I’m laid up with a bad back so I’m not keen to be my usual chatty and irenic self.
But there’s been enough said behind the walled garden of Facebook and on other blogs about statements made at the last UUA Board of Trustees meeting to not make a response.
It’s about finding (and doing) a common mission through a movement lens. I will not speak to whether a mission this way is a good idea; if there are better options (such as communities of mutual care); or such a change benefits certain persons and congregations at the expense of others. (After all, people often choose disruptions that benefit them.)
All I care about right now is whether or not the UUA is itself the right vehicle to execute such a change.
First, I believe the UUA lacks the capacity to organize such a change. This is the same association that is incapable of organizing more than a smattering of new congregations, has produced diminishingly few resources for congregations, and went out of its way to undercut an organic network of support organizations. And then there’s the district staff, or what’s left of them in the new regions. I’ll believe the tales of new, grand design once you can show me you are able to fix the foundation. Peter Morales’s president’s report (PDF) doesn’t convince me otherwise.
Second, local organizations and coalitions are more likely vehicles to congregations, for those that want to make life-changing participation the priority. And there’s plenty of evidence — I read a lot of websites — that congregations do initiate the work, and also work with partner organizations. Local partners. The big churches do a lot and the small ones do a little. Again the geographic contraction of UUA staff makes it a poor choice for intensive organizing, and certainly not with homegrown competition.
Third, a gung-ho spirit won’t overcome these lacks without a bald sectarian appeal, and then it still won’t mean it’ll be successful. The UUA lacks the base of AARP, the zeal or consistent messaging of PETA, or the visual and aesthetic appeal of the Sierra Club. In a world where you can’t swing a hula hoop without hitting a Theory of Change, a UUA-led movement for change seems like ill-fated wishful thinking. And besides, for God’s sake, why relinquish the ground of religious liberal community and threaten to weaken its organic nature when success seems so unlikely? That’s our irreplaceable value, and what we have to offer coalitions.
But I don’t need to say much about this. In my experience, Unitarian Universalists are too polite to say no, and too willful to accept ideas that undercut the communities that brought them together in the first place. Congregations as the local franchisee of a UUA movement? Really?
Bluster about “idolatry” (fighting words themselves) reminds me of the fashionable denunciation of the Fellowship Movement (there’s that word again) that was both a pain in the ass and the most successful evangelism model in living memory. Institution building is hard, often unglamourous work. It’s what we need the UUA for, if anything, but if the leadership decides to follow its own bliss and upend the power relationship of the UUA, the member congregations have a moral right to ignore, substitute and defund it.
Later: Small edits to correct the typos caused by dictation.