Wednesday, 18 February 2009

UUA Moderator Gini Courter Endorses Rev. Dr. Laurel Hallman For President Of The UUA

A blog post entitled 'Gini Courter Endorses Laurel Hallman' appeared on UUA Presidential candidate Rev. Dr. Laurel Hallman's 'Elect Laurel Hallman For President Of The UUA' website today. This is obviously a key endorsement that could potentially swing the election in Rev. Dr. Laurel Hallman's favor if it is not already heavily swung in her favor already. . . Here with my point-by-point commentary on UUA Moderator Gini Courter's endorsement of Rev. Laurel Hallman for UUA President -

:The Rev. Dr. Laurel Hallman is the leader Unitarian Universalism needs at this pivotal moment in the life of our Association.

Fair enough Gini but why is the Rev. Dr. Laurel Hallman *the* leader Unitarian Universalism needs at this pivotal moment in the life of your Association as opposed to Rev. Peter Morales?

:The last three UUA Presidents - Bill Schulz, John Buehrens, and Bill Sinkford - all addressed growth in their campaign platforms. As President, each spoke eloquently and frequently about growth, and each in turn increased our visibility and our public voice. The number of visitors to our congregations has increased dramatically, but our membership has not.

This is an interesting "confession", possibly an unintentional one, on the part of UUA Moderator Gini Courter. The subtext of the last sentence is that even though the number of visitors to U*U congregations has *increased dramatically* few if any people amongst this dramatically increased numbers of visitors to U*U "churches" have actually chosen the tiny, declining, fringe religion known as Unitarian*Universalism to be their chosen faith. . . Membership in "Less Than Welcoming" Unitarian*Universalist congregations has not only not increased dramatically but may not have increased at all. In fact it is entirely possible, even quite probable, that membership in UUA congregations has not only stagnated but has even decreased somewhat, if not decreased significantly, over the terms of these three UUA Presidents, all of whom addressed growth in their campaign platforms if not in their policies and actions as UUA President. What does this clear lack of interest in becoming a member of a U*U "church" say about Unitarian*Universalism as a "product" in the religious "marketplace". What does this say about the millions of dollars that the UUA has spent on marketing, advertising, and other forms of U*U propaganda, trying to gain market share? Was this U*U money flushed right down the proverbial toilet because people who tried the "product" as a result of UUA marketing efforts decided that U*Uism was a rather sour, if not somewhat mouldy and rotten, "lemon"?

:It is time to shift our focus to our congregations, and treat them not like customers who purchase programs and inspiration, but as Association members with common concerns and shared purpose.

This comes across as an almost meaningless platitude. It is a no-brainer that the 1000 or so U*U congregations that are members of the Unitarian*Universalist *Association* Of Congregations should be treated as Association members with common concerns and shared purpose. Isn't that what being a member of *any* association is all about? What exactly is UUA Moderator Gini Courter saying here? One obvious subtext of Gini Courter's big fat U*U platitude here is that the Unitarian*Universalist Association Of Congregations aka the UUA has failed to treat U*U congregations as Association members with common concerns and shared purpose during the terms of the last three UUA Presidents.

That being said, part of the job of any association is to provide its members with both "inspiration" and "programs" of various kinds. Why does Gini Courter apparently want to play down, or even decrease, the UUA's role in providing programs and inspiration to UUA congregations? What is so wrong with treating U*U congregations as "customers" anyway? Most people or groups join associations to receive certain benefits, aka goods and services, provided by that association and thus are in fact *customers* of the association as well as being members of it. . . Can UUA Moderator Gini Courter say "co-operative"? Maybe not. . .

:At this moment of possibility, Unitarian Universalism needs a leader grounded in our polity who knows that real growth will come not from having a thousand congregations listen to one leader, but from the work of a leader who listens to our thousand congregations.

Why is UUA Moderator Gini Courter so convinced that a thousand U*U congregations inspired by an inspirational UUA President, to say nothing of other inspirational U*U leaders associated with him and/or her, will not experience real growth? Why this apparent simplistic either/or thinking on Gini Courter's part? Can't Gini dream of a UUA President who will be both inspirational enough to have a thousand U*U congregations *really* listen to what he and/or she has to say, but who is ALSO wise enough to responsibly listen to what a thousand U*U congregations may have to say to him and/or her? What makes UUA Moderator Gini Courter so sure that Rev. Peter Morales is not listening to a thousand U*U congregations every bit as much as, if not more so, than Rev. Dr. Laurel Hallman is?

:In this time of promise, Unitarian Universalism needs a collaborative leader who will work with the UUA Board to focus the resources of the Association on supporting each congregation's ministry to its members and visitors, its local community, and the world.

In this time of promise?!! Who is UUA Moderator Gini Courter trying to fool? In this time of *crisis* would be a much more honest phrase to use. On what basis, if any, can UUA Moderator Gini Courter refer to this time in the UUA's history as a time of promise? The last time I checked the UUA's finances aka *resources* had decreased by over 25% as a result of the recession and the UUA was cutting it's already "less than adequate", to say nothing of "less than competent". . . human resources as a result of this significant loss of revenue. What makes UUA Moderator Gini Courter believe that Rev. Peter Morales would be any less of a collaborative leader who will work with the UUA Board to focus the resources of the Association on supporting congregations than Rev. Dr. Laurel Hallman?

:In this time of uncertainty, Unitarian Universalism needs a proven CEO and experienced fundraiser with the tenacity and courage and love that are needed to create lasting institutional change.

"In this time of uncertainty" is closer to the truth. . . It would obviously help if *any* and all UUA President's were proven CEO's, rather than proven failed executives or business men or something. . . but I see no reason why the President of the UUA needs to be an experienced fundraiser surely the UUA can hire appropriate people to undertake that task and free up the President for more important tasks. I don't see the President of the U.S.A. being described as "Fundraiser In Chief" why should the President of the UUA have to play that role? What makes UUA Moderator Gini Courter believe that Rev. Peter Morales has any less tenacity and courage and love than Rev. Dr. Laurel Hallman does? What makes Gini Courter believe that Rev. Peter Morales is any less ready, willing and able to create lasting institutional change in the UUA than Rev. Peter Morales is? Inquiring minds want to know as they say. . .

:Laurel Hallman is that grounded, collaborative, proven leader.

What makes Rev. Peter Morales a less grounded, collaborative, and proven leader than Rev. Laurel Hallman?

Well, come to think of it, Rev. Morales has said a thing or two which could indicate that he is not all *that* well grounded such as -

"We can be the religion of our time". . .

and decribing Christianity, Judaism and Islam as "obsolete religions" of course.

I am still waiting for him to answer my questions regarding those to questionable public statements of his.

:I encourage you to elect Laurel Hallman to serve as the next President of our Unitarian Universalist Association.

I would encourage Unitarian*Universalists to take a long hard look at both candidates for UUA President before casting their votes. This is an important UUA Presidential election that coulds determine whether or not Unitarian*Universalism will become an "obsolete religion" or at least an irrelevant religion that it is already well on its way to being. . . At present Unitarian*Universalism is a tiny, declining, fringe relgion as described by UUA Presidential candidate Rev. Peter Morales in his "stump speech" announcing his candidacy. If Unitarian*Universalists fail to play their cards right in the coming decades Unitarian*Universalism could very well go the way of Charles Darwin's dodo. . .


David said...

I agree with your post -- except that I would not be so sure Gini Courter's endorsement will swing the election. No matter how much people admire Gini, they'll want to make up their own minds. Below is a copy of an open letter I've sent Gini; I alone am guilty of its contents.

Dear Gini, This is a continuation of my letter to you two days ago about your endorsement of Rev. Dr. Laurel Hallman for UUA President. I should first say that unlike my first message, which was a strictly personal communication, this is an open letter, because I feel you have raised some important questions for us as an Association, and I see the election as an opportunity to explore them together, whoever wins. Once again, this letter is on my own initiative and I alone am guilty.

First let me reiterate that my enthusiastic support for Rev. Peter Morales is quite consistent with my great admiration for Rev. Dr. Laurel Hallman. To me they form a wonderful complementarity, and even if my dream of a co-presidency must remain a dream, I hope we can all embrace the truths each of them speaks to. For me, there is no either-or choice between a leader who speaks out and a leader who listens to our congregations. They are two strokes of breathing. I trust Peter will listen, just as I hope and trust Laurel would speak out. Naturally, each of us has different strengths and emphases.

Peter's call for change -- for social justice and inclusiveness, in our Association, in American religious life, and in "secular" society -- resonates with me, very much as Barack Obama's did. I find myself wanting to set aside what I was doing and sign up! Someone who can instill that passion, as Peter can, is a true leader, and I am confident that his leadership would bring growth -- not just in numbers, but in the radical openness our faith calls us to. And yes, I think it would bring growth in numbers too. I know there is a role for administration -- an area in which Peter has good experience. I also think that will be a matter of teamwork in Boston. But now of all times, uncertainty seems to me an opportunity for creative uncertainty. The CEO model has lost a bit of luster, though of course Laurel is no John Thain. I'm really not addressing Laurel so much as the thrust of your reasoning.

I know also that these can be very cruel times -- Proposition 8 is a painful example. I respect Laurel's sense that the UU Church is a sanctuary for the wounded and vulnerable to seek healing and new strength. At the same time, I would hate to see us circle our wagons. I think that even those who hurt us are themselves hurt; even in pain, we need to take the risk of dialogue. Peter truly has a voice -- quite literally, a compelling one, and its timbre speaks to our spirit. I don't have a television, but I might buy one if I thought I could tune in and there he would be, toe to toe with Rick Warren! Seriously, I think that he himself would be a wonderful voice for the UUA -- and that his vision would challenge each of us to reach out more.

Finally, a parliamentary question: What would we have to do so that in some future election we really could have a co-presidency? Thank you for all that you do.
Peace, David

David Keppel
1308 North Maple Street #22
Bloomington, IN 47404-3367
(812) 331-2815

Robin Edgar said...

Thanks for your comment David. Interestingly enough the idea of a co-presidency of both Rev. Laurel Hallman and Rev. Peter Morales occurred to me as well a while back so we are very much on the same wavelength here. I did not blog about that idea for a variety of reasons not the least of them being that it appears to be out of the question the way the UUA is currently set up as your open letter suggests. I do however have an alternative idea that I think could work quite well. Whoever is runner-up in this UUA Presidential election could potentially replace Kathleen Montgomery as UUA Executive Vice President of the UUA. Let me know what you think of that alternative idea to a co-presidency of both Rev. Peter Morales and Rev. Dr. Laurel Hallman and do feel free to spread it around a bit. . .


Robin Edgar