There will be no change to the Commission on Appraisal (COA). Delegates at GA 2015 this morning rejected a proposed bylaw amendment to transform the commission from an independent body elected by the General Assembly into an appointed committee of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Board of Trustees.
Even though both the current COA and the UUA board supported the change, a majority of delegates voted against it, expressing concerns that the commission would lose its historical role as an independent voice within Unitarian Universalism.
The Commission on Appraisal, created in 1934, has a mission of evoking “timely, creative transformation” of the UUA, its congregations, and Unitarian Universalism. It studies issues of importance to the faith and produces reports on such matters as congregational polity. The nine-member commission, which is currently studying the issue of class, is elected by and annually reports to the General Assembly. The proposed bylaw change would have made it a committee appointed by the UUA board.
In urging adoption of the change, the Rev. Nana Kratochvil, chair of the commission, said that the current commission believes the amendment would allow the COA to “more directly impact the activities of the board and our beloved community.” John Hawkins, project manager for the COA and a former UUA trustee, said that the commission has had difficulty carrying out its work over the past 10 years because it has had to “beg for funding” from the board. “We believe this change strengthens the commission,” he said.
Delegates in favor of the change said it would simplify the governance structure and improve transparency. Kwame James, a delegate from Harbor UU Congregation in Muskegon, Mich., acknowledged that it was “not a small deal” to change the “institutional position of an oversight agency” that “functions as an auditor of the board itself.” Several objected to opponents who framed the debate as “us versus them” with regards to the board. “That’s incredibly concerning because that implies the board doesn’t work with Unitarian Universalists,” said Caleb Leman, an incoming youth observer on the UUA board and member of North Shore Unitarian Church in Deerfield, Ill., whose comments elicited loud cheers. “It’s serving us and is our board.”
But many delegates spoke passionately against the proposal and succeeded in extending the allotted time for discussion three times before a vote was called and their side succeeded. Echoing sentiments expressed by this group, Diana DeWeese, a delegate from Abraham Lincoln UU Congregation in Springfield, Il., said, “The concentration of power and influence by the UUA Board of Trustees is not a positive thing. The commission has been starved financially and by the Board of Trustees not filling vacancies . . . it needs to stay independent and not be subservient to the board.”