|Tamara Payne-Alex and Jim Key kicked off their campaigns for UUA Moderator at a joint appearance at last year's General Assembly in Phoenix..|
I occasionally use this blog as a forum for my opinionated screeds concerning governance issues within the Unitarian Univeralist Association (UUA), certainly one of the dullest of all topics to anyone without a dog in hunt. I typically lob a grenade or two from the side lines and then scamper back to my cave in the mountains while a modicum of confusion and consternation ensues in a handful of blogs and Facebook postings.
Be warned. I am at it again. The catalyst this time was an innocent Facebook post by UUWorld Editor Chris Walton about endorsements on the web sites of the two candidates for the post of Moderator one of whom will be elected at General Assembly in Indianapolis this summer.
For non governance geeks who have gotten this far, the Moderator is generally considered the highest volunteer position in the UUA. He or she is the Chair of the Board of Trustees—a virtual President of the Board if the executive title were not in use elsewhere—and presides very visibly at General Assembly plenary sessions. The position is traditionally held by lay person, although there is no bar to a minister seeking or being elected to the post, just as the President of the UUA has always been ordained although that is not required either. For about 40 years the job has been filled by women and some have come to view it as the seat at the table of power for the gender.
Chris provided links to the endorsement pages of both candidates, Tamara Payne-Alex and Jim Key. Check both out. The are enlightening and inspiring as to the quality of human beings seeking the job. Then he asked how those endorsements might affect our personal preferences.
My longtime cyber friend, fellow blogger and queen of social media Suzyn Smith Webb quipped that Key “has the older white dude with beard vote locked up.” That was enough to set me off and running like an old hound with fire crackers tied to his tail.
As a cure for insomnia for those who missed the original post, here is what I had to say, pretty much unedited except for stopping to breathe and adding paragraphs.
I guess you will have to put me down with the old white guys with beards. Certainly fit the description. Not that it matters much. I am mere layman who has never held a single significant post in our movement outside of my congregation.
I have been a gad-fly commentator on governance issues and worked on the periphery of two (successful) presidential campaigns. I have been seen by some as a burr under the saddle and sniper from the sidelines because I have become very critical of the Board in recent years as it became the Great Black Hole of our movement, sucking in, destroying, or disarming every independent or quasi-independent power source out there all in the name of Transparency, Simon Pure Congregational Polity, and the worship of a particularly rigid form of Policy Governance as if it were handed down from Mt. Sinai. All of this allegedly in the name of real democracy.
This includes an ongoing war with UUA President Peter Morales who had the audacity not to submit to being a clerical functionary of the Board, but a popularly elected leader.
Now that you know where I come from, I respect both candidates.
Tamara Payne-Alex has been a literal golden child since the first moment she stepped onto the denominational (flog me for the use of that word latter) stage. Earning her credentials as an anti-racist leader and an attractive, dynamic presence it was clear that she was destined someday for leadership at the very top level.
Jim Key, however, was an unknown quantity to me sitting out here in the Mid-West. It looked like he might be a regional candidate, or, indulging in the paranoid fantasies not unknown among followers of UUA politics, that he might have been nominated as weak opposition to an anointed successor to Gini Courter. Reading his list of endorsers, heavy on the hirsute and superannuated or not, and what they had to say was a revelation to me. And there were even some leading persons of color and some who have not yet drawn their rocking chair money.
What got me most was the breadth of Key’s hands on leadership at several levels, his touted ability bridge differences and reach working solutions to complex and emotional problems. Above all this is an election when outsider status to the current Board is critical.
He sewed it up for me with the reported rejection of the notion that the Moderator should have his/her own program to drive through with relentless single mindedness which is Gini’s legacy, no matter how perfectly charming she was presiding over GAs.
Jim Key can have my endorsement, but he might not want it.