“Would you have gone?” So Mark Morrison-Reed questioned the UUA Board of trustees after describing the UU responses to the call made fifty years ago by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for religious people to join the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in the struggle for voter rights in Selma. Hundreds of UUs responded to that call in the spring of 1965, including the UUA Board of Trustees, who recessed their meeting in order to reconvene in Selma. Three persons, two of them UUs, were martyred there in the subsequent struggle. Morrison-Reed, author of a recently released Skinner House book on the UU participation in Selma, asked the question “would you have gone?” as a part of his preparation of the Board for the meeting they will hold in Selma this Spring. On March 5-8, 2015, the Board will join with the UU Living Legacy Project’s anniversary return to Birmingham and Selma for learning, reflection, witness and recommitment. Board members committed to issuing a call to join them to both UUs and our non-UU neighbors, allies, and partners.
The board meeting, which was held October 15-19 at the 24 Farnsworth headquarters in Boston, began on a note of celebration and gratitude with President Peter Morales’ announcement of the realization of an extremely generous gift (approximately $945,000) to the association from Ken and Lois Carpenter in the form of previously granted mineral rights.
Motions emerging from the meeting included one asking the Emerging Congregations Working Group to develop a pilot program that would provide a path for the official acknowledgement of new and developing UU congregations and communities that are not ready to apply for recognition as a congregation under the current bylaws. The aim is to be able to provide associational support to these important nascent groups.
The Board also charged the Congregational Boundaries Working Group with continuing its work by providing to the Board and the Ministerial Fellowship Committee a set of best practices for receiving, investigating and resolving complaints of clergy sexual misconduct; to report to the Board and Ministerial Fellowship Committee where rules, policies and communications may not reflect those best practices; and to request a report from the Ministerial Fellowship Committee and Director of Ministries and Faith Development suggesting revisions to such rules, policies and communications to reflect those best practices.
The board spent time during each of its days of meeting in conversation about how to revitalize our UUA democratic governance. The board delved into the basic principles of congregational polity, reviewed past documents on governance reform, and heard a report of the Transforming Governance Working Group (which includes trustees as well as former Moderator Denny Davidoff, chair of the Fifth Principle Task Force report on governance). The immediate focus of the conversation was coordinating with the Linkage Working Group concerning dialogs to be held with our congregations on what priorities they see for improved governance. Specifically, congregations will be asked about their opinions and priorities around making delegate representation at GA more democratic, increasing the efficiency of governance (with a special eye to reducing expenses and lowering bars of participation), and clarifying leadership roles in relationship to association vision.