Board of Trustees' Report, General Assembly 2014
General Assembly 2014 Event 302
This report is part of a longer event. Go to General Session III for the complete video and order of business.
JIM KEY: Now, please, welcome all of those great trustees that I'm privileged to serve with. And Donna Harrison, your vice moderator, will introduce the board of trustees for report.
DONNA HARRISON: You guys chosing those chairs? OK.
Guys, these chairs.
Nope? OK. Whichever you want is fine. We're having stage direction.
OK. So this was an important year for the UUA board of trustees.
As Jim mentioned, this was our first year of meeting as a smaller board of trustees elected at large by this assembly. And the benefits of the change or evidence starting from our very first meetings together improved board wholeness, easier collaboration, nimbleness in our decision-making. All of these were present from our first days together.
On the stage, we have all of the trustees from the UUA board. Several of them will be speaking to you as part of this report. First, the Reverend Rob Eller-Isaacs will share with you the progress that we have made this year in our implementation of policy governance. James Snell is going to describe a new board initiative regarding emerging congregations.
Natty Averitt will provide you with information about our work regarding ministry in the wake of clergy or professional misconduct. Julian Sharpe will provide an update on the board's response to the Responsive Resolution on Inclusion from 2013. And lastly, Susan Weaver will talk about our all important linkage work.
ROB ELLER-ISAACS: It is my honor to offer the board's perspective on how well we are living into our obligations as trustees of your association.
Over the course of the past decade, we've worked to bring our governance into alignment with our theology. We are a covenantal faith. As such, we have need of structures that encourage us to imagine a tomorrow that is better than today, make promises and plans in pursuit of that vision, and develop ways to hold ourselves and each other accountable to the promises we've made the board is grateful to the many former trustees and past moderators who have understood the need to clarify and strengthen the work of the board.
Under policy-based governance, the board has three major duties. To cast vision. This we do informed by the president and his leadership council as well as by input from this assembly, our member congregations, and other sources of authority and accountability—those beyond our immediate membership who share our values and are our partners in this work. In the past year, we've made significant progress in establishing the depth of trust and the formal opportunities for conversation needed in order to fulfill this basic responsibility.
Our vision takes form as we articulate our ends. How do we want to change over the next few years in order to live more fully into the purposes and principles we proclaim? Together, the board and senior members of the administration have worked toward a shared interpretation of the stated ends of the association.
What do these words mean? What actions do these ends imply?
Our vision needs to grow from what our great theologian James Luther Adams called "the prophethood of all believers." And so the board works hard to fulfill its second primary duty—to link with and listen our stakeholders. Trustees have attended district and regional meetings, engaged in conversation with leadership teams of the organizations that support our religious professionals, and actively considered how best to learn from those beyond our membership who are among our sources of authority and accountability.
Those concerned that the governance shift would discourage shared leadership and discourage involvement will be glad to hear that we see evidence that the opposite is occurring. As regionalization is becoming a reality, staff teams and lay leaders are stepping beyond the silos of tradition and into a new, vibrant sense of collaboration and confidence.
AUDIENCE: Whoo! Whoo!
ROB ELLER-ISAACS: Our third primary duty is to monitor the administration's progress in pursuit of the association ends. Face it, friends. We are an evaluation-averse culture.
ROB ELLER-ISAACS: But what we do really matters. We need to find ways to make sure we are making tangible progress. We need tools to help us to know when we are off-course and ways to make the changes necessary to maintain our focus on what matters most. And we need to do these things without undermining creativity, initiative, and boldness. We've made a good start.
Working together, the board and the administration—with the help of an excellent consultant—have developed both shared interpretation of the ends and an initial set of metrics by which to evaluate progress. Evaluation—
ROB ELLER-ISAACS: Evaluation takes time, and it costs money. The board has recently approved an approach to evaluation, which is neither onerous nor frivolous. We believe this is a watershed moment that bodes well for the future of our faith.
JAMES SNELL: A key end of the UU—and we are sure a goal you all share—is to grow Unitarian Universalism. The UUA staff reported to the board last October. They are working with 50 emerging congregations and communities. Following the October meeting, the board and staff formed an Emerging Congregations working group to explore whether the board—and perhaps the general assembly, ultimately—might empower the UUA way to more quickly bring emerging groups into relationship. We are actively listening to emerging groups.
We are hearing that our current rules and processes have made it difficult to join our association and that these hurdles can distract from the real work of ministry. The board is committed to finding ways to draw more people into our community of covenanted congregations and communities, and we know the administration shares this goal. The staff will be doing their part to support emerging congregations. But as the holders of policy-making authority, the board and the general assembly are ultimately responsible for achieving the end to grow our faith.
A dozen of the 50 emerging groups have expressed a desire to become members of the UUA within the next year. The board is—
JAMES SNELL: Amen.
JAMES SNELL: The board is committed to taking any action within our power to help groups who want to be a part of UUA achieve membership or affiliation with us. At the same time, we are examining whether it is time to change some of our rules and requirements. The board's ongoing work to reduce the red tape required to bring communities into our association is also against the backdrop of congregations and beyond a key component of President Morales's strategic vision of our future. We have come to recognize that we can't judge a UU group's worthiness to join our faith only by the 19th century notions of—what is a congregation?
[CHEERS AND APPLAUSE]
JAMES SNELL: Indeed, some of the 50 emerging groups tell us their mission is something other than to be a traditional church. We must, therefore, meet the challenge to recognize different ways that UUs may be in community and serving our faith. We will report to you on whether we have concluded that rule changes are in order, and our goal is to recognize new congregations and communities at general assembly in Portland.
NATTY AVERITT: In 2013, Safety Net—a social justice ministry of the first UU Church of Nashville, Tennessee—called on leaders of the UUA to assess and improve its response to victims and survivors of clergy sexual misconduct as well as its support of individuals and congregations recovering from the impact of sexual misconduct. The UUA board of trustees created the Congregational Boundaries working group to review these issues in the near term and to, in its long-term work, address broader issues of misconduct in congregations.
The working group, which was preceded by two prior related initiatives within the UUA over the last 15 years, has found that, while the UUA has taken steps forward in response to those reports, challenges remain and concrete steps are needed to fulfill the goals of strong institutional accountability and compassionate response to victims, survivors, and congregations. A set of recommended actions and a timeline has been established, and implementation is under way. The plan includes actions that will be implemented immediately as well as longer range actions that will require additional planning, recruitment, and financial resources.
For a lack of time—but not for a lack of importance—the longer, more detailed report that was provided to the board of trustees at its open meeting on Tuesday and which is posted online at the UUA.org website under the June 2014 Meeting Materials cannot be presented to you today, but it contains a lot of information about the metrics of the number of cases, the details about some of the steps to taken, some of the challenges, and some of the hoped-for reforms to the process as it relates to the cases.
And it contains a call to you all as delegates to our congregations and to Unitarian Universalist individuals throughout this country and the world as it relates to addressing right relationship in our interactions with people who have experienced, not only violence and harassment in the larger world, but other forms of misconduct, including sexual misconduct within Unitarian Universalist congregations. So I urge you to look to that material and also to the material that will be forthcoming from the board in the coming months and at the next general assembly.
Thank you so much, all of you, but especially to the victims and the survivors and those around them who have been impacted by misconduct in its various forms and interpretations within our congregations.
JULIAN SHARPE: Last year, general assembly passed a responsive resolution entitled "Deepening Our Commitment to an Anti-Oppressive, Multicultural UUA." your board of trustees takes seriously the deeply spiritual work of transforming our communities and association's committees to include and empower committee members with diverse backgrounds and lived experiences. Following passage of the responsive resolution, your board's Inclusion and Empowerment working group began to develop a strategy to assess and deepen our collective work on this journey.
By utilizing resources developed by the Journey Toward Wholeness Transformation Committee, we will engage committee leadership in a process over the next nine months to deepen this work and move it forward. We hope to create opportunities and momentum for individuals and committees to be more inclusive and prepared to welcome people of diverse backgrounds and experiences into full partnership. Through collaboration and mutual learning, your board will create tools and practices for engaging in this important work.
Our ultimate goal is to have committees even more effective and deeply committed to the transformative journey toward wholeness that we are all making together. We will report to the board at each meeting on our progress and prepare a report to be presented at next year's general assembly. Thank you.
SUSAN WEAVER: One of the most important jobs of the board is to maintain meaningful connection—or "linkage"—with its sources of authority and accountability. In this first year that the board governs as 11 trustees at large, we are planning new ways to continue critical linkage with congregational leadership, delegates, and our non-congregational sources of authority and accountability. Strengthening the connections between the board and delegates and providing rich sources of feedback to the board are two important long-term goals.
In preparing for this GA's discussion, "Gathering For Purpose—Re-Imagining GA," trustees first reached out to members of seven UUA communities, sources of the vision of beloved community. The interviews strengthening the conversation at general assembly focused on the role of delegates in the GA democratic process. The UUA board offered two webinar sessions—What to Expect at GA 2014—to introduce delegates to the "Re-Imagining GA" discussion and other agenda items.
And we are planning an extensive linkage effort in the fall on proposals to transform GA and the ways we gather. We will reach out to at least 100 congregations throughout our regions as well as our other sources. Also, at this general assembly, we are having a World Cafe among UUA board members, district leaders, and youth as well as dialogues with young adults.
I would like to recognize the District Presidents Association. Its members were phenomenal allies to the board and its 2013 linkage work on the ends of the association. And I would like to introduce the district presidents to you now so that we may thank the DPA for those important contributions.
SUSAN WEAVER: From the Ballou Channing District, Ms. Janet L. Richardi. The MidAmerica Region, Reverend William Sasso. The Clara Barton District, Ms. Justine Sullivan.
SUSAN WEAVER: Florida District, Ms. Ila Klion. Joseph Priestley District, Ms. Lillian Christman. Massachusetts Bay District, Ms. Laura Graham. Metro New York District, Ms. Mia Morse. Mid-South District, Mr. Donald Kirk Bogue.
Mountain Desert District, Ms. Marcia Bowman, Northern New England District, Mr. Charles Boothby. Ohio-Meadville District, Mr. David Petras. Pacific Central District, Ms. Judy Young.
Pacific Northwest District, Reverend Carol McKinley. Pacific Southwest District, Reverend Kent Doss. The Southeast District, Ms. Denise M. Rimes.
The Southwestern District—and President of the District Presidents Association—Mr. Kevin Bolton. Saint Lawrence District, Mr. Jeffrey B. Donahue.
SUSAN WEAVER: Thank you for all that you have done to help the board in its linkage work.
DONNA HARRISON: So I would like to close the report from the board of trustees by introducing the rest of our colleagues who serve with us. And I'd ask them to join us here in the middle as I call their names. Lew Phinney, the Reverend Doctor Susan Ritchie, Michael Sallwasser, Reverend Sarah Stewart, Rosemary Dodd, who serves as our youth observer this year.
DONNA HARRISON: And our financial adviser, Larry Ladd.
DONNA HARRISON: We are honored to be able to serve our association.