Why am I Running for UUA Board
When I got the call from the UUA Nominating Committee to see if I was willing to run for UUA Board, I got an immediate inner “yes.” Then I started to think about taking on the responsibilities and time commitments of the role. And I thought about making room in my schedule. “What projects and activities would I have to give up?” I considered as my life is already quite full of activity. The Nominating Committee representative mentioned they had had trouble filling the slot because of the time commitment needed … or so they said.
That immediate “yes” didn’t fade. I knew intuitively there was something about this invitation that was drawing me in. I completed the application process and shared lots of information with them about my previous leadership positions and my work on UUA Committees. The one that was particularly relevant was serving on the Open UUA Committee. This was a watchdog committee monitoring the Board for openness and transparency. I joined in 2011 and at the time the UUA Board wasn’t good about posting agendas and minutes of their meetings. Our committee was able to stimulate the Board to post agendas and minutes as well as audio recordings of their meetings. I had learned a lot about the UUA Board during those years.
After the Nominating Committee was done interviewing me and checking my references (thanks to those who said supportive things about me) I got a call from the chair. He said (paraphrased), “I’ve got good news for you and bad news. First, we are going to select your name to send to the Board along with two other candidates. That’s the good news. The bad news is you’ll have an opponent who is running by petition for your Board seat.”
I was delighted to know I’d have an opponent. That would mean I could run a campaign for the position. It also meant creating a web page for my campaign, a page to request endorsements ,display them (not done yet),and a donation page for campaign costs. I posted this to Facebook and immediately started getting support, endorsements, and donations. I’ll have a “virtual booth” at UUA General Assembly in June and probably be doing a postcard mailing to all the congregations in the UUA asking for support (I just got the entire mailing list of UU congregations).
My opponent, Jay Kiskel from Georgia, says his attention was drawn to national UUA politics in 2017 when we had a high profile UUA hiring controversy. That controversy precipitated the resignation of the UUA President, Peter Morales, and his executive team. Kiskel is in the region where the hiring controversy happened. Then came a book distribution controversy at the 2019 UUA General Assembly in Spokane, Washington by their congregation’s minister, the Rev. Dr. Todd Eklof. The book, called the Gadfly Papers (important response links: One, Two, and especially Three), criticized how the hiring controversy was handled and criticized the UUA’s anti-racism and inclusion response. Kiskel is also critical of some of the governance changes during that same period as the UUA Board has gotten smaller and begun using the Carver Policy Governance model.
I thought the controversy had died down over the last two years. Entering this campaign has identified to me people for whom it has not. A small group of ministers have resigned their UU Ministers Association membership over it. It continues to fester in the background though 90% plus of UU ministers and the vast majority of our congregations do not support them.
My hope is my campaign can be a healing influence that builds bridges rather than walls. While the UUA Board and UUA Staff have been forward thinking and visionary in the last 25 years, often ahead of many congregations, these critics are resisting these changes as the UUA moves in directions they do not appreciate or understand. Yet the UUA Board is not out of step with most of our congregations. When the call went out to do a white supremacy teach-in, over 700 congregations responded. When the UUA Board asked about our priorities during the 2018 UUA General Assembly, 90% put anti-racism work at the top of our agenda.
While I anticipate the Gadfly issue will be part of my campaign it isn’t my primary focus and not why I accepted the nomination. I know I don’t have all the answers, far from it. What I do know something about is processes to work out solutions. Here is what I wrote in my application describing my vision of board work:
In governance, I have a sense of the spirit moving when a group of people meet. What effective and creative group process techniques do is facilitate that energy to move in us and between us. It is common that I go into a meeting not knowing where we are going but knowing a process we can follow to get there. What happens in the meeting as we share our thoughts and feelings allows that spirit to take shape and become real. For me this is a deeply meaningful, spiritually uplifting process. Well run meetings are an absolute joy. I strive to be a leader who can effectively use them.
I hope I can count on your support for my campaign! I promise to come back from the wider view of our association with new ideas and best practices from around our association.