Updates to the Board of Trustees from the Commission on Institutional Change - January 2018

Since we were appointed in June, we have been working to implement the charge you put before us. We want to reiterate that today, update you and engage you in some discussion to further that work. As you know, a budget for our work was not adopted until October and this has also been a period of transition for the Association, so we have really begun our work in earnest within the last few months. The lack of staffing has caused extreme difficulty and makes us in danger of losing some of our members who simply cannot sustain an unstaffed approach to this work. Here are some updates:

Contract for Racial Audit: In December, we issued a Request for Proposals to conduct a Racism Audit as per our charge from you. This will be a comprehensive analysis of the policies and practices and outcomes of current Unitarian Universalist culture. We collected names throughout the fall of organizations and individuals that people felt had experience working against racism and oppression and also analyzing these issues on an institutional level. The staff has also begun compiling key organizational identity documents for this analysis. We will be working with the consultants in particular to make sure this is not just an audit of the Unitarian Universalist Association staff and practices but that it also extends further into the wider Association and onto the congregational level. We put out an RFP on the UUA website in December and I made contact with each of the individuals or organizations which were recommended to us. We have asked for letters of intent to submit a proposal to be submitted to us by January 24th and we will conduct some interviews and further conversations the first week of February.

Congregational Survey: Working with Carey McDonald, we were able to get two additional questions added on the Congregational Certification this year. Congregations will be asked to estimate the number of people of color in their congregation and identify how many are on staff and in leadership. While these numbers will not be verifiable data, they will give us a sense of the scope. The number of congregations which decide to answer the questions will also be informative.

Religious Professionals of Color: An important part of our work is to track how people of color fare amidst us as religious professionals. In various circles and communities, we know the stories and the anecdotes that hinder us from using the gifts of religious professionals of color and yet we need a more systematic look. We have selected Rev. Danielle Di Bona as our consultant to conduct an analysis of the career paths and experiences of religious professionals of color among us.

Southern Regional Lead Discussion: We were asked to implement a truth and reconciliation process as part of the Southern Regional Lead discussion. The culture of our Association contains many practices which make this very difficult including an extreme avoidance of conflict and a lack of general awareness about unconscious bias and racism. We have conducted more than 20 hours’ worth of interviews pertaining to the events around the Southern Regional Lead hiring decision. We are examining the culture around these events and are trying to consider what next steps should be. In considering this, we are looking at aspects of the white-centered culture which manifest in practices that we have as Unitarian Universalists.

Theology to Support Work Around Ending Racism: At General Assembly, we plan to convene a discussion about the theological reasons we, as Unitarian Universalists, undertake work around racial inclusion and multiculturalism. Rev. Sofia Betancourt will be providing us leadership on this work.

Area for Reflection: We invite people to reflect on the lack of a culture of healthy conflict amid us and to think about how we might promote this.

Meeting Feb. 1-2: We have been meeting twice monthly by Zoom. Our next in-person meeting is in Phoenix, AZ.

In this time in which we have not had the staffing we were promised, we have been advancing the work as best we can. We want to thank the staff, especially Carey McDonald and Stephanie Carey Maron, for their work and support on our behalf. Also Karen Eng, a long engaged UU who conducted several pieces of research for us as a volunteer. We are in the process of conducting a search for a ¾ time staff person to support our work and hope to make that hire by the end of the month.