Fix the UUA: Pay for what works

Money talks. You can complain and grouse, but money talks. It may not always be used well — and some volunteer or unfunded activities may produce profund results — but it shows what we value.

UUA leadership — staff, yes, but I’m thinking more of elected and volunter “true believers” — has been keen to talk about the “fair share” congregations ought to pay because the congregations are covenanted in community. That covenant cuts both ways with accountability to what congregations needs is less clear. Besides, congregations don’t have a covenant with the administration but with other congregations. (And I’ve heard grumbling from small churches that large churches have a fair-share formula option they don’t; it smacks of favoritism.)

But part of the problem is that, as a service provider, the UUA is almost a monopoly, and the overweening sectarianism that has grown up in the last couple of decades makes other options for service provenance less and less likely. Yet consider the Cathedral of Hope, Dallas, formerly the largest congregation of the Metropolitan Community Church, that went independent and has recently voted to join the United Church of Christ. Why? At heart, I believe because the UCC provides better services at less cost, and they’re more serious players. Money talks, and shapes how we fulfill mission. Even if the bulk of UUA member congregations won’t drift off for a better option — one may not exist — they (we) do deserve other options for service providing. That could be anything from consultants, companies, professional coops, website owners, multi-congregational agencies, ecumenical endeavors, independent affiliates, and the like. We could get radical and talk about alternate ministerial fellowship. (The MFC has the sole fellowship authority over the UUA, true, but since UUA members churches aren’t obliged to get MFC fellowshipped ministers, it follows there could be an indepentent fellowshipping process. Not likely, but it is possible, particularly in an underserved region, or small theological cohort.)

So here’s the point. Give, O Congregations, the Annual Program Fund what you think its services and value to the Association is worth. Fund what you use, even it isn’t something you have historically funded. Congregations, consider creating content (open licensed, of course). Oh, and Commission on Appraisal, you might want to look at this issue.

This is post #1200.

One Reply to “Fix the UUA: Pay for what works”

  1. -When I was serving a certain rural UU church, we went through the issue about “fair share” payments. We felt we needed to give, felt we were asked for too much, and branded “not a team player” when we chose to give less. What it came down to, was what are we willing to pay for? How much did the congregation think UUA services were worth? What did we think was fair? Could the money be better spent locally on handicap access to the building, or local social justice projects, or local outreach for new members?

    The conclusion was that most of the UUA resources were not usable by a small, rural church. Consultants and District Executives did not understand rural church dynamics. Most RE curricula were designed for populations large enough to age-grade a classroom, thus unusable by us. We had 10 kids, raning from 3-16, and no way to predict what mix you would get on Sunday (maybe 3 kids around 10 one week, maybe the 3-year old and 16-year old next week). The UU World magazine? Nobody found it worth reading. We ended up donating to the Universalist Herald instead. Ministerial settlement? Nope! The central office in Boston doesn’t like to handle settlement for small churches looking for part-time ministers. Youth ministry programs? Heck no! We didn’t even send our teens to District cons anymore, because of poor oversight and behavioral standards. We were not going to have more of our teens coming back from church camp, having gotten hooked on cigarettes. So the parts this church could use or value came down to (1) hymnals and other church music, (2) the UUA bookstore, (3) scholarships for ministerial students, and (4) the District annual meeting. This church chose to pay about $500 of its “fair share”, which is much less than what the UUA requested.

    Many out there may not like this, but the covenant runs both ways. And just as the UUA as an organization tends to undervalue rural congregations, in like manner many rural congregations undervalue the UUA. The fairness and sharing of “fair share” hardly felt genuine to the church I once served, which may mean that the covenant spoken of in fair share literature was more vision than reality.

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