Voting with cards in a hotel ballroom
Whole Congregation Decisions?
Whole Congregation Decisions

Congregational boards are entrusted with many of the operational and sometimes programmatic decisions. But in our congregational polity, certain decisions should be made by the "congregation in meeting" as a "committee of the whole" via a congregational vote:

Calling a Minister

When a congregation calls an ordained minister, there is a vote by the entire congregation with a very high percentage of affirmative votes (around 95%) required for the call. Later, there is a ritual of installation (“we are in relationship with you as our called minister”). 

Dismissing a Called Minister

Ideally, if a ministry is ending (not related to misconduct), the board works with the minister to negotiate a resignation or retirement with some sort of financial settlement. If that doesn't happen, the congregation may call for a meeting to vote to dismiss the minister. In most bylaws a simple majority (51%) is all that is needed to dismiss. (If there is suspected ministerial misconduct, contact safecongregations [at] uua [dot] org (subject: Ministerial%20Misconduct)  .)

Ordaining a Minister

Ordination in our UU polity is based on a parish ministry. When a congregation calls an unordained minister, there is a combination of ordination (“we affirm your call to ministry”) and installation (“we are in relationship with you as our called minister”). Both of these rituals follow a vote of the  “congregation in meeting” that “backs up” the ritual.

Community ministry is trickier, and historically UUism has struggled with how to have a similar level of relationship and accountability. More on ordaining a community minister.

Electing a Governing Board

The congregation needs a group of leaders to be fiduciary agents to provide for the assets that the congregation needs to serve its mission and vision.

Electing a Settled Ministerial Search Committee

The congregation as a whole needs to entrust the search to a committee that is accountable to the whole, not just the board.

Electing a Nominating Committee

The congregation as a whole needs to entrust the selection of potential board members and other crucial positions to a committee that is accountable to the whole, not just the board.

Approving Bylaws and Subsequent Changes

The congregation as a whole needs to affirm these essential guiding documents, not just the board.

Other Decisions 

Depending on congregational size, governance structure and culture, congregations may reserve other items to be approved by congregational vote.

  • Electing an Endowment Committee
  • Buying or Selling Real Estate
  • Approving Mission, Vision and Covenant Statements
  • Approving a Strategic Plan
  • Approving a  Capital Campaign
  • Making Political Statements of Conscience
  • Other Decisions that Impact Congregational Reputation and Identity

About the Author

  • The regional Congregational Life staff are congregations' local connection to the UUA. All of the program Congregational Life staff have expertise in most aspects of congregational life and each also has a few program areas of expertise. See the UUA Congregational Life Staff...

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