Trustees prepare to make case for smaller board
The Unitarian Universalist Association Board of Trustees met in Charlotte, N.C., today for the first of two days of meetings before the start of the 2011 General Assembly.
The board discussed the best ways to explain to GA delegates several proposed changes in governance and social witness. A proposal to reduce the size of the UUA board from 26 to 14 members, for example, is up for a vote by delegates this year because it will provide better efficiency and more diversity, trustees said, not because it will save money, although it may do that as well. (See UU World‘s earlier coverage of the proposal to reduce the size of the board: April 25, 2011; March 14, 2011; January 25, 2010.)
Two other proposals will alter the practice of spending time at each GA creating and voting on social justice statements called Actions of Immediate Witness (AIWs). Several trustees said they deeply respect people who work on creating the AIWs, but they do not believe that using time at GA to create and vote on them is the best use of delegates’ time.
The board approved the creation of a separate UUA Retirement Plan Committee to better oversee management of retirement funds for UUA staff and staff members of congregations and other UU groups. The Rev. Richard Nugent, UUA director of Church Staff Finances, said in an interview Tuesday, “Over the past two years it’s become increasingly apparent we needed a committee to fully focus on the retirement plan that now involves $200 million in investments.” He noted that, as a federally-regulated plan, the UUA’s retirement plan, officially called the UU Organizations Retirement Plan, must also remain in compliance with federal law.
The board also:
- Voted to adopt the term “congregation” to refer to UU congregations in UUA policies, rather than referring to them as “churches or fellowships.” The term “congregation” is seen as more inclusive.
- Amended a policy governing how long members of UUA committees may serve to allow occasional exceptions to an eight-year service limit. Nancy Bartlett, trustee from the Mid-South District, said, “This will allow us some flexibility to extend terms of service in cases where not doing so would have a significant negative impact. We don’t anticipate this happening very often.” The change was prompted by the impending departure of six of ten members of the Regional Sub-Committee on Credentialing–West and the consequential potential loss of continuity.
On a historical note the board agreed to transfer ownership of a historic church building, the Priestley Chapel in Northumberland, Pa., to a local group. UUA Treasurer Tim Brennan explained that a forerunner of the UUA, the American Unitarian Association, was deeded the property in 1909. Brennan said the property is now being turned back to a Northumberland group, the Priestley Chapel Associates, in the belief that the property will be better served by local control.
The chapel was built in 1834 and continues to be used by the community. Joseph Priestley, a British scientist and Unitarian minister, founded what is generally considered the first church to be called Unitarian in the United States, in Northumberland, where his house still stands. He died in 1804. The local UU congregation outgrew the old church building years ago. It is now used for occasional worship services, weddings, and other special events.
Agendas and reports related to the board’s June meetings are available on UUA.org.