Ponderings of the Spiritual Life Director 1-9-19

Covenant and Our Decision Making Process

Ponderings of the Spiritual Life Director

One of the most enlightening ideas I heard at last summer’s General Assembly of the UUA, was that our UUA board had transitioned to decision-making by consensus. This proclamation piqued my interest, but no further information was given about how they went about this.

As I’ve been exploring and presenting our UUCL congregational covenant, I’ve discovered that “seeking consensus” is stated in the fourth line of our promise to each other.

I will promote democracy by speaking with candor, respecting the right to dissent, seeking consensus, and honoring the will of the majority.

There it is, right next to “and honoring the will of the majority”. When you have a consensus, you are not honoring the will of the majority, though, you are making a decision that takes all perspectives into account and honors minority voices. I guess what the writers of this covenant meant is that we aspire to achieve consensus, but sometimes we just have to take a vote. There are pros and cons to both of these approaches, but the process of seeking consensus is particularly interesting to me because it requires us to go deeper and to be more creative in our solution making.

Consensus brings us away from the either/or decision-making process that voting can entail and requires creative solution making that all members can, at the very least, live with. Governing by consensus would mean we would have to work hard at listening to each other and design creative solutions that work for everyone. Furthermore, decision-making by consensus offers us the opportunity to be sure we are serving our mission statement. As a church, it is our duty to serve the world, so as we are designing solutions and making decisions, we always have to ask ourselves if it serves our mission.  While seeking a consensus, referring to the mission statement is an effective way of getting people to reflect on whether or not they are promoting their ideas because it’s something they want for themselves or because it’s best for the organization and its mission. Ideally, it’s both, but sometimes we enter the debate with only our own interests at heart. Patience and deep listening is required when seeking consensus, but in the end, we can make better decisions and strengthen our community.

There is an even greater potential here, too. This is where I expand my vision to great things and get really excited because taking a deeper journey into creating solutions and decision making leads us away from what might be settling for the norm. Seeking consensus opens new doors- not just for us, but for the whole world. With our technological advances in communication, what we do could potentially be published for all the world to see. Likewise, creative solutions that other organizations come up with are at our fingertips and can inspire us to walk into the future with fresh perspectives. Patterns can emerge, repeat, and expand and it’s certainly one avenue for changing the world!

As always, I look forward to taking new adventures with all of you! I can’t wait to see what we can create by promoting a true democracy.