Monday, November 8, 2010

Salvation by Org Chart?

So for awhile now I have been concerned about the emphasis on the move to policy based governance in Unitarian Universalist congregations, districts and the UUA itself.  It seemed to be billed as the solution to all that troubled us...if we could just free our boards from the day to day work then all our problems will be solved.  This is an exaggeration of course and that is not to say that the way Board's work in most congregations (and by extension to the rest of our association) couldn't use some creative re-imagining!

Yet policy based goverance fever has taken hold and spread like wildfire around the Unitarian Universalist Association.  Again not all of it is a bad thing..often our boards were weighed down with decisions best left to others and ministers, staff and congregational committees often felt the need to get board approval to do anything rather than just going ahead and doing it.

Yet I think we need to step back a minute and ask questions about a system developed not for congregations but comes out of a corporate model that was then translated into the non-profit world. It was developed by John and Miriam Carver, it is also known as the Carver model.  It is a management theory. It comes out of a corporate model that is focused on increasing profit and then translated some of the practices for non-profits.  Yet congregations are not just another kind of non-profit; and our primary mission is not profit.  Our mission is to transform individual lives and the world.  We are places that foster spiritual growth, justice and to be a home for the liberally religious.  How does this mission fit with a corporate model of management?

I was prompted by another blog post  on appreciative inquiry to finally write down my own thoughts, encouraged that others are also thinking critically about what it means for a faith community to turn to management theories for a solution to their problems. 

The title of the blog was inspired by a story about James Luther Adams, in arguments with Unitarian humanist, Edwin Wilson who said that "James Luther Adams believes in salvation by bibliography" to which Adams retorted "There is no such thing as the immaculate conception of an idea." (source of this JLA story)  So taking my cue from Adams and Wilson, are we as Unitarian Universalists believing in Salvation by Org. Chart?

Maybe we should heed the challenge of JLA and consider the sources!

Enhanced by Zemanta


  1. Thank you for the reference to James Luther Adams - good reading. I agree that we need someone today arguing for more Unitarian theology and less management theory.

  2. Tom,

    How about less worshiping of UU processes and more feeding of the soul and compassion for the marginalized.


  3. Thank you both for your comments! It is good to know that I am not the only one thinking about this!