As you are likely aware, the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Board has been changing our approach to Independent Affiliates (IA). This has been a four-year process and we have been in contact with the leadership of each Independent Affiliate during this process. On behalf of the Board, I'm writing to explain our rationale for why we're changing our approach to Independent Affiliates and to invite you to a networking meeting at General Assembly in Portland, where representatives of your organization and representatives of similar organizations will be able to explore the changes to the Independent Affiliate structure.
Our understanding of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations is that it is just that, an association of congregations. That means to us that the health and vitality of our congregations is our primary focus. If UUs are to make a difference in a world that desperately needs to hear our message, it will be because our congregations are empowered to make that message manifest in the world. And we believe that the most effective way to empower those congregations is to encourage them to work together.
That said, we wonder how our longstanding structure of Independent Affiliates has served the UUA, as an association of congregations. To us, it appears that we have developed a growing number of separate groups, each of which may be doing excellent work, but with little or no connection (that we can discern) to other Independent Affiliates or the congregations that make up the UUA. In light of this situation, the Board began to wonder what it means to be an Independent Affiliate of an association of independent (and interdependent) congregations.
After discussion with the current Independent Affiliates at the two most recent General Assemblies, the Board created a set of guidelines for Independent Affiliates. These guidelines are in Rule 3.8.1 of the UUA's Bylaws and Rules and these guidelines were given to each current Independent Affiliate as part of the application process to renew their status.
It is our hope that implementation of these new guidelines will encourage existing Independent Affiliates (plus any new groups that will no doubt form in the coming years) to reflect on whether and how they might be more effective Independent Affiliates of our association of congregations. By withholding Independent Affiliate status from many of the existing organizations, we don't intend to imply any criticism about the work they are doing. Instead, we are trying to encourage these organizations to play as productive a role as they can in our UU movement.
We can imagine several different options that a former Independent Affiliate may consider:
- A former Independent Affiliate may decide that its status as an IA isn't necessary for it to do its work and would decide to no longer seek IA status.
- A former Independent Affiliate may decide to reapply for IA status after reconsidering its mission and work in light of the UUA's requirements.
- A former Independent Affiliate may join together with other current and/or former IAs to seek IA status as a council of several independent yet related organizations.
To faciliate networking among related Independent Affiliates and to help you explore how you might work toward continuing your Independent Affiliate status, we invite you to send representatives to attend a meeting with representatives of other similar Independent Affiliates at General Assembly in Portland. Four different meetings are scheduled. We hope you will be able to send at least one representative to your meeting.
Paul Rickter, UUA Secretary