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Board fills empty slots on General Assembly committees

UUA trustees also approve launch of credentialing study and changes in retirement plan.
By Michelle Bates Deakin

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UUA Board of Trustees

Members of the Unitarian Universalist Association Board of Trustees. (Nancy Pierce)

In its August telephone meeting, the Board of Trustees of the Unitarian Universalist Association filled several open slots on two key committees that are creating the 2012 Justice General Assembly to be held in Phoenix, Ariz., in June.

At the Aug. 25 meeting, the board also voted to undertake a study of the UUA’s credentialing process, and it addressed changes to the UUA retirement plan.

The board filled two open spots on the GA Planning Committee. The vacancies were created when two members of the planning committee* resigned after the 2011 GA in Charlotte, N.C., in June. The two new members are Ila Klion and Jacqui Williams.

Klion is a member of the River of Grass UU Congregation in Davie, Fla. An attorney, Klion is an assistant professor of legal skills and values at Florida International University School of Law in Miami. She is a member of the Florida District Board of Trustees.

Williams is a member of First UU Society of Albany, N.Y. She has held a variety of local and national leadership positions, including serving as president of DRUUMM (Diverse and Revolutionary UU Multicultural Ministries) and on the Commission on Appraisal.

The board also appointed three new members to the GA 2012 Accountability Group, which the board created to ensure that the vision of the Justice GA was carried out, to ensure the participation of people from historically marginalized groups, and to form alliances with local groups working on immigration issues. The three new members are the Rev. José Ballester, Sarah Surface, and Tomoko Takano. Ballester represents LUUNA, the Latino(a) Unitarian Universalist Networking Association. A former UUA trustee-at-large, he serves as interim minister of the Religious Society of Bell Street Chapel in Providence, R.I.

Surface, of the First UU Church of Richmond, Va., fills a previously empty spot for youth in the Accountability Group. She is an incoming youth leader for the GA 2012 Youth Caucus.

Takano, a member of DRUUMM, replaces the Rev. Clyde Grubbs, who stepped down as DRUUMM representative to the group when he took a seat on the Board of Trustees in June. Takano is a member of The Church of the Larger Fellowship and a former member of Paint Creek UU Church of Rochester, Mich., and the UU Church of Davis, Calif.

In other business, the board voted to undertake a study of UUA credentialing processes, which establish ministers’ “fellowship” status with the UUA and which have more recently started to grant credentialed status to religious educators and other religious professionals. Trustee Nancy Bartlett, who serves as chair of the board’s Committee on Committees, said the committee is seeking to examine the board’s role in appointing people to credentialing committees.

“The board is responsible for 150 appointments to 20 committees,” Bartlett said. “That’s not sustainable.” The burden of so many appointments will weigh more heavily after the board size is reduced, in 2013, to 13 members from its current 25. “We have two years to figure this out,” Bartlett said.

For the board to properly address the question, Bartlett said, her committee was recommending that the board begin a conversation in October with critical stakeholders to clarify the board's role in credentialing processes.

The board agreed to begin the study process. It approved a motion that includes a several-step process, which will start at its October 2011 meeting. At that time, the board will appoint a task force to study the issue, and it will solicit position papers and other input to explore at its meeting in January 2012.

In January, the board will discuss the information and determine what else, if anything, it needs to make a decision on the process.

In April 2012, the board is scheduled to make a decision and write a proposed bylaw regarding changes in the credentialing process that could be in place by 2014.

The board voted to approve the motion to begin the study process. The Rev. Jeanne Pupke, a UUA trustee-at-large and minister of First UU Church of Richmond, Va., expressed concern that the process was getting under way too quickly. She said she would prefer to have “more deep conversations” first. “We’re running about three months ahead of where we need to be,” she said.

The Rev. Dr. Susan Ritchie, trustee from the Ohio Meadville District, responded, “There is a piece that we have to do—answering the question for ourselves that is unique to the board, which is understanding why this has been in the past done by the board—and which piece needs to be owned and protected. Answering that question about our own accountability is important to do ourselves. This doesn’t impose any kind of form on any final answer of what credentialing will look like.”

The board also approved a two-pronged motion to implement changes to the Unitarian Universalist Organizations Retirement Plan. The first half of the motion removed two funds from the list of investment choices for participants in the plan and replaced them with two higher performing funds. Calvert International Equity 1 has been replaced by the Boston Common International Fund, and the American Funds Growth Fund of America R5 was replaced by the Mainstay Large Cap Growth Fund R1.

The second part of the motion authorizes UUA Treasurer Tim Brennan and Executive Vice President Kay Montgomery to “execute and deliver documents” to carry out the board’s motion.

Correction 9.6.11: One sentence in an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that two members of the Board of Trustees had resigned following the 2011 General Assembly. The two resignations were from the GA Planning Committee. Click here to return to the corrected paragraph.

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