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Amendment to Enable Regions (Debate and Vote), General Assembly 2014

General Assembly 2014 Event 505

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This report is part of a longer event. Go to General Session VIII for the complete video and order of business.


JIM KEY: So our next item of business today is to consider and vote on the proposed amendment to enable regions, bylaw section C-3.6 13.1, 13.2, 13.4, and Rule G-13.2.1, which names the districts. These are found on page 96 of the final agenda. The mini assembly concerning this amendment was held Friday.

Before I ask the Vice Moderator to move, I'd take you to page 98. And understand that we are voting on essentially the bylaw amendments and the language on line 396 through 412. We are not voting on the rule. That understood?

May I ask the Vice Moderator to move?

SPEAKER 1: Moved that the proposed amendment to enable regions, bylaw section C-3.6, 13.1, 13.2. Excuse me just a minute.

I had the rule. You wanted a separate motion?

JIM KEY: No, but nothing is changing.

SPEAKER 1: OK. Let me start that over. Moved that the proposed amendment to enable regions, bylaw section C-3.6, 13.1, 13.2, 13.4, found at page 96 of the final agenda be adopted by this assembly.

JIM KEY: Thank you. I recognize the delegate at the pro microphone, the trustee speaking the board's position.

SPEAKER 2: For some time now, districts that comprise the UUA have been engaged in discussions about the best way to serve the Unitarian Universalist movement and their organizational future within the UUA. The various districts are at different points in their discussions, but last year, delegates from the Heartland, Central Midwest, and Prairie Star districts decided that would work best for them was to merge into a new structure, the MidAmerica Region.

With that action, those three districts ceased to exist. However, regions are not mentioned in the UUA bylaws, only districts. To recognize that three of our districts have chosen to become a region, the board recommends that we approve this change. This change will enable other districts to follow the MidAmerica region model should they decide to organize that way.

The motion amends the bylaws to add regions as a new geographic governance structure along with districts. It also amends a rule to add MidAmerica to the list of governing bodies that will shape the future of our association. This amendment was approved last year, and the board recommends that you approve it now, which will complete this change to the bylaws.

JIM KEY: Thank you, Lou. I'll go to the delegate at the pro microphone.

REVEREND BILL SASSO: Thank you, Mr. Moderator. My name is Bill Sasso. I'm a member of the Carbondale Unitarian Fellowship in Southern Illinois and president of the MidAmerica region. I encourage the delegates to support this second-year vote on this proposed amendment in order to recognize and affirm votes that have already taken place last April in the Prairie Star district, the Heartland district, and the Central Midwest district; last June at the Louisville GA, which recognized and affirmed this proposal; and the vote of the MidAmerica region board of trustees, which affirms this proposal and encourages you, the delegates, to join me in affirming this process.

What we seek to be in MidAmerica is a new form of geographical region in which we work hard, harder than we have in the past, to affirm collaboration between our congregations, to facilitate interconnection, to support innovation, and to make an impact within the region that we represent. We hope that this language will include regions in the UUA bylaws in order to add a level of flexibility as MidAmerica and other geographical areas within the UUA determine how they can best structure themselves to help achieve the ends of our association.

Right now, different things are happening in different regions, and it's very appropriate for us to have that level of flexibility with our current recognition of districts and a new recognition of something called regions, yet to be specifically defined in these bylaws. The bylaws don't tie down what a region has to be, and while that might make me uncomfortable in certain circumstances, from my understanding of what's happening throughout our association, that's very appropriate.

JIM KEY: Thank you.


JIM KEY: I go to the delegate at the procedure microphone.

RICHARD BOCK: Mr. Moderator, Richard Bock from the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock. As I recall, when this motion was made and seconded, the items that were referred to were section C-3.6 and then C-13.1, 13.2, and 13.4. There was no mention of the Rule G-13.2.1.

We've been hearing some comments on the establishment of districts. And unless we put that into the motion, we're not going to be able—

JIM KEY: Let me try to clarify. The rule was passed last year. It doesn't need a second vote. It's in there to clarify the bylaw, which is a C bylaw, which does require a second vote.

RICHARD BOCK: But the underlying portion.

JIM KEY: That was from last year. It was a confusing typo to distract us.

RICHARD BOCK: So we're not voting on Rule G-13 at all?

JIM KEY: We are not.

RICHARD BOCK: Thank you very much.

JIM KEY: Thank you. Thank you for the clarification. I go to the delegate at the con microphone.

KAREN REGAL: My name is Karen Regal, and I'm a delegate from the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta. I stand to ask a definition of line 401. It states that there will be an inactive congregation, up above, maintained by the association but may do so only after consultation with the congregation in question. And the one that I'm concerned about is, whenever possible. What constitutes inability? And what does it mean to be whenever possible.

JIM KEY: You're really asking a clarifying question, and you're at the con microphone. Are you making a statement against passing the amendment?

KAREN REGAL: Should I have been at the procedure mic?

JIM KEY: Well, we won't make you move over there, but I'm not clear, because I was moving across the stage, specifically what your clarification is. And I might call the attorney up here.

KAREN REGAL: I'm concerned that there may be some group who consider themselves Unitarian Universalist fellowships or gatherings of some sort that appear to have been inactive but may not be so. And that the UUA may not have known how to contact them and that they would have been wiped out in terms of their relationship with UUA.

JIM KEY: Well, currently we have bylaws that talk about associating as a member congregation. The board is currently in conversation, as we did in our board report, terms of what constitute a congregation or a community, and are prepared to change bylaws, write bylaws, change rules as we go forward to do that.

KAREN REGAL: I'm in a large congregation right now, and I have to been in a very tiny 25-member fellowship. And I'm concerned about that.

JIM KEY: I understand. I hear your concern, and the board hears it, as well. And we are on a path to clarify all of those things about association, which will be brought to the assembly for approval when and if that stuff gets written.

KAREN REGAL: So if we pass this resolution—

JIM KEY: It doesn't change anything except adding regions to the language. That's all it does.

KAREN REGAL: I'm concerned about that.

JIM KEY: Thank you. I go to the procedure mic, the delegate at the procedure mic.

DON ROBERTS: Don Roberts from the UU Church of Brevard in Florida. It seemed to me yesterday we accepted a change in grammar or wording without a vote. I'd like to suggest that in line 401, the word should be congregation, and not congregatizon.

JIM KEY: You noticed that. That's a typo error easy to correct. Thank you for drawing it to our attention again. I go to the delegate at the pro microphone.

KATHY BUREK: Thank you, Moderator Key. I'm Kathy Burek of the Michael Servetus Unitarian Society in Fridley, Minnesota, and a member of the MidAmerica region board. I urge delegates to support this amendment, because all it really does is allows for regions to be recognized at the same level as districts. There are powers and responsibilities that districts have, which in the absence of this amendment a region would not have.

And so what we are doing by creating a region rather than a district is very intentionally using language to denote that we are something new and different. While a rose by any other name might smell as sweet, this assembly has been very clear about the importance of language, and terms and labels.

And a region is a very different kind of thing than a district. And we've been intentional in this last year as the MidAmerica region in trying to behave in new ways, in developing ways of relating to our congregations, in ways of relating to the UUA administration. And we would love to be able to work on ways of relating to the UUA board in a new way, as well.

So I urge support of this amendment. It doesn't mandate anybody do anything, but it provides an option for the many of us that are working in this direction. Thank you.

JIM KEY: Thank you. I recognize the delegate at the con microphone.

JENNIFER WHITE: Yes, Moderator Key. My name is Jennifer White, and I'm one of two delegates here from Summit UU Fellowship in Santee, California, near San Diego. The reason I'm at the con microphone is this process that's been going on the last two or three years in my district, which is Pacific Southwest district, has been utterly invisible.

I don't know what is going on. The leaders of our district, which are two people, the executive director and one other office person, and the board, of course— I just don't feel like I have enough information as to what is going to happen in the future. I don't even know if our region is combining with another region.

JIM KEY: Can I help you with that? Nothing will happen in the districts of the Western region until the delegates of those districts, in conjunction with their board leadership, conclude on doing. We have one model. Other districts and regions can do something different. This acknowledges the MidAmerica region. It doesn't drive any other intentional organization by any other district or region. That will have to come up from delegates in those districts and regions. Thank you.

JENNIFER WHITE: Can I continue?

JIM KEY: Well, you're sort of out of order. Are you speaking against it? Then you can register your language against—

JENNIFER WHITE: I'm speaking against it, because my region would consist of California, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii. I don't even know what else would be included in it.

JIM KEY: All I'm suggesting is you can vote against it in your district and region if it if it comes up. Right now you have nothing to vote against relative to your specific situation in the West. This does not drive any action in the West. None.

JENNIFER WHITE: That's why I'm encouraging people to vote against this, because it's so confusing and not clear at all. The language of collaboration, what does that mean? I don't understand what's happening here. Is this a formal thing that's going to be happening that our leaders can vote on but we can't because we're in a congregation? It just doesn't seem like a democratic process to me. And I'm sorry, I'm just so tired, but that's why I'm just trying to encourage people not to do it.

JIM KEY: Thank you. We understand your position, but I would reiterate that it's been under discussion for several years, and the General Assembly last year passed it overwhelmingly. And now it's before this body. I recognize the delegate at the procedure microphone.

CAROLINA KRAWARIK-GRAHAM: Point of clarification, Mr. Moderator. I'm Carolina Krawarik-Graham from Church of the Larger Fellowship. I would like to clarify that this resolution is basically empowering something that has already happened in the MidAmerica region, and you're just now validating the process of that region and being able to be inclusive of them as a body the way they wish to be. Is that what this does?

JIM KEY: What an articulate clarification. Thank you. I would sit close so you can come back and clarify from time to time. Thank you. I go to the delegate at the pro microphone.

TOM SOMMERFELD: Thank you, Jim. I am Tom Sommerfeld, delegate from the Northwoods Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Woodruff, Wisconsin, and treasurer of the MidAmerica region of the UUA. I also happen to be a member of the GA choir. I rise to speak in favor of the proposed amendment. And I am speaking from the perspective of the MidAmerica region only, because I recognize that other regions are and will be implementing their regional collaborations in ways that differ from our approach.

Recognizing regions as geographical divisions of the UUA is a good idea because it respects the will of the roughly 185 congregations of MidAmerica who voted through their delegates to create a new structure and to disband their former district structures. It also opens the door to innovation at the intermediate level of organization between individual congregations and the nationwide association.

As I noted before, different regions of the UUA are using different approaches. Each can learn from others and can modify their approach if they think it necessary. And finally, it allows for the possibility of both district and regional structures may exist together in some parts of the country, which allows more flexibility in this period of organizational transition. Therefore, I urge delegates to vote in favor of the amendment. Thank you.

JIM KEY: Thank you. I can't help but notice— now I now notice that there's a— I recognize the delegate at the con microphone.

LAURA LESCH: Thank you, Mr. Moderator. My name is Laura Lesch. I proudly serve the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Stony Brook, and I am also a member of the GA choir, obviously. But I'd just like to—

JIM KEY: Is this keeping you from practice?

LAURA LESCH: Sorry. It isn't. But I would just like to point out that, for those delegates who may not be in favor of the whole concept of regionalization, this it seems to me, is putting the language into the bylaws that allows for that. So it isn't just specific to the MidAmerica region. And therefore, I just think that needs to be clarified. And for delegates who may want to put a stop to it at this point, it would be a negative vote.

JIM KEY: Are you through? Thank you. I recognize the delegate at the pro microphone, and then I have another delegate in the queue off site.

ELIZABETH BARRETT: Hi, I'm Elizabeth Barrett. I'm a member of First Unitarian Society in Madison, Wisconsin. I think that we are better together. In my district, that used to be Central Midwest. Madison is four hours from Minneapolis, Minnesota, where there are so many congregations. So many UU congregations, as you know, other large ones like I'm at. And they were in a different district. Four hours, and they weren't with us. It was the weirdest thing. And I'm sure other people feel that way about states that are near you, but they're not your little baby district. Regions. Regions will be great.

JIM KEY: Thank you. I recognize the delegate at the procedure microphone.

JIM GRAHAM: Thank you, Moderator Key. Jim Graham from Church of the Larger Fellowship. I just like to ask a procedural question. It seems that we've had several procedural questions come from the con mic. And although I appreciate everybody having their opportunity to be heard, all that's done is extend debate when there really is no one at the con microphone.

JIM KEY: So noted. But I do have someone in the con queue off site. So I recognize the delegate Sally Gellert in the off site.

SALLY GELLERT: Hi, this is Sally Gellert from Central Unitarian Church, Paramus, New Jersey. I just heard earlier a couple of arguments that kind of confused me and told me that I do not want to vote this amendment to the bylaws through. I heard that we're not exactly sure what a region is, but we're putting this in because we've got somebody who wants to do it. And I also heard, we definitely know that we're not a district.

So we're voting for an amendment for something, language, that we don't know what we're creating here. And I would say, stop, figure out what it is first, or what the parameters are if there's going to be a bunch of different ones. Maybe what we want to decide is what it can't do. I'm not exactly sure. But we're premature in putting this into our bylaws when we don't know what it is. So I encourage vote against it. Thank you, Jim.

JIM KEY: Thank you. I recognize the delegate at the pro line.

PETER KANDIS: My name is Peter Kandis. I'm a member of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Lowcountry. I would like to advise the members to vote for this amendment. I feel very strongly that we ought to be able to organize ourselves in whatever way works best for that particular group of people. And that's what we are implementing.

I can't forget the words of one of my fellow board members that said they are so tired of people who say that just because we didn't come to their home and carry them on their back that they don't know about a particular issue. I think there's been lots of information out there about that. We just need to pay attention. Thank you very much.

JIM KEY: Thank you. And let me try to clarify. For some reason, this has been confusing for folks. And as many of you have noted, this has been debated last year. It's the C amendment, meaning that the organizers 53 years ago were very intentional about making some things more difficult to change because they wanted to be sensitive to that.

So this is a C bylaw change that requires two different General Assemblies to pass it. What is it? The language, it permits regions. It doesn't demand regions. We could go for another 53 years with the one region in MidAmerica, and everybody else would be in their current districts. Is that helpful?

I see no one in any of my lines, and it looks like some of you are restless and ready to vote. Am I getting that right? All those in favor, get ready to hold those cards up in favor of this amendment. Opposed. Let's give a few minutes for the off line. I believe this carries unanimous— almost, significantly. Watch my language for the minutes. And we now have a bylaw that legitimizes the MidAmerica region.

I recognize the delegate at the procedure microphone.

JERRY GAYNOR: Yes, Moderator Key. By the way, that's difficult to say after 36 years of referring to Madam Moderator.

JIM KEY: I get it.

JERRY GAYNOR: Jerry Gaynor of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Long Beach. Having just passed these bylaw amendments, Rule G-13.2.1 needs to be corrected to reflect the existence of regions.

JIM KEY: We did that last year.

JERRY GAYNOR: No, not according to what's here.

JIM KEY: It was printed to clarify the amendment. The minutes are very clear from last year. That rule does not need a second-year vote.

JERRY GAYNOR: I understand. I'm just saying that, as it now exists in printing, there's no reference to regions in that rule. And that doesn't mean for us to do now. I'm just saying somebody needs to take care of that.

JIM KEY: Thank you. And I see a friend at court here, a trustee who's been involved. Can you clarify it for us, sir?

SPEAKER 3: What I can clarify is that it is on the list of things that must be done before the next General Assembly. It will happen.