Robin and Chuck B. make some good points in the comments two posts down. I wish they'd made them in a nicer tone, but I won't let the points' basic reasonableness be obscured by their rude presentation.
To be clear, no I don't know exactly how many UUs we lost in the past year. After trying to find that information, I'm frankly not convinced that anyone does*. Using different numbers available from the UUA, I've calculated that we could have lost or gained a few hundred.
I still think we lost 74. And here's why I still think that.
-I don't think Morales would have written what he did if he didn't have excellent reason to think we'd lost some members.
-I think that if we'd lost, say, 1000 members and Morales knew it, he would put that in his letter because it would have made his argument much stronger and Morales has never shied away from talking about how we're in decline.
-I think that if we'd lost some huge number of members but we didn't know exactly how many, Morales would have said essentially that because it also would have made for a stronger argument. Since he focuses his argument not on the amount of the loss, but the fact that it was the first one in awhile, my guess is that Morales knows or strongly suspects that the amount isn't actually very big.
-I heard from a reliable source that this number was announced at the UUA board meeting. If someone who worked for Consumer Reports said that a Volvo was a safe car, I would be inclined to believe them without checking up so see if they were lying to me. More to the point, nobody here has questioned whether Morales himself knew what he was talking about because I think we all assume he's in a position to know how the UUA numbers came out. Similarly, I trusted the number because I heard it from someone who was in a position to know it. You don't have to believe me when I say that, but this list is about why *I* think that 74 is still the correct number and that's certainly a factor.
-I don't think that 74 churches closed because if that many churches closed in one year, somebody would have noticed and written about it and we would all be talking about it on blogs and in our congregations. 74 churches is an average of almost four churches per district. Did three or four churches close in your district? Didn't happen in mine. Also, Morales didn't mention church closings and had 74 churches closed he would have because it would have made his argument stronger.
All that having been said, I do not know to a degree of certainty that I'd make a big wager on that the "down by 74 members" figure is accurate. For the reasons mentioned above, my guess is that if it isn't accurate, it's very close, but you certainly shouldn't rely on it for anything significant. The person who said it to me said it as if it were common knowledge and I took it as such, but I shouldn't have been so quick to do so. I'm certainly not accepting Chuck's invitation to follow the rules of courtroom evidence any time I'm going to write on my blog, but if I had the post to write over again, I would do it differently as I know now that the "74" figure isn't as clear-cut as I took it to be.
That having been said, even without the "down by 74 members" figure, it's pretty easy to compare the number Morales' church says they had last year to the number they say they have this year and I doubt they've changed their way of counting, so I'd say my central point still stands.
From where I'm sitting, Hallman has mentioned growth as an important thing, but has focused on her experience as a reason to vote for her, with a lot of her supporters mentioning that she would be a steady hand on the tiller. I read her sermons and see a person of vision who gets that we need to grow, but also understands why.
Morales' entire campaign has focused around growth for the sake of growth and how his church is fast-growing under his leadership and his church leads seminars on growth and he's the man who will grow the denomination.
My church is not being run by a man promising to grow the denomination and we still grew last year. So yeah, Morales' church losing members makes the central issue of his campaign ring a little hollow, whether the UUA overall lost 75 or 7,500**.
*For one reason why this is the case, my impression is that churches don't have uniform membership standards. Bob, our aforementioned guy who puts money in the plate but who doesn't pledge, will be counted as a member in some churches and not in others. Indeed, I've attended a church where it would come down to whether he used cash or wrote a check when he put the money in.
And my guess is that, say, a mom who puts her kids in RE but doesn't join herself or the occasionally-attending spouse of a member or someone who joined mid-year would be counted differently in different churches and I know different churches let YRUUs join at different ages.
**Yes, if the UUA lost thousands of members, Morales losing comparatively few members would certainly look better than it does if we assume that the UUA overall didn't lose very many. But he's still not running as the candidate that will lose relatively few members. He's running as the guy who will help us grow.