The Fifth Principle Project was started in response to the April 2017 decision to declare that the Unitarian Universalism Association (UUA) was based on white supremacy culture. The decision followed the imbroglio sparked by the hiring failure of a new Southern Region Executive Director and the resignation of UUA President Rev. Peter Morales. This was, no doubt, a time of great stress.
This was also a time for the best of who we are to emerge and grapple with the situation. What went wrong? How do we fix it? How do we communicate to the wider community of individual Unitarian Universalists? How do we bring together UUs in a massive coalition to effect needed change?
Well, none of that happened.
Rather the denomination embarked on an inward focused initiative adopting divisive language that continues today to divide UUs.
So who exactly made the decision in April 2017? To answer that question, you must understand the dynamics of the denomination’s governing structure.
Many are aware that an annual General Assembly is held where votes are cast for elective offices and other matters pertaining to the affaires of the denomination.
In between the annual General Assembly, the UUA Board of Trustees conducts the affairs of the denomination. The board is composed of 16 people: 11 at-large trustees, two youth trustees, a moderator, financial advisor and the denomination’s president, who has no vote.
Back to the question, who made the decision to immerse us in a search for white supremacy culture within the UUA, it was the UUA Board of Trustees. With the resignation of the Rev. Morales and an at-large trustee who left the board to accept the Southern Region Executive Director position, the board was reduced to 14 members. More specifically only 11 trustees participated in the April 6, 2017 meeting where a motion was made stating in part,
“Create and submit for Board approval, a process by which to analyze structural racism and white supremacy within the UUA. That process will include an external audit of the operation of white privilege and the structure of power within Unitarian Universalism as well as the power structure and power-mapping within Unitarian Universalism.” (1)
The minutes only state that the “motion carried.” There was no vote count, nor record of any debate.
How did the board become so “like minded” that no counter course of action was presented, debated or discussed? Was the decision made by the 11 trustees the only course of action that could have been taken?
A goal of the Fifth Principle Project is to bring both a diversity of voices and the energetic spirit of the members of the autonomous congregations that the Association was formed to serve. The at-large designation of trustees adopted in 2011 (2), removed regional representation that previously characterized the make-up of the board. We believe that trustees work hard and act in what they see as the best interest of the denomination. However, their at-large designation simply isolates them from the voices of individual UUs. We can do better.
Every Voice Deserves a Vote.
More later on the how well General Assembly is structured to govern the denomination.
Leave a Comment to share your voice.
- Minutes Board of Trustees Unitarian Universalist Association, April 6, 2017.
- Minutes Fiftieth General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association Held in Charlotte, North Carolina, VOTE ON CHANGING THE SIZE OF THE UUA BOARD, THE PROCESS FOR ELECTION OF TRUSTEES, AND PROVIDING CLARITY ABOUT THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE NOMINATING COMMITTEE, June 22 – 26, 2011.