Board members urge ‘yes’ votes for bylaw amendments

The Unitarian Universalist Association Board of Trustees delivered its report to the General Assembly on Saturday morning, updating delegates on its yearlong efforts to improve linakage with congregations and urging them to vote to reduce the size of the board and eliminate Actions of Immediate Witness at next year’s GA. They also encouraged attendance at the Justice GA in Phoenix.

Four at-large trustees spoke on behalf of the board.

Speaking first was the Rev. José Ballester, minister of the Religious Society of Bell Street Chapel in Providence, R.I. He summarized the board’s efforts to engage in “intentional and serious linkage work with our congregations.” The will of congregations, he said, are reflected in the “ends” of the association. “The ends statements are how we as a board keep your vision clear about what you want us to do,” Ballester said.

The board’s continued efforts to do linkage work, he said, are to collaborate with the District Presidents’ Association and to interview leaders of congregations. The board is following a communications plan, too, including using social networking and video conferencing.

Trustee-at-large Charlie King, from First Unitarian Congregational Society of Brooklyn, N.Y., described how the board is working to “decentralize” its corporate presence in Boston. It has held meetings in other cities, two years ago meeting in San Antonio, Tex., and in 2011 meeting in Phoenix, Ariz. In 2012, the board will meet in New Orleans, La., “to join our congregations in New Orleans and witness their growth and renewal six years after Hurricane Katrina,” he said.

King acknowledged discussions of the UUA administration to consider moving the UUA headquarters from Beacon Hill in Boston to the former site of Hebrew College in Newton, Mass. “Your board has made clear the diligence and forethought we expect for such a proposal,” he said.

Lastly, King noted the board’s efforts to assure the future excellence in UU ministry, and its continued discussion with the UU Ministers’ Association, LREDA (the Liberal Religious Educators Association), and the two UU theological schools.

Nick Allen, youth trustee at large, whose home church is Unity Church in St. Paul, Minn., described how the board is attempting to be more representative of congregations. The more they have looked into that, Allen said, “the more we realized the impediments of such ends are cleaved to the very bones of our governance.”

GA is too long and too costly to be a representative business meeting, he said. And the board is too “enormous, cumbersome, and homogeneous.”

He spoke in favor of a proposed bylaw amendment to reduce the size of the UUA board from 26 people to 14. District representation has not furthered the goal of equitable representation, he said. “Though we love our districts, no trustee arrives to vote interests of the districts,” Allen said.

“Your board voted unanimously in favor of the amendment for board restructuring,” Allen said. He believes a smaller board will ensure “a rainbow of leadership and talents.”

The Rev. Jeanne Pupke, senior minister of First UU Church of Richmond, Va., and trustee at large, spoke to inspire UUs to come to Phoenix for Justice GA 2012, where the focus will be on human and civil right issues in Arizona. “Every one of us faces in our home state persons who would have like legislation [to Arizona’s SB 1070] brought forward, and it will not stand with Unitarian Universalists,” she said. “We will learn, we will grow, and we will bring home what we learn from our congregations who are growing in their work on these immigration issues of our time. You wanna bring it home.”

To focus on the justice work, and to honor the business resolution from GA 2010 that created the Justice GA, a minimum of business will be conducted in Phoenix. To that end, Pupke urged delegates to support the board’s proposal to eliminate Actions of Immediate Witness next year. AIWs are social witness resolutions brought to the General Assembly by petition.

“We must take home to our congregations a sense of commitment and enthusiasm that fires the flame that is our faith,” said Pupke, urging delegates to deliver a large contingent of UUs to Arizona. “Justice 2012 does not happen only in Phoenix, but everywhere there are UUs committed to the work of human rights and justice for all people,” Pupke said, chanting, “Todos somos Arizona!” [“We are all Arizona.”]

Tom Loughrey, trustee from the Pacific Southwest District and UUA Secretary, introduced Ted Fetter, president of the Metropolitan New York District, who is chairing the Moderator Nominating Committee. It will find a successor to Moderator Gini Courter, whose term expires in 2013.

Delegates booed to express their displeasure at the expiration of Courter’s term. Courter smiled when she returned to the microphone and told delegates that she had worried that moderator Denny Davidoff, her predecessor, could not be replaced. “I will be well succeeded,” said Courter. “That’s where my faith is.”

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