#356 | Kathleen MacLeod | Is the UUA a Democratic Institution?

Submission 356
Kathleen MacLeod
First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego

What is your suggestion or idea?

C-2.1 Purposes. Is the UUA a Democratic Institution?

The Unitarian Universalist Association…Its primary purposes are to inspire and coordinate the implementation of legislative directives among consenting members, assist congregations…

What is the reason for your amendment idea?

To be governed by democratic principles (per Dick Burkhart’s #62 proposal) should include a democratic governance structure as well, i.e. 3 separate but co-equal branches with checks and balances to counter concentration of power.

The UUA is a $24M corporation that doesn’t deliver a product per se, such as an anti-racist faith. A production or quasi-Executive function would have the UUA inspire and coordinate among consenting members the implementation of GA directives and approved recommendations from requested commission and task force reports. There are compelling recommendations in the eight A2SC Reading Materials with no corresponding progress or status reports:
Engaging Our Theological Diversity, 8th Principle Project Website, 2017 1st Principle Amendment Proposal, Proposed 2010 Bylaws Revisions, 1997 GA Resolution: Toward an Anti-Racist UU Association, Report of the Task Force on Reimagining Covenant (PDF), 5th Principle Task Force Report (PDF), and The Final Report of the Commission on Institutional Change.

Languishing action indicates a weak democratic structure with no entity held to account. The 1997 GA Resolution is an example. Apparently in 25 years, Journey Toward Wholeness was neither empowered nor budgeted to develop and account for a GA-responsive, multi-year, coordinated, evidence-based, congregation-inclusive, denomination-wide plan to become an anti-racist faith; this benign neglect could explain demand for the 8th principle initiative.

The wording of our 5th principle, … the use of the democratic process in our congregations and society at large curiously excludes the UUA from this principle. The denomination needs a coherent governing framework at every level and an understanding that democracy is rooted in congregationalism in our faith.

Have you discussed this idea with your congregation or other UUs?

The lack of clarity about UUA’s leadership role vis a vis Article II and its members was presented to our Board President when our large church did not get formally engaged in Article II until early 2023 sermons. It seems the A2SC’s process relied on informal UU culture to spread the word as we found no documentation that our church received an announcement from the UUA President at the onset of the A2SC initiative inviting congregation engagement in A2SC’s work. Our Board President supports submitting the suggestion for a recognized and transparent formal communication mechanism between the UUA and its members to counter informal UU culture. www.uua.org/uuagovernance/committees/cic/blog/informal-structures-privilege.

Some UU’s relate democracy to the 1961 wording of our 5th principle as a tool for voting only. An email exchange on an Article II related listserve about democratic institutions needing 3 branches to govern democratically prompted a UU’s response:

""I wasn’t aware of the 3 branches of democracy, yes the 3 branches of US government. This is a new concept for me . I wished we had RE programs focused on education for democracy. I certainly would benefit! "


I agree! I have given my reasons for leaving my church in my response to Kathleen’s other comments at #397. Democratic policies and practices are not being implemented at our church, and that was my reason for leaving last Fall.

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How the Unitarian Universalist Association Became an Illiberal Democracy

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This amendment proposal is so important that it suggests that the UUA should conduct an audit on how it governs itself democratically. The tardy disclosure by the UUA of the elimination of our guiding Seven Principles by the replacement with the lengthy Values statement which also eliminated the Fifth Principle (Democracy) seems unwise during an era of emerging authoritarian policies and practices. This amendment also addresses the lack of progress made in our JTW efforts which suggests that this important journey needs to establish measurable goals which should be part of the way we govern ourselves.

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