The following is the second of all five segments of a debate between presidential candidates Rev. Dr. Laurel Hallman and Rev. Peter Morales that took place at Eliot Chapel at the Boston headquarters of the UUA on January 15, 2009.
The full transcript is taken from their site http://www.uua.org/aboutus/governance/elections/president/128768.shtml which also hosts the linked audio versions..
UUA board secretary Paul Rickter introduced the event explaining that from 33 questions brought up by board members five subjects had been selected for this 90 minute event. (Read his full introduction in the original transcript).
Link to original audio at UUA.org: Board of Trustees-President Relationship
Rickter: We are now going on to talk about Board-President Relationship. And our moderator for that segment will be Will Saunders.
Will Saunders: Thank you. I would like to encourage the conversational nature of this interaction, so feel free to interrupt each other. [laughter]
Morales: What would my mother say?
Saunders: Let’s not go there. Let’s not go there. But I want to build upon the conversation that John initiated around policy governance and focus more intently on Board-President Relationship. And the first question or the first issue for conversation, in policy governance the President or CEO is responsible to and accountable to the Board. The Board establishes the organization’s vision and the President implements the vision within certain boundaries or executive limitations. Established by the Board at the same time, the President runs on a platform, also known as a vision, which may vary from that of the Board. The President is elected by delegates from the congregation and may feel primary accountability and responsibility to congregations. Thus, there is a potential for conflict. How do you propose to navigate this issue?
Morales: I honestly believe, and I don’t think I’d be running for president if I didn’t believe this, that those differences, as I mentioned before, are not going to be major. They’re simply not. We agree, at a very deep level, about where we want our Association to go. We might have little disagreements in the detail, but the first several levels of cut, there’s broad consensus among us.
I think that, to the extent that there is a difference, if the Board has a set of ends and there’s a somewhat different take by someone running for president and that person wins that’s a rich area for conversation, isn’t it? Because those are people who are owners who have said they’re supporting a vision, especially to the extent that an election is not about personalities but is about vision. So if I were on the Board, and I’ve been there, I’ve sat in your seat, I would ask myself well, “we’ve got to get clear on that because I thought it was this, but people just said they wanted something… this, so what’s common in there?” I really don’t think that’s going to be a huge issue for us. I don’t.
Saunders: And you may well be right. But if it is …not a huge issue, but even a … modest issue —
Saunders: …then how do we navigate that?
Morales: We talk.
Hallman: Carver says that, especially among the Board, if you don’t have conflict, now I know this isn’t quite what you’re saying, but if you don’t have conflict on the Board you’re not at the edge of your values.
So that you need to move out into the areas where you do have conflict because then those are the areas that are the front edge of your work. So I would assume that there also might be some disagreement about the values between the President and the Board or the same kind of spirit where I feel that because of what I’m doing as a president, I’m discovering that there are certain cutting edges and we have some difficulty about that. That’s rich. That’s a rich place to be.
If we’re veering off in completely two different directions or, more commonly the President begins to implement and the Board says “That’s not what we meant,” which happens, then you come back and you hammer that out, you hammer out what you really meant. It helps to clarify, the Board to clarify. So this is a constant process of clarifying both values and implementation strategies. I would consider that the yeast of being in this way of governing.
Saunders: So it sounds like you’re suggesting that the work of the Board is precisely constant clarification and re-clarification.
Morales: And we’re also bumping —
Hallman: Of ends.
Saunders: Of ends.
Morales: I think we’re also bumping up against here some of the limits of implementing a model that’s designed for the UUSC or the Red Cross or Planned Parenthood where there is a Board of Directors who hires a CEO.
Morales: And a model that is quite different where people are electing the CEO and also choosing the Board. I mean, the model we have is actually much closer to, and no doubt was informed by, our national political tradition where you have a president almost kind of like a legislature, that’s what’s behind it. So what we have is not classic. And so it’s going to take some tweaking over time.
Saunders: Thank you. Thank you. Each of you has identified areas in our association that need to change. I would invite you to choose one specific area and explain how you see the Board and the President working together to make that change happen.
Hallman: I will identify the area of communication, I would call it. It’s, again, a line of accountability, but the line of communications through the districts both to the people and back up into the Board, that has to change. And how it’s going to change between the Board and the President is going to be a struggle because the Board is now, at this point, representative of the districts. And the way that we have those lines of accountabilities are through liaisons. So I’ve discovered in my travels around that I’d meet up with you all the time. You’re individual. Everywhere I go there’s a Board member. And it’s lovely, but it’s —
Saunders: Hopefully. [laughter] That’s good.
Hallman: Well, I’ve enjoyed many. But it’s driven home to me, in this process, it’s driven home to me that we’ve got a relative, I said it’s too large, but it’s a relatively small group of people who are out there. The lines are complicated. The lines of what we call lines of accountability or communication are complicated.
Saunders: Question. Are lines of accountability and lines of communication the same?
Hallman: Well, they’re not exactly, but I think it’s communication I’m talking about in terms of liaisons. I don’t know really how much accountability you bring back from the groups that you’re a liaison to. I think it’s mostly observation and communication.
So it’s trying to know what’s going on out there and reporting on it and making sure we collate all the information and make the right decisions. It’s just a cumbersome, very cumbersome… given how large we are as an association. And we go back to our association of trust and our understanding of how things are reported up. We don’t need all those liaisons. We also, I don’t think, and this may be hard to hear, I don’t think we need a representative Board. It’s a small understanding of democracy, and the policymaking board is very complicated if it’s also a representative board. So I believe that’s an area where the governance process will clarify a lot of that. But the liaison structure and the representative board are two things that we will be working on, I would think, I’d be sure in the presidency.
Morales: Let me talk a little bit about an enormous issue that actually transcends the President and the Board and what I’ve been talking about in this campaign, which is our need for what I call a new ministry for a new America. And one of the things I’ve been talking about, and you’ve heard that the majority of children ten and under are not of European descent. We’re in the midst of the largest ethnic demographic racial cultural shift in American history, and we’re right in the middle of it and I don’t think we’re very well prepared for it. In terms of all ministry, but let’s talk especially about professional ordained ministry, half our ministers are going to leave the ministry in the next decade. You have a certain amount of people leaving anyway for other than retirement, and close to 40 percent are 58 and older. So we’re looking at a perfect storm.
It is going to be critical that the Board and the President and other stakeholders, our theological schools, all of them, get together in some way to address this and not fight over turf battles. But we need — and it’s just started — I compliment that in the Excellence in Ministry, but that’s just one piece. Because the process, if you look at it comprehensively, involves stuff that’s very much the Board’s around fellowshipping, but it really starts with the whole decision-making and recruitment process. MPL has got to be a huge part of that as it monitors people. And then after ordination there’s the whole function of helping people find placements and continuing education and adjustment along the way. We have got to do a lot better at preparing our ministers to be effective leaders in our congregations, and the Board and the President have got to coordinate between us that effort to help make it so. So that’s, I mean, a huge issue that we’re going to face.
Hallman: Let me just draw out for you how I would perceive that issue being understood here, and that is that the Board would set an end, and the end – and I’m only talking off the top of my head from this issue — is that the end is that we are adequately, we have adequately prepared, more than adequately prepared for our future the future demographics of this country. Our ministry in ten years is able to speak to the issues of the new demographics, represents the new demographics. You could draw an end like that. And then it’s up to the President to make that happen. And the President is the one that’s going to be doing the alignment with the schools, both our identity-based schools and our other schools of training with our churches, with programs for placement, with the kinds of internships we need. So all of the implementation comes down that side. If we don’t get results then the Board comes back with what they’ve already said were the monitoring tasks. They would be constantly monitoring to make sure that that was being fulfilled. So I just wanted to draw that picture for you about how I would see that being implemented.
Morales: Let me add, though, that I would push for that if the Board said nothing about it. And I would in this way, because if you want congregations that are vital in healthy communities, part of my interpretation of that is that those vital and healthy communities long-term are going to need religious leadership. And so an interpretation of that end would be … I think that’s part of what the dialogue in getting rich is, in that interpreting process, handing something back and saying well, don’t you think, or as the President would say, “I think we need to work on X, Y and Z that maybe the Board didn’t already have there.” And then the Board can say “yeah, we’re OK with that. Yeah, that sounds like a reasonable interpretation of that or not.” That’s, you know, dialogue mode. But part of the function of, I think, the presidency is to be on the edge that way and to be looking for opportunities in that way.
Saunders: Thank you.
Hallman: I’d be careful, though, about bringing something back of detailed program and saying what do you think? Because I think this Board and most boards are used to getting down into the well, you know, wouldn’t it be great if both schools did this and the other schools did that. I know that’s not what you’re saying, but I just would be cautionary about that. That it’s very, very easy for Boards especially to get into the programmatic elements. And that’s been one of the things that’s limited the effectiveness of boards because they’ve been too much into the programmatic elements and not enough into the visionary ideas that in ten years we are going to be in this other place and keep their eye out on that ten-year goal and not get caught up in what’s happening today.
Saunders: So this is increasingly conversational. I like that. Thank you.
Hallman: Oh, good. I’m glad.
Saunders: Thank you. But I do have another question. The President of the UUA has at least two roles, probably more, CEO and a leading member of the Board. How do you understand the differences between these roles? What other roles do you feel obtain to the president? How do the roles of CEO, member of the Board, and any other roles you may identify, relate to each other?
Morales: I respectfully submit —
Saunders: What are the differences —
Morales: — those are too many questions in one. [laughter]
Saunders: OK. Well, we’ll stop there and then I’ll get onto the next one.
Hallman: Yes. OK.
Hallman: I don’t believe the president is a leading member of the Board.
Saunders: You do not.
Hallman: No. The —
Saunders: The President is a member of the Board.
Hallman: The bylaws, or the way the bylaws are right now, but I do not believe the President should be a member of the Board.
Saunders: So you believe —
Hallman: They are two separate entities.
Saunders: So you believe we should change the bylaws —
Saunders: — that the President is no longer a member of the Board?
Saunders: I see. OK.
Hallman: I think it’s very important.
Hallman: I think that’s extremely important. Now, it’s not to say that the President is absent from the Board deliberations or doesn’t contribute, but I can reflect back in my own experience when we went into policy government, governance. My role changed dramatically from being a persuasive member at the table to being a person who reflected back to the Board how I saw what they were doing would play out into the implementation phase. And I also became a resource to the Board because I was much more attuned to all of the various issues and in terms of the staff and in the terms of the UUA in terms of the congregation.
Saunders: That’s very different from the way it is now, I believe.
Hallman: Yes, it is different from the way it is now.
Hallman: And it will be OK. [laughter]
Saunders: I’m just wanting to know, that’s all.
Hallman: Yeah, I think it, and there are other roles. And also in our bylaws is chief spokesperson. And I think that that is a very important role and a position that I would take very seriously, not as the only spokesperson but speaking for the denomination would be very important to me. Being the leader of a spiritual community is very important to me. And I think Bill very effectively said at one point, I think today, that, you know, this is not just a bigger church. [laughter] So it’s not like it would be a bigger minister, this is not this, but still effective bearer of our heritage and our tradition is a very important role, among others.
Saunders: Thank you. Peter.
Morales: I have a different take, and it would take a longer conversation to know whether it’s a distinction or a difference. I’m comfortable with the role of the President being part of the deliberations because when I’m CEO, I’m CEO. I’m not CEO in here with the Board. I’m CEO before the board meeting and after the board meeting, CEO of the staff and dealing with the staff. I mean, I deal with that all the time. When I’m with my board meeting, I participate in discussions and stuff, but the whole implementation of it is mine to do as senior minister. It’s a very different role. It’s a different mindset. It’s different people around the table. And you weren’t suggesting that the President not be here just making discussions either, so I’m not sure where that difference is.
Hallman: No, I think I was pretty clear. I do not believe that the President should be a member of the Board and just have a place at the table, which I’ve experienced and I’ve done and raised my hand and participated and been persuasive. Then your authority becomes from the ability to be persuasive. And not a member of the Board and being CEO and being in the board meeting as the CEO, I would expect the Board to look to me for that collaborative effort that we talked about before for clarification, for some insight, but I would not see my role as persuasive. I believe the Board — we go back to speaking as one voice — the Board is doing their own deliberation. They should be the only people at the table. And so I would be the CEO sitting in being called on for reference or for information, but not being a person at the table, just as everyone else is at the table.
Saunders: Do you want to say something more, Peter?
Morales: Yes, because that is a difference. I mean I think it’s incumbent upon me if during the — and actually I think Bill plays — because I’ve been here as member of the Board and staff, has done this fairly well. I think it’s part of my responsibility, if the Board is heading down a direction I think is a mistake, to say I think that’s a mistake. It’s still the Board’s decision to make that.
Hallman: I would agree with that.
Morales: But I don’t want to absent myself from something, you know, and say, “They were heading off a cliff but, you know, I wasn’t…”
Hallman: …and I watched them? I would agree with that.
Saunders: So, let me follow up…
Rickter: I actually think that we’re out of time for this segment, so we’ll have to wrap up, so thank you, and thank you, Will.