General Assembly -The Cost of Democracy #newuuaga
For years, it has been obvious that the delegates to General Assembly (GA) do not necessarily represent their congregations. It is expensive to attend so those that go tend to be people who can afford to go. They are the people who can afford to take time off work or who are retired. Ministers go, at least if they have enough professional expenses available. Ministers should be there and they should also attend ministry days, in my opinion. An annual dose of collegial connection and inspiration is critical if we we are serious about maintaining excellence in ministry. But if they can’t afford it, they don’t go. That tends to include, I suspect, a large percentage of our ministers that serve part-time in our smaller, geographically isolated congregations. Many of those congregations rarely have anyone attend. When their minister, if they have one, can’t afford to go, they are not only disenfranchised but also risk disconnection from our larger faith community.
Very few congregations provide funding for any of their lay leadership to attend. Several years ago, the UUA paid the registration fees for congregational presidents. That was a very good thing. I am not sure why it stopped. During the brainstorming session (Which was recorded on twitter @#newuuaga) I suggested that we find a way for the UUA to subsidize delegates who would actually represent their congregations. If it the subsidy went only to congregations that are fair share, it would also encourage more congregations to be fair share. As Vanessa Southern said in her sermon at the Service of the Living Tradition, “Big missions don’t happen on starvation budgets.” If we really care about an inclusive democratic process(and we should), we need to do something.
I had thought that the provision to have off-site delegates would help. Then I discovered that off-site registration also costs, and not a nominal amount. Our church board actually designated one of our board members to be a delegate – and then we found out that it would cost $150 for her to register. I can understand charging something, but $25-30 dollars would be fairer. We likely could have squeezed that amount out of our church budget, but the $150 was simply too much.
More on General Assembly later. My sermon this Sunday is “Home from Kentucky.”
What happens at GA should not stay at GA.