22 January 2006

Reform for the "Reformers"

Recently, Chalicechick has started a discussion on her blog about how we can "fix the UUA."

My suggestion for this "reformation" within the Unitarian Universalist Association is the addressed to the reformers who have provided suggestions for reform on Chalicechick's web site:
Anyone who wishes to reform the UUA needs to study the applicable bylaws, rules, and other procedural guidance relevant to the proposed reform first.

Previous reform traditions within the Protestant tradition that gave birth to Unitarianism, Universalism, and Unitarian Universalism involved scholarship and informed criticism. For example, Martin Luther was known as a scholar and educator within Catholicism before the Protestant Reformation. His criticisms were based on study and were not impulsive "shoot from the hip" suggestions.
For example, at least two suggestions for "reform" are already in place as current UUA procedures:

Actions of Immediate Witness should require a 66% vote

The UUA as a loose confederacy of churches

A quick glance at the UUA bylaws on the uua.org web site would have informed the reformer making the proposal that the "new reform" was existing procedure.

Additionally, during the comments to these discussions, various statements have popped up like "[General Assembly delegates'] power to set the agenda for everyone shouldn't be absolute."

In fact, the current business procedures for General Assembly resolutions currently require congregational inputs for setting the agenda. Anyone who wants to "reform" the current social justice business procedure should read "Social Witness Process Overview" on the UUA web site first along with the applicable bylaws that address this process. The power to set the General Assembly agenda is shared between local congregations working at home and the delegates that local congregations send to General Assembly to represent them.

So ... please do a bit of research before proposing reform ideas.

Thank you.

10 comments:

Chalicechick said...

I reccommend that you not vote for either of those, Steve.

CC

Will Shetterly said...

When Chalicechick moved my comment out of the original thread, it lost its context: I'm not suggesting that the UUA modify itself. I'm suggesting that the UUA help create a looser, larger association that could include the UUA and other liberal faiths without asking any of them to give up their identity.

Jamie Goodwin said...

thanks for your support and encouragement!

uhmm I mean.. we are just people shooting out some ideas for a blog in which we are hoping to improve our churches and congreagations.

i am sitting here thinking that if the UUA is doing these things, and if so much is already happening there they are doing an absolutley terrible job of getting it to individual member congregations, and those congregations are doing a terrible job of getting it to their members.

Steve Caldwell said...

Will Shetterly wrote:
-snip-
"I'm suggesting that the UUA help create a looser, larger association that could include the UUA and other liberal faiths without asking any of them to give up their identity."

Will,

FWIW, the pre-merger Unitarians and Universalists did establish an umbrella organization called the "Free Church Fellowship" to allow the Unitarians and Universalists to cooperate and keep their respective identities. This happened in the early 1930s.

The pre-merger Universalists proposed a "Council of Liberal Churches" as an alternative to merger with the Unitarians. They also hoped that other liberal religious groups would join this council as well. This happened in the late 1940s.

Both of these loose associational structures are mentioned in David Brumbaugh's book on UU history.

An umbrella organization that would include the current UUA and other liberal religious groups is a good idea. Since we have some history where this has been tried before, we may want to examine that so we're ready for pitfalls.

Steve Caldwell said...

Jamie Goodwin wrote:
-snip-
"thanks for your support and encouragement!

uhmm I mean.. we are just people shooting out some ideas for a blog in which we are hoping to improve our churches and congreagations."


Jamie,

My apologies for sounding harsh.

However, please keep in mind that harsh things have been said about other groups and individuals in the reform discussions. Yes ... some of these individuals are paid UUA staff. But some of them are volunteers who are working on behalf of the UUA without compensation.

Then Jamie Goodwin wrote:
-snip-
"i am sitting here thinking that if the UUA is doing these things, and if so much is already happening there they are doing an absolutley terrible job of getting it to individual member congregations, and those congregations are doing a terrible job of getting it to their members."

Maybe it's a matter of personal responsiblity for lay persons to learn more about what is available to them in print and online?

I don't think that the UUA is doing that bad a job making lay leader resources available to congregational leaders.

The UUA could make it easier, but seriously nearly everything can be found through their "InterConnections" page:

http://www.uua.org/programs/layleader/

This page is easily found using the uua.org google search on the UUA home page (search for "lay leadership"). How much easier does the UUA need to make this for you? This is pretty close to "spoon-feeding" the information to you.

The other aspect of this conversation is the tendency of blog and online communities to develop into "echo chambers" where like-minded folks congregate and share ideas. The danger to this one may only hear folks that mostly agree with one's own opinions.

I suspect that most Chalicechick blog readers have areas of significant shared opinions (obviously not all because I read her blog for useful ideas and information).

A blog conversation involving UU social justice activist volunteers would have different areas of shared opinions. A youth and young adult UU online community like fuuse.com or YRUU livejournalers would have a different areas of shared opinions.

It's probably very easy to start thinking that this self-selecting circle of people who think like me represent the prevailing views throughout Unitarian Universalism while overlooking the possibility that their views may not widely shared.

I'll admit that I think the UUA staff and volunteers who work as the associational level are not perfect. There is areas for improvement. I just feel that substantive and researched criticism is needed.

Many of the reforms proposed on Chalicechick's blog feel to me like they are "sound bite" rhetoric much like the 1994 "Contract with America" proposed by the Republican Party.

For example, one of the promises in the GOP contract was "cut the number of House committees, and cut committee staff by one-third" (according to Wikipedia). Another part of the GOP contract was "require a three-fifths majority vote to pass a tax increase" (again according to Wikipedia).

These portions of the GOP "Contract With America" may sound good as sound-bites but are they good government? I think the same can be asked about some of the reforms proposed on Chalicechick's blog as well.

Steve Caldwell said...

You don't even have to go to uua.org home page to find a well-organized directory of UU resources.

Do a google search using the google.com home page with the following terms:

uu lay leadership
lay leadership
lay leader

All three terms return the following link as the first hit:

InterConnections Lay Leader Resources
http://www.uua.org/programs/layleader/

I don't think the UUA staff is trying to hide information. I think that we all need to take responsibility for being informed lay leaders who know how to access the well-organized online UUA information provided to assist UU congregations.

This search engine placement also means folks in other faith communities looking for "lay leadership" or "lay leader" resources will find ours first in a google search.

Our stuff pops up before Christian lay leader resources.

I wonder if we'll find folks from other faith communities using our resources to help their work.

In any case, these resources are easy to find for nearly all UU congregational leaders.

chutney said...

My new suggestion for fixing the UUA: ministers and other religious professionals should quit telling laity to read the by-laws. It closely mirrors the Vogan/DMV scene at the beginning of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Steve Caldwell said...

Chutney wrote:
-snip-
"My new suggestion for fixing the UUA: ministers and other religious professionals should quit telling laity to read the by-laws."

Gee ... I didn't know receiving 1-2 workshop honoraria per year (roughly 1% of my annual income) made me a "religious professional."

Do you suppose I can put "religious professional" as my occupation on my 1040 tax forms?

Seriously, my role in congregational life is totally unpaid and volunteer -- religious educator, youth advisor, webmaster, computer support geek for church staff, etc.

This criticism of the various reform ideas isn't coming from a position of "professional elitism" because I'm not a "religious professional" in that my primary income comes from non-UU sources.

So do you think it's inappropriate for me to suggest that you should do the UUA equivalent of "RTFM" before proposed tinkering with the UUA?

From Chutney's post on his blog about this, it sounds like he thought that I suggested reading the entire UUA bylaws, rules, etc. This is over 25,000 words. I wish he had read my suggestion more closely:

"Anyone who wishes to reform the UUA needs to study the applicable bylaws, rules, and other procedural guidance relevant to the proposed reform first."

I'm sorry that you misread my suggestion. I certainly hoped that you didn't try reading the entire bylaws, rules, etc. That wasn't my intent.

Jamie Goodwin said...

thanks for the link Steve to lay leadship material, actually I have read some of it. The problem I have is it seems to be geared towards congregations that are Lay Led.. which don't me wrong is important. However there are Lay Leaders out there who want to be part of the Church ministry, even when the church has a professional minister and there is less material and programs for them.

In case this sounds far fetched. My church has a professional Minister, a professional (full time) DRE, and 2 volunteer CLLs (commissioned lay leaders) one specializes in Pastoral Care and the other in Parish Nursing (only we call it Nursing and Health Ministry). I myself hope to pursue a Commisioned Lay Leader in which i will focus on Ritual and Worship.

It is that kind of support I would like to see the UUA support more broadly

chutney said...

Steve,

Mea culpa if I mislabled you a religious professional. My intent, however, was to speak more generally.

And, no, I didn't think you meant I should read the whole bylaws.

My criticism has two points. My first point is this: The Sabbath was made for humanity, not humanity for the sabbath.

My second point, which I haven't really gone into up to this point, is that I doubt ChaliceChick needs your assistance enforcing the rules of her own contest. If she decides to post reform proposals that are already in the bylaws anyway, that's her call.