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.
Excellent points. What I’ve noticed so much in recent years is the lack of “wise elders” in the leadership of the UUA. Instead I see a leadership which is easily persuaded or guilt-tripped into supporting the latest ideologies of identity without serious examinations of the validity or societal conseuqnces of these ideologies. We have a great deal of expertise in our congregations, both scholarly and moral, which is ignored by the Board of Trustees and many of the UUA staff, who attempt to impose misguided policies in a top-down fashion, as power-plays, especially on issues related to race. And when… Read more »
Dick, you raised very key points. There does indeed appear to be a dumbing down on the philosophical basis for positions assumed today. In a time not long ago, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. drew from the wisdom of Rev. Theodore Parker, a Transcendentalist and Unitarian Minister, when he said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Today, “white fragility” is claimed to be a foundational discovery, when in fact, per the author, it was only a phrase conjured up (“conceptualized” to use the exact term) to frame per personal opinion. The list of… Read more »
May I add that the charge of “white privilege,” which would be more correctly called “wealth privilege,” has been leveled at all white people regardless of socioeconomic status, physical/mental disability, or other factors. This inaccurate doctrine is being brought into our public institutions also, including public schools. This needs to be halted immediately before lasting harm is done.
Were all 11 trustees present? Are all others non voting members of the board? What is the quorum to hold a vote and what percentage of those is required for passage? Simple majority or other? Simple majority of 11 is 6. Could six have made the decision?
Yes, 11 were present. Ten trustees and the moderator. It was noted that there were several observers present (not uncommon). Since no vote count was recorded, it is unknown how many supported the motion. It could be assumed that a simply majority could have carried the motion. Given the significance of this decision, one would think more information on the deliberation would have been provided.
Is it common practice for the UUA board to not record vote counts? How hard is it to count to eleven?
Great content! Super high-quality! Keep it up! 🙂
1. The Parliamentary authority of UUA is Roberts Rules of Order (Sect 14.3 of bylaws). As such, there is no requirement to record vote totals, or do roll call votes, unless specifically requested by the voting members. The bylaws could be amended to require it, but rarely is it done in such organizations. 2. The motion that was carried starts with “Create and submit for Board approval, a process by which…” and then continues with language that assumes a fact not in evidence, but which it seems the motion is intended to measure, provided a process can be developed which… Read more »
Nancy, your skills of Roberts Rules exceed all others. Thanks for your insight on vote count vs. motion carried language. Although Roberts Rules were followed, for such a consequential decision to be made about the nature of Unitarian Universalism, one would have hoped for more transparency in the decision-making process. You’re correct in your observation that the motion called for a process to be created and submitted to the board. However, the die had already been cast. On April 6, 2017 (same day as the board meeting) the UUA Leadership Council sent correspondence to Congregational Leaders that opened with “The… Read more »