26 April 2005

Statement about Rev. Bill Sinkford's letter to the YRUU Steering Committee

Statement about Rev. Bill Sinkford's letter to the YRUU Steering Committee About the Hiring of YRUU Program Specialists (forwarded from the YRUU-L email list, posted to the YRUU-L email list by Ethan Field, Youth Office Assistant).

On April 11th, the Rev. Bill Sinkford sent a letter to the YRUU Steering Committee in response to a series of events at the March 31st to April 3rd Steering Committee meeting. A full text of the letter is at the end of this statement. (Note from Steve ... the letter can be found online here.)

One of the responsibilities of the YRUU Steering Committee is to make recommendations to the UUA President regarding the hiring of YRUU Programs Specialists. This hiring process, which should be a partnership of shared responsibility between YRUU and the UUA, has not in recent years been as healthy and respectful as it needs to be for those involved.

At their recent meeting, the Steering Committee asked the Youth Office Staff to leave the meeting during the selection process. It is the established policy and practice for Youth Office staff to facilitate the selection process and to give input at key times. The Youth Office staff will train, supervise, and work with YPSers, and they represent the UUA in the partnership. They need to be part of the process.

The Steering Committee's stated reason for asking the Youth Office staff to leave was that they did not feel comfortable with the Youth Office staff's response to the Steering Committee's behavior in Pickett & Eliot House (the UUA's Bed and Breakfast) the night before. The Steering Committee also stated that they were uncomfortable with the overall relationship between the Youth Office and Steering Committee.

Youth Office staff asked that those issues causing discomfort be discussed and addressed at that time before proceeding with the YPS selection process, but Steering Committee insisted that YO staff leave.

The UUA Administration feels that asking the Youth Office to leave the YRUU Program Specialist selection process violated the agreed upon policy and practice. The Administration feels that this violation was a significant move out of right relationship between the UUA and YRUU Leadership that had to be addressed. The Administration decided to fulfill its responsibility to UU youth ministry by hiring a Youth Ministry Associate to fill the position that was formerly held by a YRUU Program Specialist. Youth Ministry Associates work for the UUA. They will not be in dual accountability with YRUU, and YRUU is not formally a part of their selection process. Until the UUA and YRUU Leadership are back in right relationship, the UUA will hire Youth Ministry Associates so that the Youth Office can continue to serve youth. The Youth Ministry Associate will perform many of the same services for congregations and district youth programming that the YPS now performs. However, this position will not be as involved with supporting continental YRUU Leadership.

For the 05-06 church year there will be one YRUU Program Specialist on staff: Lily Sparks, the June YPSer. Lily was selected in January before this incident happened. She will probably take on more support for the YRUU Leadership. However, the Youth Office will work to make sure that work loads are balanced so that she is not over-burdened. The Youth Office Assistant and the Youth Programs Director will remain in relationship with the YRUU Leadership as they have in the past. Beth Dana and Marissa Gutierrez will serve as Youth Ministry Associates for one year terms.

It is not known when right relationship will be restored, but the YRUU Steering Committee and President Sinkford are in conversation about the situation. It is likely that the current Consultation on Ministry With and For Youth process will address and resolve the issues. It is also possible that the hiring process could be resolved sooner. We don't know right now, and therefore cannot say with certainty how and when new youth staff - whether Youth Ministry Associates or YRUU Program Specialists - will be hired. The UUA Administration is committed to staffing the Youth Office and will move to clarify the personnel situation for next year as soon as practicable.

If you have further questions, you can direct them to Jesse Jaeger, Youth Programs Director or Judith Frediani, Director of Lifespan Faith Development.

Note: The 11 April 2005 letter from Bill Sinkford can be found here. Additional commentary on this can be found in this location:

The End Times of YRUU by Tim Fitz

17 April 2005

UPDATE: Troubles in Unitarian Universalist Youth Ministry

More blog commentary on recent UUA Staff - Young Religious Unitarian Universalist (YRUU) Youth Council (YC) dispute originally reported by Joseph Santos-Lyons last week:
I'm really curious about other views which are not being reported on this story yet.

13 April 2005

Troubles in Unitarian Universalist Youth Ministry

There seems to be more trouble between Continental Young Religious Unitarian Universalists (YRUU) and the rest of the Unitarian Universalist Association. Thanks to Chris Walton ("Philocrites") and Joseph Santos-Lyons ("Radical Hapa") for posting this on their respective blogs:

More Change in YRUU (Philocrites)

Youth Ministry Associate (Radical Hapa)

Here's the text of Rev. Bill Sinkford's letter documenting a disagreement between YRUU Steering Committee and the UUA Staff over the discussions surrounding the hiring of the next staff person in the UUA Youth Office:
April 11, 2005

Dear YRUU Steering Committee,

The events of the recent Steering Committee meeting may very well reflect anxiety about change and uncertainty about power as we engage in a process of examining our ministry to and with youth.

Whatever the reasons, the Steering Committee’s demand that UUA staff leave the meeting so that SC alone could decide on the September YPS recommendation was clearly outside the boundaries of established procedures. Excluding the people who would work with and be responsible for the YPS staff, and refusing to discuss the issues interfering with collaboration, moved SC outside of right relationship with UUA staff to an extent that needs to be acknowledged. At this point, proceeding with “business as usual” is not possible.

SC’s behavior was particularly disappointing and hurtful following the special consultation on relationship conducted at the January SC meeting. That work sought to keep communication open when conflict arises. It is likely that right relations, and the structures of authority that support it, cannot be fully established until the Youth Ministry Consultation process addresses this fundamental issue.

It would not be fair, however, for others to take the consequences for the Steering Committee’s actions. We would not penalize the committed youth applicants, the Youth Office staff, or our congregations by reducing or delaying staffing. Therefore, until a productive, respectful relationship is restored between SC and UUA staff, we will hire youth for the position of Youth Ministry Associate rather than YRUU Program Specialist. This means that the UUA will hire the Youth Ministry Associate without the current form of consulting with the SC. Youth Ministry Associates work for the UUA, serving youth in congregations throughout our Association.

Finally, Steering Committee will be asked to sign a covenant regarding appropriate behavior while staying at Eliot and Pickett Houses. Right relationship needs to be re-established with UUA staff there as well.

In Faith,
Rev. William G. Sinkford
For things to get to this stage, apparently something is broken with the youth-adult relationships in this part of our Association ... right now, there is nothing on the UUA-sponsored youth ministry email lists like YRUU-L or Advisor-L, the YRUU LiveJournal area, or the fuuse.com message boards discussing this recent decision.