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CHAPTER XII

 

SOME POSSIBLE ALTERNATIVES CONSIDERED BY THE COMMISSION

 

 

In addition to considering plans for effecting a merger between Unitarians and Universalists, alternatives include maintaining the status—quo, having the two denominations disassociate from all pre­sent relationships, creation of an association of liberal denomina­tions, and a council on cooperation among liberal religious groups. Each of these alternative possibilities is described sufficiently, though not in full detail in this chapter. There are referred to as Alternatives 1, 2, 3 and 4, respectively.

 

 

Alternative 1 — Maintaining the Status—Quo

 

The status—quo is that which exists at present and with which most people are quite familiar. The material in Parts I and II presented many facts about the status—quo. Maintaining the situation which exists between the two denominations would mean the following:

 

1.         No changes at all in either the U.C.A. or the A.U.A. All affairs of either denomination would be conducted precisely as they now are, i.e., according to the wishes of the respective national bodies.

 

2.         None of the present independent activities or national auxiliaries would have to make any changes whatever except those they would normally make of their own vol ition.

 

3.         The C.L.C. would continue as it now is.

 

4.         Regions and State Conventions would face no changes except those they normally would encounter as a matter of progress within the respective denominations.

 

5.         Any present cooperative arrangements between A.U.A. and U.C.A. ministers, between any Regions and State Conventions, between any other national, intermediate or local groups would continue so long as both sides felt they wished to continue them.

 

6.         Since the status—quo has produced a considerable volume of cooperative efforts thus far, there is the likelihood that at other than the national level, co-­operation over the years would continue to increase, with the possibility that at some future time merger at all but the national level would be de facto if not de jure.

 

7.         Probable increase in competition at the national and perhaps other levels, particularly as Universalism becomes stronger.

 

 

Alternative 2 - Withdrawal

 

Withdrawal , that is, each denomination deciding to go its own way in the future, is another alternative and it should not he con­fused with maintaining the status—quo. If voted, it would mean doing away with many present forms of cooperation and abandonment of the C.L.C. and the L.R.Y. in favor of the constituent elements returning to their respective denominations. If any shades of cooperation were to be maintained, this would be for the two denominations to decide. Adoption of this alternative has comprehensive and far—reaching im­plications, which include the following:

 

1.         The Council of Liberal Churches would cease to exist, (with each denomination having its own department of religious education) involving legal action, splitting up of a well trained and coordinated staff, necessity of creating separate educational materials, and probable increase in the annual appropriation by both the A.U.A. and the U.C.A. for religious education.

 

2.         Elimination of all forms of reciprocity in the relation­ship of ministers which would also have some effect upon liberal religion theological schools; it would also re­quire an end to ministers of one denomination serving in churches or fellowships of the other denomination.

 

3.         Delecterious effect upon existing Universalist—Unitarian churches with no new ones being formed in the future.

 

4.         A negative effect upon the Liberal Religious Youth, whose leaders say dissolution would be almost impossible. Moreover, there is a possibility that the L.R.Y. would feel constrained to sever relationships with both de­nominations.

 

5.         Unfortunate effect upon the annual Senexett Conference consisting of ministers, officials of both denominations and deans of all theological schools, convened to con­sider ways of improving the ministry of the two liberal denominations.

 

6.         Dissolution of any other joint efforts involving ministers such as common programs for regional and local area ministerial associations.

 

7.         Elimination of Joint Biennial meetings of the two national assemblies.

 

B.        Freedom from the long dangling and almost perennial question of effecting some form of merger of the two denominations.

 

9.         Difficulties in some regional, sub—regional or local areas where cooperation is substantial and effective.

 

10.       Very probable increase in tension in areas where one or more churches of each denomination is found, par­ticularly as sectarianism increases.

 

11.       The prospect of liberal religious groups competing with each other to attain essentially the same goals and ends, and which competition would very likely increase.

 

12.       Duplication of expense at the intermediate level to operate two patterns of services to local churches.

 

13.       Probability of ultimately reaching a ceiling on growth in each denomination since the present patterns of policy and operation each contains selective factors controlling growth.

 

 

Generally speaking, the advantages would include complete freedom to press sectarianism strongly, an end to negotiational approaches to seeking means of working together on common problems, and an absence of joint budgets. In like manner, the disadvantages would include loss of the opportunity to effect united liberal religion in North America, numerous problems in pulling the C.L.C. apart and at the same time building up new departments of religious edu­cation.

 

 

Alternative 3 — Association of Liberal Religious Denominations

 

This form of cooperation has been a favorite in American religious circles. It is similar in concept to the very familiar Council concept among orthodox denominations.

 

 

What This Plan Is and What Is Involved

 

An association of liberal religious denominations would be some­what similar to the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Membership would not be on an individual church basis but upon a denominational basis. It is likely that at the outset there would probably be only two denominations as members — the Unitarians and the Universalists. The hope would be, as it was on previous occasions, that other liberal groups, as groups, would seek membership. It would be wisest to confer with other liberal groups before much effort is made to form a liberal religious associa­tion. This would make it possible to know early whether the new association has much chance to attract others outside of Unitarianism and Universalism. The basic idea behind such a plan, as is the case with the National Council, is that the new association could do things that neither denomination could effectively do separately. Other reasons would be the hope of improved coordination, reduction of competition and joint long range planning for liberal religion as a movement.

 

The features of such a plan would not be wholly unlike some of the features of Unitarianism and Universalism and the Council of Liberal Churches. These are considered under various topics which follow.

 

Choosing a Suitable Name: It would be necessary to choose a suitable name for the new association and any name chosen should re­flect the basic nature of the constituent members.

 

Creating a Legal Instrument: It would be wisest to consider creating a corporation in the event of any legal action, since the constituent members would be protected. Moreover, consideration should be given to incorporating in a state that makes it possible to have corporate meetings anywhere in the Continental United States.

 

Planning and Adopting Suitable By—Laws:          The necessary by-laws would take some time to frame and to get adopted since the new associa­tion would be engaged in activities and programs in the name of all constituent members. Attention would need to be given to such matters as the form of parent body, its governing board or committee, number and duties of officers, basis for proportioning delegate representation to the parent body, elections, credentials, etc.

 

Establishing a Plan of 0rganization:           Based on the by—laws adopted, the plan of organization might constitute the following fea­tures:

 

1.         An association composed of official delegates from the member denominations, and which persons these member denominatiors would indicate by their own procedures.

 

2.         The number of official delegates could be strictly pro­portionate to membership size, or there could be the same basic number of delegates for each member denom­ination plus one additional delegate for each 10,000 members or fraction thereof of each denomination which is affiliated with the Association.

 

3.         The association should designate and/or elect the usual officers, such as President, Secretary and Treasurer; moreover, these persons should be automatic members of the governing board, with the President serving as its chairman.

 

4.         None of the paid officials of any member denomination should be chosen to serve as delegates or members of the governing board. However, such persons could attend corporate meetings and have all the privileges of mem­bership except the right to vote.

 

5.         The governing board or committee (or some other suit­able name) could he elected by the delegates in business meeting assembled. This governing board or committee would be fully responsible to the association. Its membership would be based upon each member denomination designating one—fourth (or whatever fraction assures the greatest equity and balance) of its number of dele­gates to be members of the governing board.

 

6.         Consideration could be given to including representa­tion of present independent and/or auxiliary bodies through offering membership on a basis of two persons per organization.

 

7.         If sufficient funds are provitled, some staff assistance should be available to the governing board or committee for any necessary field work, study, convening of meetings or committees, prosecution of any program the Asso­ciation may adopt, and the like.

 

Financing the Association:  One of the difficulties with past efforts in obtaining success with an association of liberal denom­inations was due to financial stringency. It should be borne in mind that the new association would be a kind of super body in some ways and exist alongside the present denominations. While all details of proper financing have not been worked out, it is estimated that money for office space and related expense, Secretary, and some assistance for him, minimal promotional or informational materials, confer­ences, travel, meetings and incidentals would come to $25,000 or more. This means that in addition to meeting present and future financial needs of each denomination per se, Unitarians and Universalists at the outset would have to share the cost of this new venture. If it is successful, it is likely that its cost will go up considerably; however, if and when other liberal groups come into the picture, the cost to the A.U.A. and the U.C.A. would be proportionately less.

 

 

Advantages and Disadvantages of This Plan

 

This plan has advantages and disadvantages. The former includes:

 

1.         Making an opportunity available for liberal denomina­tions and groups to come together In a united front with a common voice in a very worthwhile cause.

 

2.         Preserving the status—quo within each present denom­ination and group.

 

3.         Affording a means of coordination and offering service in areas that none of the denominations alone could do as effectively.

 

 

The disadvantages include:

 

1.         Establishment of another body for which machinery has to be created and put into operation.

 

2.         Increasing the cost of operation for each denomina­tion.

 

3.         Dividing denominational energy and attention to its own problems, needs and progress.

 

4 .        Establishing a situation which will have a definite Uni-Uni thrust and balance of power that might prove unattractive to other liberal groups.

 

5.         The uncertainty that either principal denomination forming the new association will be willing to dele­gate sufficient authority to allow the association to be effective.

 

6.         The number of member denominations will be so small that it is questionable there would be sufficient room or flexibility for the new association to be effective.

 

7.         There is a spirit of strong sectarianism in Unitarianism and also in Universalism, which makes it question­able that either will give up anything important even though some matters might better be turned over to the new association in the long run best interests of liberal religion.

 

 

Alternative 4 — Council or Committee on Liberal

Religious Interdenominational Cooperation

 

Another alternative to merger consists of establishing a council or committee on interdenominational cooperation. It would initially be a voluntary, unincorporated organization considerably less formal than any of the other plans. Its purpose would be to explore all possible avenues for cooperation among religious liberals, and more particularly between Unitarians and Universalists, and to recommend ways of improving existing cooperation plus suggesting additional ways. It might ultimately be given responsibility for operating some joint functions but such possibility would await the outcome of its work over a few years. Should it be given operating work to do, this would mean dissolution of the C.L.C. but many of the present problems of the C.L.C. would be faced by the new group, since its nature in that event would not be dissimilar to the C.L.C.

 

 

How This Plan Would Work

 

The highlights of the plan are presented next.

 

Nature of Committee or Council: This would be a relatively small group of representatives from each interested denomination. At the outset, it is likely that only the A.U.A. and U.C.A. would be rep­resented. It would be a bi—lateral committee with the responsibility for exploration and recommendation. It would in no wise be an en­forcement agency. If other liberal denominations or groups wished to participate, then representation on the group would need to be multi—lateral, on a balanced basis.

 

Size of Committee: Size is not greatly important. However, the group should be large enough to have enough sub—committees avail­able to take responsibility for exploring possibilities in various possible areas of cooperation. Too small a committee would be over­worked, while too large a committee would be costly. Perhaps a group of 12 to 16 persons would be sufficient. However, size can best be determined after a few meetings. Additional members can always be considered.

 

Organizational Relationships: Committee members would be appoint­ed for rotating terms of offices by the respective denominational boards of directors, trustees, etc. The committee would periodically make reports to these several boards and if desirable also to the respective national bodies. It would work closely with denominational planning groups, headquarters officers and staffs, and auxiliary bod­ies as need be.

 

Sanctions for Exploratory Purposes: Devising ways for improving cooperation will very likely call for considerable examination of what is involved. Conceivably this would take the committee into many avenues including policy, financing, practices, use of existing or collection of special data, and so on. Unless it would be agreed at the outset that the committee could have access freely to the kinds and amounts of information it might need, there would be little point in creating the committee at all.

 

Financing: The committee from the very beginning would need to have a budget for various purposes including meetings, any necessary travel in connection with exploration, possibly some part—time assist­ance of a staff nature on occasion, maybe some equipment of its own such as a file cabinet, typewriter, etc.

 

Rules by Which the Committee Would Work: It would be necessary, before the committee is appointed, to establish a conference commit­tee for the purpose of discussing and writing down the ground rules by which the committee would operate. This is more important, if the committee on cooperation is to become successful. Such ground roles should have the endorsement and support of the respective denominational boards, or perhaps even the national bodies concerned.

 

The advantages would include:

 

1.         Assurance of the continuance, for a time at least, of present cooperative ventures, including the C.L.C.

 

2.         No basic structural or operational changes would be involved for either present denomination, including retention of national names.

 

3.         Opportunity to move ahead with sectarianism and denominational advance.

 

4.         Giving organized recognition to the desire to cooperate.

 

5.         Having a definite channel to which interested officials and persons can turn to make suggestions for enhancing cooperation.

 

 

The disadvantages would include:

 

1.         Creating an instrument that is avowedly permissive in nature.

 

2.         Establishing a device for improving upon the status—quo yet general consensus is that ‘cooperation’ as such has not met expectations and sanctions are turning against this method.

 

3.         Spending money on a venture that for various reasons may not be able to produce desired or expected re­sults, or, its recommendations may not be acted upon.

 

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