA's Washington Office for Faith in Action, followed with her report.
On behalf of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, and in accordance with resolutions by its Assembly, the Washington Office for Faith in Action authored and signed on to the following letters to public officials and endorsed statements in coalition with religious and secular groups in 1998-1999.
The Nominating Committee Report was given by Carolyn Lavender, who introduced an uncontested slate:
Following the introduction of the slate, the Secretary of the Association (Carl Thitchener) cast one ballot for the slate.
Lawrence R. Ladd, UUA Financial Advisor
Following a break, Moderator Davidoff called on Larry Ladd to give the Report of the Financial Advisor (PDF, 14 pages).
A report on Young Religious Unitarian Universalists (YRUU) was given by Chris Trace, business manager for YRUU and a recent appointee to the Commission on Social Witness. Trace discussed the thirty years of youth work that had gone on within the Association, and noted that this gathering in Salt Lake marked the largest gathering of youth in the history of the YRUU and LRY movements at a General Assembly. He noted that along with the increase in youth attendance had come an increase in staff to support the Youth Caucus, with the paid staff now at 8 and the volunteer staff at 26. He announced a GA program called "working action," designed to make youth greater stakeholders within the General Assembly agenda. Trace also cited three priorities for YRUU: establishing effective communication channels in churches and districts, anti-racism efforts, and making anti-racism a priority for all levels of YRUU.
While the offering of information and several failed amendments followed, time for the plenary was exhausted, and this item was continued to the Sunday, June 27, Plenary session by Moderator Davidoff.
Reported for the web by Debbie Weiner.
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