General Session II, General Assembly 2018
General Assembly 2018 Event 203
Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Co-Moderators Elandria Williams and Mr. Barb Greve preside over the general sessions in which the business of the Association is being conducted.
- Call to Order
- Chalice Lighting
- Preliminary Credentials Report
- Covenant and Beloved Community
- Right Relationship Team Report
- Introduction: GA Planning Committee
- Introduction: Youth Caucus
- Introduction: Young Adult Caucus
- Recognition of Emerging Congregations and Covenants
- Commission on Social Witness Report
- Public Witness with Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism
- Co-Moderators’ Report
- Promise and the Practice of Our Faith Report
- Financial Advisor’s Report
- Presentation of UUA Budget
- Commission on Institutional Change Report
- Board of Trustees Report
- Process Observation
- Closing Reading
The following final draft script was completed before this event took place; actual words spoken may vary. Unedited live captions (TXT) were created during the event, and contain some errors. Captioning is not available for some copyrighted material.
Call to Order
Elandria: I now call to order the Second General Session of the Fifty-Seventh General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association. Are the delegates ready to do the business of this Association?
Denise Rimes: our opening words this morning come from Parker Palmer, who is the founder and senior partner emeritus for the Center for Courage and Renewal and world-renowned writer, speaker, and activist who focuses on issues in education, community, leadership, spirituality and social change.
Let’s not forget that American democracy started with ‘We the People’ agreeing to work hard to create ‘a more perfect union.’ We’ve lost the idea that politics begins at home with what happens in families, in neighborhoods, in classrooms, in congregations. We called this democracy into being—and if we want to call this democracy back to its highest values, it’s got to be the us doing that calling. That’s not going to happen if ‘We the People’ don’t know how to talk to one another with civility and hold our differences in a creative, lifegiving way.
Preliminary Credentials Report
Elandria: Welcome back the Secretary of our Association, Christina Rivera, for the preliminary credentials report.
Christina Rivera: (live caption)
Covenant and Beloved Community
Welcome and Overview
Elandria: We’re glad you’re here.
If this is your first GA please raise your hand and make some noise. If this is your second raise your hand and make some noise. If you have been to more than 5, raise your hand and make some noise. If you have been to more than 10 raise your hand and make some noise.
Now if you have been to more than 25 GA’s raise your hand and make some noise. Wow!!!
What to expect for next few days o Reports o Awards o Rules & Procedures (read on your own) o Bylaw amendments, CSAIs, AIWs, elections o Mention public witness o Lots of Worship We want to call your [Slide #1] attention to: o The GA Grid o [Slide #2] The GA App o [Slide #3] Board of Trustees Office hours and room
Right Relationship Team Update
Elandria: Does the Right Relationship Team have anything to report? I invite you to share with us about what you're observing so far.
Hannah Roberts Villnave / Yadenee Hailu: (live caption)
Introduction: GA Planning Committee
Elandria: The General Assembly Planning Committee is a committee of the Association authorized by the bylaws, Article 5, Section 5.8. It is a committee comprised of members who have been either elected by the GA delegates or appointed by the Board of Trustees. The GAPC, as it is known, is accountable to the delegates. It is also in covenant with the Board of Trustees and the Staff of our Association and works in tangent with all involved to put on this yearly event, the General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations.
The Chair of the GAPC, a volunteer (as are all members of the GAPC), is Ila Klion from Lauderhill, FL. Welcome Ila.
Ila Klion: Thank you.
This year, I have been honored and humbled to work with this diverse group of talented and hardworking folks who create the structure by which the speakers, musicians, officers, ushers, vendors, staff personnel, delegates, worship leaders and many more create the transformational experience that we know as General Assembly.
Here, in Kansas City, we are called to do the business of our Association. We are also called here to celebrate, learn, worship, witness and sing together. Our hope is that you will personally leave transformed and that collectively we will transform and grow Unitarian Universalism and our own UUA.
Before I start to ramble on, I would like to introduce you to this year’s General Assembly Planning Committee [Slide #1]. It is my honor to serve with these fine people.
Starting in the back row from left to right: Tuli Patel and Jenn Gracen; the next row down: Me, Ila Klion, Oshara Meesha, and this year’s local area coordinator Gaby Kusko; in front of Gaby is Debra Gray-Boyd and in front of Debra is Chelsea Surfus. Before I go, I want to recognize that the Planning Committee is blessed to work with Dr.
Jan Sneegas, the Director of General Assembly Conference Services, and her staff. Without them, all that we do and all that you see here would not be possible.
Enjoy your General Assembly.
Introduction: Youth Caucus
Elandria: Please welcome Youth Caucus Deans Jaidyn Bryant, from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Kari Gottfried, from the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Corvallis, Oregon! Youth Caucus provides workshops and worships that help us deepen our collective Unitarian Universalist spirituality and helps youth make an impact on our Association.
Jaidyn Bryant: Good Morning everyone! Let me hear who’s excited that youth caucus is here this week!
(pause) We’re thrilled to be here too.
Kari Gottfried: We invite people of all ages to share the space we have in room 2505 of the convention center. All week, we will provide many different types of programming, which can be found in your program book or in the GA app.
Jaidyn Bryant: This year, we’re inviting all youth who feel called, to help make youth caucus radically inclusive and theologically deep. To center youth voices, we’ll also be hosting check-in groups in hall D and evening check-ins in the Youth Caucus room to get connected. Find the schedule in room 2505.
Kari Gottfried: All Are Called is the perfect theme for youth caucus, for a time when youth are once again speaking up and out. General Session is another time when all are called. Many times, when youth are talking, it is to process, clarify or strategize.
Jaidyn Bryant: If you have any questions about the Youth Caucus, our staff members can be found wearing pink bandanas.
Elliot: My name is Elliot Ferrell-Carretey Ehlona: And I’m Ehlona Walker, and we are the Thrive@GA Youth Coordinators.
We support youth of color. Please get in touch with us to find opportunities to connect with other UUs of color! Look for us in the silver bandanas.
Elandria: I now welcome to the stage the cofacilitators of Young Adults at GA, known as YA@GA: Aisha Ansano and Cassie Withey- Rila.
Aisha: Hello! I’m Aisha Ansano, a member at First Parish UU of Arlington, MA.
Cassie: And I’m Cassie Withey-Rila, I am a delegate for Auckland Unitarian in Aotearoa-New Zealand. We are the co-facilitators for Young Adults at General Assembly, also known as YA@GA.
Aisha: We are so excited to offer a variety of programming to young adults who are attending GA!
While the young adult age range is 18-35, we invite people of all ages to spend time with YA@GA in room 2504A in the convention center, where we will have worship, workshops, and informal events in our effort to connect and support young adults here at GA, and to transform our faith.
Cassie: The two other members of the YA@GA staff team are Lauren Hulse as community support staff and Camellia Jahanshahi as spiritual support staff. We also want to introduce Ronnie Boyd, who will be supporting young adults of color as the Thrive@GA Young Adult staff.
Aisha: This week, YA@GA staff will be wearing blue bandanas and the Thrive@GA staff will have silver bandanas.
Cassie: We look forward to being here in Kansas City with you all. Have a wonderful GA!
Recognition of Covenanting Communities & Accessibility and Inclusion Ministry Certified Congregations
Barb: Covenanting communities claim a UU identity and advance UU values, but they look and feel different from a traditional congregation. Covenanting communities include small meeting groups, missional communities, intentional living cooperatives, national networks, and more. Recognized by the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenanting communities are helping people imagine new ways of living out their UU faith and values while staying officially connected to the wider UU family. I have the privilege, again this year, to introduce to you the new covenanting communities of the Unitarian Universalist Association.
[Slide #1] The Olean UU Community, in Olean, New York, provides an open, nurturing, spiritual environment made visible by the joy of our actions for peace and justice in the world. Founded in 2009. We welcomed the community as an emerging congregation, and we are delighted to embrace them this year as a covenanting community.
[Slide #2] The Unitarian Universalists of Charlestown in Maryland meet monthly to connect residents who are UU and other residents who are interested in progressive religious thinking. Organized in 1984, we welcome them as a covenanting community.
[Slide #3] Celebrating its 25th year in 2017, Groveland Fellowship in St. Paul, Minnesota, is a small urban community of Unitarian Universalists. Founded in 1992 by three women who wanted to create a small fellowship where there would personal interaction with eclectic services. We are happy to have you join us as a covenanting community.
[Slide #4] The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Southwestern Utah in St. George, Utah, has a twopronged mission: a focus on social justice and a focus on spiritual growth that allows its members to come together as a congregation to explore the meaning of life on their own terms. Thank you for officially representing our faith in Utah as a covenanting community.
[Slide #5] Located in Angelus Oaks, California, Camp De Benneville Pines was established in 1962 as a public benefit nonprofit organization to provide a mountain retreat where Unitarian Universalist principles and values are lived and celebrated in community. With their long and rich history, we celebrate you as a covenanting community.
[Slide #6] Established in 2005, Methow Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Twisp, Washington, is a supportive community of individuals with a common interest in a free search for truth and meaning in a very diverse, often confusing and ever-evolving world. We are so happy to have you in the Pacific Northwest!
[Slide #7] Welcome, Lycoming! Founded in 1992 in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, Lycoming Unitarian Universalist Congregation offers the community a place to practice, affirm and study religion without dogma and in harmony with reason and conscience. Members welcome all who believe that spiritual practice is wider than any sect and deeper than any set of opinions.
[Slide #8] Accessibility and Inclusion Ministry (AIM) focuses on welcoming, embracing, integrating, and supporting people with disabilities and their families in our congregations. Its sacred challenge for congregations is recognizing the humanity and gifts of all people. AIM is a joint program of the Unitarian Universalist Association and EqUUal Access, a Unitarian Universalist organization working to enable the full engagement of people with disabilities and their families in our congregations. I am happy to introduce two new AIM-certified congregations this year: First Unitarian Universalist Church of Rochester, Minnesota, and the Unitarian Universalist Church of Buffalo, New York. We are indebted to both congregations for their acts of love by doing the work to become AIM certified.
Commission on Social Witness Report
Elandria: Presenting the report of the Commission on Social Witness is Susan Goekler.
Susan Goekler: [Slide #1] You get the privilege of receiving this report because the Commission on Social Witness reports directly to you the General Assembly, not to the UUA Board.
[Slide #2] You elect the majority of the Commission members, who you can identify by the blue baseball caps we wear when on duty. We are here to help you navigate the opportunities at GA to contribute to social witness statements.
[Slide #3] We have two key responsibilities—to facilitate the process for developing UUA position statements on social justice issues. There are two types of position statements—Statements of Conscience and Actions of Immediate Witness. Delegates consider one Statement of Conscience every odd numbered year (i.e. not 2018)—the issue is one selected three years prior as a congregational study action issue CSAI. This year you will have a chance to select a new CSAI.
Because issues sometimes arise that call for a more immediate response, another type of position statement is an Action of Immediate Witness. Because these issues are proposed and acted on during 1 General Assembly, there is no opportunity for congregation study and input.
Thus AIWs only carry the weight of the delegates present at one GA.
Our second key responsibility is to encourage congregational engagement on common UUA social justice issues.
[Slide #4] So, our report on what we did this year.
Between the 2017 and 2018 General Assemblies of the UUA, the Commission on Social Witness (CSW) reviewed comments we received from congregations on our current CSAI—the Corruption of Democracy, which the 2016 General Assembly selected. We also invited proposals for new CSAIs and received three proposals. Because two were almost identical, we asked the proposers to combine them and they did. Then, at the request of one of the proposers, we facilitated meetings of the proposers of the remaining two to see if they could find common ground and thus submit only one CSAI for consideration. We all hoped that in the spirit of right relations and collaboration, we could avoid pitting one issue against another, and thus forcing delegates to select only one issue even though all proposed CSAIs are worthy of study and action. We got close, but did not succeed, so you have two to choose from. To learn more about each please come to the CSAI mini-assembly this afternoon at 4:30.
[Slide #5] One way we fulfill our second key responsibility of encouraging congregations to engage with selected CSAIs is by working with the UU Ministers Association to sponsor a Social Justice sermon contest. The winning sermon will be presented at (date and time).
Recognizing that the prescriptive nature of the CSWrelevant sections of UUA bylaws hinders innovation, we worked with the UUA Board to suggest changes to the bylaws. These changes do not change any processes, they just remove from the bylaws the details, which are still included in the CSW’s proposers’ guides for both CSAIs and AIWs. The only significant change is that the bylaws would not require gathering signatures at GA for Actions of Immediate Witness, allowing the CSW to consider modifications of that process.
[Slide #6] Facilitation of the CSAI process also requires getting input from congregations—the UUA’s members.
As part of the annual congregational poll, congregations can vote on whether to include proposed CSAIs on the final GA agenda. This year, slightly more than half the certified congregations did vote and the vast majority voted to include both proposed CSAIs for consideration.
[Slide #7] Now, you have a role to play also. If you are a delegate, you will vote to select one of the proposed CSAIs. Here are opportunities to be informed. After you return to your congregation, we hope that you will inform them about the selected Study Action Issues. A study guide is available for the Corruption of Democracy. A study guide for issue you select here will be available on the UUA website by November.
[Slide #8] To meet our bylaw requirements, the CSW will conduct a mini-assembly on the two proposed CSAIs. We are also hosting a workshop with activists engaged in fighting Corruption in Our Democracy and facilitating a worship service featuring the winning sermon.
[Slide #9] Action of Immediate Witness proposals are due at the CSW booth by 5 today—if there is an issue you feel called to suggest that the UUA have a position about, come to the booth and find out how to engage in the process. By 5 tomorrow, proposers will need to collect 150 signatures—so if you are a delegate, you might get asked to sign that you believe this is an issue worthy of consideration. Then on Saturday and Sunday there will be votes and mini-assemblies. The daily CSW Alerts will describe the proposals.
[Slide #10] The CSW is offering a third opportunity for witnessing this year. We will offer room at the CSW booth in the Exhibit Hall (#610) for people wishing to collect signatures for social justice –related petitions.
[Slide #11] We would love to learn how your congregation has used any adopted statements. Please stop by our booth or send an email to share what your congregation has done. Then we can share that with others.
Questions? Look for the blue hats.
Public Witness PSA
Elandria: Let’s please welcome Leslie MacFayden and Paige Ingram of BLUU for an introduction for our Public Witness this year. Thanks so much for all you do for Black UUs and UU adjacent folks.
Leslie Mac: Good morning! I’m Leslie Mac, Lead Organizer with Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism or BLUU Paige Ingram: And I’m Paige Ingram, Community Organizer with BLUU. We are so excited to be here in Kansas City coordinating this year’s Public Witness efforts.
This past year BLUU took time to connect with local organizers here in Kansas City with the goal of understanding their needs and the ways that General Assembly attendees could help them do their work. Out of those connections, it became clear that this community did not need a rally or press conference. It was in need of support for 2 major issues that bubbled to the top Paige Ingram: The first is Kansas City’s entry into the national #EndMoneyBail efforts - which led to the “Anatomy of A Bail Out” Panel happening in about today at 1:00 PM in Room 2105 where you will learn how the first KC Bailout was created and more about why the #EndMoneyBail movement is one that our faith should get involved with.
We will also take action to support those addressing maternal & infant health issues in local Black & Brown communities - this Sat afternoon POCI attendees are invited to join us Uzazi Village to help build an outdoor garden & children’s closet at this spectacular community space whose mission: “For every family, a healthy baby’ For every baby, a healthy village” resonates so strongly with our UU principles.
Paige Ingram: Finally - we saw an incredible opportunity to support Domestic Violence Survivors materially - iN case you haven’t heard, we are building 1,000 Domestic Violence Survivor Care Packages in Exhibit Hall D - these care packages will be distributed by the Reale Justice Network to people fleeing dangerous situations. This incredible gift to the KC organizing community will keep them stocked through the winter and allow organizers time & resources to invest in other projects. Stop by anytime to help build these packages and to drop off your purse if you brought one to donate to the project Leslie Mac: For BLUU this year's efforts are a return the roots of Public Witness in Phoenix - where we as UUs stood with and followed the lead of local organizers fighting for justice. This year we extend that example to materially support those in THIS community who will be able to benefit directly from the work we do here this week.
Thank you and we look forward to seeing you throughout the week, making these projects come to life!
Barb Greve: The theme of General Assembly this year, "All Are Called,” reminds us that no one gets to take a back seat in the work of transforming our faith communities and institutions so that we may personify the Unitarian Universalism our world needs today.
This last year has been far from easy. The thing about being called is that the sort of call we’re here to engage with together rarely comes from the path that is smooth, wellworn, obvious, and easy. It comes from the path that is difficult to find, challenging to stay true to, and arduous to make progress on.
When we answered the call to become your interim co-moderators, we did so in the context of our denomination’s most recent awakening to and grappling with the ways white supremacy culture operates in our midst. We also did so while our faith community was still mourning the untimely death of former moderator Jim Key and celebrating the election of Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray. It was a moment of turmoil, and loss; of hope, and change.
We said “yes” to this call, in part, because we couldn’t be more committed to supporting this movement in embracing what the Commission on Institutional Change has framed as an “urgency around transforming the Association” to embrace “the fullness of a transformative multiculturalism as a fulfillment of our principles and heritage.” We were excited to explore collaborative leadership together, not just in our role as co-moderators but also in terms of the work of the Board and the larger context of our movement as a whole. We want to take a few minutes to share some of our learnings from the past year with you, as well as our hopes and plans for next year.
- A transformed UUism requires transformed leadership models -- leader-full movement and collaborative leadership.
- Moderator position is volunteer. Scope of the role (1-2 trips each month, liaison to 30 groups, 3,000 emails, countless additional conversations).
- Who is able to serve and who isn’t, and the cost to our movement. Name you and Barb’s identities: queer, younger, nontraditional education paths, trans/non-binary.
- Ancestry; those who came before to make our leadership possible.
- We wouldn’t be here without leadership development inside and outside UUism.
- Importance of leadership development.
Barb Greve: Because a transformed Unitarian Universalism requires transformed leadership models, this year we’ve been reimagining the way leadership works within the Board. Instead of top-down leadership, all Board members share leadership. So you’ll be seeing all Board members up on stage this year helping to run different things.
We’ve also been having conversations about how our understandings of volunteer work within our movement need to shift and be more equitable. For one thing, we’re working to scale the position of moderator down.
Although the Moderator Nominating Committee did a faithful job in seeking candidates for the next moderator election, the sorts of leaders they were looking for could not commit to a volunteer role of this position’s current scope. Therefore, the Board decided to postpone nominations for the 2019 election for moderator and work to reimagine the moderator position in line with the aspirations of our faith community.
A second learning from this year is that collaborative leadership requires deeper relationships and increased communication.
Not only would it have been impossible for us to serve as interim co-moderators if we didn’t already have a long and loving relationship, but collaborative leadership takes putting more time and attention into our relationship. A lot of people think the two of us are similar and agree on everything, but in fact we’re really different, so working together takes hard work and lots of communication.
This extends to the Board and the governance of our denomination as well. So this year the Board spent a lot of time building deep group agreements. And we asked fellow UUs what you want from the Board in terms of communication and relationship with you.
We and the Board have also been engaging in collaborative leadership with the UUA Administration in new ways. It’s been particularly gratifying to learn and lead with President Susan Frederick-Gray and Executive Vice President Carey McDonald.
All four of us came into our new roles at the same time, so we are able to collectively ask questions about the norms and patterns that exist and make intentional choices about which to follow and which to disrupt in service of positive change. We are also all lifelong UUs and younger than 50 (along with all holding other marginalized identities as well), and our deep rootedness in the faith supports our dedication to working together.
Because of our collective dedication to practicing collaborative leadership, there have been new relationships, communication, and collaboration growing between the Board, the Administration, and related groups and committees—including the Commission on Institutional Change.
- Another learning: how many people feel unheard, unwanted, unempowered—including leaders.
- We need all who are part of this faith movement to feel they matter and are wanted, needed, honored in our governance processes.
- Need to be accountable to those in congregations and those who aren’t.
- To practice this: did away with observers at the October board meeting.
- Made more space for all voices and perspectives here at GA.
- Where we go from here: In answer to the Commission on Institutional Change, we will completely overhaul our bylaws to make them more liberating and less confining.
- Problems with current model and representation at GA.
- To come: bylaws review commission, conversation guide for covenanted communities, and online and in-person opportunities to continue the discussion.
- What GA 2019 will look like.
Barb Greve: Our charge to you this week, if you accept it, is to join us in practicing living our highest values in community. This is not a light or easy ask, because it’s hard to live our values together when we don’t all agree.
But we are all called, as Unitarian Universalists, to do so. During this General Assembly, in the next year, and beyond, as we continue to work to dismantle systems of oppression in our movement and in the world, we hope that you and UUs everywhere will engage in those conversations fully. Let us prioritize curiosity over fear of change, humility over judgment, and care over critique for critique’s sake.
Reimagining our bylaws and our governance is going to take all of us—including those whose perspectives have historically not been in the room. So if you are someone who has experienced a lot of comfort in UU circles, we call on you to work to make space for those who have not. If you are someone who has struggled to remain here, we urge you to bring your perspective forward.
Elandria Williams: Because all of us are called. All are called to help move this movement and our faith. All are called to build spaces where community, refuge, and faith are one and the same. All are called to play a role, and to find the role that best honors our power and our purpose. All are called to be in deep relationship with all.
We want to end by giving thanks to those who have already answered the call: [names].
Promise and Practice of Our Faith
Elandria: This is a remarkable time in our faith. As we uncover and shine a light on the pain of our history for so many, we also have an historic opportunity to fulfill our calling to live into the Beloved Community, where every person is cherished.
Susan: This calling to steward our theological values by supporting Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism and choosing to fully value the inherent worth and dignity of Black UUs began with the bold action of our board in the fall of 2016. The board’s decision was only the first stage—it will require all of us to make that commitment real.
Carey: The Promise and Practice campaign is the way UU’s across the country are making themselves a part of the commitment to Black Lives UU. The campaign is a call not only to financially support Black leadership within Unitarian Universalism, but also to center the voices and experiences of Black UUs that have long gone unheard.
And to inspire and ignite congregational participation, generous donors Brad and Julie Bradburd made a matching gift of $1 million.
Barb: We thank you, Brad and Julie, for this courageous act of stewardship that comes from your love for our faith and your belief that we can be better.
In response, many of our congregations have joined this campaign to support our UUA Board’s commitment to Black Lives of UU and double their financial contribution through the match gift.
All: We are grateful for your support.
Susan: This is no ordinary campaign. This campaign is a departure from traditional “asks” of financial support—in asking for both a promise and a practice, it demands we look within ourselves as leaders and faith communities to discern “what it truly means to bear witness to the pain of many Black UUs and fulfill a promise to support and promote the growth of Black leadership and the work of BLUU.” Barb: This is no ordinary campaign. This campaign is inspired by Black Lives of UU which is already doing dynamic work—providing ministry and pastoral care for Black UUs, lifting up the voices and leadership of Black UUs, and connecting Unitarian Universalism with vital movement work. BLUU is truly the most innovative ministry in our faith right now.
Elandria: This campaign is no ordinary campaign. This campaign is ignited by beautiful and powerful worship materials created by some of our esteemed religious professionals of color. These powerful perspectives and stories are gifts of joy and pain generously offered. Gifts that will inspire for years to come.
Carey: This campaign is no ordinary campaign.
_____ congregations have participated so far.
We have heard from many about the ways the Promise and Practice is transforming and uplifting congregations.
We thank you for leading the way in trusting Black leadership, investing in Black leadership, and uplifting Black leadership!
Susan: For the promise to be fulfilled and the practice to be transforming, we need all of you. If your congregation has not yet held your Promise and Practice Sunday— there is still time!
I’m delighted to share that Brad and Julie Bradburd are extending their match through the end of the next congregational year so that more congregations can join us on this journey of supporting Black lives and Black leadership.
Every dollar raised will be matched through June 2019.
For congregations that haven’t participated we’re glad to provide resources and fundraising ideas. For congregations that have already participated—consider a second year of participation to increase your impact. Visit uua.org/bluu-campaign to get started.
On behalf of the promise of our future as a faith, we thank you.
Financial Advisor’s Report
Barb: Section 10.3 of the UUA Bylaws set forth the following Duties of the Financial Advisor: The Financial Advisor shall advise the President and the Board of Trustees on financial policy and shall assist the Board in long-range planning by reviewing the sources of funds, the application of funds designated for specific purposes, the balance between foreseeable income and proposed expenditures, and the overall financial welfare of the Association. From time to time, the Financial Advisor shall report to the President and the Board findings and recommendations respecting the current financial affairs of the Association and long-range planning.
The Financial Advisor serves on the UUA Board, the Health Plan Board, the Retirement Plan Committee, the Socially Responsible Investment Committee, the Investment Committee and the Audit Committee. Please welcome Financial Advisor Lucia Santini Field.
Lucia Santini Field: The UUA is a complex structure with a compelling mission and commitment. The financial structure supporting this mission is no less complex. The Association of Congregations has just completed a successful first year of both a new Administration, under the powerful, thoughtful, passionate and effective leadership of Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray and visionary and effective new Board leadership, with Co-Moderators Elandria Williams and Barb Greve.
Congregational covenant is the foundation of our faith movement and the core financial support for our mission and vision. The introduction of a new, more equitable and sustainable (also complex!) formula for congregational commitment to support our faith movement was tested, revised and much discussed over the past year or more. I ask for your strong congregational support of the new APF and your patience with inevitable questions or issues you may encounter. On behalf of the Board I thank you for your flexibility, engagement and continued commitment to support the work of our faith in this critical time.
I am pleased to report that the significant financial operations of the Association and related entities, as reflected in the UUA’s budget, Common Endowment Fund, Retirement Plan, Health Plan and Beacon Press are all healthy and well managed, in the hands of competent and experienced staff and overseen by Committees of competent and experienced volunteers.
As I noted last year, financial results in the publishing business are highly variable and difficult to predict, with ever shrinking margins. Beacon Press has miraculously avoided losses for many, many years, but we (personally and as a faith, I believe) must be prepared to support the prophetic voice of their publications, which powerfully expresses our faith commitment, if and when the trend turns.
The UUA’s Audit Committee will be reviewing recommendations with the Board to formally expand its Charter to include oversight of Risk Management, in addition to financial audit matters. Enterprise wide risk management structures are in place at the UUA and this enhancement would serve to improve oversight and reporting.
The work of the Association has increasingly been focused on the important work of dismantling systems of oppression and white supremacy. This is critical work for our faith at any time, but it is long overdue in our faith and our country and is now more important than ever. As we continue down this path, we must recognize it will not be easy and our emotional, spiritual and financial support will all be critical to our success.
I am thankful for UU’s commitment and generosity. I am thankful for our faith leaders and commitment of so many.
I give special thanks to Barb and Elandria for their focus on our fiduciary duty to the mission of our faith.
Barb: I now invite Financial Secretary Tim Atkins and UUA Treasurer & Chief Financial Officer Tim Brennan, otherwise known as “The Tims,” to present the UUA Budget.
Commission on Institutional Change Report
Barb: The Commission on Institutional Change is charged with long-term cultural and institutional change that redeems the essential promise and ideals of Unitarian Universalism. Appointed by the UUA Board of Trustees in 2017, the Commission will analyze structural racism and white supremacy within the UUA through General Assembly 2020.
Leslie Takahashi: Good morning. The Commission on Institutional Change was appointed by the UUA Board of Trustees to analyze structural racism and white supremacy within the UUA.
We have been working since August of 2017 to address our collective starting assessment that the Unitarian Universalist Association’s legacy of racism must be addressed to end harm to individuals and to ensure that we remain viable as a faith. We envision a liberating Unitarian Universalism and are designing interventions that move us dramatically closer to that work.
We begin with the premise in all our work that the values of Unitarian Universalism cannot be realized in a system which is centered around one cultural expression. In fact, the centering of white culture and values has stymied the development of a full range of cultural expressions. In the Unitarian Universalist tradition, two “pillar” principles invite us to covenant to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of all people and to acknowledge the interdependent web of existence of which we are all a part. Systems, policies, practices and expressions of Unitarian Universalism which bias one racial or cultural group above others make a mockery of these two core values and so we are called into efforts to name and change them as acts of witness to a fuller and more authentic expression of this faith.
In our first year of work which will continue through General Assembly 2020, we examined the events surrounding the Southern Regional Lead Hiring decision in spring 2017. We found this to be but one eruption of the seismic tensions around race which illustrate the depth of the disillusionment and tension faced by religious professionals of color in our faith. A few highlights of that report which is available through our website:
- When the Southern Regional Lead hiring process took place, racial tensions were already at a breaking point in the system, especially for religious professionals of color who endure countless insults and aggressions as part of their work.
- Our governance structures are outdated and designed for a system which centers white culture and is bifurcated in ways that do not allow for good governance. Widespread disregard of existing systems and policies shows a lack of trust in existing systems which have not been intentionally redesigned to reflect the complexities of an emerging multicultural Unitarian Universalism • Assumptions growing out of “colorblind racism,” ignorance of racial bias and white supremacy culture led to conclusions that harm people of color, those who work every day within it and those who would attempt to find a spiritual home within Unitarian Universalism.
- The skills and perspectives of religious professionals of color are not valued within the culture of our institutions, especially our congregations.
- A fear of open conflict and assumption of “good intentions” increased the damage done by institutional racism and other forms of oppression within our Association.
Truth must come before reconciliation and transformation and truth-telling is still dangerous for religious professionals of color. We began planning for a racism assessment across Unitarian Universalism writ large. We are looking at what it will take to build a Unitarian Universalism centered around a diversity of experience and capable of inclusion, equity and true multiculturalism.
We are examining data and collecting stories of how racism and oppression have affected those within our faith and have several opportunities for dialogue at this General Assembly.
Truth must come before reconciliation and transformation and truth-telling is still dangerous for people of color within our faith. Religious professionals are still demeaned and treated as if they are without competency.
People of color within our membership, or those who are friends, risk loss of community among us if they speak out about the aggressions they face and so many choose to quietly exit.
The Board charged the Commission with examining the relevance of “truth and reconciliation” processes to key events in the Associations’ recent past. While we spent some time researching these processes as they have been used in a number of nations and municipalities to resolve issues related to damages from racial conflict, we find that the circumstances of the UUA may require a different kind of response. Some observations from our report:
- While the Commission was charged includes: “Establish a ‘truth and reconciliation’ process to create a climate of honesty, accountability, and disclosure essential to our learning and multicultural growth as an institution,” most religious professionals of color do not feel safe to tell their truths because of what they have experienced from congregational leaders, colleagues and many of the systems set up to support them.
- The lack of true anti-oppressive, anti-racism orientation on the part of regional staff and “good officers” through the Ministers’ Association has been particularly damaging to religious professionals of color which is, in part, why the events around this hiring decision became such a lightning rod for criticism. As part of the conversations we have elicited, it has become clear that the Association’s credentialing system for religious professionals and its systems for developing lay leaders do not take into account the dynamics of oppression and its systemic effects.
- No process exists for redress when damage due to institutional racism is done whether that damage is done to people of color or white participants. Trial in the court of social media is not a healthy alternative to a real process.
- No consistent resources are available for religious professionals of color (or others) who experience traumatic stress as a result of the lack of clarity of mission around racial inclusion and the gap between our aspirations and our actuality.
- No data is available on the number of religious professionals employed at the congregational level or the types of positions, other than in the ministry and these statistics are also not easily obtained. That an Association which claims to wish to become more diverse does not track data which most corporations now track is puzzling.
- Since we began our work, more religious professionals have lost their positions or are in conflict with congregations and the existing systems remain inept and inadequate at offering them help. The loss of any religious professionals of color among us is costly.
The time for “reconciliation” may be passed. What may be needed is what author Melvin Bray calls a “truth and transformation” process which looks at not reconciling us to equity under an outmoded system but reimaging a new system of equity, inclusion and innovation.
We begin with truth-telling. If you have an observation we need to hear, please visit the DRUUMM booth in the exhibit hall where information about us, our work and how to share your stories and perspectives with us. Thank you.
Board of Trustees Report & Discussion
Barb: Welcome to the 2018 Board Report. Following last year’s model, we have a panel of board members to whom I (as MC) will ask questions. To start, would each panelist please share your name, congregation, role (professionally and/or on the board) and answer the question: What is it like being a board member and why did you say yes to serving?
I’ll start: I’m Barb Greve, member of First Parish in Framingham MA. In my professional life I am a hospice chaplain and the religious education assistant to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto, CA. On the board I am one of the 2 co-moderators, along with Elandria Williams. I said yes to serving because I believe governance is important and I enjoy board work.
[discussion will need to be live captioned] Our next question: What (if anything) have you given up to be a board member?
[discussion will need to be live captioned] How has the work of the Commission on Institutional Change influenced the work of the board?
[discussion will need to be live captioned] The board has been making an intentional shift to embrace different styles and models of leadership/coleadership.
What have been some of the ways this is happening and how is it changing the way the board “does business?” [discussion will need to be live captioned] What are your hopes for the upcoming year (for UUism, for the board, etc.)?
[discussion will need to be live captioned] We’ve got to wrap up. But before end I want to share with our audience that we didn’t think about leaving space for questions from the floor until it was too late to add logistically, for which we’re sorry. We hope that anyone with questions or just generally interested in being in dialogue with us will attend our board open office hours, happening in Convention Center room 2210, next happening on Friday from 11 am -noon and Saturday from 2.20 - 3.30 pm.
Barb: Now it’s time to call on the Secretary of our Association, Christina Rivera, for any announcements.
Christina Rivera: (live caption)
Barb: Thanks Christina.
Barb: (live caption)
Patrick: (live caption)
Barb: 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 9:00 a.m. tomorrow morning.