Shake up in Pacific Central District

Yesterday, several lay leaders in the Palo Alto congregation received an email letter from the board of the Pacific Central District (PCD) stating that the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) had “unilaterally” decided to terminate the employment of the district executive, Cilla Raughley. Today, I received an email letter from the UUA’s Director for Congregational Life, Terasa Cooley, confirming that as of February 11, “Cilla Raughley will no longer be serving as District Executive in the Pacific Central District.”

Since this is a personnel matter, it should be obvious that the UUA is not going to divulge the particulars of why Raughley’s employment is being terminated — they will have both legal and ethical obligations to maintain confidentiality. The PCD board will also be required maintain confidentiality on the specifics of Raughley’s termination. So playing guessing games about “what really happened” is a waste of our time.

It is pretty clear from the two letters that the PCD Board and the UUA don’t see eye to eye on this matter. This is an inherent problem with the co-employment arrangement used with district executives — every district executive has two bosses, the district board and the UUA. From my perspective, I believe co-employment can work only if both co-employers communicate carefully about goals for the employee and ways to measure those goals; at a bare minimum, annual reviews by both co-employers are essential, along with a format for discussing discrepancies in the annual reviews, and a way for coming to agreement on new goals for the coming year — that’s at a bare minimum. To the best of my knowledge, this kind of intentional communication is not part of the co-employment process for districts and the UUA — which opens the door for the kind of disagreement we’re seeing between the PCD Board and the UUA.

I’m also seeing something else at work here. In general, it is difficult to hold districts (or the UUA) accountable to stated goals. This is a common problem in the nonprofit world. Unlike the for-profit world, where we can look at the bottom line to see if a company is doing well or poorly, it is difficult to come up with metrics that accurately measure performance of a nonprofit. This means that it’s hard to say whether a nonprofit is doing well, or poorly.

Even so, it is clear that the Pacific Central District is a declining district. In addition to the obvious decline in membership, my own feeling is that the level of services provided in the Pacific Central District is the lowest of any of the five districts I have worked in. How bad is the decline? Opinions differ. Is this the sole responsibility of the District Executive? In his book Good Boss, Bad Boss, organizational theorist Robert Sutton says that bosses account for about 15% of total organizational performance, or a greater percentage in small organizations. So clearly there’s more going on here than can be accounted for by one person’s performance. Yet as Sutton goes on to say, just as bosses get most of the credit when things go well, inevitably bosses wind up taking most of the blame when things go badly.

The real question facing us now is not whom to blame, but: What are we going to do about it? Pointing fingers of blame is a waste of everyone’s time, and I hope those who want to play that game have the grace either to stop, or to remove themselves from district activities. Instead, here’s what could be done to move in a positive direction:

  • All congregations in the district should engage in a period of reflection on the duties and the responsibilities (not just the rights) of congregational polity. Though it has many faults, Conrad Wright’s book Congregational Polity is one resource to use for this process. Ministers may wish to preach on this topic, and we ministers should make this a topic for our spring meeting.
  • Based on a renewed understanding of congregational polity, PCD ministers and lay leaders should give more time and attention to strengthening the entire district; this is especially true of our larger congregations, since small congregations are too often on the edge of disaster.
  • The entire Pacific Central District should establish achievable and measurable goals towards the district’s stated mission: “to provide services and resources to congregations that will grow the District in terms of its membership, the deepening of our faith, the effectiveness of our structures, and the power of our service to the wider world.”
  • Every district program should be re-thought in terms of these measurable goals, and programs that do not move us towards the district’s mission statement should be rebuilt, or eliminated.
  • PCD congregational ministers should spend some portion of their work weeks in service to the district, and congregational lay leaders need to make sure their ministers have the time to do this.
  • Congregational lay leaders should feel they too have a responsibility to serving the district, and even devote some of their precious volunteer hours to that end.
  • Before a new district executive is hired (or if one is hired; see below), the PCD Board and the UUA need to have careful and open conversations about terms of co-employment, perhaps including the establishment of a regular schedule of staff reviews and goal-setting.

Finally, I would not rule out the possibility of eliminating the Pacific Central District entirely. Given the level of dysfunction that seems to exist in this district, given that the districts to the north and south of us function better and offer more services for the same money, maybe it’s time to get rid of Pacific Central District. Personally, I’m all for being absorbed by Pacific Southwest District.

One final note: I’m going to moderate all comments. Comments that get into personalities or try to delve into personnel issues will not be approved. I will favor comments that focus on the bigger issues confronting the Pacific Central District, and the UUA more generally; e.g., the rights and responsibilities of congregational polity vis a vis the districts. And I’ll close comments on this post in a week or so. So please be nice, and please think hard and seriously about the relationship between congregational polity and the districts.

One thought on “Shake up in Pacific Central District”

  1. Recovered comments (3 comments lost):

    27 Responses to “Shake up in Pacific Central District”

    Dan says:
    February 4, 2011 at 4:20 pm
    A reminder: I’m going to moderate all comments. Comments that get into personalities or try to delve into personnel issues will not be approved. I will favor comments that focus on the bigger issues confronting the Pacific Central District, and the UUA more generally; e.g., the rights and responsibilities of congregational polity vis a vis the districts. And I’ll close comments on this post in a week or so. So please be nice, and please think hard and seriously about the relationship between congregational polity and the districts.

    Bill Baar says:
    February 4, 2011 at 5:55 pm
    I’m not aware of any metrics for districts… it can be none in the non profit world for sure…

    Bill Baar says:
    February 4, 2011 at 5:55 pm
    I mean “Done”

    RobP says:
    February 4, 2011 at 6:56 pm
    Interesting post with thoughtful reflections and many important issued raised. However, it was disappointing that the post ended with a strongly worded criticism of the PCD without much in the way of supporting arguments or evidence:

    “Given the level of dysfunction that seems to exist in this district, given that the districts to the north and south of us function better and offer more services for the same money, maybe it’s time to get rid of Pacific Central District.”

    I’m a UU in the PCD district and I’m not aware of a high level of “dysfunction” in the district or a severe lack of services. But I’ve only experienced the PCD so I can’t compare to other districts. I heard that the PCD staff recently gave up their offices to save money, so they are (presumably) working on a shoestring budget which of course limits their ability to provide services.

    In my limited dealings with the PCD district exec, my experience was positive. On several occasions I submitted news and announcements for publication in the PCD e-newsletter, and I always found that our district exec (who edited the newsletter) was helpful and reliable. She also recently attended a Sunday afternoon marathon congregational budget meeting at my UU church to give us her support in making a difficult budget decision.

    As you so rightly pointed out, given that personnel decisions are confidential it’s a waste of time to speculate on the reasons behind her termination. But it’s also nearly impossible for my mind not to speculate! I hope in time we will better understand what happened and why, so it doesn’t linger as a sour chapter in our district’s history.

    Ethan Contini-Field says:
    February 4, 2011 at 8:58 pm
    When I worked at the UUA, I seem to remember that District Staff were theoretically appointed to a maximum of two four-year terms. I couldn’t tell how formally or informally this was enforced. [Raughley was appointed in 2003, so it was close to “her time,” even if there were other factors.

    Without speculating on the individual personnel issues involved, I’m curious to hear your take on that policy, and how it may or may not have affected your work as a minister in this and other districts.

    Dan says:
    February 4, 2011 at 11:10 pm
    RobP @ 4 — The post was getting too long as it was, so I wound up removing the paragraph where I listed some of the things I’ve noticed. I’ll try to put that up as a separate post in the not-too-distant future. But certainly, as you point out, poor cash flow is part of the problem — why PCD has poor cash flow is not entirely clear to me (and should not be attributed to a single cause), but I suspect it’s a symptom of the dysfunction of the entire district.

    And your last paragraph is very true — we can’t help speculating, yet it will remain confidential, and we all need to figure out how to keep this from being (as you aptly describe it) a sour chapter in the district’s history.

    Ethan @ 5 — That policy ended a couple of years ago; contracts for district executives can now be open-ended. I’m not sure how effective that policy was while it was in effect. Certainly I felt it was a shame when Helen Bishop had to step down as district exec of Central Midwest district after 8 years, as I thought she was doing an excellent job; yet at the same time, her successor, Angela Merkert, was equally excellent in very different ways.

    Tom Wilson says:
    February 4, 2011 at 11:11 pm
    First, the PCD Board is willing to answer questions. Their announcement gave an email address, PCDtransitions@gmail.com. (I expect their first priority is the work of the district, since it’s my understanding that the timing was a surprise to them also.)

    Secondly, here and previously you posit that the PCD is a declining district. I don’t think the numbers for the PCD bear that out. Some membership numbers:
    1999: 6334
    2000: 6527
    2010: 6604
    2011: 6609
    Flat and not robust, but not declining.

    Some of us lay people like the district. I don’t what relationship we would have with a much larger geographical entity.

    The PCD also has one of the highest percentage of congregations paying UUA Fair Share (partly a result of encouragement from the District level) and the second highest percentage of district Fair Share of ALL UUA districts (87%), even higher than their UUA Fair Share percentage (82%.) So when the congregations are deciding what bills to pay, they apparently choose to pay the PCD.

    (Statistics on payments from 2/2010).

    Dan says:
    February 5, 2011 at 1:04 am
    Tom @ 7 — I stand corrected about decline — I checked back, and I had misread a UUA document online. Nevertheless, the difference between 6604 and 6609 is basically insignificant, so growth is not happening. When you remember that the population of northern California is on the order of 15 million people (6-7 million in the Bay Area alone), it seems obvious that there is plenty of room for growth. Obviously, this is a problem throughout the UUA — and we should all be holding all of ourselves accountable for the overall lack of growth, and our inability as a denomination to even keep up with population growth.

    As for the district fair share payments, I didn’t know that. But that does not make me feel better about this district — we have a cash flow problem, we had to close our district office, yet it seems like we should be having better cash flow than almost any other district. I’m having difficulty correlating these things.

    And yes, I like the district too. From a minister’s point of view, the district ministers are a charming bunch, and I like hanging out with them. But I am also openly critical of ministers for not doing enough to move the district forward. So it is possible to hold both these feelings at the same time — I like the district, and I’m critical of the district. Indeed, I wouldn’t bother writing all this if I didn’t feel a lot of affection for the district — and I’d be pissed if someone from outside the district was this frank.

    Steve Caldwell says:
    February 5, 2011 at 5:43 am
    Dan,

    Rev. Peter Morales’ March 2010 report that examines UUA growth trends including regional trends can be found online here:

    http://www.uua.org/documents/boardtrustees/governancewg/monitoringreports/1003_1-1_pres_report.pdf

    The flat UU growth trends in the Pacific Central District may simply reflect a lower level of religious participation for progressive folks. The same trend appears to be present in New England.

    Peter Tanzer says:
    February 5, 2011 at 10:12 am
    I’ve been going to northern California churches for 7 years and barely knew there was a local regional district or that it was supposed to be one in which I could take part. I was aware of the conference, but it never seemed compelling. This reminds me of another nonprofit in which I was involved: An organization picked an executive but didn’t know how to manage her. Over time, she influenced the board makeup, and this resulted in an insular organization doing little to reach out effectively to members to meet mission. Ultimately enough members got tired of watching this organization become increasingly irrelevant and we held meetings to discuss how to deal with this and learned that past people had tried the same. Some board members were enraged we had done this, and chaos resulted. Today that director is still in place and the organization has sunk further into irrelevance.

    Dan says:
    February 5, 2011 at 10:51 am
    Steve @ 9 — All very true. That still doesn’t answer the question I’m struggling with here — if part of the mission statement of a district (or a congregation) includes a goal for growth, and growth doesn’t happen, what are the consequences? When I was in sales, if my sales figures didn’t meet certain targets, I got called into the boss’s office and chewed out — it is true that when the industry was in a down cycle, the targets were adjusted downwards, but even so that meant my commission went down, so I faced immediate negative consequences even though I might have been working harder than ever. In the nonprofit world, we tend to not have any negative consequences for missing goals, with the result that our goals often are little more than window dressing.

    Pete Tanzer @ 10 — Thanks for the anecdote of that other nonprofit. My partner has a similar story from a nonprofit she was involved in — seems like this is something that happens in the nonprofit world.

    David Vallerga says:
    February 5, 2011 at 10:52 am
    Dan, one more small correction. The district “closed” the district office to more efficiently use our resources. We chose instead to hire additional assistance for our congregations, specifically the Director of Congregational Services, Rev. Jeanelyse Doran Adams. In fact Jeanelyse has received rave reviews from everyone with whom she has worked.

    I hope that you remain open to factual corrections and appreciate that you are seeking additional assistance from ministers in the operation of District matters.

    Full disclosure: I am a PCD Board member.

    Dan says:
    February 5, 2011 at 12:27 pm
    David @ 12 — Thanks for the correction.

    As a Board member, please notice the fact that I didn’t get this information — what I heard was that the district is strapped for cash, and that correlated with other things, such as hearing that the district was very wary about funding training sessions due to potential cost overruns.

    This highlights, for me, a serious problem in Pacific Central District — the communications infrastructure is not robust. Mind you, this isn’t anyone’s fault, it’s just the direction in which the system drifted. There is the district newsletter, but it is often filled with information of little or no interest to me and it felt like a one way communication channel, so often I don’t bother to do much more than skim it. And there is district assembly, but it’s hard for me to justify taking a whole weekend to spend in an expensive hotel somewhere just a month before General Assembly — more to the point, it’s just once a year, which does not build robust communications networks.

    Those are the main communications networks that I’m aware of — that’s a weak communications infrastructure. And I have found it difficult to plug into other, parallel communications networks. This is in contrast to my experience in other districts where I found it easy to plug into more than one robust communications network, e.g., in Ballou Channing District, there was the ministers network, the religious educators network, the lay leaders network, regional communication in our cluster, the musicians network, etc. One of the things I actually do well as a religious professional is to plug into these kinds of networks, and to me it’s significant that I have found it difficult to do so in Pacific Central District.

    What this highlights for me is that one of the things all of us in Pacific Central District should be paying close attention to is building multiple parallel communications networks, to facilitate better communications between all the stakeholders in the district — lay leaders, ministers, religious educators, musicians, young adults, etc. — as well as building stronger regional communications networks.

    David Markham says:
    February 5, 2011 at 2:16 pm
    I read Peter Morales’ March 2010 Global Trends Report which Steve Caldwell references and, having read it, I am not surprised the UUA is having so much trouble. The thing is psychobabble with very little, if any, substance. I felt sad as I read it and thought, “That’s it?” “No wonder the denomination is in trouble.”

    I don’t want to take all your space here on the comment section to comment on it so I will write my comments on my own blog. Nonetheless, thanks for the discussion here.

    All the best,

    David Markham

    Lisa Fry says:
    February 5, 2011 at 2:51 pm
    Dan, et al, the UUA does indeed utilize metrics in evaluating performance. Based on those metrics (most data from 2009, some from 11-1-2008), the PCD is well ahead of other districts in all significant areas. Let’s look at some specifics:

    • Weekly church attendance across the country ranges from 50-77%. PCD has the 2nd highest rate at 73%.
    • Congregations participating in Association Sunday ranged from 21-80%. PCD came in 2nd again, at 79%. Great to see our commitment to the larger movement.
    • Looking at the percentage of members who participate in the Chalice Lighters program, the range is 0-27%. Only 4 of the 19 districts have a higher rate than the PCD’s (14%).
    • The UUA also measures participation at each district’s annual meeting, evaluating the number of congregations which are represented and the number of presidents who attend. Congregations attending range from 38-92%. PCD is the highest with 92%. (Unlike a few who have commented here, a lot of folks clearly feel there is value in these gatherings, coming year after year.)
    • Likewise, a higher percentage of congregational presidents attends our District Assembly than in any other district (Range is 0-61%; PCD is 1st with 61%).
    • Growth within congregations (and the UUA as a whole) is dismal. But the UUA also looked at the percentage of congregations which are growing. The range was 20-60%. There were only 5 of 19 districts reporting a higher percentage than the PCD’s rate of 45%.

    Tom Wilson already pointed out the PCD’s exemplary rates of Fair Share payments to the district and to the UUA. Those, too, are metrics the UUA tracks.

    Finally, the district’s newsletter, PCD Currents, gets rave reviews across the nation — and has incredibly high readership. Not only do 2,000 people subscribe to it, but stats are available on how many people open the email and click the links within.

    Full disclosure: I, too, am a PCD Board member.

    Dan says:
    February 5, 2011 at 3:39 pm
    David @ 15 — Huh, I had a very different reaction to Morales’s report. To my ears, it sounded like pretty standard jargon from the world of nonprofit management; I don’t hear the psychobable that you do. And as a hard data guy, I was pleased to see the inclusion of some actual hard data. This does not mean that I agree with everything Morales says, but I do feel like it could be the start of a productive conversation.

    Lisa @ 16 — Thanks for some hard data. As it happens, I analyze these data differently than you do, and I’m paying attention to different things than you are. The first and foremost thing I’m paying attention to is that there are only about 6,500 UUs in northern California, which is a tiny, tiny percentage of the total population of the region — this is cause for major concern for me. The Bay Area alone has 6-7 million residents, while there are only a few thousand UUs. If we’re serious about growth, I would have expected to see the establishment of a dozen new congregations in the Bay Area in the past few years. And if we’re serious about growth, we should be looking at all the other wonderful programs you mention — e.g., we haven’t seen any significant growth in the past two years, which should indicate that District Assembly, the district newsletter, and the Chalice Lighter program need to be completely revamped (on the assumption that if they worked, we’d be seeing growth, but we’re not seeing growth).

    We’re not growing. Yet growth is a major goal. That’s the bottom line. Yes, it’s good to point out minor successes. But we’re not growing, and we need to figure out how to hold ourselves accountable.

    David Markham says:
    February 5, 2011 at 4:41 pm
    Hi Dan:

    I have second thoughts about putting my ideas on my blog. I’m trying to be positive and don’t want to be critical on it. Perhaps this is the best place to have a conversation if it is Okay with you.

    I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who both has a private practice and I also am the executive director of a substance abuse agency. I have spent most of my 42 year career in nonprofit agencies. I have helped agencies prepare for their JCAHCO accreditations as well as by state agencies.

    I am a big fan of TQM (Total Quality Managment) and CQI (Continuous Quality Improvement) and I love Jim Collins book from Good To Great and he has a companion monograph on how to apply his ideas to the nonprofit sector.

    Nonprofits since the early 90s have developed metrics to measure outcomes, not just outputs, and in my experience in many areas are more advanced than many profit making companies.

    The problem I saw in Morales’ report is that he doesn’t seem to know what the product is or the service he is selling. As W. Edwards Deming said, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.” All Morales says is that he wants the demonination to grow. Why? For what? In one place he calls Unitarian Universalism a “movement”.

    In my opinion, Unitarian Universalism is a way of life and it helps people grow in a self actualizing way and improves the health of the community in which its people live. How does it do that? By teaching people values and helping them make decisions about how best to live their lives. That’s what is asked of any religion of philosophy. I think UU has the potential to provide this but it does it very poorly without a coherently articulated vision and mission and what Peter Senge calls a “model” in his book the Fifth Discipline.

    The first thing that Morales has to do is define what constitutes “success” in his estimation. If you can’t define that you can’t train your staff to facilitate its achievement.

    I don’t know how the districts can be successful without some guidance, direction, and goal setting from the central office. Has congregational polity gotten us into trouble where the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing?

    Dan says:
    February 5, 2011 at 10:53 pm
    David @ 17 — You write: “The problem I saw in Morales’ report is that he doesn’t seem to know what the product is or the service he is selling.”

    Or at the very least, he doesn’t specify the product or service in this document. Yes, I think you’re right on that; which does make the rest of the document a lot less useful.

    Not sure I would agree with your definition of the product — I would not call UUism a “way of life”; as far as I’m concerned, it’s a religion (or really a subset of post-Christian religion). Nor would I use the phrase “self-actualizing,” which comes out of mid-20th C. psychology, while UUism clearly predates the mid-20th C. Even so, that’s not your main point — as you say, Morales has to define what success is in order for that document to be meaningful.

    Sneff says:
    February 6, 2011 at 4:04 pm
    What frustrates me the most about this situation is how little respect was given to lay leaders in regards to this personnel decision. From what I am hearing, the board’s attempts to put the brakes on and find a “third way” out of the problem were largely ignored in the final stages of this saga (I fear the roots lie years in the past, long before I was an active UU). Passing that lack of respect down the line, the Board went directly to what I assume was the Currents mailing list instead of giving Board Presidents/XOs at least some kind of advance warning.

    Our faith has a strong tradition of empowered lay leaders. The structure of church boards in communication with district boards in communication with national boards is designed with those lay leaders in mind. PCD’s “program board” model is designed to give those lay leaders a strong, active voice in service delivery and personnel. When our board is bypassed on these issues rather than engaged with, it is an active attack on the district’s model of lay governance. If this kind of situation is repeated, our board is forced into becoming another ‘pure governance’ policy board issuing vague visions and empty platitudes at regular intervals while UUA-employed staff and congregation-employed clergy take a monopoly position on the nuts and bolts of the district.

    Stepping away from whether or not that is a good idea (I think my opinion is abundantly clear in the way I framed it above), what’s most important here is that it is the district’s decision to move to a policy governance format, not an outside group’s decision to force it upon the district.

    I read this as a significant move in a much larger end-game, but I’d rather not get into the details here.

    Dan says:
    February 6, 2011 at 6:14 pm
    Sneff @ 19 — Thanks for the insight on the way lay leaders were not given some kind of advance warning; I’m not too aware of that because I never got the communication from the PCD Board myself. As a minister, I feel out of the communications loop — the UUA, not the district board, has been my primary source of information on this whole matter. A big part of this whole problem, it seems to me, is lack of communication.

    You also write: “I read this as a significant move in a much larger end-game, but I’d rather not get into the details here.”

    I think I know what end-game you’re referring to — the combination of “regionalization” (merging districts), implementation of policy governance in the UUA Board, and changes in the UUA Board’s nomination process — but thus far I don’t think this is part of that whole process. Although some folks are interpreting it that way, from what I’ve seen, the UUA staff and UUA Board members have only been reacting to the situation here in the PCD without trying to use it to further any kind regionalization agenda.

    In fact, I’d want to separate regionalization from policy governance — regionalization is being forced by the big drop in UUA revenue, while the push to policy governance goes back several years before that. Personally, I think policy governance is a bad fit for the UUA, and not a good way to run a religious organization to begin with; I would certainly fight any attempt to use policy governance here in PCD. On the other hand, personally I’m willing to consider regionalization, if it is sensitively handled, only because I don’t see any other way out of the current financial crunch facing the denomination.

    But as I say, thus far these issues don’t seem to really be involved with what’s going on right now.

    Sneff says:
    February 7, 2011 at 12:20 am
    Dan @ 20-
    It’s comforting to know that someone with a closer perspective to certain aspects of this is confident that no one is playing figurative blood politics with it.

    Regionalization was never explained to me as having roots in “Oh Snap We Have No Money”–it puts a new, very relevant spin on it that I will have to take some time to digest.

    Point stands that even if no one is acting explicitly in terms of the regionalization/policy governance transition game, these changes have a distinct impact within that game.

    Bill Baar says:
    February 7, 2011 at 8:49 am
    This from Carver’s site Policy Governance does give those of use with experience with Party’s following Democratic Centralist norms the chills:

    “The board’s own Means are defined in accordance with the roles of the board, its members, the chair and other officers, and any committees the board may need to help it accomplish its job. This includes the necessity to “speak with one voice”. Dissent is expressed during the discussion preceding a vote. Once taken, the board’s decisions may subsequently be changed, but are never to be undermined. ”

    UUAs in for a tough time if this is what they have in mind.

    Chris Buja says:
    February 7, 2011 at 10:38 am
    Hello,

    My name is Chris Buja. I am a religious educator in the Metro New York District (part of the Central East Regional Group), and a trustee on the MNY Board of Trustees. However I am not speaking on behalf of religious educators, the congregation I serve, nor the MNY BoT- I speak simply as an enthusiastic Unitarian Universalist.

    The single greatest challenge I perceive for the Unitarian Universalist Association of congregations (and thus for regions, districts, clusters, and individual congregations) is the lack of a clear, concise, and compelling sense of religious mission- and a resource commitment to such a religious mission.

    I also refer to religious mission as purpose, reason for being, why an institution exists. When the religious mission is being accomplished through various ministries (the “how” of making the “why” happen) then the vision is realized and UU core values and core beliefs are lived out.

    As to whether congregations, districts, and the association as a whole is “growing”, my perception and understanding is as follows- since 1961 the number of adult members has remained the same while children and youth numbers have had a slight decline. Of the approximately 1000 UU congregations, only a handful are actually growing in membership and attendance while the vast majority are declining- and I include maintenance/plateaus of membership/attendance as a subtle form of decline. The few growing congregations barely offset the congregations that are declining/closing their doors.

    While the desire for growth- numerically being one tangible kind of growth- is proclaimed by many if not all congregations, districts, UUA leaders- I think it is a well-intentioned but erroneous focus. Numerical growth will occur as a by-product of religious mission fulfillment. Where people are being spiritually transformed, where there is spiritual maturation, numerical growth is likely to follow as others are attracted to what they see happening in others. Granted there may be circumstances such as population moving away that mitigates such growth.

    Spiritual transformation is most likely to occur on the congregational level- while a few congregations have reclaimed the religious mission for which they were created – most have not.
    Whatever body is delivering services- cluster, district, region, association- I think it is of utmost importance that those bodies are helping congregations articulate, commit to, and accomplish the religious mission of UUism.

    So whatever means of assessing such service delivery incarnations- and the employees of said incarnations- needs to ultimately be grounded in religious mission accomplishment, vision realization, and extension of UU core values and core beliefs into the world.

    While leaders at various levels can be hired and fired, structures rearranged and renamed, methods of governance adopted and adapted- without the reclamation and commitment to the religious mission for which Unitarian Universalism was created (the same mission for which all religious institutions were created) I fear UUism will continue to decline in actual numbers and as a percentage of the total population- and thus an increasingly insignificant institution of social transformation.

    Dan says:
    February 7, 2011 at 11:03 am
    Sneff @ 21 — You write: “Point stands that even if no one is acting explicitly in terms of the regionalization/policy governance transition game, these changes have a distinct impact within that game.”

    I completely agree. This has the potential for muddying the waters in some really unfortunate ways. I just hope all concerned parties stay far away from regionalization and policy governance until this immediate conflict has been resolved.

    Bill @ 22 — You made me smile when you draw a parallel between the U.S. communist movements, with their authoritarian attitudes towards dissent, and John Carver’s Policy Governance ™. (I keep forgetting the ™ after the phrase “policy governance,” but it is important to remember that it’s a trademarked term.)

    This made me think about the link between authoritarian creedalism and Carver’s Policy Governance ™. Once the creed has been established, er, Board vote has been taken, dissent is no longer permitted at the risk of being declared a heretic. Uh oh, doesn’t sound like a good fit for our religious tradition. At the same time, you don’t want rogue Board members going out and undermining every single Board decision they disagree with. But there has to be some kind of middle ground here between lockstep conformity on the one hand and dysfunctional individualism on the other hand. I guess I’m most comfortable with Peter Drucker’s book on nonprofit leadership — he suggests being focused on goals and mission, but he doesn’t prescribe one single cookbook method to make that happen.

    Chris @ 23 — Thanks for the long and thoughtful comment. One thing you said particularly stood out for me. You write: “Spiritual transformation is most likely to occur on the congregational level….” I believe that’s right on target.

    Art Ungar says:
    February 7, 2011 at 8:34 pm
    I just found this blog, and this interesting conversation. I agree with Dan that communications within the PCD have been poor. I found Cilla’s weekly newsletter frequently interesting, but the PCD web site is a disaster. I even offered to help improve it, but that wasn’t accepted. Our UUA Trustee occasionally posts to her blog, but the last five posts were about the January UUA Board meeting and immigration. Nothing about the significant changes being proposed, and no discussion about them.

    If you read the Policy Governance documents of the UUA Board, you will see that they have turned all setting of priorities over to the President. I don’t see where the voices of the congregations are heard.

    I’ve pretty much dropped out of district life since serving on the UUA Board and the CoA.

    Bill Baar says:
    February 8, 2011 at 7:26 am
    Dan, “undermining” and “dissent” are vastly different things, but before going there, what is the role of a UUA board in establishing UU doctrine? Under Carver’s model or anyone elses? To my way of thinking, not much. If the Board choses to buy a building from Hebrew College, and a member things that a bad idea, but loses the vote, well, trying to sabatoge that sell could well be unethical and in violation of ones duties as a board member. But if the board decides to draw a line upon which one side stands love, and the other stands love’s negation, then I think UUA’s preached a pretty nasty theology and arrogantly assumed the right to speak for Love. I’m not sure UUA has the right under anyone’s model to do that. Please educate me here if I have it wrong.

    Dan says:
    February 8, 2011 at 12:51 pm
    Art @ 25 — Hey, good to hear from you! Thanks for your perspective on district life.

    Bill @ 26 — You make a good distinction between the kinds of action the UUA Board could make. And while I was only referring to creedalism in a metaphorical sense, you actually point out the possibility of a more literal kind of creedalism.

    As to whether the UUA Board has the right to do this kind of thing — there are some critics who are convinced that the Board doesn’t have the right to adopt the Policy Governance™ model at all, and other people who believe it is completely justifiable from the perspective of polity and the UUA Bylaws. My feeling is that this is all contested ground right now, and there is no certainty. In fact, it feels to me as though we’re in the middle of a major redefinition of our polity.

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