The winners with regions

I was a little amazed about the idea — from a special UUA Board meeting no less; where’s the fire? — that five regions should supplement and perhaps supersede the current nineteen districts.

Chutney asks who the losers would be. Staff, to be sure. That’s what reorganizations are for. But I wonder who the winners would be.

There shouldn’t be a reorganization unless there’s a good reason. And a good reason would be to devolve some of the functions centralized in the current system. Centralized, and I think unduly inhibited. At minimum, the following services should be decoupled from the center, apart from setting quality standards:

  • Admitting member congregations
  • Admitting ministers and others to fellowship
  • Sponsoring or caring for new church starts

With this, I imagine, comes the spectre of independent fundraising and ministerial development arrangements — with one of the current seminaries, or without — and that needn’t be a bad thing.

But again, where’s the fire, or is this an effort to make lemonade — unwillingly — out of the lemons of feared financial insolvency?

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.


  1. The UUA has been through this kind of re-org before, during Robert West’s tenure as president. See The Premise and the Pormise, pp. 59 ff.:

    “West’s plan to balance the budget was drastic. In addition to terminating the treasurer, he proposed, and the Board approved, consolidating the eight headquarters departments into five, funding seven interdistrict executives and offices instead of the existing twenty-one districts, reducing the UUA staff from more than one hundred to fifty-five…. It was radical surgery, and it did not make Bob West popular with those who lost their jobs, hated to see their district offices closed, or did not fully understand the necessity….”

    Sounds familiar, doesn’t it….

  2. I am going to venture to say that the winners might be the congregations. Right now my district is experimenting with this model of regional resource sharing and from what I’ve seen so far it is a good thing. Why? Because lots of part-time staff are being replaced with one full-time staff person. Instead of there being several part-time people focused on growth, for instance, there’s one full-time person focused on growth who is working with all four of the districts involved. This seems to be allowing for the development and delivery of more resources rather than less.

    At the same time all of this is going on my local cluster of congregations is also gaining strength. I don’t know if this is true elsewhere but in my district there is a real push to strengthen the clusters. In fact, the staff mentioned above are working with the congregations primarily through the mechanism of the clusters.

    So I could see the move towards regionalization and clusters as actually a move away from centralizing resources with the UUA and towards disbursing them among five regional staff groups who work to strengthen clusters of congregations. I don’t know if that’s what will happen but the possibility is certainly there.

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