We are aware that many congregations have been contacted about reinvigorating our Associational conversation about our democratic process and the fifth principle. Ten years ago, there was a task force that prepared a report (PDF) for the UUA Board of Trustees about these concerns that we would encourage all of you to read.
In our research, we frequently heard the call for reform of our largest governing body, the General Assembly, particularly the challenge of unequal access to decision-making that our current structure perpetuates. The Fifth Principle Task Force Report to the UUA Board of Trustees in December 2009 lays out in detail many of the challenges and potential remedies to GA. The Task Force reports, “We have focused our meetings and this report on governance because it is at once the primary purpose of GA and is dramatically broken. Four points buttress this contention of brokenness: GA is not really democratic in that delegates are neither representative of their congregations, other than being members, nor are they accountable to them; without subsidization of delegates, GA is economically discriminatory, and therefore generationally discriminatory; as long as GA continues as an annual event, its cost is a heavy burden to the Association and the member congregations; the GA process is not in alignment with the Board’s embrace of policy governance.”
The report continues, “The future of our UU movement can ill-afford to continue the ways of faux democracy and unaccountable representation that have characterized Associational governance, including the content and process of General Assembly. The Task Force believes that the status quo for the General Assembly is not an option. We believe our recommendations lay out a vision for effective governance that reflect core values of our liberal faith and the imperative for bringing the leadership of member congregations and our Association together in mutually accountable relationship around matters of greatest importance to the present and future vitality of our UU movement.”
The report recommends a fully-sponsored, biennial delegate assembly and details the values which informed their recommendation: economic accessibility and sustainability; empowered delegates authorized to represent congregations; excellence in governance; excellence in shared leadership and ministry; multigenerational participation and decision-making; and awareness and inclusiveness of AR/AO/MC concerns. We would place particular emphasis on economic accessibility, multi-generational participation, and decision-making, and the awareness and inclusiveness of AR/AO/MC concerns as being vital to all potential governance reforms of the Association. We recommend the Board of Trustees revisit the findings of the Fifth Principle Task Force as part of a broader governance reform agenda.
Good governance is essential in our congregations and our Association. Read the report and reflect on the values outlined in the report. In small groups, discuss how these values are reflected in the governance of your congregation.