At a mini-assembly Thursday, a proposed change to the Commission on Appraisal met strong opposition.
A proposed bylaw change to make the Commission on Appraisal an appointed committee of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Board of Trustees—rather than an independent body that’s elected by and reports to the General Assembly—encountered strong resistance during a business mini-assembly today.
Even though the proposed change is supported by both the current Commission on Appraisal and the UUA board, a non-binding “straw vote” at the mini-assembly had nearly 50 people against the change and fewer than 20 in favor. Those who objected said they don’t want the commission to lose its position as an independent voice that studies issues of importance to the association, its historical role since it was created in the 1930s.
Delegates to the GA will vote on the proposed change on Saturday. The mini-assembly was an opportunity for delegates to learn more about the proposal, discuss it more fully, and offer amendments to the language of the bylaw change before the actual vote on Saturday.
The Rev. Nana Kratochvil, chair of the commission, said the new configuration will position the commission to be “moral auditors” of the UUA, just as the Audit Committee acts as financial auditors. The Rev. Sarah Stewart, chair of the UUA board’s Finance Committee, said the change to the commission will integrate its work more fully into the board’s governance structure, and Kratochvil said that “a commission more fully engaged with the board of trustees will be ultimately more effective.” She also said the commission’s work—it prepares reports on issues of importance to the faith, such as its current study on class—will remain independent, just as the Audit Committee’s is.
But many at the mini-assembly saw the change as the loss of an important independent voice. If the commissions does become a board committee, a majority in a straw vote want it to have a new name—“Advisory Commission”—to distinguish it from its former role and avoid confusion. An amendment to the proposed bylaw to have the newly configured commission include five instead of four members received unanimous approval in a straw vote.
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Elaine McArdle is a UU World senior editor and a member of First Unitarian Church in Portland, Oregon. An award-winning journalist with more than 20 years of experience, she has also written for the Boston Globe, Harvard Law Bulletin, and others.
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