In Charlotte, Board looks ahead to Phoenix GA

In its second day of meetings prior to the opening of the 2011 General Assembly in Charlotte, N.C., the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Board of Trustees devoted  considerable time to matters related to next year’s “Justice GA” to be held in Phoenix, Ariz. The board also welcomed a new member congregation and approved the reunion of the UU United Nations Office with the UUA. (Click here for our report on Tuesday’s board meeting.)

The 2010 General Assembly in Minneapolis passed a business resolution dedicating the 2012 GA, which had already been scheduled to take place in Phoenix, to “witnessing on immigration, racial, and economic justice.” The business resolution was passed in response to Arizona’s anti-illegal immigration law SB 1070, which had inspired calls for the UUA to boycott the state.

At its January 2011 meeting, the board approved the formation of a GA 2012 Accountability Group. The 15-member group is charged with working with the board, the UUA administration, the GA Planning Committee, Arizona UU congregations, and external partners, particularly Arizona community groups, to fulfill the vision of a Justice GA as described in the 2010 GA business resolution. It is also charged with ensuring the participation of historically marginalized groups of people and forming alliances with local groups working on immigration issues.

The Rev. Leslie Takahashi Morris, co-minister of the Mt. Diablo UU Church in Walnut Creek, Calif., presented a report today to the board on behalf of the GA 2012 Accountability Group (PDF; 3 pages). “Many people are working very hard to honor the charge, and there is a lot of cooperation and good effort,” Takahashi Morris said. However, “the purpose of this report is to raise some issues that are still of concern.”

She cited concerns about how decisions were going to be made and what accountability there would be to local partner organizations. It matters, Takahashi Morris said, how the UUA was going to be in partnership with local organizations, and whether relationships were being forged between particular individuals or systematically among institutions.

“It’s the difference between knowing individuals have a good relationship and having structures built into the process for accountability,” Takahashi Morris said. “How do we ensure that regardless of who is sitting in any particular seat that they have the same level of dialogue and being accountable? That is not to belittle or in any way undervalue the efforts of any individual, but it is very important to think about this as we grow to make sure relationships are structurally built into what we do.”

Takahashi Morris added, “It’s not even herding cats. Just identifying which cats are supposed to be in the room is not easy.”

Later in the meeting, the board voted on a draft policy regarding the implementation of the GA 2012 Resolution. It voted to create a new Section 5 of the board’s governance policy manual, stating that “[t]he Committees of the Association shall be accountable to the General Assembly. In between meetings of the General Assembly, the Board acts on behalf of the Assembly as per the bylaws.  Committees of the Board are accountable to the Board at all times.”

In addition, the board voted to create a new subpolicy (Policy 3.10 Board / General Assembly Relations) in regards to implementing the business resolution addressing GA 2012. The board will convene a task force “to facilitate regular communication, issue resolution, and issue elevation to the board.”  This task force will be made up of UUA Board representatives, as well as representatives from the GA Planning Committee, the Administration, and the GA 2012 Accountability Group.

This task force will hold its first meeting in August 2011 and will present an update at the October 2011 Board meeting.

The board also heard a report from the Journey Toward Wholeness Committee (PDF; 95 pages), presented by Michael Salwasser and the Rev. Wendy von Zirpolo. The report, called “Snapshots on the Journey: Assessing Leadership Development,” focuses on the development of volunteer leadership and the extent to which people who claim historically marginalized identities have been nominated or recommended by the Nominating Committee or the Committee on Committees and how well they have been retained on the committees they have joined.

The report includes a list of recommendations that may be more broadly applicable to groups outside of the UUA. Salwasser stressed that many recommendations within the report are useful for congregations that have a nominating committee or are doing leadership development. “We flag recommendations for them,” he said. In fact, page 33 of the report includes specific recommendations for congregations.

In other matters, the Board voted to welcome a new congregation to the Association. Harmony UU Church in Mason, Ohio, is the UUA’s newest member congregation. The 36-member church is in a suburb of Cincinnati.

The board also voted to approve the merger of the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office (UU-UNO) with the UUA. The UU-UNO was part of the UUA until 1971, when it opted to become a voluntary organization supported by voluntary contributions during a time of major financial cutbacks. The membership of the UU-UNO voted to rejoin the UUA in April.

Appearing before the UUA Board, Bruce Knotts, executive director of the UU-UNO, said, “We think we bring added value to the UUA. It’s a wonderful homecoming. The UU-UNO advocates at the UN on issues ranging from LGBT rights, peacemaking, international rights for women and children, and climate change.”

UUA Moderator Gini Courter ended the board meeting by acknowledging that the meeting marked the last time this board would serve together, as several members will rotate off the board this weekend as new trustees come on. “This board has been on watch during some of the more difficult work that’s been done in the association in a long time. I want to thank you for your faithfulness and your deep, caring compassion,” she said. “Let’s go out and have a fabulous GA.”

One Comment on “In Charlotte, Board looks ahead to Phoenix GA

  1. After reading the report of the Accountability Group for Phoenix, I am concerned that we may be on a collision course leading to a situation not dissimilar to the BAC-BAWA controversy of fifty years ago. u00a0The Accountability Group is understandably looking for real and meaningful changes from past GA’s and sees those changes as being the only way of dealing with the fact that we are “violating a boycott” while others are more focused on “business as usual” if only because of the inertia that understandably develops when there are processes in place that have been in place for decades, which is the case with GA. u00a0I offer no solutions to this vexing situation, but caution that missteps may haunt us for a long time to come as witness the history that followed the BAC-BAWA events referred to above.u00a0