Courter urges assembly to set the UUA’s vision

Gini Courter delivered her last moderator’s report Sunday afternoon, an impassioned plea to the delegates to be the visionaries for the Association.

“You hold the power of this Association in your hearts and hands,” said Courter, in her 10th moderator’s report to the General Assembly. “You are the power in Unitarian Universalism. And when you forget, things get broken.”

Courter spoke to delegates about three topics: growth, inclusion, and accountability.

She expressed concern that growth initiatives are not adequately funded and that past initiatives have come and gone without measurable data to show whether they were successful. “The small amount of money we spend on growth is trivial to what we spent 18 years ago,” she said. “I believe that when you quit funding growth, you might stop growing.”

Courter said “the kind of non-growth we’ve had for the past six years” is not acceptable.

She cautioned against delegates electing leaders to set the vision for the association. “Vision comes from the people. Without a vision, people perish,” she said. The long-term vision of Unitarian Universalism should be set by the people, she said, “And we have not been doing it lately.”

“You cannot elect a personality and have them tell us what to do. That’s not congregational polity.”

Courter told the UUs in plenary hall that they should be setting vision in discernment with the UUA Board, which has been out meeting individuals, congregations, and districts, about the newly crafted Ends, or goals, of the association. She urged people who had not read those Ends, finalized at the pre-GA board meeting, to read them.

Elected officials of the association, Courter said, implement vision in the short term. Congregations and individuals are charged with setting the long-term vision of the association, she said.

For the first time in 52 years, Courter said, the board has turned its focus on holding the administration accountable for measuring what is working and what is not. “The board is responsible under the bylaws to make sure the resources of the association are spent in the direction of that vision. . . . The board is asking the kids of questions I see congregational boards ask all the time.”

“Your UUA board is finally doing its job after long silence,” Courter said. “I need the GA to wake up, too. Without a vision the people perish.”

She expressed concern that the association is not directing adequate resources to anti-racism, anti-oppression, and multicultural training. “If we’re going to be the people of promise, we better remember what we promised.”

Courter said the moderator role has been a bigger honor than she could have imagined. She asked delegates to afford her successor, Jim Key, love and trust. And she asked they extend that love and trust to UUA president Peter Morales, too. At the same time, she asked delegates to demand accountability. “I need you to demand more,” she said. “You don’t demand enough.”

In conclusion, Gini said, “If we are to fulfill our promise, if we are to be the religion for our time and for all time, you will have to learn to love in a way you have not yet learned. You will have to vision in a way you have grown unaccustomed to, and you will have to preach and demand accountability in a way that is uncomfortable. But if you can do all those things, my friends, in addition to what you do today, there is no power between the atom and the stars that will slow us down. Go well and go loved.”

The delegates rose, responding to Courter’s 10th and final report with a standing ovation.

  • Tom Loughrey

    Makes me proud to have been a trustee for the last 7 years. It was a powerful message and a passionate delivery.

  • Mineola

    Our congregation tried our damnedest to demand the UUA allow us to follow a path that we felt would lead to powerful growth in our area and the UUA’s own staff accused of wanting to “go rogue” – we didn’t even know what that meant – it was such an “inside baseball (UUA staff)) reference, but it sure sounded condescending and dismissive and not respectful of congregational polity. So, I’m sorry, but I don’t see that “demands” are going to cut it.

  • shaktinah

    I don’t understand. Congregational polity means that you don’t need permission from the UUA to do anything. If your congregation felt that there was a certain path it needed to follow for its own benefit, the UUA can’t do anything to prevent that.

  • Mineola

    You are of course right. The problem lies in the education of the congregation, and the stomach they have for bucking the “authority” (yes, sad to say, many in our congregation do not understand the polity issue very well, and believe that the UUA ‘must” know what’s best for us). And the point is, the UUA staff made it clear that should we not follow their “recommendations”, “procedures” etc, that it would be held against us as a Congregation (for instance if we went into Search for a new minister). Those in power were not willing to jeopardize the Congregation’s reputation with the UUA. The education piece is complicated by the time constraints on the governing board and the members themselves (who’sgoing to read dry materials? Who’s going to show up at a governance “discussion” much less mini-seminar? etc.) . There was a stated fear (yes, fear) that if we didn’t follow the UUA guidelines and recommendations that “when we needed them, they wouldn’t be there”. Many of us tried to explain that “we needed them (UUA)” right then (a crisis point), not at some point in the future. But it is a lot to explain to all those not involved in the governance level of the congregation. and even those in governance still do not have that strong an understanding of really how the UUA does and should (2 different things) work. I’d love to see a survey that asks UUs in the pews and UUs in their local governance, to answer test questions about how the UUA operates and what, for instance, the Moderator, the District President, etc, actually do. The lack of understanding explains so much. Yet we cut our RE budget to fund the UUA/district because the minister is pressured (by peers or who? I don’t know, but the pressure is real) to deliver “fair share” congregation . What’s the solution? I wish the UUA would drive the Congregational Polity education hard – (which I think would be extremely beneficial for growth) – but that goes against the inertia of the existing power structures in the organization, so realistically its unlikely to occur. Any other ideas? I’d truly love to have people engaged in correcting this situation and hope that this whole Board holding the President accountable stuff will really amount to something (although the $100K makes me hold my nose). Afraid I can’t be called optimistic.

  • ryanov

    I have to say that I really don’t buy this explanation of the conversation.

  • Tana Van Cleave

    Mineola, I read your comment with some interest as our church has had a very similar experience. I would love to visit with you about your experience and what I believe to be a widespread and serious problem. Please message me on FB – thanks, Tana Van Cleave

  • Tana Van Cleave

    Mineola, I would love to visit with you about your congregation’s experience, could you please message me on Facebook? Thanks, Tana Van Cleave

  • Robin Edgar

    Funny how Gini Courter asks UUA delegates to do what she was unready & unwilling to do herself. . . What accountability has she and the UUA Board Of Trustees demanded from the Peter Morales administration in the wake of its genuinely insane decision to falsely accuse me of the archaic crime of blasphemous libel for allegedly making “unfounded and vicious allegations to the effect that ministers of the Association engage in such despicable crimes as pedophilia and rape”? None whatsoever as far as I can see and I repeatedly brought this matter to the attention of Gini Couter and the UUA Board over the past year.

  • Jake Morrill

    I thought it was a great message, too, Tom. I’m proud of what we did together.

  • Kurt Jensen

    Hmmm, lets see, Gini has been Moderator for 10 years, yet when she leaves office she is concerned about the lack of spending on growth, anti-racism, anti-oppression, and multicultural training that she helped pass all 10 of those years. She says congregations are responsible for setting the vision of the UUA, yet the UUA Board developed the Ends and only asked for input after adoption.

  • Alan Coffey

    It’s about time somebody explained the situation between the Executive and the Board in a comprehensive manner. Thank you Gini.


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