Ironicschmoozer’s Weblog

The UU Movement: More than just a Collection of Congregations. Proposal from the UUA President!

The Rev. Peter Morales, President, along with the Board of Trustees, will recommend a change to the bylaws of the Unitarian Universalist Association.  In an online proposal, Peter makes a strong case that the UUA is no longer just an association of congregations.  We are a liberal religious movement in many forms and manifestations.  The original and primary form is the local congregation, but many people do not join congregations, yet they share our religious and social values.  Below are a couple of excerpts, and this link will take you to the whole document.  Of course, in congregations, we have always focused on the number of pledging, voting members we have.  That number has determined the level of dues we pay every year to the UUA and our UU district.  But it’s not necessarily the best measure anymore of whether we are doing effective work.  I recommend this article to you and invite your comments on my blog.


I have observed a number of things that speak to me of the truly historic opportunities 
and challenges that are now before us. Here is a partial list:

We have known for many years that the number of people who identify as UUs is
 about four times the membership of our congregations (about 160,000 adult
 members and about 650,000 people who identify as UUs). In other words, for 
every adult member there are three non-members who say they are Unitarian
The second largest gathering of UUs, after General Assembly, is the Southeast UU
 Summer Institute (SUUSI). A significant number of people who attend SUUSI 
year after year do not belong to any UU congregation. There are other UU camps
 and conferences that draw similarly large numbers of unaffiliated people.
The majority of children raised as UUs do not join UU congregations when they are
 young adults. However, they continue to identify as UUs and share core UU
 values. Often they have close friendships with fellow young adults they met at
 church or at “youth cons.”
Some of our committed and generous donors do not belong to congregations. I
 recently met with a donor who gave us $300,000 and yet has never been a 
member of a congregation. A few weeks ago I spoke with another non-UU who
 has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars.
An increasing percentage of seminarians choose a community ministry rather than 
parish ministry. They see themselves as having a vocation for ministry, but not
 for parish ministry. Our ministry extends to prisons, hospitals, the military, and
 organizations that seek to build a more compassionate and just world.
Initiatives like Standing on the Side of Love are founded on the realization that many
 non-UUs share our values of justice, equity, and compassion.
Our growth in terms of members of congregations has been stagnant, despite a
 number of ambitious growth efforts.
Demographic research shows that people are less likely to attend traditional worship services of any denomination, even if they consider themselves religious.


The central conviction driving this proposal is that our core values appeal to far more
 people than are attracted to (or likely to be attracted to) our congregations. We have 
always treated this as a problem to be solved by devising ways to get people to become 
members of our congregations. But the reality of today’s world is that not everyone who
shares our core values will want to become part of a traditional congregation. The fact
 that so many share our values is an enormous opportunity, not a problem. The future
 relevance of our faith may well depend on whether we can create a religious movement
 beyond, as well as within, the parish. I am confident that together we can seize this
historic opportunity for our faith.


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