Studio picture of a woman looking at the camera, smiling.

The Business Model Conundrum


by Rebecca A. Pace, Certified Public Accountant

In the debate about the proposed changes to Article II, a question frequently comes up about why these changes are required. The answer is always some version of “it’s time.” We’re told the bylaws call for a periodic review, or society has changed since 1985 or some other pivotal date. Sometimes the answer is “church as traditionally defined is irrelevant; we should be a Social Justice Organization and get things done.”

The answer is never “a comprehensive review of our business model, by an independent, third-party organization, made these recommendations.” In fact, there has never been such a review. (Note 1) Perhaps that is reason enough to vote no on the proposal.

Most businesses would do a thorough market study before making a drastic change to their messaging. First, they would find out what makes them unique and what draws customers, or members, to them.

There is no evidence that this proposal is needed.

Some people think that changes to Article II are needed due to declining UU membership. It is true that membership is declining, but membership is declining in all religious organizations, except very large, evangelical Christian independent churches. Are we seeking to emulate those organizations? No. Is there still a place for individuals seeking Freedom of Belief? Yes! Where is the study that will help us build on our strengths?

As I look around and ask, “Why are you UU?” there are two common answers: (1) The Seven Principles resonate with me, and (2) I value the relationships I have with members of my local congregation.

So, if new members are drawn to our Seven Principles, why is the Article II Commission so intent on throwing them out?

Does the Values and Covenant proposal, with its demand for accountability and racial equity, resonate in the same way?

Of course, we would love to see more people of color in our congregations, but it seems to me that the idealistic call for covenant to dismantle racism is a poor beacon when compared to our First Principle, “The inherent worth and dignity of every person.”

If members stay because of the relationships they build in their local autonomous congregation, why change the purposes of the UUA away from serving the needs of the congregations?

This proposal has us sailing off into uncharted waters. Trying to do this without an objective study of our needs and what draws members to us will only lead to confusion, unnecessary costs, disillusion, and decline.

This is why I will vote no on the proposed changes to Article II.


Note 1: The Report of the UUA Commission on Institutional Change was not a business study. It examined the alleged white supremacy culture of Unitarian Universalism.