General Assembly: GA Presentations: Presenter views and opinions do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the UUA.

Candidates Forum, General Assembly 2012

General Assembly 2012 Event 319

Candidates for major offices in the Unitarian Universalist Association speak and answer questions.

Report from UU World


KEN SAWYER: Welcome to you all, to the candidates forum, hosted by the Election Campaign Practices Committee, made up of me, Ken Sawyer, and David Jackoway and Charlie King. Charlie is not feeling well, and his place will be taken by Tom Larry. We will hear from both the moderator candidates and the one candidate for president.

The schedule is to have each of them speak after an introduction that they wrote, which I will give. They will each speak for eight minutes, after which there will be a time for question and answer, and a closing two minutes from each of the candidates. As to the cards, if you have any questions, you can write them out on whatever you have, and signal for one of the ushers to come by and get them.

If you don't have anything to write on, you could signal to the ushers and they will provide you with a three by five card. And again, you could signal again, and they'll come get it. The cards are going to be brought forward to David and Tom, who will sort through them and consolidate them and pick out the best and give them to me to read to the candidates.

The Reverend Peter Morales is President of the Unitarian Universalist Association. Elected in June of 2009, Reverend Morales is the first Latino President of UUA, and ran on a platform of growth and multiculturalism. Public witness is central to his presidency. He is especially passionate about immigration reform and environmental justice.

In July 2010, Morales was arrested for nonviolent civil disobedience while protesting the human rights violations of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. In August 2011, Morales went on trial, using the opportunity to speak publicly against the rising tide of anti-immigrant sentiment in the US. This year's Justice GA has afforded him the opportunity to bear witness to the continued human rights abuses at Tent City.

Prior to his election, Morales served as the senior minister at Jefferson Unitarian Church in Golden, Colorado. He earned his BA from the University of the Pacific, his Master's of Philosophy from the University of Kansas, and his Master's of Divinity from the Starr King School for the Ministry. His hope for Unitarian Universalism is that this vibrant religious movement will continue to expand beyond the walls of our congregations, touching the lives of all those in need of a personal, progressive, spiritual home.

REVEREND PETER MORALES: Thank you. Let me start my timer here. I guess you qualify as the political junkies of our association. And let me say that I'm happy to say that I'm not a candidate for moderator of the UUA.

Seriously, I'm running for reelection because so much has been started that I want to see come to fruition. Three years ago, when I ran, I emphasized three areas. One was our need for what I called the new ministry for new America, emphasizing the demographic changes that were happening in our country and in the enormous amount of turnover we were going to be facing in our ministry. The emphasis on reaching out to people that are not now Unitarian Universalists, who share our values and who have a desperate need for religious community, spiritual community. And to continue the excellent work of Bill Sinkford and John Buehrens and Bill Schulz before that, and building our capacity to be a powerful voice for compassion and for justice in our world.

Let me highlight some of the things that have been started and are under way. In the area of ministry, in my first year, I convened a review, which we called a strategic review professional ministry. It involved half a dozen people on a committee, but really bringing in perspectives from all over our association, reviewing studies that have been done. And the result of that was a draft that then went out to the Ministerial Association of Religious Educators, our seminaries asking for input, and then a final report with some recommendations.

Reports like that typically sit on a shelf somewhere in organizations. It's very easy for them to. Ours is a blueprint for a number of things we're doing around recruitment, around improving, with the UUMA, professional education for our ministers, and with LREDA, a whole program of improving our ministry, all the way from credentialing to mentoring is under way. And it's really exciting work.

Another piece of that work is building our capacity for our religious professionals and for everyone, especially our young people and our religious professionals, to have cross-cultural experiences to prepare them to be ministers in this new age. Another major area, it's always been a concern for all of us, is reaching out to others who share our values, and who share our desire for a blessed community.

There are two important initiatives in that area. One is to increase the capacity of our existing congregations. We started a pilot program called Leap of Faith, which really asks our leading congregations to be mentor congregations to other congregations who are aspiring to grow. The first round of that has been done. It's been tremendously successful.

We hope to expand it again. That's just the beginning of something we've done. And part of what's exciting about it is, it wasn't a program that got thought up at headquarters and was sold out into the field. It was a program that was designed by our leading congregations, who said this would be the most effective way to go.

Something else that's just getting started is what we're calling Congregations and Beyond. I urge you to read the five-page paper on that, which talks about the need to go beyond our congregations, to look for different ways to reach people and to organize, to use electronic media. There are exciting, exciting developments happening in that area.

The third area that I emphasized in the campaign was around public witness, and I'm happy to say that we continue-- as my son puts it, we punch above our weight class. It's a boxing term. For as small an organization as we are, we can be proud of the work we're doing around marriage equality, on immigration rights, the coverage we've gotten in the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, on radio, all over the place. The Standing on the Side of Love campaign has really blossomed. I think we're doing a terrific job on that.

For the future, there's developing these things that whole congregations and beyond, there are a couple of other things that are happening. I want to see us through a transition to a headquarters that is a modern headquarters that is accessible, that uses technology to build a capacity for us to work together in ways that we never have. That is in process right now.

So we've got a bunch of things in place. The future for us is one of facing enormous, enormous challenges in this time of cultural change. But also with those challenges, I know of no religious body who has the opportunities that we have, if we use the talent and the creativity and the passion of our people.

I want that to be the hallmark of my time as President, that we find new and better ways of working effectively together. So I want to continue to be your President for another five years, and to be voted on a year from now in Louisville. I'm excited about our possibilities. Thank you very much.


KEN SAWYER: Thank you, Peter. There are two candidates for moderator, selected by the board from a list of suggestions put forward by a committee created for that purpose. By a flip of the coin, the first of the two to speak will be Jim Key.

Jim is currently President of the Southeast district. Additionally, he chairs the Audit Committee of the UUA Board of Trustees. Jim has been active in Unitarian Universalism and liberal Christian denominations since his youth. He was a founding member of the UU Fellowship of Beaufort, South Carolina, which was recognized as a breakthrough congregation last year. He served that congregation as president for five years and chaired many committees.

Additionally, he served as Dean of the Mountain School for Congregational Leadership. In his role as District President, he championed the move to policy-based governance, encouraged the district's ARAOMC work, and led the process that changed the district's name to Southeast district. His work at General Assemblies includes facilitating workshops and moderating mini assemblies.

Jim worked for many years at IBM, and then established the Shenandoah Group, a firm offering consulting in governance for clients around the world. He is an Organizing Director of CBC National Bank, and continues to serve on the Board of Directors and as Chair of the Audit Committee. Jim and his partner of over 40 years, Liz, have three children and six grandchildren.


JIM KEY: Thank you. My name is Jim Key, and I want to be your moderator. I've been privileged to serve in many UU leadership roles, as you heard in my introduction. I want to continue that service to our Association as we move through the significant transitions over the next decade.

This fire in the belly to serve started long ago and is rooted in my personal experience. I'm the last of five children. My father abandoned the family before my birth, so I was reared by a single mother. The financial struggles and associated social stigma dogged us in our many moves, as I suspected it has for some of you.

When I was 11, one of those moves took us from Virginia to North Carolina to live with my grandparents. That changed the direction of my life. My radically liberal grandfather became the major influence in my life. I absorbed his liberal religious teachings that were rooted in the social gospel movement of his youth.

With Papa as my guide, I realized earlier than I suspect most that despite our poverty, I was privileged simply by being white and male. As a result of Papa's influence, the daily injustices that people of color faced in the Jim Crow South at that time had a profound influence on me. As a child, my attempts to be an ally of people of color were timid but earnest.

Since that time, I've had a lifelong commitment to fighting injustice wherever I find it and to facilitating reconciliation where groups are polarized. Moreover, I was always searching for a faith community modeling that inclusive vision. That spiritual quest led me to join liberal mainstream Christian churches as we moved around the country. I held responsible positions in all those churches, usually relating to finance and stewardship.

But it wasn't until my employer, IBM, transferred me to Asia that I found a spiritual home that seemed to truly embody the beloved community that I'd been seeking. Tokyo Union Church is an ecumenical, multicultural, and multiracial faith community. It was, and I suspect still is, a joyous place.

As a result of our four-year sojourn to Asia, our family's worldview was forever changed. My partner of over 40 years, Liz, has worked as a nurse in urban clinics over the years, and my IBM experience was certainly multicultural. But the experience of living abroad immersed our three children, immersed them into a milieu in which they thrived. Interestingly, they all found life partners unlike themselves. Our clan gatherings now include six grandchildren, and we are noisily multicultural, multiracial, and multi-cuisinal, which is perhaps my favorite part of the mix.

Our Asia odyssey ultimately came to an end, but trying to replicate that multicultural experience at a faith community back at the US took eight years. After I left IBM to start my consulting practice and we had moved to Beaufort, South Carolina, I was talking with a Presbyterian minister about my quest. She told me about a group of Unitarian Universalists who were organizing an emerging congregation. She suggested I might be at home there.

And indeed, I was. I had found my religious home after a search of too many decades at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Beaufort. Our new congregation grew from 30 to 100, and we were named a breakthrough congregation in 2011. I was president of that congregation for five of those years. Incidentally, the Presbyterian minister also fell in love with Unitarian Universalism. She became a credentialed UU minister, and now serves that same Beaufort congregation as a full time settled minister.


JIM KEY: My passion for this faith, together with my management and consulting experience, has motivated me to take on leadership roles at all levels of our association. I wish to continue this leadership role to strengthen and extend Unitarian Universalism. You'll know, of course, that the moderator has the highly visible role of presiding over plenary sessions at General Assembly. And believe me, I'm well aware that Gini and Denny are hard acts to follow.

How do you think plenary sessions should be run? Well, I believe large meetings require a deft facilitator. I facilitated large meetings where highly emotional and divisive issues were debated. In the Southeast district, during our name change process, in the GA mini assemblies, as we discussed whether to boycott Phoenix, and where the idea of holding this Justice GA emerged.

Frankly, I run a damn good meeting. My meetings run on schedule. Different voices are heard. We laugh. We sing. We get the business done. And we reach out to reconcile with those whose views don't carry the day.

But the moderator is also the Chief Governance Officer under our bylaws, and chairs the meetings of the Board of Trustees, and with them forms the governance structure of our association. So, does the subject of governance give any of you a rush of excitement? Make your heart sing? I didn't think so, but there's one yell over here.

So this is the time for full disclosure. I am a governance wonk. I have broad and deep experience in governance that includes public company models, Islamic government models, as well as mission-driven models like our own. In our liberal faith tradition, governance is best experienced as shared ministry, grounded on trust. As your moderator, I'll make it a priority to build relationships between the moderator and Board, and the President and the Executive Team.

The new moderator will take office at the same time that the Board of Trustees is reduced in size from the current 26 to 14. As your moderator, I'll work during this transition to evaluate our policies and determine the best approaches to monitoring them. The Orthodox Carver Policy Governance Model our association has embraced is a good governance model. However, it needs to be further modified to reflect our unique polity, history, and culture.

Under my leadership, the Southeast district moved to policy-based governance several years ago, and we saw benefits almost immediately. I have proven leadership experience in Unitarian Universalism and the business world. I get the issues, and I love working with boards and leaders to find solutions and create opportunities.

Apart from governance, most of my career at IBM was a leader of multicultural groups working to resolve conflicts between people of diverse backgrounds. I'll use this ability to build bridges and cross borders to help our association grow as a diverse and representative democracy. As I think about 2019, the end of the term of our next moderator, I see Unitarian Universalism as a growing, vibrant faith movement bound together by our values. I see a movement that encourages all people to participate and flourish with no exceptions. Imagine what that would look like.

As Rebecca Parker put it, none of us alone can save the world. Together, that is another possibility waiting. So I'm asking for your support as we consider the possibilities together. Thank you.


KEN SAWYER: Thank you. A note about the cards and the questions. You can address them to any of the three of these people, or to any two of them, to any one of them. And while we may not have time to do them all, all the questions will be listed and given to the three candidates afterwards.

Tamara Payne-Alex is a lifelong Unitarian Universalist who began serving in leadership roles as a youth. She continued her service to the association as a young adult with four years as member of the Black Concerns Working Group and as a member of the racial and cultural diversity research team. Tamara served six years on the Ministerial Fellowship Committee, the committee that assessed the readiness of our aspiring ministers to serve our congregations, and nine years as an at large trustee on the UUA board.

Tamara volunteers in her community as well, and has been recognized by her local school district for her advocacy work on behalf of African American children and their families. In her work life outside Unitarian Universalism, Tamara is an area manager for a large educational company that provides on-site expanded learning programs for children. This position allows her to use her creative problem-solving skill, love for learning, and passion for serving families and diverse communities. Tamara lives with her family in San Jose, California, and is an active lay leader at the First Unitarian Church of San Jose.


TAMARA PAYNE-ALEX: At 15, I sat in a large auditorium full of youths. Reverend Wayne Arnason, Director of Youth Programming for the UUA, sat at a table on a stage. He was facilitating a process to create a new Unitarian Universalist youth organization.

He shared leadership with youth. He talked about consensus and meant it. He wore jeans and had taken off his shoes. I told my mother I wanted his job.

As an adult, I watched our past moderator, Denny Davidoff, greet each delegate that came to the mic as if they were a guest at lunch, lean on the podium, calm and attentive, to process during heated debates. Smiling in anticipation each time youth caucus trooped to the front of the hall. I totally wanted her job.

I was serving on the Ministerial Fellowship Committee a couple of years later when Gene Picket,, past president of the UUA, told me, I think you'd be a great president. Don't worry, Peter. I don't want your job. I want a very different job. I want to be moderator, the person who, according to our bylaws, presides over General Assembly, chairs the Board of Trustees, and acts as Chief Governance Officer.

A few years ago, when the General Assembly added the role of Chief Governance Officer to the responsibilities of moderator, it was acknowledging the importance of having a well-governed association. In an organization of many and varied moving parts, there is a constant risk of overlapping efforts and silos, a risk of well-meaning hardworking folks acting at cross purposes. The moderator pays attention to these complex interactions so that Unitarian Universalism can be more effective, loving, justice making.

This requires a faithfulness and clarity of purpose and leadership without a certainty of destination. A strong, clear leadership with genuine curiosity and openness to a good process taking us somewhere new, to the end result not being what was originally imagined, invites collaboration, trust, risk taking, and creativity, even when the discussion is hard, even when much is at stake. This type of leadership invites those of us on the margins to the center and reminds those of us in the center to make room.

Our governance structures and processes have definitely been on a trajectory of change. One catalyst for this change was the 1993 report of the Commission on governance. Many of the changes, such as a reduction in the size of the board, changes in the election process and terms of office for our president and moderator, the move to a policy-based governance, were recommendations of that commission. So the trajectory of change has in fact been a long one, but our systems and structures are right now experiencing the actual implementation of those changes.

This time of flux is a precious opportunity to create something better, something new. It is very possible for institutions to change their structures, radically change their structures, but not change how things are done. But changing how things are done cannot be accomplished in isolation.

We will need a moderator who not only understands governance, but also who knows the many moving parts of what we do together and has experience across our association. One who understands our current path to ministry, settlement process, who has worked with our theological schools. Someone who's been part of our anti-oppression efforts for decades. One who knows that it's not just about being a beacon for those seeking a faith home, but also tending the hearth fire so that those of us for whom this faith has always been our home continue to be spiritually fed and challenged.

I am so grateful for the UU community of color, for those in the community of color, who held me tightly, tending that fire when I thought that I could not stay in this faith, the faith I was born into. When there did not seem to be a space in the consciousness of Unitarian Universalism for folks like me, or people of color, unless we stayed on the margins. I have dear, dear friendships with many of our young adults because they know and recognize the flame that burns in me, and it burns brightly when I am with them. That flame burns more brightly in us when they are among us.


TAMARA PAYNE-ALEX: I treasure my time with friends in the youth community because that community in so many ways is still home. They are our lifeblood. This web of connection and relationship is so important in leadership.

As our UUA board looks fully into its new governance structure and practices, focusing even more deeply on our future together as a faith community, we will benefit from a moderator with depth and breadth of experience and a broad network of connections and relationships to help ensure that what we build together going forward is healthy and strong and whole. I stand up here today, in what my daughter refers to as my Michelle Obama dress, because as I look across the association, the person who has what is needed in our moderator, this time, right now, is me. Thank you.


KEN SAWYER: Thanks to all three of you. The first of the cards actually comes from the table itself, from the Election Campaign Practices Committee, reminding me that the way that this is all handled is in Article 9 of the bylaws. If you want to consult it, you'll find things like, if you decide to run in either of these races yourself, you can by petition until February 1. Question one, to all three of you. If elected, how will you work with the president or with the moderator in a non-confrontational, respectful, and positive way to benefit Unitarian Universalism? Peter, you want to take that first?

REVEREND PETER MORALES: Sure. I believe passionately that our potential as a faith, our potential as an organization, is only unleashed when we work in collaboration. We've seen it with the board and the Gathered Here initiative. We've seen it in coming together at this General Assembly. So I look forward to working in collaboration.

And as we do that, I think it's going to be important to-- as the topic was brought up, for hone the model we have of policy governance and adapt it in a way that I hope is more efficient and more effective. We've got some track record now, and some learning, and we're making progress. But I look forward to making a great leap in progress on that.

I believe that we need to be held as the administration account, and to be transparent. And I've tried to bring a whole new attitude toward program evaluation into the administration. So I'm committed to that kind of accountable relationship, and I think some of the things we do are cumbersome that can be done more effectively and efficiently.

KEN SAWYER: Thank you. I'll go back and forth. So Tamara, why don't you take it this time first.

TAMARA PAYNE-ALEX: OK, wonderful. So I'm Unitarian Universalist, so I'm not going to answer that question. I'm going to answer the question that I think is underlying that, and that is that there is a tension in our system between the role of president, the role of moderator, and the board. And some of that is appropriate. It's part of the checks and balances that have been put in place to ensure that things are thought about, are intentional, and are reflected upon as we move forward and use the resources of the association.

When any type of institution is in change, and we have gone through a lot of change, there's ripple effects. And so some folks are held a bit hostage by that change, even though they may not be the ones that had originally initiated it. So I think in our system right now there's some tension. And it's probably higher than it might be if we weren't in a period of change.

I think many of us know what needs to happen when we have relationships like that that need to have attention and care. I care deeply about relationship. I've worked a number of years and a number of capacities, but with the staff and with various presidents. I worked with three presidents.

And so I think what needs to happen is there to be a commitment and a priority that that matters. And I also think thinking out of the box helps, too. I think we need to play together well, and perhaps maybe take a ballroom dancing class together or something. Learn to dance well together. Thank you.

KEN SAWYER: Thank you. Ballroom dancing appeals to me. It's a little known fact that I was Vice President of the Beaufort Shaggers. And those of you that are from a British descent, I'll explain that to you later.

As a very young boy, the youngest of five, I learned the importance of right relations very quickly in negotiating bathroom rights. So I've built my whole business life on moving into positions of reconciliation. It's what I do. It's what my consulting practice is. It's what we did in the district. It's what we've done in the congregations.

So I think I'm well equipped to work with Peter and any subsequent president because it's essentially my nature to be collegial and resolve differences as much as possible before they get to the boardroom table. This is what I do on a public company board that I serve. I've had to deal with recalcitrant board members that had to be removed. So I can deal with the ultimate reality if reconciliation isn't possible, but as it relates to CEOs and heads of organizations, I've never met one that I couldn't work collegially with to focus our energies on meeting the objectives of the organization.

KEN SAWYER: Thank you. I might note, they're doing very well staying within what we suggested is a limit of two minutes. This is just for the two of you. So Jim, you'll start this time. Could you please let us know which congregational study action issue you support, and also explain why you support it, based on UU principles?

JIM KEY: That's a thoughtful question, and a good one. I supported the one on slavery, anti-slavery. Because I think it's tightly connected for me to all of our principles, but certainly the first one, the inherent worth and dignity of every individual. So that's the one that resonated most with me.

TAMARA PAYNE-ALEX: Sorry. I too, actually, did the one on slavery. And I think there's some-- of course, our purpose and principles. I think also personally for me, I'm very aware that folks have a tendency to think that we have fixed many things in our world around oppression. And that is something that I think is not on our radar very much. I also have worked with youth and high schoolers who are very mobilized about this issue. So I think this will be an issue that will engage our youth, which I think is very important.

Obviously, with our purposes and principles, the inherent worth and dignity of every person, and of course, in situations where people who don't have the right to their own well being and responsible for their own lives, people have taken that away from them. They cannot do things like engage in the democratic process. They cannot fully engage within a meaningful way being a part of that interconnected web.

And folks who are perpetrating these atrocities obviously are not honoring the interconnected web. Gosh, I mean, I think that it violates all seven principles, in fact. So I think that that's one that resonates with me as well.

KEN SAWYER: This says to all. So Peter, I'll start with you again, if you don't mind. How do we become better known as an association, given our reluctance to proselytize?

REVEREND PETER MORALES: There are a couple of parts. Let me also ask a question that I think is behind the question, is the frustration that many of us feel that is really at the core and basis of my ministry, is frustration that we are not a larger and more powerful movement in the world because we see what the potential is. There are a lot of pieces to this, but I believe the one that is most ignored at the congregational level, the one that's been a passion of mine forever, is that we need to do a far better job of encountering people who come to us.

We have more than our membership come visit us every year looking for a church home. We have an enormous number of people. Our best estimate is about 5,000 people on a typical Sunday are coming to UU congregations, and nobody, nobody comes anymore not knowing who we are or what we stand for. In the year of the internet, people understand what our values are, and they are in sympathy with them.

It's about creating the human bonds that are the core of spiritual community that we need to get a lot better at at the congregational level. And the role of the association is to hold that up and to help our congregations do a better job of that. I really believe it's kind of a brain stem thing.

I remember. I can still remember going to a UU Church for the first time. I had no questions about what UUs believed. The real question was, are these my people? Is there a place for me here? Is there a place for my family?

That's that part. The other part is, we need to continue to be out in the public sphere as we are here, making our values known and being visible. The best kind of publicity we can get is what is known in the trade as earned, earned publicity, which is not what you buy, but the news coverage that you earn by being out there.

KEN SAWYER: Who first? [INAUDIBLE] Tamara, I guess.

TAMARA PAYNE-ALEX: Thank you. I think our reluctance to proselytize is based on a couple of things. And I think we need to address that before we can figure out how to solve the problem. The first is that I think we definitely have a theological reluctance to proselytize. We believe, of course, that people have their own paths to finding their relationship with the sacred, that we find our own truths. And so proselytizing can often feel like lack of respect for what we hold so dear.

Also, I think that some of us bring in a more traditional understanding of church and why people come to church and why people stay. And so what we talk about when we proselytize, if we do proselytize, or what we don't want to talk about, are some of those things, those kind of more traditional things, about church. I think one of the great things is as we talk about beyond congregations, really getting at the heart of why people seek out community and what we have to offer other than the walls and space where we worship.

But there's something that goes so much deeper, and in some ways that is so much easier to talk about and to brag about out there in the world. I think also, sometimes, we struggle to encapsulate who we are in a nice couple of words. I mean, we don't want to talk to people because we feel like we'd have them stuck against a wall for 30 minutes as we really explain what Unitarian Universalism is. So I think that if we work on all of those things, then as we live into our faith, that will be its own proselytizing. What a word.

JIM KEY: I think our reluctance to proselytize shouldn't keep us from evangelizing and sharing the good news. I think my personal story is a good example of how difficult it is to come into our communities some places. But as Peter said, with web presence, people come into our congregations nowadays sort of pre-cleared. They know what we're about.

So I think the challenge is to reject fewer visitors. And I think we do that by being more welcoming, little w, and being present. There are congregations in my district, some of which are growing because they know how to be warm and welcoming and they don't do business in the foyer over coffee, board business or committee business. They're greeting strangers and asking them what brought you here today and connecting on a personal level. I think all of this is about making community.

People are coming to us to seek a religious community that they know something about. When I was looking for a liberal religious home, there were some communities I lived in I couldn't physically find the church site. We typically like being down the beautiful lane, and along the wooded path. And sometimes we make ourselves difficult to find, even physically.

So I think a combination of things, of being out in the sense of being public. Standing on the Side of Love campaign has been a wonderful way for congregations to get the courage to come out in the public square. So I'm seeing congregations beginning to change their notion, even though they may be uncomfortable with proselytizing or that term, they're OK with being known for the liberal religious community where you can come and bring your stories, and there's not judgment about it.

You can come with your questions. You don't have to come with your answers. So I think, to summarize, I guess it's learning to evangelize. And I know that word may be difficult for some of you, and it maybe works better in the South than other places, but it's working for us. Hallelujah.

KEN SAWYER: Thank you. This is for everyone. I think I'll start at Jim and get back to you, Peter.


KEN SAWYER: How do you understand the role of the UUA in ensuring quality theological education for all our future leaders?

JIM KEY: That's a very good question, and I think that of our association needs to struggle some more with. Resources are always constrained, and I think one of the roles of governance and of a board is to look long term about sustainability, whether that's through annual program fund or development for other gifts, but it also includes our theological education. And I think we probably are sort of narrowly focused because we operate too often out of a sense of scarcity rather than generosity.

I'm very pleased with what we did in the Southeast district. As far as I know, we're the only district that made a pledge to a theological school. And we did that starting with some private donations, and then matched that.

So I think other districts, other non-UUA entities can think about raising money and challenge grants for our theological institutions. But I think clearly we need to be more focused in providing both support, staff support, as well as income support. It would be difficult, but we can find ways to do that.

TAMARA PAYNE-ALEX: Is this on? Oh, yes, it is. Great. Sorry. I think I never turned it off.

Oh, this is a question dear to my heart. I spent nine years on the Panel of Theological Education, so I well know that there is I would say a painful tension between our understanding that, of the importance of having our theological schools exist and flourish and having Unitarian Universalism stay and continue to be studied, specifically around issues of Unitarian Universalism, and continue to develop specifically focused on Unitarian Universalism, and the other reality that so many of our ministers who are being candidates, are moving into ministry, aren't all at those institutions.

And so if we look at just the practical sense of our responsibility to provide well-qualified, well-trained ministers for our congregations, then how do we reconcile that, and how do we balance limited resources to make sure that both are funded? I think that part of the solution is to look at it differently. I think our congregations need to be more engaged in the formation of ministry. I think we have to live fully into our understanding of shared ministry so that our congregations take joyously up the responsibility and accountability for ensuring that ministers are trained, have resources, and are supported throughout their entire formation, and in fact even older ministers or who have been in the ministry for a while, they continue their education and are able to continue to grow.


REVEREND PETER MORALES: There are a couple of pieces to this that are critical. One, I think that the question came out of a concern for theological schools. And one of the things that I'm very pleased about that's happened with the revaluation of its work by the Panel on Theological Education and its move to be more of a group of the administration, is that we've stabilized the funding. Over the next five years, it's going to go to both Meadville and to Starr King. They're an essential part. They do critical work for us, and that's not enough to ensure their health, but it gives them a funding stability that's critically important. So that's at a very practical level.

The other one is that, as was mentioned a bit before, is that this is an ongoing process that happens beyond our own seminaries for people entering ministry, but an enormous chunk of it is in the mentoring, nurturing, and professional development of the ministers we already have. And one of the things that I'm really excited about, again, is it's about building effective partnerships, is that the level of collaboration and cooperation with the Minister's Association, with LREDA, with Musicians Network, is at an all time high now. And particularly with the UUMA, they had a fabulous Institute that was done in close cooperation with the administration that was led by the UUMA.

And ongoing stuff is done in partnership. We've devoted our association Sunday funds to that partnership. So the long term, we need resources. But we've done a lot of really important things to improve the development of our professional religious leaders.

KEN SAWYER: Thank you. Well, this one couldn't be bigger. I'm going to give you a minute to think before I ask [INAUDIBLE] Please speak to the relationship of continuity and change in our association life. What should be maintained? What should be changed? And what needs to be developed? I'm going to give you a generous 20 seconds.

REVEREND PETER MORALES: What are you starting?

KEN SAWYER: Would you like to go first, Peter?

REVEREND PETER MORALES: At the core of Unitarian Universalism, at the core of Unitarianism and Universalism, if you go way back historically, has been a willingness to change, to see new possibilities, to see new possibilities and new scholarship, to not be threatened by findings in science, and to also leave behind what was found stale and no longer working. Look at the heroes that we hold up. Parker and Emerson and Susan B Anthony.

I like to say what they all have in common is that they were troublemakers. They were people who got excited about what was possible. I think when we lose that, we lose what it is that something that is precious and at the core of Unitarian Universalism.

So what that means today is I think we hold on to the way we've, say, organized ourselves as congregations and what is best. And I'm a parish minister, and I believe passionately in what a congregation can be because I've lived it, and I've seen it in my own, and in dozens and dozens and dozens of other congregations. And simultaneously, we have to look-- and you'll hear much more about this in my report, happily, because I get a half an hour-- we have to look beyond the traditional forums that we've known, the ways of gathering. We have to look at forums outside the traditional congregation and move into that.

Let me also add very quickly, the interesting discussion that we've had over the last couple of years about a headquarters is a fabulous case study in this because while it is a historic building and a building to which many people have emotional ties, the real issue is, how will that service in the future? And if it falls short. So the challenge is to take what we love and care about, the symbols that are central to us, but to move-- it's that line in the hymn, to trust the daunting future more.

KEN SAWYER: Who goes next?

JIM KEY: I think what we certainly should continue to maintain is our commitment to the covenantal religious body that we are. I think we need to go back to the Cambridge platform and be reminded that we were challenged to be in relationship one to the other, and to support one another, one congregation to another. So I think that should be maintained and strengthened and be reminded of not only our responsibility to our own community within a congregation, but those down the road, as it were.

What I'd like to see us change is something that was discussed at the Berry Street lectures. And that's our-- we focus too much on individualism, as opposed to the community that we're trying to build and work for justice. So I think we need to let go of some of that individualism trumps community attitude sometimes. certainly Leveraging that individualism, We have an aversion to authority that I think is not always healthy.

I like debate. As Tamara said, there are certainly a typical sense of tension between governance and operations. And that's healthy. But we elect people to serve us. Well, that's a congregational order. District boards are UUA trustees and boards of presidents. And I think we need to trust the democratic process. And so I would encourage-- I guess what I'd like to see developed, then, is encouraging our congregations to use the democratic process as it relates to assessability at General Assemblies where we do our business, how we engage each other at the congregational level about the issues that are going on and send informed delegates.

Of course, I would like to see most of our congregations fund at least some portion of their delegates' expense to send them to General Assembly. I'm very proud of the fact that when I was the president of our congregation with a small budget, we early on committed to underwriting. We had two delegates, two delegates to General Assembly, no matter where it was held. Two delegates to the district assembly no matter where it was held. Two people to leadership development no matter where it was held. And we stuck by that. So I think we need to help congregations with their notion of how they can support the democratic process.

KEN SAWYER: Thank you.

JIM KEY: So I'd like to see us develop in that way. And I'd also like under development--

KEN SAWYER: Last point.

JIM KEY: Stay tuned.

KEN SAWYER: No, finish your point.

JIM KEY: Well, I wanted to talk about international partners. I think that's something we can use to-- I don't see this as a US-centric faith movement. I see it as a global movement. So I would nurture the international connections that we have and seek others.

KEN SAWYER: Thank you. Tamara, you can take a little extra time, too. Big question.

TAMARA PAYNE-ALEX: It is a big question, but I think it's a trick question. I think it's a trick question because I don't think there's an answer to it. Depending on the context, sometimes change is called for. Sometimes it's dramatic change. Sometimes working on investing and deepening what we have is exactly what is needed.

And there is no perfect ratio. There's no perfect percentage of either that will save us. So I think there's a couple of things to keep our eye on as we wrestle with that.

The first is to remember not to romanticize change, that change has possibility. It also has risk. It also extends resources. It can be trying and wearying. And also not to romanticize continuity, that which we're comfortable with.

I think that we need to ask the broader questions to help us make the best decisions, the best investments. When I was at the summit on excellence in ministry, one of the questions that came up that was very profound was, discussing and asking the question, whose are we? Whose are we?

In that why-- if we take everything away, all of our institutions, all of our chalice, everything, on whose behalf are we doing what we do? To what are we faithful to? What are we faithful to? And if we can answer those questions, then we can figure out the percentage or the ratio at any point in time.

KEN SAWYER: Thank you. I think we have time for one more. Please speak to how the board or the administration ought to monitor progress to meeting the ends of the association. I'll give you a second to think. Want to take that one first?

REVEREND PETER MORALES: Could you repeat it? I didn't hear it.

KEN SAWYER: [INAUDIBLE] Measure how well we're doing, I think is the question. How do we monitor progress in meeting the Ends-- and they've capitalized Ends-- of the association.

REVEREND PETER MORALES: One of the challenges in a religious organization is that the things that are easy to measure are not always the most important and the critical. And the things that are really critical are very difficult to measure. And there's a-- I understand, having been a member not only of our board but of many boards, the importance of accountability and measures. In a previous life, I even taught measurement and public administration kinds of things. There's a piece of me that's wonkish about that.

But there's a real analogy you say in education. We've made a fetish of measurement in education to the detriment of teaching some of the aesthetic and higher level kind of skills of comparison and imagination. I don't want us to fall prey to that as a religious institution. I think it's critical that we-- of course, you measure the budgetary stuff, the membership, all of that kind of thing. But some things are very difficult to measure. And I have seen a tendency, a natural tendency, to do some surveys that are this or that, that are sometimes precise without being accurate.

KEN SAWYER: Thank you. Tamara?

TAMARA PAYNE-ALEX: I love this question. I love this question. Monitoring reports are wonderful. They are hard. They are tough. Those things that are most important to us, how do we-- why do we even need to interpret them?

Why do we need to have a rationale for them? Are they not just what they are? They're so central to who we are.

In fact, to me, monitoring reports, the measurement piece is actually a small piece of it. What monitoring reports do is they make us define what it is that we're actually trying to do. What is it that we're really trying to do, and we are also very different. So can we find a language, can we wrestle with what is it that we're saying that we are doing? And is there a way to agree upon what progress would look like?

So the measuring of progress is helpful because then we know if we're being successful. And that's critically important. When you're doing ministry, so often, how do you even know? But it's the conversation around the process of wrestling with that report that I think is almost more important than the actual measure. So I think it's an important spiritual discipline to be able to do all those things.

JIM KEY: Well, as a governance wonk, I too embrace the notion of monitoring. But I think monitoring-- there are different ways to monitor. And our ends, our global ends, and our more aspirational statements, are more subjective and are more difficult. But I think we can get at those even subjectively. The more objective monitoring is, of course, easier.

But all monitoring reports are not created equal. We have different risks to different of our objectives. And so, I embrace the notion of a risk-based or threat-based approach to monitoring. All things don't have to be monitored every year, for instance.

So I think you do that collegially with the people who have to prepare the monitoring and the governance structure, the board, who has to be satisfied and do the accountability piece. But I think you can do that collegially. There is a cost to governance. Governance is a spiritual practice, but there is a cost to it.

So you've got to balance that monitoring costs with the benefit so that the costs don't detract from the mission that we are about and the ends that we're trying to achieve. I've worked with mission-based organizations, and coming up with monitoring is a challenge. But it can be done if done collegiality and with some trust.

KEN SAWYER: Thank you. We'll have our closing statements, starting with Jim and working our way to Peter. I want to thank you all for your questions, and they're all good. And the two we didn't get to, too, how do we successfully bring marginal people into the center without offending the people now in the center? And what will you do to see the lay ministries are fully recognized and supported at the association level? Final statements.

JIM KEY: We should get those at a later time. Let me just close by thanking you all for being here, the political junkies, as it were. This General Assembly has broadened my understanding of justice. I'm intrigued by the notion of justice as restoring broken relationships. This notion has given me a new way of looking at the subject, frankly.

At this Justice GA, we are focusing on the broken relationship between the larger community and those on the margins. Healthy, mature, and collegial relationships benefit all parties involved. They're based on our overarching principle of the inherent worth and dignity of every person. I think our work here models for the larger community what such relationships might look like.

This broader view of justice reminds us that we live in webs of relationships, Relationships between congregations and the UUA are strained and sometimes broken, frankly. The same is true for relationships between each level of our faith community. Even the internal relationships within the leadership of the UUA have experienced that strain. So restoring and strengthening all of those relationships is justice work, too.

My broad background in business, my work in establishing and leading a new congregation, my work in cluster district region and with the UUA board, I think have demonstrated my ability to work collegially to build bridges between disparate groups and across borders to the unknown. All these experiences have uniquely prepared me for this role of moderator. I am passionate about restoring these relationships because I'm passionate about the future of our faith, and it relies on being in right relations. If you share my passion, we can work together to increase our faith's ability to serve our members and be a force in transforming our society. Indeed, working together is the only way we're going to accomplish this.

KEN SAWYER: Thank you.

TAMARA PAYNE-ALEX: Thanks, Ken. One thing that I was particularly struck by. I spent a lot of time in my booth, and had many people come by and ask questions, and wanting to know what the moderator does. And I asked them, what does the role of moderator, how does the role of moderator, serve them?

And one of our delegates told me that they were particularly inspired by seeing our moderator because they would identify things that they say, oh, I can go back and I can do that in my congregation. I know that things will go better. I can inspire. I can have meetings run well. I can have people engaged with issues and topics. I can invite people to the forefront.

And so there is an element of the role of moderator that also has to do with modeling for folks what can be. And for me, one thing that the role of moderator does is embody shared ministry in a way, in our congregations, how that can be. And also in our understanding of who we are as a faith community, shared ministry is vitally important. The relationship between laity and laity also having a spiritual leadership component, sharing leadership, and the role of minister, in this situation embodied by our president, and how those relationships work. How those roles work together is really important.

So the question earlier of how to create a good working relationship between those two roles of the board is very important because it also models how a good, solid, healthy relationship can play out in our congregations, too. And shared ministry is so critically important to us being able to live and to our ministry in the world. When we do shared ministry well, we grow ministers and we grow ministry. And we need to pay more attention to how that happens in our congregations and have for ourselves high expectations and standards about what ministry means to us and how we will grow into Unitarian Universalist ministers together.

KEN SAWYER: Thank you. Peter?

Thank you. I not only want to thank those of you who came to this, but I want to thank both Jim and Tamara. I'm someone who actually gets how hard it is to put yourself out in a campaign like this, and really, honestly, it's an act of courage, and it's a real act of service to all of us that they're doing this.

You know, one of the interesting things about being president, within a month or so people are asking you if you're going to run again in the system. I guess I'll be the last one who gets asked that since from now on, the president's going to have only one six-year term. And I honestly told people that I was going to wait and see. I was going to evaluate how things were going and whether I thought I could make a difference, whether things were under way about which I was excited, or about whether I thought the association needed different leadership.

I am terrifically excited about the things that we have started, and I am committed to seeing them through. The stuff we're doing with ministry, the stuff we're doing now with congregations, moving toward the regionalization. I know I'm biased, but I think the staff at the UUA, the senior staff, is working at the highest level I have ever seen. I'm really proud of the team that we have.

So much is in bud. I'm excited about seeing those things that we've started to fruition. So I hope you'll enthusiastically support me, even if I'm the only candidate that you have to vote for for president. And I hope to serve you for another five years. Thank you very much.

KEN SAWYER: Thank you, Peter. Thank you, Jim. Thank you, Tamara. Thanks to the people at the table below. Thanks to Debra Boyd, Marlene Brown, and Tim Murphy and all the people behind the scenes who helped make this possible. And thanks to you all for coming.