The $100,000 question, and more UU conversation online

The $100,000 question

Much of the heat in this week’s UU conversation online came in reaction to news of the UUA Board’s proposal to budget $100,000 to help the board and administration move past their disagreements.

The Rev. Tom Schade wrote a series of posts, beginning with the questions “How are we to evaluate the performance as Moderator of Gini Courter?” and “How do we apply the lessons of her tenure to the choice between Jim Key and Tamara Payne-Alex to succeed her?”

Gini Courter has been an extraordinarily ambitious Moderator, attempting to make the UUA Board the real leadership of the Association. By establishing Policy Governance, her plan was that the Board would begin to evaluate the work of the Administration and Staff, holding it accountable for effective work toward the goals of the Association. . . .

Behind the plan was an analysis that the problems of Unitarian Universalist drift was the a problem of governance: the people who worked for us were largely self-directed and unaccountable, even though they were talented and committed people.  (The Lively Tradition, May 1)

For Kimberly Hampton, spending $100,000 on a “marriage counselor” makes no sense in a time of staffing and program cuts.

Let me see if I have this straight. There isn’t enough money to keep some really valuable employees. There isn’t enough money to keep the MFC and RSCCs from having backlogs. There isn’t enough money to do some real church planting. But there is enough money to hire a marriage counselor. (East of Midnight, April 30)

The Rev. Scott Wells writes that “the UUA acts like the kind of legacy organization or corporation that persons my age and younger than I mock.”

It’s impossible to think anyone not on the Board would have the time or stamina to be able to follow the process, and its product looks more like generating more process than say, new congregations, building loans, print or online publications, a new hymnal, religion education materials . . . .

Performance metrics, however well-loved in the nonprofit sector today, can lead staff to “work to the test” and (at their worst) can become a kind of performance art which steer the work of the Association staff away from practical work. (Boy in the Bands, April 29)

Tim Atkins doesn’t want “governance by platitudes.”

[When] I look at the UUA I don’t see a lot of concrete stuff coming out, especially from President Morales.  I hear platitudes. I see people talking about how exciting and revolutionary those platitudes are, but I rarely see concrete action beyond a blog post. And I am all for “monitoring” with clear definitions/job roles/etc. because as someone who does contribute to the UUA I do want to know that the money is making an impact. (Tim Atkins, May 3)

The Rev. Sarah Stewart provides a board member’s perspective on the issues at hand.

Unitarian Universalists should not let any of us, the administration or the board, off the hook for accomplishing our ends, including the end of growth. Our faith can serve more people. It can thrive in the 21st century. We believe so; the administration believes so; our congregations and their leaders believe so. Demand this task of us, your leaders. It is what you elected us to do. (Stereoscope, May 2)

Finally, UUA President Peter Morales and Moderator Gini Courter have responded to questions about the board meeting in letters sent to the UU Ministers Association chat list and published with their permission on Tom Schade’s blog. (May 3)

The pivot toward equality

Responding to veteran NBA center Jason Collins coming out as gay, Andrew Mackay asks, “What is equality really about?”

Society is slowly pivoting to gays being part of the norm rather than an error, an aberration. . . . What is Collins’ action part of? The idea that gay people are woven into the fabric of this nation. . . . When he came out two days ago it was national news. Part of the goal is that one day an athlete will come out, and it’s not a media spectacle. It’s just someone living their life. (Unspoken Politics, April 30)

The Rev. Debra Haffner responds to suggestions that Jason Collins is not a Christian because he is gay.

When NBA player Jason Collins came out as gay, he noted “My parents instilled Christian values in me. They taught Sunday school, and I enjoyed lending a hand. I take the teachings of Jesus seriously, particularly the ones that touch on tolerance and understanding.”

After years of hiding who he was, this courageous basketball player needs our support. (Sexuality and Religion, May 2)

Seekers of meaning

UU World managing editor Kenneth Sutton invites us to “revel in the actual,” as he shares experiences from his recent sabbatical.

What a downer! Look at the real world and you die! Yes, exactly. Look at the real world, and the illusions and confusions of your life will, if you are lucky, die. (Refreshment in a Pint Glass, April 30)

After a weekend singing Sacred Harp music, the Rev. Dan Harper reflects on what it could teach Unitarian Universalism.

I still love my Unitarian Universalist church; Sacred Harp singing would not be an adequate substitute for what I get out of my religious community. But I can still wish the Unitarian Universalism would embrace the DIY ethos, welcome ecstasy and transcendence, include younger people, and sing better. (Yet Another Unitarian Universalist, May 2)

The Rev. Dr. David Breedon remembers trying to talk with his parents about the philosophy of Spinoza.

On that day driving along the New Madrid Fault, I realized that Spinoza could not speak to my parents. And I discovered something else: I had the power to destroy the faith of poor, oppressed people such as my parents who had nothing else to fall back on. I stopped the argument when I was eighteen, and I have never argued religion again.

The chance to think abstractly, to pursue truth wherever it leads, is a powerful gift. A privilege. As with all power and privilege, it must be used responsibly and humbly. (Quest for Meaning, May 2)

Christine Organ remembers the Sundays of her childhood, and recommits to a regular day of rest.

As a kid, there was no mistaking when Sunday rolled around. Sunday was so clearly different than any other day. . . . The day moved on a special schedule, with a cadence and rhythm all its own.The day was slower, quieter, calmer. The day was sacred. (Christine Organ, May 1)

John Beckett considers the relationship between truth and meaning.

My search for truth and meaning has led me to Nature. . . . Along the way I’ve found bits and pieces of truth. I’ve found meaning so strong that when I’m caught up in it I have no doubt it’s true. I order my life as though it’s true.

But I still recognize that meaning is not truth. If I find evidence my beliefs are false and my practices are unhelpful, or that something else is better, I’ll change what I believe and what I do. (Under the Ancient Oaks, April 30)