Co-Moderators’ Report, General Assembly 2018

Audio note: moving your audio balance control to the left will remove the echo on speakers; moving back to the right will let you hear more of the room, which is nice during singing.

UUA General Assembly Off-site Participation: Kansas City, Missouri | 2018

Part of General Assembly 2018 Event 203: General Session II

The following final draft script was completed before this event took place; actual words spoken may vary. Unedited live captions of General Session II (TXT) were created during the event, and contain some errors. Captioning is not available for some copyrighted material.

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.

Elandria Williams:

  • 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.

Elandria Williams:

  • 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]