Live your Unitarian Universalist values out loud. Make your year-end gift today!
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General Assembly 2014 Event 302
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The following final draft script was completed before this event took place; actual words spoken may vary.
The Moderator: I now call to Order the Third General Session of the Fifty-Third General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association. In this morning’s general session—in a spirit of restorative justice and healing—you will hear in my remarks and those of the Board—a report addressing the issue of clergy sexual misconduct within our association. I know this is a difficult subject—and it is necessary for us, as a community, to address it together. Please know that both our GA chaplains and right relations team are standing by as resources.
The Moderator: Welcome back the Secretary of our Association, Susan Ritchie, for the preliminary credentials report.
The Moderator: It is my pleasure to welcome the President of our Association, Rev. Peter Morales, for his report to the delegates. He will be joined by some of the senior staff.
Rev. Peter Morales: Good morning! This has been an amazing year of change for our Association. And I would love to tell you all about it—but I can’t. There is way too much and too little time. You can read all about the fabulous things your staff has been doing in the annual report [Slide #1] on the web.
Instead, I want to tell you about where we are going.
First, we are moving toward greater collaboration among all of our Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) staff groups. This is powerfully symbolized by our move into a modern, open headquarters [Slide #2]. The literal removal of walls captures [Slide #3] our intent to work more closely with one another in order to serve our congregations more effectively. We now have an energy efficient, accessible place to welcome you and to celebrate our heritage and vision. We have created a headquarters that embodies our vision for the 21st century. Come visit your new space.
Second, we are moving toward greater partnership in the public arena. Standing on the Side of Love [Slide #4] is five years old. From its beginning, Standing on the Side of Love sought partnerships beyond Unitarian Universalism. Look [Slide #5] at what has happened in marriage equality. Almost half of all Americans have the full freedom to marry. That is just amazing.
A few months ago Unitarian Universalists (UUs) from all over joined in the Mass Moral March in Raleigh, North Carolina [Slide #6]. I believe it was the most UUs ever present at a demonstration—something like 1500 UUs were there. Our yellow shirts continue to stand on the side of love—and we are making a difference. Standing on the side of love is wonderful—but real love, true, deep, strong, religious love does more than take a stand. The love that Jesus and Buddha and Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., talked about is founded on the awareness that we are ultimately and intimately connected. That kind of love reaches out. It is the very nature of love to reach out.
The truth is that for most of us taking a stand is a lot easier than reaching out. We are great at standing on the side of love. We are not as good at reaching out to people we don’t know, people who might disagree with us, people who are different, people who make us uncomfortable. Yet the future of our movement, the future of our being able to make a difference in the world and in the lives of millions of people, depends on our learning to reach out.
We are living in midst of a religious upheaval unlike anything in the last one thousand years. Really. The religious world is changing faster now than it did during the Reformation or the Great Awakening. We are witnessing nothing less than a mass migration away from traditional religion [Slide #7] and traditional religious institutions. Denominations like our United Church of Christ cousins and Presbyterians lost one quarter of their membership in just 8 years! America’s fastest growing religion is “none of the above.”
I believe, I really believe, that this cultural earthquake is a historic opportunity for us. The culture is moving our way. But it is not moving into our congregations. Millions and millions of people align with our values and our beliefs. They hunger for spiritual depth and religious community. They want to connect with other people to work for a world that is just, compassionate, and sustainable. And, alas, they are deeply suspicious of institutions that remind of “church” as they have known it.
Love reaches out. The flip side is also true: If it doesn’t reach out, it isn’t love. Our Universalist forebears understood this. We have to recapture their zeal for taking their message out into world. Everything we are doing as your association staff, everything, is aimed at helping our congregations and our entire movement seize this historic opportunity.
Let me tell you briefly about one initiative we are just unveiling at this GA. The UU Ministers Association (the UUMA), together with the UUA, is launching a two year program in entrepreneurial ministry. This program will take about 30 UU ministers and religious professionals, along with a few UCC ministers and Reform Jew rabbis, through a program designed in collaboration with leading business schools. We want to take people with a passion for reaching out in new ways and help them develop the practical skills to succeed. But I want to step back from the level of specific programs and activities. Our real task, our true religious challenge, is to change our culture so that this movement we love can thrive in a new world.
I believe we have to do three things:
By [Slide #8] “Get Religion” I mean living our faith. That involves everything from meditation to small groups to spirited worship to committed public witness to generous financial support. We are a religious movement. We are not a club. We are not a political action group. Our story is a story of brave souls giving their lives in service to something far greater than themselves and extending far beyond their lifetimes.
And we have to grow leaders [Slide #9]. That means identifying people with passion, commitment and competence and then supporting them. That means nurturing youth leaders, supporting our seminaries, developing lay leaders. Growing leaders also means allowing leaders to lead. It means supporting innovation and taking some risks. We cannot disempower our leaders and allow ourselves to get caught up in endless process and discussion and debate.
And we have to cross borders [Slide #10]. If we are to prosper in this new world, we have to learn to cross the borders of race, of culture, of social class. Ultimately this is deeply spiritual work. Crossing borders, reaching across borders, takes courage. Crossing borders always changes us. We must be open to that change. We are making progress at doing this. Just look at Justice GA and the College of Social Justice trips. When love reaches out, it crosses borders.
Get Religion. Grow Leaders. Cross Borders. This informs and guides everything we do.
I am blessed to work with passionate, capable, and creative colleagues on our staff. I want you to hear from a few of them. I have asked them to share (in two minutes!) what they are excited about as they look ahead.
Let me introduce them to you:
We will begin with Sarah Lammert. Rev. Sarah Lammert: Bucky McKeeman used to say that ministry is the best seat in the theater of life.
One of the best parts of my job leading our Ministries and Faith Development Staff Group is getting a front row seat in supporting two forming edges of our faith: Military Chaplaincy and Summer Seminary for Youth.
Here [Slide #11] I am in New Mexico with our military chaplains on a retreat where we joined with our United Church of Christ colleagues to learn about Moral Injury and to build collegial networks. Particularly in the post-Defense of Marriage Act climate, it is critical that the welcoming and affirming chaplains have the support they need to attend to the spiritual needs of all of our service members, and particularly those who identify as GLBT. Join us tonight at the Service of the Living Tradition to learn more from Chaplain Rebekah Montgomery about your place in this important ministry.
No program we have at the UUA gets me more excited than our Summer Seminary [Slide #12] for youth who feel called to ministry or religious education leadership. Here you see our 2013 graduates at Emerson Chapel at the Harvard Divinity School.
Summer Seminary offers youth a chance to meet with religious professionals, seminary representatives, participate in a preach-off, and to be taken seriously as leaders of today. Love made real, indeed.
Taquiena Boston: I’m excited about how the UUA is growing leadership through two initiatives: the annual Finding Our Way Home retreat and Mosaic Makers conferences, sponsored in partnership with UU congregations. Equipping leaders is essential to transforming Unitarian Universalism.
Last March Finding Our Way Home [Slide #13] gathered more than 70 religious professionals and seminarians of color—worshipping, fellowshipping, and witnessing [Slide#14] with Boston youth for “living wage.”
Their ministries represent one of the leading edges of Unitarian Universalism. Mosaic Makers Leading Vital Multicultural Congregations Conference [Slide #15] drew 120 UU professional and lay leaders in dynamic community to learn from each other how to start, live into and sustain vital multicultural ministries grounded in justice and social movement building. These UU leaders are building a new way in Unitarian Universalism. They are examples of how our faith can nurture the spirit, cross borders, and heal our broken world in multiple languages of spirituality and culture.
And we’ve heard your requests to join in this work. So, in the next three years Mosaic Makers will expand to engage more UU congregations and leaders at General Assembly, regional gatherings, and interfaith partnerships. Come! Bring your ideas, share your learning. We will grow leaders and cross borders together.
Multicultural Ministries and Social Justice are two wings of our vision for Beloved Community. Rev. Scott Tayler: I want to second Sarah’s comment about the best seat in the house. For me, that involves sitting—really standing—alongside others as we pursue major structural changes. Two in particular come to mind: First is regionalization-a national effort to move from 19 districts [Slide #16] into five stronger, more aligned regions.
This is allowing us to reduce redundancies and take advantage of economies of scale. Each region is embodying this shift in their own way, but all involve freeing our wonderful field staff to join together into larger, more creative and flexible teams. It also involves many district boards combining into single regional boards, thereby freeing up lay leaders to join staff in direct service to our congregations.
The second structural change involves a growing number of our churches reorganizing themselves into networks of congregations [Slide #17]—a trend we’re calling the multisite movement. This too is taking different forms: satellites, staff sharing, mergers. The slogan of these innovative congregational networks is “ One church in multiple locations.”
It would be easy to see both of these organizational changes as simply about increased efficiency. But from where I sit, I see something deeper: Our structures are finally more boldly embodying our theology. We are moving from structures of independence to structures of greater interdependence. We’ve always known that we are stronger together; More and more, we are living that powerful truth.
Rev. Terasa Cooley: I’m excited that there are great new opportunities to build Unitarian Universalist community literally right at our fingertips.
Advances in internet technology are allowing us to construct a new website that will be far more interactive that we’ve ever had before. [Slide #18]
Not only will our new site be cleaner, easier to navigate and easier to adapt quickly, it will be a tool that everyone can use to connect with UUs or seekers anywhere and everywhere. You will be able to create a profile, register your interests, join or start a discussion group, upload your videos of your proudest moments as a UU.
And online—also at your fingertips—with Faithify, [Slide # 19] the first-ever denominationallyaffiliated crowd funding platform, you can present or fund bold experiments that will help us cross geographies and generations, galvanizing the power of the crowd to fuel our faith.
Imagine being able to immediately put out a call to action on an important justice issue to all UUs in your community.
Imagine being able to organize a new congregation beginning with the people you already know to be UUs in your area. Imagine being able to join an online small group ministry with people from around the world. Imagine being able to find funding and support for your innovative project on Faithify!
Imagine going through a rough time and immediately being able to access inspirational messages that can speak directly to your circumstances.
All of our program staff will be busy over the next few months reorganizing and reorienting our content toward these purposes—giving you the resources and connections you need to do your ministry in the world.
And we’ve created a new Outreach Office, and hired a fabulous new Director of Outreach, [Slide #20] Carey McDonald, to help us develop a comprehensive strategic plan for communicating to UUs and beyond—-to all those who share our values but may not be sitting in our pews. All of this will be coming soon, to a computer, a smartphone, or a tablet near you!
Rev. Harlan Limpert: In my forty years of ministry, coordinating the move to our new headquarters in Boston’s innovation district is by far the most exciting project I’ve ever led. A major role of any Chief Operating Officer is to shape the culture of an organization and set the tone for how staff work to serve its mission.
Your committed UUA staff have always done their best to work collaboratively—even in buildings better suited for the nineteenth century, not the twenty-first century. Honestly, even making a simple phone call was a challenge. Now [Slide #21]—after 100 years—we have a space that enables us to support you and the congregations you lead even better.
Our new headquarters has an open layout—encouraging the sharing of information and collaboration among staff. [Slide #22] With the newest technology, we easily communicate with leaders all over the continent and all over the world. The building [Slide #23] will be LEED certified by the United States Green Building Council showing our commitment to the environment. And with a new entrance completed this summer, our building will be accessible and welcoming to all. We are modeling a faith that lives and breathes community, relevance, engagement and spirit.
In just two months, the change has been remarkable. Ask your staff (Harlan points to them and they wave). Our new space will help us all serve Unitarian Universalism. I invite you to come to visit—online or in person—to work, to worship, to enjoy. 24 Farnsworth belongs to us all.
Rev. Peter Morales: Your UUA staff has done heroic work this year. The Boston based staff has had to do all their work and pack and move just before GA. You have a terrific staff. Staff, would you rise as you are able and receive the acknowledgement of everyone here and across the country.
We have a historic opportunity. We have the capacity to reach out in love and touch millions of lives and help transform our world.
We can only do this by working together. We at headquarters can’t do it. Our field staff can’t do it. You can’t do it alone or even in your congregation. But together, together, we can do wonderful things. We have proved that over and over. I want to challenge every person here and every congregation and every group.
What can you do to help seize this historic opportunity? Who do you need to partner with in to make it happen?
What are you going to do to get religion, grow leaders and cross borders? What are we going to do together to let our love reach out?
Let’s do amazing things together. Thank you.
Rev. Peter Morales: Oh, and there is one more thing I must do.
I need to take a moment to thank and introduce a man, who for the past 20 years has been on your UUA staff, and for more than a decade, has led the efforts to fund all our good work. All of what we do—our national and international public witness work, train and certify religious professionals, work with congregations, develop resources like OWL and Tapestry of Faith—cannot happen without funding. It takes a special person to be able to listen to you and support your passion and our shared vision by raising the funds we need.
As head of Stewardship and Development the Rev. Terry Sweetser has helped to raise more than $200 million from our congregations and from almost 100,000 individual donors.
He has traveled more than one million miles. That’s around the earth about 42 times. I shudder to think of how many times Terry has gone through airport security.
For your many contributions, for your UUA career filled with commitment and dedication to our faith, I thank you.
Terry, we are all in your debt.
Please accept our thanks and share a few words with us.
[To be live-captioned.]
The Moderator: Let me add my thanks for Terry's service. I will always remember Terry's first comments when he reached out to me soon after my election as Moderator. He grasped my hand with both of his, looked deeply into my eyes and asked if I had become a Legacy Society member and included the UUA in my will. How sweet is that?
I am pleased to offer this my first report to the General Assembly as your Moderator. Since my election last June in Louisville, I have visited scores of congregations, a few clusters, several districts, one region, many organizations, too many committees to count, and all of the UUA staff groups. Meeting with hundreds of Unitarian Universalists and others who share our values, confirms to me that we are a religion whose values position us well to partner with other progressive religious traditions to serve new generations in new ways.
This morning, I want to do four things:
So let me start with my story and why I chose to be a Unitarian Universalist evangelist. And let me tell you, it is not easy being a UU evangelist; some folks want to focus on whether that is an appropriate word to use, rather than whether it is a relevant goal to spread the good news of a free and liberal faith. Even more basic, it is not always easy becoming a UU! Or it wasn’t in my case, and I suspect for too many others. I am committed to my core, to finding those people, like me, who are seekers, but having trouble finding us, or worse, not quite understanding what we are all about when they do encounter us.
I grew up poor in the Jim Crow South influenced by my radical grandfather, a Social Gospel Methodist. Under his tutelage, I was encouraged to speak out against the evils of segregation and the errors of theology he observed in most white Christian denominations of his time and place.
I married someone I met in Junior High School, and we raised two sons and a daughter.
We enjoyed a privileged life, and I a career with IBM for over 30 years, living and working all over the US and Asia, always seeking and joining the most liberal and progressive protestant congregation we could find.
I was a restless and questioning soul, having many doubts about my own evolving theology and the relevance of organized religion in an increasingly unjust world. As our family moved about and sought a religious community, we never encountered a Unitarian Universalist in all of he places we lived in VA, NJ, OK, MO, KS, Tokyo, GA, and CT. I am pretty sure UUs were around, but no one seemed to be “out”. We never passed a UU facility. We never noticed a UU ad. We were never greeted by a UU at any of the many progressive organizations we were a part of.
People identifying as Atheists to Zoroastrians introduced themselves to us and invited us to know more about their beliefs, but we never met anyone who identified as a Unitarian Universalist in all of those decades. Not one.
Liz and I moved to Beaufort SC in 1997 and it was there that I was finally introduced to Unitarian Universalism…by a Presbyterian Minister. She said, “You need to be over there with those people.”
‘Those’ people were a small group of UUs displaced from their natural habitat in the Northeast who were organizing a Unitarian Universalist congregation in this small southern town. I soon became the finance and stewardship chair.
In 1999, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Beaufort became an affiliated congregation of the UUA. Liz and I had found our liberal and liberating religious home after searching for over three decades. As brand new UUs, we were founding members of an emerging congregation.
That might be an engaging enough story if it ended there. But a life-changing event occurred on December 15, 1999. I was diagnosed with Stage-4 lung cancer, prescribed a palliative treatment of chemotherapy that would continue for ten months, and told to get my affairs in order. There is nothing like a death sentence to focus the mind. I put much of my life on hold: completion of our new house, starting my new consulting practice, but not my new religious community. I experienced the five stages of loss and grief but with the support of my UU siblings, I moved quickly to acceptance. I had responsibilities after all! I was supervising the finances of this new UU congregation!
My faith community was my north star. Their love was unconditional, their hope contagious, their support for Liz and me boundless. In the middle of my chemotherapy, a person who had been an early organizer for our congregation asked if I would serve as President of the congregation. I was stunned! I asked if she thought it could wait to see if I lived out the year.
She said of course, but that she would be back. Indeed she did come back the following year, held a mirror under my nose, noted that I fogged that mirror, and asked me to serve. So a year and half after the diagnosis, I became the second president of the UU Fellowship of Beaufort and served in that role for five years.
Friends, hear this clearly: Unitarian Universalism saved my life. I owe this faith something, and so I serve as best as my talents allow. And you just have to love a group with a sense of humor that asks you to serve on committees and boards while at the same time you are planning your memorial service.
The good news of Unitarian Universalism arrived for me just in time. Others shouldn’t have to wait, shouldn’t have to die prematurely.
We must come out, live our values, speak our truths, and be amazed at and changed by those who join us.
Now let me move to a subject most would wish to avoid: clergy sexual misconduct.
Let me say a few words about rightsizing governance. The present board of eleven at-large trustees has been as agile and generative in its work as the previous board imagined. They brought the bylaw changes to the delegates in 2011 to reduce the size of the board. I thank them for their courage; they gave up their own privilege in order to strengthen the governance of our Association.
Effective governance is the enabler of our dreams. It is how we operationalize our covenant with one another, our promise to one another, and our accountability to one another. It has been a great pleasure to be a part of this collaboration as the board and staff have begun living into our covenantal faith together, making promises one to another, holding each accountable to the other as well as to the congregations and communities we serve. You will hear in the Trustee report how the Board and Administration have operationalized our Global Ends or Shared Values and moving towards effective monitoring of those Ends. Finally, I want to challenge the delegates and other congregational leaders here this morning or watching on line to learn from your Board of Trustees' experience.
The Board is very clear about the fiduciary, strategic, and generative modes of governance and the appropriate scale of policy-style model of governance. My charge to those of you in leadership is this: Seek clarity about the modes of governance in your own congregations and communities. Rise above the daily grind we face around the issues of power and authority, and funding, and whether there is too much or too little language of reverence in our Sunday services. Focus on what we Unitarian Universalists are called to do in this world and how we will build the world we dream about. Assess how effectively we are answering that call and living into that dream. Then you will be practicing good and right-sized governance.
The Moderator: Please welcome all of our Trustees to the stage. Donna Harrison, your Vice Moderator, will introduce the Board of Trustees report.
Donna: 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. And the benefits of this change were evident starting with our first meetings together: Improved Board wholeness, easier collaboration and nimbleness in our decision making have all been present.
On the stage we have all of the Trustees on the UUA Board. Several of them will be speaking to you as part of this report. The Rev. Rob Eller-Isaacs will first share with you the progress that we have made this year in our implementation of Policy Governance. James Snell will describe about a new Board initiative regarding emerging Congregations. Natalia Averett will provide you with information about our work regarding ministry in the wake of clergy or professional misconduct. Julian Sharp will discuss the board’s follow up to the responsive resolution on inclusion from 2013. And lastly Susan Weaver will talk about our Linkage work.
Rob: 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 have 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 the work. In the past year we have 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 fulfill its second primary duty to link with and listen to 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 also 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 a vibrant sense of collaboration and confidence.
Our third primary duty is to monitor the administrations progress in pursuit of the Associations ends. Face it friends, we are an evaluation averse culture. 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 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 a shared interpretation of the ends and an initial set of metrics by which to evaluate progress. Evaluation takes time and 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: A key End of the UUA, 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 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 committed to taking any action within our power to help groups who want be a part of the UUA achieve membership or affiliation with us.
At the same time, we are examining whether it is time 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’ 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 19th century notions of "what is a congregation?" 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.
Natalia: 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 within 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 victim/survivors and congregations. A set of recommended actions and a timeline has been established, and implementation is underway. This plan includes actions that will be implemented immediately, as well as longer-range actions that will require additional planning, recruitment and financial resources.
Julian: 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 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 GA.
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 on “Gathering for Purpose—Re-Imagining GA,” trustees first reached out to members of 7 UU communities, sources of the Vision of Beloved Community. The interviews, “Strengthening the Conversation at General Assembly,” focused on the roles 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, this General Assembly includes 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 in its 2013 linkage work on the Ends of the Association. I would like to take a minute to introduce the District Presidents to you now so that we may thank the DPA for those important contributions.
Thank you for all that you do to help the Board in its Linkage work!
Donna: I would like to close the report from the Board by introducing the rest of our colleagues on the UUA Board of Trustees, and I ask them to stand as I call their names.
The Rev. Clyde Grubbs, Lew Phinney, the Rev. Dr. Susan Ritchie, Michael Sallwasser, the Rev. Sarah Stewart, our Financial Advisor Larry Ladd and last but not least our Youth Observer, Rosemary Dodd. We are honored to be allowed to serve our Association.
The Moderator: Thank you Vice-Moderator Harrison and the Board of Trustees. It has been a great year serving with these talented and engaged Trustees.
We now need to hear from the Rev. Sarah Stewart, Trustee of our Association and Chair of the Finance Committee, for the budget report. Sarah Stewart: This is the Budget Report from your UUA Board of Trustees. Budgets may seem dry; but when I look at a budget, I see a plan for love put into action. In the UUA’s budget, I see a plan for enacting our mission through national, regional and district programs and support of congregations and communities. If you have questions about the details of the budget, please come to the Budget Hearing today after this general session at 10:15 in room 515. I will be there along with Financial Advisor Larry Ladd, Treasurer and CFO Tim Brennan, and other members of the Finance Committee to answer any questions you may have.
I want to talk to you about two things this morning: generosity from congregations, and a deficit the UUA is facing in the current year budget, which has implications for next year’s budget. I’m going to start with information about our budget.
In April the Board approved a budget, presented to us by President Morales, which set out a plan for achieving our Ends in the coming fiscal year. Unfortunately, last week the administration and the Board learned that the UUA will not receive some hoped-for large, individual gifts in the current year. Although other revenue streams remain strong, we are projected to end this year with a $1.35 million deficit, which represents about 5.6% of the operating budget. These unfortunate losses require the UUA to revise its financial planning for next year.
President Morales will bring to the Board a revised budget for fiscal year 2015 by August 1. In accordance with our policies, the administration will show how that budget materially supports the Ends, and represents fiscal prudence and integrity. As always, we will carefully consider that budget on your behalf, and approve it when we are confident it supports achievement of our Ends. I have faith that we will be able to do that, because the connection between the budget and the Ends has been made very clear to us this year. While your board still debates and discusses the meaning of the Ends, among ourselves and with the administration, we have been very pleased to see the connection between the budget and achievement of the Ends in the budget for FY15. This clear connection, as well as progress toward measurable implementation of the Ends and collection of metrics, has been supported by the administration’s work with a governance consultant, funded through the current year’s budget.
In addition to a revised budget, the Board has requested from President Morales an action plan to address any systemic problems that led to this surprising budget shortfall. Peter has taken responsibility to the Board for the communication challenges that allowed him, and us, to be surprised with such a large shortfall in the final weeks of the fiscal year. We will hear from Peter in the coming months about the ways in which he will mitigate the risks in the UUA’s financial planning practices.
The Board has its own fundamental responsibility for the financial health of the UUA. Another word for “trustee” is “fiduciary”; we trustees are those people who ensure that the UUA uses its funds wisely and will continue to have money to accomplish its mission for decades and centuries to come. To fulfill that fiduciary responsibility, we will be looking at our financial planning policies to ensure that they are adequate to the risks we face in our fundraising environment. And we will be asking for a “deep dive” into the revenue assumptions for the 2016 budget at our upcoming January meeting. We will ensure that the budget we approve and present to you for 2016 is one we can stand by and meet.
One piece of next year’s operating budget that we do not expect to change is a one-time expense of $750,000 to complete the move to the UUA’s new headquarters at 24 Farnsworth Street. These costs will be funded out of the proceeds of the sale of our Beacon Hill properties, which otherwise would have gone into the endowment. Over time these costs will be recouped as the UUA takes on full ownership of the building at 24 Farnsworth Street and completes the sale of its Beacon Hill properties.
Individual donors are important to the UUA, even as the landscape of individual charitable giving remains volatile after the recession. We are grateful to every person who gives to the UUA. Even more fundamental to the work and being of the Unitarian Universalist Association is the generosity of your congregations through the Annual Program Fund and the Generously Investing for Tomorrow GIFT program.
Congregational giving provides fully 50% of the UUA’s operating income each year. It forms the single largest source of the UUA’s annual operating income. I want to thank every congregation that gives to the UUA. I especially want to lift up the more than 700 Fair-Share congregations and the many congregations that are working with the UUA to become fair share. Our congregations’ generosity through the Annual Program Fund or the GIFT program makes possible work that in turn supports our congregations and communities. Our giving strengthens Unitarian Universalism’s voice at a regional and national level. It makes possible work that no one congregation could do alone. The next time you get an e-mail from staff at your regional office, or find religious education curricula online, or get help with a staff transition from the UUA, or feel proud of the work of racial justice and multicultural ministry at the UUA, remember that you are enabling all of this through your congregation’s generous giving.
Love reaches out as the UUA staff achieves the global End of “moving our communities and the world toward more love, justice, and peace.” Love reaches out through the careful planning and accountability that goes into the UUA’s budgeting process. Through individual generosity, the invested gifts of Unitarians and Universalists past, and your congregation’s giving, you make it possible to enact more love and reach out to all who need the saving message of Unitarian Universalism. Thank you.
The Moderator: I call on the Rev. Terry Sweetser, our retiring Vice President for Stewardship and Development. Welcome back to the podium Terry.
Rev. Terry Sweetser: This is our time to honor the generous Unitarian Universalists who have died this year. Their gifts of time, talent, and treasure have profoundly transformed their congregations and our Unitarian Universalist community. Their dedication to love and justice will continue to enrich the lives they touched. As we remember these friends who loved this faith with all their hearts and whose hopes for our future now rest with us, let us each renew our own commitment to this faith we share, a faith that links us to generations gone and generations to come.
Let us also recall the words of The Rev. Peter Raible:
“We build on foundations we did not lay. We warm ourselves by fires we did not light. We sit in the shade of trees we did not plant. We drink from wells we did not dig. We profit from persons we did not know. We are ever bound in community.”
“We build on foundations we did not lay. We warm ourselves by fires we did not light. We sit in the shade of trees we did not plant. We drink from wells we did not dig. We profit from persons we did not know. We are ever bound in community.”
May we honor these lives, friendships, and memories as we work together to nurture and grow Unitarian Universalism across our Association, and our world, knowing that “what they dreamed be ours to do.”
The Moderator: I am pleased to introduce the first of seven GA talks that will be presented throughout these General Sessions. The objective of these talks is to spread ideas that spark conversation about Unitarian Universalism. Please welcome Jonathan Rogers to tell us about our first one.
Jonathan Rogers: My name is Jonathan Rogers, I am the Program Coordinator for the Young Adults at General Assembly, or YA@GA, and it is my privilege to tell you about a programming event that is new for 2014: GA Talks! GA Talks is similar to TED Talks in format and style; big ideas are brought on stage with multimedia presentations. We want to share the big ideas of our faith with the world, and this is how we are doing it. GA Talks will be during three program slots, including yesterday afternoon, this morning at 10:15, and tomorrow at 12:30, all in RICC Hall C. We had a great turnout yesterday, I invite you to ask anyone who was there about the dynamic presentations we had on the topic of “Looking Inward.”
Today’s Talks will be on the topic of “Looking Outward” and tomorrow’s will be on “Looking Forward.”
Looking inward, looking outward, looking forward, and taking the big ideas that come from and apply to each of these areas, that is what GA Talks is about.
Some of our UU Young Adults conceived this as a big idea of our own last year, and we have been fortunate enough to collaborate with ten bright minds within and beyond our movement: our folks are wicked smart! Yesterday we heard from Erik Martinez-Resly and John Crestwell, who join me on stage now, as well as Jaimie Dingus. Today we will be hearing from Cody Nielsen, Richelle Perry, Tim Atkins, and Jessica Ferguson, and tomorrow running the anchor leg we have Karen Bellavance—Grace, Sue Phillips and Hilary Allen. These speakers are working on a very broad range of initiatives, including emerging congregations (indicate Erik and John), initiatives of our Association, social media outreach, the reenvisioning of religious exploration, and UU crowd-funding. I am intentionally not pairing the people with the projects in this introduction, because like TED Talks, GA Talks is less about specific projects or initiatives than it is about the big ideas behind them, the concepts and the “aha!” moments that have driven innovators to innovate. For example, you may already be familiar with The Sanctuaries in DC and AWAKE Ministries in Maryland, but GA Talks has given their founders an opportunity to explain and explore the bigger ideas behind the foundings of these new UU communities. They have each agreed to give a one-minute synopsis of those big ideas here this morning.
Erik: My name is Erik Martinez-Resly, I am the lead organizer of the The Sanctuaries, and art and soul-centered community in Washington, DC. I began this group out of a commitment to starting and nurturing new congregations, and as it has taken on a life of its own, we have become more and more artistically-centered. This journey led me to reflect on how we put the “style” in “lifestyle,” to want to explore what it means to live with artistic and creative intent, and how such can be nurtured in community. For my GA Talk I produced a short film delving into this question. The unique opportunity that UUism has for creating, supporting and learning from group’s such as ours was readily apparent throughout this process, as it opened doors to questions and conversations that led my film and presentation into so many spaces of intersectionality. It was a great privilege to prepare, I hope you will take a look at it online, and come see the presentations today and tomorrow as well!
John: My name is John Crestwell and I am the Lead Minister of AWAKE Ministries, a congregation developed to serve primarily younger families, couples or singles of color and the almost 20% of Americans who currently categorize their religious affiliation as “NONE.”
At AWAKE, we have been able to explore the comparisons between rational and primitive music, and to find a UU middle ground with them. My GA Talk was an opportunity to delve into an explanation of that goal and reflection on how it has been carried out in our community so far. We also work with the question of why emotional literacy, why is that important? We cannot truly fulfill our promise as a faith movement without having that and developing it, so this looked at why such is the case and how we can move in that direction together. Also, like many of the GA Talks presenters, I could use the support of the larger UU movement, and spoke to the ways in which folks out there can provide that support. I hope you’ll take a look at my presentation when it goes online, and come to the GA Talks today and tomorrow!
Thank you Erik and John, and as you both said, we will be posting your presentations online, TED Talk-style, so check those out. Keep in mind also that there’s nothing like being there in person, and join us this morning at 10:15 and tomorrow at 12:30 in RICC Hall C for the final two GA Talks!
The Moderator: One again I call on the Secretary of the Association, the Rev. Dr. Susan Ritchie, for any announcements.
Rev. Susan Ritchie: [To be live-captioned.]
The Moderator: There being no further business to come before us and in accordance with the schedule set forth in your program book, I declare that this General Session of the General Assembly shall stand in recess until this afternoon at 2:15 p.m.
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Last updated on Thursday, July 24, 2014.
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