I happened across a copy of the Unitarian Universalist Voice: An Independent Journal of News & Opinion, June 2005 issue at General Assembly. They were strategically placed on table tops across the Ft Worth Convention and Hotel district. The cover article, written by editor Michael Durall who I believe is based in St Louis, is entitled "Is the UUA Really Necessary?". I’m not endorsing, nor bashing this article, but instead enjoying the questions it raises. I haven’t heard anything about it within the UUA yet, but then again I’m off site.
In the essay, Durall seriously questions the cost-benefit of the UUA. He essentializes the UUA’s ministerial and professional reach to serving roughly 2.9% of the UUA’s 158,000 adult members accounted for in the UUA Directory of 2005. He writes that while the UUA may seemingly reach many more UU’s through Religious Education curricula and its website, he suggests:
But it is not outside the realm of possiblity to suggeste that the vast majority of UU’s in the pews have little or no idea what the Association does.
He analyzes the UUA budget and makes this proposal:
Instead of spending an average of $15 million a year on UUA staff, spending upwards of $200 million over ten years, why not create 10 or 12 regionally-based teams that would work directly with congregations on-site, paying teams of two $100,000 to each staff.
Durall specifies that UU Congregations contribue roughly $2 million to district structures and the UUA District and Congregational Services spend $4.3 million a year. He asks, "Does the current system really deliver $6.3 million worth of service a year?"
In all, the UU Voice has consistently been a critical voice of the UUA, it is one of the only ones I’ve heard in all my years at the Association. I read parts of last years The Almost Church also by Michael Durall printed by the new publishing house at All Souls Tulsa led by Rev. Marlin Lavenhar. Rev. Marilyn Sewell writes of "The Almost Church"
"Mike Durall has done our movement a huge favor by pulling together this passionate and prophetic piece of work, a combination of hard facts and vision. This is the kick in the pants that we’ve been needing for a long time. I would recommend The Almost Church to anyone interested in Unitarian Universalism taking its proper place in a society that so badly needs our values." -Rev.Marilyn Sewell, Senior Minister First Unitarian Church Portland, Oregon
Criticism can be healthy, particularly for a national organization that can become mired in dysfunction and out-dated methods. I don’t think the UUA is at that level, not even close, but it does help me effectively interrogate and analyze my work, my ministry, and formulate a clear response. I appreciate how Bill Sinkford has also made strong listening a central part of his UUA Presidency.