UUA Board Report for January 2015

The board met at UUA Headquarters at 24 Farnsworth Street in Boston on January 15-18, 2015 for two and a half days of tightly packed business, conversation, and worship. During this Martin Luther King Day weekend, board members frequently referenced Martin Luther King’s work as they considered numerous questions relating to democracy, inclusion, fair practices and anti-racism.

The Linkage Working Group offered their report on the extensive work they did surveying UUs and having conversations with congregational leaders regarding the board’s ongoing conversations about improving the quality of our democratic process. The summary result showed broad and serious concerns about the financial accessibility of General Assembly, as well as about the strength and quality of the UUA’s vision. One trend in responses was an openness to exploring how new technologies might support ways of meeting and doing business that are not necessarily face to face. There was wide spread backing for strengthening the board role in our governance system, as well as apprehension about change that would represent a greater centralization of power in individuals. Persons were enthusiastic about the larger project of improving our democracy, and of increasing engagement both inside our congregations and in relationship to the association.

The Board heard a report of the Congregational Boundaries Working Group, which continues to make the process of bringing complaints about the sexual misconduct of religious professionals fair and accessible for victims. That group recommended and the board approved to propose changes to the Ministerial Fellowship Committee rules that would now allow a person making a complaint to appear before the Executive Committee in the company of an assigned and trained advocate, with the expenses of the appearance being covered by the committee. Also, victims can choose between appearing in person or via secured teleconference. The Intake Officer is now additionally charged to ask persons making complaints to indicate if they have knowledge of other victims or classes of victims.

Acting on recommendations from the Presidential Search Committee, the board voted to recommend to General Assembly a bylaws change that would restrict the donations to a Presidential Campaign to $5,000 per individual and to $100,000 for the campaign total. The board will also recommend a bylaw change that restricts presidential campaigns from going public until Feb. 1 of the year previous to an election. This change will make sure that candidates running by petition and by nomination will have campaigns of the same length.

The Inclusion Working Group lead a conversation about concerns with the role of the Youth Observer on the board, including how it can be isolating for that person to often be the only youth present, as well as how it is that person might be best elected/chosen to be representative of youth. The working group will make a recommendation regarding this position in the future. That group also went over plans for the board’s March meeting in Birmingham, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s voting rights march there. Whenever possible the board will join in with the UU Living Legacy Program commemorating the march. Finally, the Inclusion Working Group led a training, asking board members to discuss what role Unitarian Universalism has to play in the current public dialogs (and actions) regarding systemic racism.

The Committees Working Group introduced a conversation about the role of the Commission on Appraisal, asking the board to imagine which of the functions of the committee, if any, necessitate its independence in the governance structure, and if so, or if those functions might be performed in more ordinary ways. The board felt it did not have enough time for a good process and thorough conversation, and will consider the matter again in the near future.

The Emerging Congregations Working Group shared with the board the continued partnership with staff regarding supporting the desire to more fully support emerging congregations. Both the board and the staff are united in wanting to both make the barriers to association lower for aspiring traditional congregations as well as groups that are imagining their UU ministries in new ways.

Other bylaw changes the board is recommending to GA include changes in wording regarding districts to accommodate cases where the functions referred to are being handled by regions. Also, as the board as a whole now functions as what was previously a separate Finance Committee, bylaws eliminating that committee and assigning the responsibilities previously held Finance Committee Chair to new position of Financial Secretary were approved for recommendation.

The Board, the President, and the Moderator all expressed satisfaction with the process of the first ever Presidential performance review, and the acceptance of monitoring reports and the retirement of others.

The board was pleased to welcome the UU Fellowship of Bay de Noc, in Escanaba, Michigan into our association of congregations.