Tuesday, April 27, 2010

If the GA votes something in, can the UUA just get rid of it?

I've been trying to figure out how to write about this for a bit and properly phrase my dislike for what has gone on, but for whatever reason, the words aren't coming.

So I will try asking about it. My impression is that the facts of the situation are as follows:

1. A vote of GA created the "Office of Gay and Lesbian Concerns"

2. At some point the UUA added "bisexual" and "transsexual" to the name and altered the mission to include them. Well, theoretically.

3. Recently, the UUA "merged" the Office of Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian and Transgender Concerns in with another advocacy group at significantly reduced funding.

As far as step two goes, I'm OK with that. But is the UUA allowed to do step three? I mean, if a GA vote created something, can the UUA just get rid of it.

Polity-wise, it just seems fishy.

who asked about the on the UUA mailing list a few weeks ago and nobody else was bothered, but has remained bothered herself.


Lilylou said...

I haven't had more than a sip of coffee yet, so this may not be on target, but I'm guessing it was done with a vote of the board, for financial reasons, and that the board has the authority to do so under certain conditions. Also, a new president and his/her administration has some ability to change personnel, depending on the goals, etc., of the president.

Anonymous said...

I think under Policy Governance the GA sets the Goals for the Ends of the Board, who then sets their Ends?
I'd file it under all the Resolutions to support the Youth and Young Adults of our religion and then the disbanding of the only Ministry model available without the creation of a new one.

Heather said...

I've had my coffee, so this may be overly intense. :)

The more I learn about UU polity, the less I understand. I came to the UUs after having been a Presby minister. I liked the idea of congregational polity--particularly in contrast to the "one ring to rule them all" polity of more authoritarian denominations.

But it's not that clear at all, even on a congregational level, let alone the national level.

People like Michael Durall are advocating that ministers and boards should "just do it" rather than asking for the congregation's input.

The things delegates vote on at GA don't seem to have much input into how the association runs.

Authority, in the name of fiscal necessity, is being concentrated rather than disseminated.

And there's this thing called Policy Governance that further muddies the water.

It seems to me that the democratic ideal is colliding with the human need for control.

Someone--not me, I'm too confused--needs to write a straight-shooting, reality-based explanation of UU polity. Help, please!

Steve Caldwell said...


The department structure of the UUA (that is, whether or not we have an Office of Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Concerns) is not addressed in the UUA bylaws.

While one might disagree with the decision to roll the OBGLTC into a broader identity-based ministries office, that decision is certainly closer in spirit to the intent of the 1973-1975 GA resolutions to create an office of gay affairs and how this office would be funded:

"Creation of an Office on Gay Affairs (1973 Resolution)

"Office of Gay Concerns (1974 Business Resolution)"

"Office of Gay Concerns (1975 Business Resolution)"

Originally, 1973 resolution passed by GA said that the UUA would help this office raise their own funds independently but "the UUA will not be further responsible for funding the Office."

The 1974 resolution talked about available grant funding.

The 1975 resolution talked about the UUA funding what is now the OBGLTC concerns for their 1975-1976 budget only.

Subsequent budget votes after the 1975-1976 budget year included funding for this office and that was the GA polity approval for this office. However, there is nothing in the mid-70s resolutions that requires the UUA to maintain a an "office of gay affairs" or the current-day OBGLTC in perpetuity until reversed by a GA vote.

It's worth contrasting this with the recent discussions surrounding the funding of the UUA Commission on Appraisal because it raises raises some interesting polity concerns.

In theory, the COA is elected by the General Assembly delegates and is mandated to report to them. They are also a committee of the association according to the bylaws.

However, a board or staff decision to de-fund them so they are an unfunded committee that exists in name only is certainly an interesting way to get around a bylaws requirement to have a COA that reports back to GA.

This is especially troubling in light of the COA's bylaws mandate to be independent of both the UUA staff and the UUA board as you can see here in the section that describes the COA:


Obviously, it's hard to be that independent voice if one doesn't have the funding to do this committee's tasks.

Unknown said...

As has been said, I agree with you that it is troubling in some ways, but I believe the board has the "right" to do so. But as we have seen with many things, having the right and it being right are two different things entirely.