Business items move through mini-assembly

A mini-assembly on three business items to come before GA delegates this week generated only a modest amount of interest Thursday. The three business items would:

  • permit offsite voting by GA delegates;
  • broaden the definition of a congregation; and
  • change the composition of the Ministerial Fellowship Committee.

Around 40 people attended the mini-assembly. The proposal to allow offsite voting generated the most interest. UUA Trustee Linda Laskowski from the Pacific Central District explained that the proposal simply allows people who are not physically present at GA to vote by means of remote communication. The change is meant to allow people who cannot come to GA because of financial issues or reasons of physical disability or lack of time off from work to participate in the work of the Association.

To that end, a system of remote voting is being tested at this GA. More than 30 people, selected as delegates by their congregations, will participate in plenary sessions this week, engaging in discussions and voting remotely. Their votes will be recorded, but not counted this year.

One delegate at the mini-assembly proposed that the number of offsite delegates be limited to 10 percent of all eligible delegates. Mini-assembly participants strongly voted that down in a straw poll. Others feared that offsite voting would result in a loss of community. In the end participants supported the measure as proposed by the Board of Trustees.

The proposal broadening the definition of a congregation directs that the word “congregation” be used in referring to congregations, rather than the terms “church” and “fellowship.” The change is meant to be more inclusive. Another change is removal of the word “local,” as in “local churches and fellowships,” a reference to the fact that congregations may arise that are not based in actual physical buildings.

UUA Trustee John Hawkins said, “For many years we felt our congregations must be bricks and mortar. A congregation unbound by location is an attractive option for many.” One person questioned whether the emergence of virtual congregations might draw members from physical congregations, but overall there was little opposition to the change.

The proposal changing the MFC composition eliminates the requirement that it must include members of the Board of Trustees and it also “opens the possibility” that it can, when needed, temporary increase in size beyond its current 14 members in order to respond to backlogs of work. The MFC’s responsibilities include interviewing  prospective ministerial candidates. There were a few questions about how these changes would work, but there was little opposition to the changes.

The changes to the MFC and the redefinition of a congregation will be voted on by GA delegates in business sessions on Saturday. The issue of permitting offsite voting will come up on Sunday.

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