Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Rev. Dr. Daniel O'Connell

I think Eric Swanson's comments are persuasive. Hey Eric!

At first glance, there appear to be two contextual items: (1) youth autonomy; (2) budget cutting.

I was in LRY in the late 1970s, and in C-UUYAN in the 1980s. I served in a variety of leadership positions.

You can read in Wayne Arnason's histories of the U and U youth movement that our youth movements were the first to be autonomous-- the youth put up the structure and drove the programming.

This kind of thing wouldn't be allowed in more orthodox traditions. It was a great concept and still is. Have some adults provide appropriate boundary setting, and then let the youth run wild with creativity and experimentation in worship, social justice, etcetera.

In fact, this idea of a group of elders setting limits, but then allowing whatever creativity and activity that feeds into mission, vision, and values loose is precisely the idea behind policy governance that so many of our districts, congregations, and now even the UUA board, espouse. So, it is a little ironic to decimate decentralized national effort.

Things changed for the UU yough movement, because of the 1960s and 1970s, where many UU families went through upheaval.

Spouse swapping, divorce, drug use, you name it were in our congregations. And that was just the adults (one day I'll have to write a memoir...).

Some youth advisors basically abdicated their limit setting abilities, and some youth conferences degenerated to the point that even youth didn't want to attend anymore.

Then the collapse came, and eventually common ground and yruu, a more structured version of lry.

But it is easy for those in an administration-- whether the UUA administration or any other-- to centralize power and programming, rather than decentralize it-- there are more examples of this than I can name.

Once we heard that YRUU and UUYAN offices were going to merge, it became apparent what was going to happen. You don't merge when you expect growth. You merge as a pre-condition to decreasing program, etcetera.

Side note: Frankly, I'm surprised how much money UUYAN has gotten over the years. In our early years, UUYAN was entirely self-funded. Then we became trendy, and the UUA did a capital campaign, part of that money was to support YA programming.

Finally, I have to point out that it is somewhat ironic that the letter from the YRUU Steering Committee says that:

"youth programming on the district and congregational levels will continue relatively unaffected."

Why is that ironic? Because the UUA doesn't pay for any of that, and has no control over it. Districts and congregations-- ultimately adult UUs pay for it.

Rev. Dr. Daniel OConnell
President, Central Midwest District of the UUA
Lead Minister,
Eliot Unitarian Chapel
100 South Taylor Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63122
(314) 821-0911 (office)


Robin Edgar said...

"You don't merge when you expect growth. You merge as a pre-condition to decreasing program, etcetera."

Come to think of it. . . the membership statistics of the UUA have pretty much remained stagnant ever since the Unitarians merged with the Universalists in 1961. ;-)

Do you have any thoughts about the following allegation made by Ben Alexander Rev. O'Connell?

"LRY did not trade it's financial independence for anything; the UUA seized control of LRY finances in a move that many LRYers felt was unethical at best, if not a downright violation of the terms of LRY's financial endowment."

Here is my own response to that allegation -

This would by no means be the first time that the UUA seized control of finances in a move that many people felt was unethical at best, if not a downright violation of the terms of the *charitable trusts* they seized them from. Just Google - "Robin Edgar" and Unitarian charitable trusts - in Google Groups as well as the main Google site for more information about that. Or just read this sermon by CUC founder Rev. Charles Eddis.

This is worth a read too, for the UUA`s spin on things.

It looks like The Emerson Avenger just might have yet another Unitarian*Universalist financial abuse to blog about soon. . .

I have even heard rumours to the effect that the merger of the Unitarians with the Universalists in 1961 had a lot to do with seizing control of finances. The short but perhaps not so sweet version of those rumours is that - The Unitarians had the members and the Universalists had the money. Some versions of these rumours would make you think the merger of the Unitarians with the Universalists was something akin to a hostile corporate takeover bid or something. Of course that was pretty much before my time, and I have not looked any further into these interesting rumours, but they do make you wonder. . . They make certainly me wonder about just how ethical U*U administrators have been from Day One of the formation of the UUA, especially since I have seen evidence of much more recent financial shenanigans and other unethical behavior.

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