Delegates reduce size of UUA board

General Assembly delegates voted today to reduce the size of the Unitarian Universalist Association Board of Trustees from 26 members to 14. The bylaw amendment also ends the election of trustees by district. All trustees will be elected to “at large” positions. Terms will be reduced from four-year to three-year terms.

After a half hour of debate, the motion passed by a wide margin, with the vast majority of delegates raising their pink voting cards in favor of reducing the size of the board.

Before debate on the amendment, the Rev. Susan Ritchie, trustee from the Ohio Meadville district, spoke in its favor from the procedural microphone at the front of the plenary hall.

Denny Davidoff, a delegate from the Unitarian Church in Westport, Conn., and former moderator of the UUA, rose to the procedural microphone to protest a “pro” statement being made from the procedural microphone.

Moderator Gini Courter said that the board’s statement was always made from the procedural microphone – even when Davidoff was moderator.

“Sweetheart,” Davidoff replied. “If I did that, I was as wrong as you are.”

With that procedural matter noted, Courter said that henceforth, trustees would not speak from the procedural microphone.

Opponents to the measure included Dick Burkhart, on the board of UUJEC (UUs for a Just Economic Society), who supported the board size, but opposed the method of election in the amendment, which requires that people running by petition would have to chose a specific person selected by the Nominating Committee to run against. He said that he would prefer that candidates be ranked by voting delegates.

Kurt DeWeese said that it did not follow that a smaller board would be more efficient and save money. He also worried for the loss of board members representing districts.

The Rev. Nate Walker, minister of First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia, said that he supported “replacing a mono-cultural board with a rainbow board.” The new size of the board and the charge to the Nominating Committee to create diversity, he believed would increase the representation of historically marginalized voices, such as young adults, youth, and people of color. “And it does not presume that wealth is a prerequisite of service,” he said.  “We will expand access to leadership opportunities and increase connections to the growing edges of our religious tradition.”

Tim Atkins, member of the UU Congregation of Atlanta, gave a rousing endorsement of the proposed amendment, which was greeted by great applause by the delegates. “How often are district trustee elections truly democratic?” he asked, urging people to move past the issue of solely having geographic representation. “Change is impossible without taking a leap of faith,” he said.

Delegates took that leap with him, and overwhelming voted to pass the bylaw amendment. It appears on pages 22-28 of the Final Agenda.

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