IX Congregational Meetings
G. Any decision by the congregation shall be discussed ( shall take place ) prior to a vote at a meeting which is open to all members. A majority vote at any congregational meeting shall decide any question, except for a call or dismissal of the minister, an amendment to the Articles of Association and the Bylaws, or a high stakes decision as described in section H below.
H. Any topic or decision designated as high stakes, by action of both the Board and the membership at a congregational meeting, shall require approval by a majority of the entire voting membership before any action can be taken. Balloting shall include voting in person, by mail and/or electronically, or by some combination of the three, to assure fair process and to facilitate greater participation.
Process at the Annual Meeting
- This Board recommended wording will be placed on the floor for discussion after being sent out in the call to the meeting.
- It is possible to offer changes or amendments, “ so long as the change or the amendment is within the scope of the initial proposal.”
- An amendment to the bylaws requires an approval of “a two-thirds vote” for the adoption of the amendment.
- The quorum for a congregational meeting is “twenty percent of the voting membership.”
- If the amendment is approved, it takes effect immediately.
- The Board will have declared the proposal from the Multi-Site Task Force to be a high stakes decision at its April 20, 2016 meeting.
- Those attending the congregational meeting will have the opportunity to agree or disagree that the recommendation of the Board and the Multi-Site Task Force is a high stakes decision.
- If a majority of those in attendance agree on high stakes, then balloting will be done in writing at the conclusion of the meeting, as well as ballots send out by mail and by email.
- Ballots will need to be received by a ten day deadline, noon on June 1. Results will be announced by email.
The UCH Board has been working since October to produce this Board recommended change to the bylaws. One of the key recommendations of our UUA consultants was that UCH needs to make some changes in governance in its planning for the future. In particular there has been continuing comment about how we made past decisions and the hopes we have for improving the process. However, when we tried to define an important decision succinctly, we were unsatisfied. First we tried monetary terms of property, then added assets, and then attempted to capture possible changes in terms of mission or vision. Finally, we realized that a high stakes decision is a condition that a Board can recognize and a congregation vote to declare. It is an opportunity to combine leadership from the Board and our grassroots democratic process.
Next, we worked with the concept of quorum and percentages. How many people do we need to agree to make significant changes? The answer that satisfied us is a majority. For example, if there are 100 members, then 51-the majority- need to vote in favor for there to be a good chance of success.
But in the past, not everyone could come to a meeting where important decisions are being made. Clearly, it is time to join the 21st century and use absentee balloting to extend the franchise. The expertise exists to do it by means of a fair process that allows for the most members to participate.
To summarize, the Board has discussed the topic at length at five different meetings. Two after church discussion meetings open to all were held in February. We listened to many thoughtful comments from those discussions as well as emails to create this tenth version. We believe that some decisions are more important and more far- reaching than others. We agree that both Board and voting members need to share the same sense of importance on what is high stakes. And we affirm that it is time to reach out to encourage greater participation of our voting members by allowing absentee ballots.
for the UCH Board
April 16, 2016