Saturday's four-and-a-half-hour-long morning plenary featured a variety of reports, including annual reports from the Board of Trustees, the Treasurer, and the Green Sanctuary program.
Charlie King, Charlie Burke, the Rev. José Ballester, and Tamara Payne-Alex, the four at-large members of the UUA’s Board of Trustees, summarized four of the major issues facing the board. These include determining “ends statements,” which are goals distilled from the various processes used at this General Assembly and last year’s GA to determine what goals UUs think are important for the UUA.
The second issue is pursuing excellence in ministry, an initiative that is being championed by the Panel on Theological Education. “Excellence in ministry,” Ballester said, “does not mean only excellent ministers.” Instead, he described it as the development of a system of healthy and vibrant congregations, exceptional religious education, engagement with social justice, multicultural ministry, and song and celebration. It’s a process designed to help current ministers as well as seminarians.
The third issue is the board’s movement toward a policy governance model in which the board will concern itself primarily with policy development and larger goals, delegating the execution of tasks to the staff. Many congregations and organizations have adopted the policy governance model.
The fourth and last issue raised was a review of the process used to elect the UUA president and moderator. “The current system reflects the compromises and negotiations made after the UUA merger,” (which took place in 1961), said Payne-Alex. Some of the questions she said the board was considering included: What does the current process say about us as a faith community? What would encourage our best leaders to serve? Should the election processes for the president and moderator be different? She said the board was committed to proposing significant changes to the process in 2010.
UUA Treasurer and Vice President for Finance Tim Brennan reported on the successes the UUA had achieved in the field of socially responsible investing. These have been in the form of shareholder resolutions, which request companies to change some aspect of their behavior. In most cases the resolutions are presented at the annual shareholder meeting.
“This year the UUA filed 12 resolutions on subjects such as global warming, gender identity, and excessive executive compensation,” Brennan said. He noted one recent success. At the end of 2007 the UUA filed a resolution with Legg Mason, a major global asset management firm, on the issue of climate change. The head of Legg Mason contacted Brennan who met with him about the resolution. “Today Legg Mason has agreed to our proposal to address climate change and to report publicly on their environmental footprint,” he said.
Brennan also reported on attending the Investors Summit on Climate Risk at the United Nations in February, a meeting that included Al Gore as one of the speakers. The institutional investors attending that day represented eight trillion dollars, Brennan noted. He concluded his report by quoting Gore about this generation's responsibility to future generations: “Few generations have ever had the responsibility for decisions that will affect all generations.”
The Rev. Katherine Jesch, head of UU Ministry for Earth, welcomed fourteen new “green sanctuary” congregations. Green Sanctuary congregations have gone through a program that includes a series of environmental requirements, changes, and education. The new Green Sanctuary congregations include Mt. Vernon Unitarian Church in Alexandria, Va.; the UU Church of Asheville, N.C.; Cedars UU Church of Bainbridge Island, Wash.; the Minnesota Valley UU Church of Bloomington, Minn.; the Unitarian Church of Calgary, Alberta, Canada; the UU Fellowship of Clemson, S.C.; First Parish Church UU of Northborough, Mass.; the UU Fellowship at Stony Brook, N.Y.; the Unitarian Fellowship of Decatur, Ill.; the UU Church of Indianapolis, Ind.; All Souls UU Church of Kansas City, Mo.; the UU Congregation of Greater Naples, Fla.; the UU Church in Reston, Va., and the UU Church of Tucson, Az.
Jesch said that 73 congregations have achieved Green Sanctuary status since 2002, with almost 100 more in process.
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Jane Greer is a former senior editor of UU World magazine.