I’ll add a few bullet points, which I may expand if I get the chance.
- The Unitarian Universalist Association has been deeply ambiguous about whether its core identity is that of a cooperative service organization (more Unitarian) or a unitive ecclesiastic body (more Universalist). It has functions of each, typified by its publications arm and ministerial fellowship powers respectively.
- Affiliates take on roles the UUA can’t and wouldn’t want. The UUCF, for instance, has a role in Christian ecumenics. Does the UUA want to keep that relationship alive? Can it?
- Unitarians and Universalists have had affiliated organizations to take on special, trans-congregational projects for centuries. I’m thinking of the Evangelical Missionary Society and the Massachusetts Congregational Charitable Society — these are so old (and local to Massachusetts) that they have no need to be official affiliates. But the money still flows from them and don’t tell me the UUA would say no to either. The relationship is there. (The UU Urban Ministry — a.k.a the Benevolent Fraternity of Churches — is nearly as old and still survives as an affiliate.) This insistence on congregational purity is misplaced.
- And misstated. There’s nothing about recognized ministries that dilutes the power of congregations. If anything, affiliates help them. Such organizations cannot take upon themselves powers reserved for congregations, like ordination. Indeed, much of the power the Unitarian Universalist Association itself has devolves from the idea of the power of cooperation. It isn’t a congregation either.
- So where’s the “for the congregations” rhetoric going? While I doubt it is the intent, it looks like a power rivalry to me. Since ministers are heavily involved in nearly all the affiliates, ministers are going to end up making choices as to which organizations to help and support. The UUA Board of Trustees may discover that the affiliates have a lot of loyal members who will choose.
- And while we’re with the ministers, how do we come out in this “all about congregations” thinking? Are we hapless, subordinate and obedient to the will of congregations, many of which are dysfunctional and some abusive?
LT’s image of an ecosystem is right-on and the risk of a mass extinction is more than our general fellowship can take. Time to fight it, one way or another.