No Shit Sherlock

I am going to take a one post break from talking about Liberation Theology in a UU context to write my one and only post criticizing the UUA Board.

There are a couple of reasons that this will be the only post criticizing the Board. The main reason is that the bestest friend this girl has ever had is now a member of the board. And as much as I playfully talk about her, I know the work she puts in beforehand in preparation for the Board meeting so I won’t talk about the decisions that are made. The second reason is that I spent time as a member of a church board so I know that you’re never going to make everybody happy, no matter how much thought is put into a decision. But since what I going to criticize the Board about happened before the bestest friend went on the board and I don’t think much thought was put into the decision, I feel ok criticizing it.

I need to put my biases up front for you though. So bear with me.

In June 2008, I stepped down after 9 years from the board of the UU Christian Fellowship. For those of you who don’t know, the UUCF was organized in 1945. Notice what I just said. The UUCF was organized in 1945. The entity known as the UUA came into being in 1961. Last time I looked, this means that the UUCF is older than the UUA.

Next, I worked on the Local Committee when GA came to St. Louis. So I know, in more than a small way, the workings of GA. Add to that the fact that the chair of the Local Committee was a former member of the GA Planning Committee, and I have a wealth of GA information available to me.

Finally, at some point in the not-too-distant future, I want to run for a position on the GA Planning Committee. So I’ve been giving GA issues a lot of thought.

Now that I’ve told you my biases, I am going to say something that I’ve wanted to say since the spring of 2007.

No Shit Sherlock!!!!!!!!!

The UUA Board is surprised at the outrage and confusion that came with the summary dismissal of more than 40 Independent Affiliates at the drop of a hat.

No Shit Sherlock!!!!!

The UUA Board is surprised that many of the groups felt devalued and unappreciated for the work that they did.

No Shit Sherlock!!!!!

The UUA Board is astounded that this issue has continued to bite them in the ass ever since.

No Shit Sherlock!!!!!

Now that I’ve said it a few times, let me explain why I came to that conclusion very early.

As in all things UU- and UUA-related, the Board went overboard in 2 ways:

1. They merged two issues that did not need to be merged.

2. They took a hatchet to something that required a scalpel.

On the first issue, GA and the Independent Affiliates are two separate issues and should never have been merged into one. If either the Board or the Planning Committee thought that the IAs were getting too many workshop spaces at GA, there was a simple solution…. cut down the number of slots available to IAs and make the granting of workshop space competitive for everybody–UUA Staff included (because I’ve seen some workshops presented by UUA Staff that were about as useful as a workshop on how to gaze at your navel). This is not rocket science.

In a letter to an unnamed UU, Moderator Gini Courter wrote the following:

The GA Planning Committee has dreamed aloud of a kind of conference of religious traditions day at GA: imagine a GA Saturday where every workshop is a worship service or spiritual practice group. The Planning Committee doesn’t have the bandwidth to do this with a dozen IAs. It’s not just providing the space, it’s building the relationships between the Planning Committee and the groups, and between the groups. Imagine brochures in every congregation outlining “spiritual paths in UUism” or “celebrating our sources”. At the 2007 GA meeting the leader of one former IA laid out this vision to the other groups, and was almost shouted down. The discussion returned to the comfortable topic of the bone-headedness of the UUA Board, and her idea curled up and died on the floor while I watched. It’s a failure of imagination that’s staggering. 

Maybe it should be pointed out that this was already happening. The theologically-based IAs were all offering workshops at GA that dealt with spiritual practices and offered worship services. This paragraph makes it seem that the Moderator or other members of the UUA Board didn’t see this happening. I truly hope that is not the case. Otherwise, it’s not a failure of imagination from the theologically-based IAs side, it’s the lack of recognition by those who should have been looking that is staggering.

Also, I’m rather amazed that it was said that the Planning Committee doesn’t have the “bandwith” to have relationship with a dozen or so IAs. A dozen??? What dozen???? Let’s see…..there’s CUUPs…..UUs for Jewish Awareness…..UU Buddhist Fellowship…..HUUmanists…..UU Religious Naturalists….and the UU Christian Fellowship. That’s 6 if I’m counting right. Half-a-dozen. That is a small enough number that the Planning Committee could have a relationship with them if they so choose. Again, not rocket science.

And I think it should be pointed out that the theologically-based IAs did work together, when they could. Had for many years. And will continue to.

This just points out how the two issues should not have been merged. GA is a separate issue from the Independent Affiliates. The merging of the two, and then using one to deal with the other has caused more problems than need be.

But this brings me to my second point……the Board took a hatchet job to an issue that required a scalpel.

The Board is surprised that some former IAs felt devalued and unappreciated when they were summarily dismissed and other ones not. No Shit Sherlock!!!!! Didn’t the Board realized that they WERE making value judgements on those IAs that would have effects  on them not just at the national level, but at the district and congregational level???? I know that I am not the only one who knows of instances where former IAs have been told by congregations that they can no longer meet because they are no longer “offical” Independent Affiliates of the UUA. The same at the District level.

But here is the question that nobody has really been able to answer…….why were groups like the UUCF…..UU Buddhist Fellowship….UUs for Jewish Awareness…..CUUPs….HUUmanists.. UU Religious Naturalists stripped of Independent Affiliate status and the UU Partner Church Council got to keep theirs? Was it because of the word Council in their name? Because that’s the only reason I can see why the Council of UU Camps and Conferences got to keep theirs. Why would the Board want to take away a link to the faith traditions that make up the UUA?

Maybe something did need to happen with the IAs. I will not deny that possibility. Maybe it was because of GA that this process got rolling. I won’t deny that either. But the Board took a hatchet to something that required a scalpel and is now dealing with the consequences of that action.

So pardon me as I say it one last time……..

No Shit Sherlock!!!!!


8 thoughts on “No Shit Sherlock

  1. If only it was true that there was no “shit” involved in this and other Problems of the U*Us. . . Personally I think that Gini Courter is “shitting” U*Us in some of her lame excuses as to why IAs were abandoned. I doubt very much that the decision to drop the IAs had much to do with convention centers not having “enough rooms to accommodate the many IA workshops” for *example*. I can smell U*U BS all the way up here in Montreal.

  2. Having also been on a board dealing with too much, and troubled times…

    I’ve assumed that this was not a solution that the board dreamed (I prefer dreamt; this spell checker trying to jam everyone into questionably “modern” and “standard” spellings rots my shorts…) up. Which doesn’t change the fact that they implemented it.

    Too many IAs? Probably so. And the divergence of purposes they cover(ed) suggests that there was another issue there. (There were far more than a dozen IAs, kim, but I’m assuming that you’re focusing on the fact that there were only about a half-dozen of what I’ll call theologically-based IAs.

    A better solution, I think, would have been to start by observing that IA status was originally intended and envisioned to allow for like-minded faiths to associate with us in a way that retained independence… and THAT being so, the board recognized that the status had fallen into abuse, been filled with worthy organizations that certainly were not appropriately deemed IAs. UUs who are (insert theological leaning here) should not be seen, or see themselves as, “affiliated” with the UU movement. They’re part of it.

    That being so, the board should simply have said that it was going to develop a status for UU organizations that were theologically oriented, and those that were issue oriented, etc… and develop it so that that there was an appropriate relationship between the board–and support staff of the UUA–and those groups, so that they were embraced and affirmed and… were appropriately (and not inappropriately) fed UU resources, etc. But that once that status and relationship was defined and extant that NONE of these groups would be IAs, an that IA status would henceforth be available only to organizations outside the UU movement that sought or were offered and accepted such a status.

    My own guess is that the board’s clarity on all this only came towards the end of the process, rather than at the beginning.

    As for GA, who knows what some people knew or didn’t–or should have. But it’s easy enough to say that recognized (not IA) theological communities of interest (TCI) would be provided an opportunity to hold worship/study/gathering events at GA, NOT as sessions, because worship events are NOT to compete with other kinds of activities.

    I see no end of unintended consequences in all this. Crap.

    It’s funny… in that “ouch” sort of way. Here I am trying to foster at least two new TCI groups in my own congregation (neither of which I actually am personally party to) as well as a more general spiritual practices group… and because of UUA flat-footedness, the districts/congregations in some places are suppressing what I’ve seen starting to arise from the bottom up, naturally.

    The creation of a different status for such organizations, having made the point that they should NEVER have been IAs–nor granted the privileges of IAs, ought to have been done BEFORE starting to throw the not-IAs out of relationship. The only step that needed to be taken in the short term was to say that none of them ought to be *IAs* (no judgment on their inherent value to us), and that none of them would be granted GA slots because of current IA status, as a result… but that they were certainly able to seek slots for programs.

    But I am sensitive to the point that board made that the sessions of such groups were starting to bump out most sessions and such that arose out of congregations–which is painfully ironic (and inappropriate) for a meeting of the delegates of congregations AT a gathering of the congregations to do inter-congregational stuff. The larger we get, the more issues and interests organized as IAs… the more that this was going to be a problem (and all the more if/when/as UUism grows).

    Having no room for a session on how the search process works (for example) and how it can fail, and how to make it work best… unable to be offered so that UFETA (just to pick on one IA at random) could have a session is a disservice to the congregations. That’s a real issue.

    Bottom line? Yes, this could have been done better.

    Telling leaders/boards of extant IAs “Look, there’s no group that is an IA now that should have ever been granted IA status, because here’s what IA status was supposed to be for. So that will end. But we understand that the groups that are currently IAs serve important purposes, and they will be accorded a new and appropriate status with the UUA…” would have helped up front. I think.

  3. There were over 40 IAs – and more wanting in. At least one of the IAs, the Unitarian Universalist Historical Society was around (with one U) since the 1830s. i would agree that 40+ is way too many, but what a horrible way to do it. and the board is still surprised by the reaction and continual complaining……

  4. Patrick and Steven,
    If you look at the paragraph from Gini Courter that I quote in the post, you will see that she is talking specifically about the Theologically-based IAs. (at least that’s how I’m reading it) There are only 6 theologically-based IAs, not the dozen (or even dozens) that she mentions. My argument is that the Planning Committee already had a relationship with the theologically-based IAs, it just seems as if nobody on the Board was paying attention.

  5. Having no room for a session to raise consciousness within our denomination of the cruelty and environmental injustice inherent to industrial animal agriculture, which could be covered in a UFETA-sponsored timeslot, so that those wanting to know how the search process works (just to pick one example of a topic that people are already aware of, and about which the UUA already provides extensive resources and opportunities for feedback) could have a session would be the real disservice to congregations.

  6. Kim

    This is an important topic, and it is good of you to bring it up. I have no disagreement with your position. Please forgive me to thinking that the title is unfortunate.

    Best wishes

  7. I agree that the title is unfortunate in light of the fact that there is no shortage of “shit” involved in this issue, to say nothing of plenty of other U*U “shit” that I am all too happy to disturb. One does not need to be Sherlock Holmes to detect U*U “shit” be it U*U BS or other forms of “shit”. It’s elementary as Sherlock would say to Dr. Watson. . . No shit! 🙂

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