Historically, Unitarian Universalism is rooted in a tradition of “Congregational Polity,” which, in plain English, means that the ultimate power and responsibility to govern lies within the congregation. This power comes from its members entering into covenant (agreement) to be a Unitarian Universalist congregation. There is no organization outside of our congregation that tells us what we have to do.
Governance by the Congregation
In UUCC, as in Unitarian Universalist congregations, generally, the ultimate power to govern lies in the congregation’s members. This structure of governance “walks the talk” of our seven principles of Unitarian Universalism, by promoting the inherent worth and dignity of each member, and by promoting the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process.
Policy Based Governance
UUCC’s governance process is based on a form of governance called “Policy Governance.” Our particular version is called “Policy Based Governance.” It’s designed to allow our leaders to be creative, innovative and flexible while giving the congregation its voice.
Policy Based Governance
The Board sets the vision and the Executive Team makes it happen.
The Board of Trustees
The Board of Trustees is an elected group of congregants who “set policy” (in other words, overall, big-picture decisions) about why UUCC exists. These decisions are embodied in a written document called the Congregational Ends, which are fundamental goals the congregation works at achieving.
The Executive Team
The Executive Team (the Senior Minister, with the Executive Director) is ultimately responsible for all the decisions about how the congregation operates — everything from what happens on Sunday mornings to whether to hire or fire Assistant Ministers and other staff. One way to think of the Executive Team is that they “execute” the Board’s policies.
Other Paid Staff and Councils
The Executive Team delegates much of its work to our paid staff, who, in turn, depend on the work of groups of volunteers from the congregation to create our high-quality worship, social action, religious education, and other programs. By volunteering, lay persons from the congregation also add to the congregational voice which influences everyday decision-making in the congregation.
These lay volunteer groups are known as Councils, and there are six of them: Communication, Religious Education, Membership, Music, Social Action, and Stewardship. The chairs of the Councils meet periodically with the Executive Team in an advisory body called the Leadership Council. Other Committees and Task Forces help these groups do the day to day work of fulfilling our congregational Mission, Vision, Covenant, and Ends. View the Organization Chart for more details.
The Board Makes Sure Your Voice Is Heard
The Board, which is made up of our elected representatives, is responsible for making sure the Executive Team is doing its job. Here’s how:
The Executive Team is required to submit a report to the Board, called an Ends-Monitoring Report, twice a year, to demonstrate its commitment to promoting Congregational Ends. If the Executive Team is falling short, the Board can ask for more or different efforts.
It’s important for everyone to participate in Ends-Monitoring – it’s a vital way to make your voice heard. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the Congregational Ends. When you see a Congregational End being addressed well – or if you see someplace where we’re falling short, please let us know.
Setting Administrative Limitations
“Administrative Limitations” are things the Executive Team isn’t allowed to do. An example of something the Executive Team can’t do is to unilaterally spend beyond the budget.
The Board sets priorities to move the congregation toward goal areas.
For example, a recent Board priority focus was to make our congregation more welcoming to new visitors and new members.
The Board implements its priorities through its Ends development, Ends-Monitoring, communications with the entire congregation from the pulpit and otherwise, and budget recommendations.
How UUCC Policy Based Governance Is Unique
In a “pure” Policy Governance organization, all operational decisions are made by the Executive. But at UUCC, the Board keeps certain powers, and the Congregation retains others. This special quality of UUCC’s version of Policy Governance strengthens congregational polity and the congregation’s direct democratic participation in governance.
For example, the annual operating budget is proposed by the Executive Team and Board, but must be approved by congregational vote; and the hiring of ministerial staff who work under the Senior Minister is a Board decision.
Certain important decisions were never delegated to the Board in the first place, and have always been the sole right of the congregation (these items are enumerated in the Congregational ByLaws). These include:
- Certain large expenditures
- Borrowing money
- A change in the Congregational Bylaws or the Articles of Incorporation
- Certain large payouts from the Endowment Fund
- “Calling” (appointing) and dismissing a Senior Minister
- Electing the Board and the Endowment Board
The Ends statement, number 7, last revised in November 2015, states: UUCC exists to promote justice, equality and social responsibility, with special attention to racial justice which intersects with all other justice issues.
This of course rings true to me in light of all we’ve been discussing for the past 2 years regarding racial justice. My surprise (likely because of my own ignorance of the progress of UUCC social justice initiatives) is that the sentence re ‘special attention to racial justice…’ has apparently been in our Ends Statement since 2015. Is that correct? Or was this perhaps added later than 2015?
Hi Scott! You are correct – this was added to End 7 by the Board of Trustees in September of 2015. There have been no changes to the Ends since that time! To read a bit more about what was happening around that time, check out the links from 2015 and 2016 under “Our Philosophy” here: https://uucolumbia.net/racial-justice/.