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3.1 Governing Style: UUA Governance Manual

The Board will govern with an emphasis on

  1. outward vision rather than an internal preoccupation,
  2. encouragement of diversity in viewpoints,
  3. strategic leadership more than administrative detail,
  4. clear distinction of Board and President roles,
  5. collective rather than individual decisions,
  6. future rather than past or present,
  7. pro-activity rather than reactivity, and
  8. an open rather than a closed process.

On any issue, the Board must insure that all divergent views are considered in making decisions, yet must resolve into a single organizational position.


  1. The Board will cultivate a sense of group responsibility. The Board, not the staff, will be responsible for excellence in governing. The Board will be the initiator of policy, not merely a reactor to staff initiatives. The Board may use the expertise of individual Trustees to enhance the ability of the Board as a body, rather than to substitute the individual judgments for the Board's values.
  2. The Board's major policy focus will be on the intended long term impacts in the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations and its external relations and partnerships, not on the administrative or programmatic means of attaining those effects.
  3. The Board will govern with excellence. Discipline will apply to matters such as attendance, preparation for meetings, policy-making principles, and respect of roles. Although the Board can change its governance process policies at any time, it will observe them scrupulously while in force. The Board will address an issue only if the Board determines that the following criteria have been met:
    1. A substantial portion of the Board believes that the issue deserves Board time;
    2. The issue is the responsibility of the Board;
    3. If the Board has dealt with the issue before, there is new information that compels reconsideration;
    4. The focus of the issue is at a systemic level, and is not just a fix for a specific problem. If the issue is below the Board’s broad policy threshold, the Board will seek to broaden the issue to include a class of related issues in a proactive style.
  4. Continual Board development will include orientation of new Trustees in the Board's governance process.
  5. The Board will allow no officer, individual or committee of the Board to hinder or be an excuse for not fulfilling its commitments.
  6. The Board will select, from among ministers serving on the Board, one or more Trustees to serve as chaplains to the Board.
  7. The Board will monitor and discuss the Board's process and performance at each meeting. Self-monitoring will include comparison of Board activity and discipline to policies in the Governance Process and Board-President Linkage categories, following the monitoring schedule in Appendix 3.A.
  8. The work of the Board of Trustees on matters of public witness will be guided by the actions made by the General Assembly. This shall not preclude the Board from choosing to bear witness in a time of extraordinary circumstances. Accordingly, on matters of public witness regarding social concern, the Board will:
    1. Call upon the elected leadership of our congregations to provide and safeguard the sacred space where Unitarian Universalists may discuss, better understand, and explore public policy in the light of our UU principles and the individual’s conscience.
    2. Support the work of the UUA President and staff to bear witness publicly, expressing the historic and theological grounding of UU positions on matters of public social concern.
    3. Encourage the President of the UUA to provide prophetic leadership.
    4. Encourage congregations to make use of the Social Witness process, which refers issues for study and statements of conscience to the larger Association, through the authority of the congregations meeting at the General Assembly.
    5. Speak as the Board of Trustees of the UUA on matters of witness in our own work as an Association.
  9. To be consistent with our commitment to the right of conscience and the democratic process and achieve a transparent and open process, the Board will:
    1. Provide advance notice of dates and locations of regular business meetings, and making agendas, reports, and the previous meeting minutes available prior to the meeting;
    2. Provide avenues for comment on issues on the meetings' agendas;
    3. Accommodate observers at regular business meetings, and notify all participants of recording and archiving policies.
    4. Make documents submitted for consideration to the Board of trustees publicly available, with the exception of documents distributed during executive sessions.
    5. Conduct its business in public, except when the Board decides by majority vote to deal with the following kinds of matters in Executive Session:
      • volunteer and staff personnel matters that are of a delicate nature
      • legal matters of which public discussion could be legally injurious
      • budget matters that involve such legal or personnel matters
      • property acquisition or disposition
      • business of the above nature involving a member society if the society requests an Executive Session.
        1. Any officer or trustee may initiate a request for an Executive Session. The first item of business in any Executive Session shall be an explanation of the reason for the request, after which the Board shall vote whether or not to remain in Executive Session.
        2. Participants in Executive Session will be limited to Board Members, the Youth Observer, Officers and the Vice President for Ministries and Congregational Support. The Board may vote to include others in Executive Session if their presence is required for the meeting.
        3. All meetings in executive session will close with a determination as to whether the material is confidential and needs to be confidential.
        4. The Executive Session may be ended at any time by majority vote.
        5. Executive Sessions will be held to the minimum necessary under these guidelines.
    6. Record and archive audio of business proceedings of the UUA Board, with the exception of executive sessions, to be available to members of UUA congregations upon request.
    7. Regularly hold meetings in sites other than Boston, to strengthen relationships with the Association’s Member Congregations and other Sources of Authority and Accountability, and also to learn first-hand about vital interests of the Association.
      1. The Board will authorize a Site Selection Team.
        1. Proposals to the Site Selection Team must come from Trustees.
        2. Proposals must contain the following:
          1. At least two preferred dates for hosting the Board (from the scheduled list of upcoming dates on the Board’s calendar);
          2. An identified contact person, who will represent the host site as a liaison with the Board;
          3. Evidence of strategic importance (how will the Board’s exposure to the host site serve the strategic interests of the Association?)
          4. Evidence of wise stewardship of Association resources
          5. Evidence of support of a group of related Congregations (for example, a Cluster) and other Sources of Authority and Accountability (how will the Board link with local Congregations; how will the Board link with other Sources of Authority and Accountability).
    8. The Site Selection Team will authorize a spokesperson as a single point of contact on meeting logistics with the Administration. Within parameters established by the Site Selection Team, the spokesperson may make meeting logistics decisions on behalf of the Board.
    9. To be in healthy relationship with the Administration, and to ensure lowest cost, the Board will select meeting geographic areas no less than eleven months prior to the meeting. If a geographic area is not chosen, the default choice is to meet in Boston.

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Last updated on Monday, January 20, 2014.

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