A SUGGESTED PLAN FOR A FUNCTIONAL MERGER
In considering the ideas contained herein, the reader does so in the knowledge that the material is strictly informational only. Any patterns of organization, titles used or whatever are merely illustrative. It is hoped that any persons who have suggestions or criticisms, as was true of all preceding chapters, will feel free to write to the Commission and express their views, make suggestions or ask questions.
The Proposed Plan
The plan is offered here in a highly abbreviated form. While it has been necessary to omit many details, it is believed that important matters are sufficiently treated.
The Basic Assumptions
The basic assumptions underlying this plan include thinking of a merged denomination de novo, i.e., as an entirely new body rather than trying to salvage and fit together bits and pieces of existing organizations; preserving as far as possible the major values of both denominations; retaining the various strengths but putting aside the weaknesses of each group in the effort to perceive a level higher than either now occupies; attempting to conceive a plan that will have long range rather than simply immediate applications; making use of sound principles used rather widely in institutional life.
What This Plan Is
This is a plan for functional merger of the A.U.A. and the U.C.A. which would be carried out all at one time. This means that merger would take place and immediately the process would be set in motion through which all of the problems would be settled. It is likely that some of these can be settled quickly while others of serious legal nature would take longer. However, it is very likely that, if merger should be voted, within a very few years, the new denomination would be in operation with the kinks all smoothed out. Everyone would recognize that regardless of the amount of preparation and planning, merger cannot be voted today and become operational in every respect the next month.
It is an associational type plan and leaves room for other denominations or liberal wings to come in when and if they desire. Although the additional changes which may be necessary should another liberal group join are not discussed, they would not be very difficult to make. At the time of this writing no groups had been approached nor did the Commission mandate call for such possibility.
Throughout presentation of this plan it was necessary for purposes of identity and communication to adopt some one name, hence the arbitrary choice is the Liberal Church Association of America.
State of Incorporation
While no particular state of incorporation is suggested, some state ought to be considered which will make it possible to have wide flexibility as to time and place of the business sessions.
The by—laws give consideration to the usual topics expected to be found. Only the highlights are pointed out in the sub-sections which follow.
Representative Body: The representative body is the main locus of authority and responsibility; it is a delegate type legislative body with official representatives from the churches and fellowships; it would be known as a General Assembly and would met biennially at times and places in the United States as determined by the Board of Trustees. Membership in the representative body, or General Assembly, would be principally constituted by churches, by fellowships and by related organizations such as Regions and national auxiliary bodies. Each church and fellowship would have one general delegate who may be either lay or ministerial and one delegate for each 100 legal members or majority fraction thereof. No individuals may be members and no provision for life members is included. Churches would be required to meet specified tests to continue as members. All national officers, all regional officers not to exceed a fixed number, and two delegates each from each national auxiliary would be included as members of the General Assembly.
Officers: The Officers of the General Assembly, duly elected by that body through prescribed procedures would be a President, a First Vice-President, a Second Vice-President, a Secretary and a Treasurer. Each of these persons would serve fixed terms of office and by virtue of their positions would also be members of the Board of Trustees. The President, while being the titular head of the denomination, would not also be the chief executive officer of the Association, but would be the Chairman of the Board of Trustees.
Committees: The General Assembly would have the necessary committees, some of a standing nature. Included would be such committees as Nominating, Business, Program, Credentials, and others as necessary.
Board of Trustees: According to fixed procedures, the General Assembly would elect members to a Board of Trustees consisting of 21 members including the officers of the General Assembly. This Board would be responsible to the General Assembly and would act for it in intervals between national business meetings but it would in no sense whatever be the General Assembly per se, or invade that body's prerogatives. The Board would supervise the activities and operations of the headquarters through a chief executive officer whom it would select and appoint. Such person would be solely responsible to that Board and serve at its pleasure.
Representative Body Procedures: Such procedures as nominations for offices, elections, the proper handling of resolutions, special actions, and modification of the by—laws would all be regularized in such manner as to assure full democratic action and business-like conduct of affairs. The details by which these matters would be handled are not offered here but are closely parallel to the experiences of Unitarians and Universalists.
The plan of organization for the headquarters of a merged denomination depicted on Chart V, would have these features:
1. A Board of Trustees, responsible to the representative body.
2. A chief executive who would be responsible to the Board for the proper conduct of association affairs insofar as the functions at headquarters would be involved and for supervision of expenditures. All personnel would be responsible directly or indirectly to the chief executive officer.
3. The Treasurer would be an officer of the Association and would guide the Assistant Treasurer and Business Manager in policy adherence, while the chief executive would be responsible for general administration and supervision of financial affairs.
4. Three Divisions, ultimately headed by principal associates to the chief executive: responsible for the Division of Churches and Related Service, the Division of Information and Publications, and the Division of Finance. For the time being, these positions need not be filled until the workload and advance of the merged denomination so warrants.
5. The Division of Churches and Related Service would include the functions of Ministry, Service, Religious Education and Youth Activities. Each function would be headed by an experienced, competent person.
6. The Division of Information and Publications would contain the functions of Public Relations (or Information if that term is preferable), the Denominational Journal, and the Presses. Each function would be headed by an experienced, competent person.
7. The Division of Finance, headed by a principal associate and termed Assistant Treasurer and Business Manager on the chart, would be in two parts: Finance and Building Operation and Services.
8. Each Division would have an Advisory Council and each function head would be assisted by an Advisory Committee: both are for the purpose of providing adequate checks and counter-balances and for having as much non-staff participation as possible.
9. The fund raising function is left external until such time as the new denomination is fully operative and known. This might require a period of five years, after which consideration could then be given to whether the fund raising function should remain external or become an internal one. This would require re-evaluation and further study before making a decision.
10. Although not shown as part of Chart V, the intermediate level plan of organization would be on a regional basis, with a very close working relationship between the Regional Directors and the Division of Churches and Related Services. Some discussion of regions appears shortly.
A new set of personnel policies would need to be created. These would contain consideration of manner of selection and appointment, benefits including salary ranges according to positions, working relationships and position descriptions.
All positions would be considered as new ones to be filled on a basis of merit from among qualified Unitarians and Universalists, and without regard to having an equal number or any particular ratio of Unitarians and Universalists. This may mean, of course, that some present national office staff members may very likely be appointed to some of the new positions, and they should be if objective screening indicates they are best fitted.
The number of personnel to be required in the new headquarters was estimated at the time the basic study of a proposed plan was prepared. While no attempt is made here to prescribe any exact number since the new chief executive together with the Board and the sub-executives will have responsibility for deciding how they want the departments staffed, estimates were made a year ago. These revealed that if the plan as proposed is adopted, then the number of personnel would be considerably in excess of the combined number of staff members now at the A.U.A. and U.C.A. headquarters per se, because the C.L.C., Unitarian Service Committee, the L.R.Y., possibly some of the U.P.H. staff and the personnel requirements of the new information function would be added. If the Service Committee and the L.R.Y. do not become internal, the number of persons to be required would still be larger than the present A.U.A. and U.C.A. The method of ascertaining the number of persons was not to add the A.U.A. and U.C.A. personnel, but to study the likely requirements of each function in the light of a merger, bearing in mind a new and different workload than either denomination now has.
Merger itself, in the light of long range planning and likely developments in near term advance, will not mean a reduction in personnel at headquarters. Both present headquarters are not adequately staffed as it is.
The basis for determining a budget for the new headquarters included attention to likely income and expense. The income from the A.U.A, the U.C.A., the C.L.C., the U.P.H., the L.R.Y., and the Unitarian Service Committee (designated and undesignated and general) was pooled to form a working basis. Expenses were determined on the basis of likely functional staffing and other expense requirements. The income would be in the neighborhood of $900,000 and expenses would be slightly higher, with the difference due principally to the division head positions and also in part to raising all salary levels for professionals. Since the time of those estimates, the A.U.A. and the C.L.C. each have received significant increases in the amount received from the annual appeal. Thought was also given to fiscal effects of not including the Unitarian Service Committee, with the result that merger would still be fiscally possible. In either budget it may mean for a time, however, that heads of divisions cannot be appointed. It is anticipated that if a new denomination continues its rate of giving as has been the case for the two appeals (A.U.A. and U.C.A.) it would not be long before such personnel could be appointed. They should be appointed when it is clear that demands for service and denominational growth make it imperative and the financial situation makes it possible.
Regions and State Conventions
The plan proposes that a Regional form of intermediate organization be adopted as an integral part of the whole merger. A suggested number of regions is shown on Chart VI. It will be noted that not many changes are involved except as regards the Meadville, Western, Southwestern and Pacific Coast areas. The chart is based on 1957 data plus the estimates of growth in the number of local units in the next ten years, such estimates having been made by Regional Directors and State Superintendents, respectively. It should not be felt that this plan involving the number of regions indicated would be permanent. As the denomination grows, it will become necessary to add more regions, through reducing the size of some regions, depending upon the number of local units involved. The basic principles involved in determining the number of new regions include distance, ease of transportation, number of units and the like. It is not believed that a Regional Director could handle an indefinitely large number of local units adequately even though he had a number of staff assistants.
It should be kept in mind that the foregoing constitutes one plan for a functional merger. There are numerous ways of applying the principles involved in this plan, so that other portrayals would be possible. The people of the churches are urged to study all the plans and alternatives, and to make suggestions concerning any of them. If it develops that a church is interested in merger, it has a responsibility for making suggestions concerning the organizational pattern it prefers. Such a plan might be the illustrative one presented above or it may be some other. On the other hand, if a church prefers not merging, it should indicate what alternative it would prefer and make some suggestions as to the features it would like to see included. None of the plans or alternatives which have been presented in this Manual are intended to restrict thinking; i.e., to two possible plans for merger and four alternatives to the merger. Churches should feel free to suggest plans or alternatives of their own devising, whether or not they have been presented herein.
When all the results of the first plebiscite are in, together with the suggestions on plans or alternatives, the Merger Commission will then work out in detail the plan or the alternative the majority of the churches prefer. This will be submitted in time for the churches and their delegates to consider in anticipation of the vote to be taken at the Joint Biennial in October, 1959.