Tamara Payne-Alex

The campaign to elect Tamara Payne-Alex as UUA Moderator in 2013


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“Yes, but what are you going to DO?”

UnknownWhen I speak of the values that undergird my desire to serve as UUA Moderator, many are inspired, but also want to know how those values would translate into actions as moderator.

 I’m glad you asked.

I have been keeping a TO DO LIST throughout my campaign.  It is a living document that I have added to or adjusted throughout the campaign.  This list does not include the typical tasks that a moderator does between general assemblies or the long list of governance work that board leadership is tracking (policy rewrites, reviewing monitoring reports, discussion of interpretation of ends, board self-assessment, etc.)

Rather, this is a TO DO list to keep focus on larger goals in the first months following the election.

Tamara’s Moderator TO DO List

Partner with the UUA Board to… 

Create a Board working and meeting culture that:

  •  reflects feminist and culturally inclusive processes for sharing power and decision-making
  •  incorporates meeting practices to support diverse cultural, generational and personal communication styles
  • commits to a work structure that is healthy and expands the circle of those who may serve at the highest levels of our Association.


Establish an outward facing Board communication strategy with the desired outcomes of:

  • clarifying leadership accountability
  • measurably increasing engagement with governance
  • improving transparency into the processes that guide and values that inform decision-making


Develop a linkage (accountable relationship) plan that leverages the new at-large Board configuration to:

  • strengthen and enliven the relationship between congregations/communities and elected trustees
  • identify and engage communities that may be disadvantaged in our current power structure
  • explore an expanded understanding of congregation and covenanted community and include in linkage plan

Note: There has been a call from one of our congregations and many individual allies to have leaders “investigate the accountability relationship between the Board and Ministerial Fellowship Committee, with an eye toward balancing the need to protect institutional interests with a pastoral responsibility to care for victims of misconduct.”  This will require connecting with the initiators of the petition, clarifying appropriate role of moderator, identifying critical voices and participants, partnering with participants to establish desired outcomes and values that will drive the process


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Why They Didn’t Come Back

RPayneNicheCloseupMy father began hearing voices when I was fifteen.  This was just one of the many physical and psychological maladies that plagued this loving, gentle Vietnam Veteran.

Medical intervention managed his psychological symptoms pretty well.  However, there were periods of time when his ability to compartmentalize the past from the present would weaken and the confusion, anxiety and pain would reemerge.

I was a young adult and just back from college when my father experienced a particularly challenging time.  I can remember sitting near him as he paced restlessly.  When I would call his name, he would pause to focus on me briefly then resume his agitated movements around the room.

Suddenly he stopped in front of me.

“I can’t stop thinking about them.  The voices keep asking where they are and why they didn’t come back.”  His face crumpled. “They were my buddies, Tam.   Where are they?  The voices won’t stop asking me why they didn’t come back?”

My relief that he recognized me and was maintaining a hold on the present was dwarfed by overwhelming sadness.  My heart ached with his pain and I wondered why more of us don’t pace in agitation and confusion.  Where are the insistent voices asking why those who lose their lives in war and violence don’t come back?

In that moment, I saw the pain and anguish  in my father’s eyes as well-adjusted and understood the merging of time and  space as rational and real.

My Memorial Day prayer is to sit still and listen for those voices my father heard so clearly.  I remember my father’s confusion and grief and let it wash over me…

On this day, I pause in both grief and gratitude for those who lost their lives in war and their families and friends who carry the burden of loss.


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Read the Petitioning UUA candidates for board and moderator: Open a national conversation on clergy misconduct

SharingcandlesThis courageous and principled push to raise the visibility of ministerial misconduct and clarify the accountability of our leadership has my full support. My experience in our congregations and UU communities, and my terms of service on the Ministerial Fellowship Committee, UUA Board, Panel on Theological Education, has provided me with insight into the ways our complex systems and our culture of independence allows us to treat misconduct as isolated occurrences, obscuring the more widespread system dynamics.

Addressing this issue will require that we examine issues of power, collusion, and our fondness for privacy and avoiding conflict that often result in silence, voicelessness and isolation.  This work will not be without pain and disagreement even as we agree on the values of dignity and justice.

As an active, dedicated lay leader and a lifelong UU who has witnessed our broken faith communities from many perspectives, and who has personally experienced our system protect those who have done harm at the expense of our most vulnerable, I am fully committed to holding our association accountable for fulfilling its promise to victims of clergy misconduct and other abuses of power.

As a candidate for UUA Moderator, I publicly state my willingness to start a new conversation of compassion and courage on clergy misconduct in the UUA, and to ensure that survivors of misconduct have a real voice in the conversation.  I commit to supporting the UUA Board of Trustee’s ownership of the recommendations of the Safe  Congregation Panel and the Board’s role in holding the staff accountable for implementation of the recommendations.  I commit to using the power of the office of Moderator to investigate the systemic accountability relationship between the Board, Ministerial Fellowship Committee, Administration and other UU organizations in caring for and supporting the individuals and communities that are the survivors of misconduct.  

Together in faith and courage,

Tamara Payne-Alex


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VOTE in the 2013 UUA Moderator Election

imagesHow do I vote for Moderator?

Under the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Bylaws regarding elections, congregations that have met the certification requirements for sending voting delegates to General Assembly (GA) can vote in the election by sending their delegates to vote on site at General Assembly or by submitting completed absentee ballots.

A congregation can use a mix of both of these methods if it wishes. For example, if a congregation will be sending some but not all of its delegates to General Assembly, the congregation can vote absentee for any of the delegate slots that won’t be used to send delegates to General Assembly.

When do I vote for Moderator?

Certified congregations can vote in the election by sending delegates to vote on site at General Assembly in Louisville, Kentucky on Saturday, June 22.

Absentee ballots with instructions and biographical information about the candidates were mailed to certified congregations in early March. Congregations that choose to vote by absentee ballot must submit their completed absentee ballots by June 12th.

More questions?  Contact elections@uua.org.


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Campaign Funding and Costs

images-1The cost of UUA election campaigns range from $0 (in uncontested races) to over $200,000 (in contested UUA Presidential campaigns).

The UUA Board reimburses Moderator candidates’ travel to UUA Board meetings and General Assemblies for the year prior to the election.  The UUA has established vehicles, such as posting links to candidate websites and producing candidate videos, to provide candidate information to delegates.  Otherwise, UUA election campaigns are funded by generous private donations.

UUA Rule G-9.13.8 Campaign Finances Disclosure requires candidates to submit a report of their fundraising results and campaign related expenses.  The campaign finances report is due at the close of the first day of the General Assembly at which the election occurs.  This timetable does not provide easy or timely transparency for delegates.

I set my campaign budget at $10,000 and chose a transparent fundraising platform to track donations.  I have posted my  campaign expenses on my website and will update them regularly in the weeks leading up to the election.

Transparency is a prerequisite of productive engagement, shared power and accountability.  I hope this level of transparency invites you to get involved, ask questions, raise concerns, make suggestions and hold leaders accountable to your vision of how to best live out Unitarian Universalist values.


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Youth and Regionalization

photo-1“Is it my imagination or do adults not want to talk about how youth fit into the shift to regionalization?”

I had been invited to the Youth Council retreat to respond to youth concerns about regionalization.  The straightforward question came from a youth leader sitting on the arm of the sofa across the room.

“No,” I respond.  “I don’t think it is your imagination.”

Our Association and our congregations struggle with how to best minister to and be in right relationship with our youth communities.  The shift to regionalization does not simplify these issues.

The hour-long discussion at the Youth Council retreat was thoughtful, nuanced, and authentic.  Our discussion topics included the history of districts, funding and resource allocation, the tension between the vision for congregation based youth ministry and district youth programming, and the differences between District Trustees and At-Large Trustees.  Throughout the conversation, youth leaders gently called the twenty plus member group back to focus if the conversation wandered.  Members encouraged one another to choose words that implied possibility rather than words with negative connotation.

During the course of our discussion I made recommendations to Youth Council on how to best position themselves in a changing system.  My recommendations come from a knowledge of systems and change, as well as a deep familiarity with our UU youth culture and our Association.

  • Have a clear articulation of what you want to see happen.  Find your important message and repeat it over and over to all levels of the shifting system.  Clarity and focus are the best ways to claim power in a shifting system.
  • Seek multiple conduits for information.  Have multiple allies.  In a shifting system, folks often only have part of the picture or access to a piece of process. Check information often as things change quickly.
  • Pay close attention to succession planning and pass your important message on to future Youth Councils.  The process of regionalization will take longer than the current iteration of youth leadership.  Think long-term.

I also encouraged the youth leaders to participate in the upcoming Moderator election.  Youth should always be attentive to and invested in Association leadership because our leaders make decision that affect youth and young adults.  The UUA Board will transition to smaller At-Large Board in June and the positions of District Trustee and Youth Trustee will be eliminated.  Youth will need to establish new relationships to hold Board leadership accountable to the youth community.  With this shifting landscape, youth and youth allies should be very engaged in the outcome of the upcoming election.

“What if I’m not a delegate?” asked a youth.

“Then find out who is.”  I responded. “You don’t need to be a delegate to influence your congregation leadership.”

Youth Council also discussed reaching out to youth and young adult leadership in other Districts to share resources, ideas and build collaborative relationship during this time of change.

I left the Youth Council retreat energized, knowing that I had spent time with some of our Association’s smartest and most dedicated leaders.


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Monitor This!

For fifteen years I was a business systems consultant specializing in equal employment and inclusion.  I imagesused data to hold organizations accountable for results, ensuring that remediation programs were effective.  I prided myself on using the data collection process to re-energize commitment to mission and create new partnerships where trust had been broken.

So my heart went pitter-patter a couple of years later when the UUA Board moved toward Policy Governance.   Monitoring reports, a key component of Policy Governance, requires demonstrating that programs are achieving results.  As people of hope and compassion, we should yearn for evidence that Unitarian Universalism is making a measurable difference in our broken world.

However, while the world is full of enthusiastic data collecting and reporting,  I maintain that meaningful evaluation is very difficult. It is tempting to assume that good effort and good intention net good results.  We should expect to struggle mightily as we integrate evaluation into our systems in a meaningful way.

A couple of thoughts as we sweat it out:

1) Frequency of monitoring should not be determined by “importance”.

Counterintuitive? Not if  you understand change and evaluation.  Frequency of monitoring should be based on the type of change you are looking for in your results.  Somethings do not warrant annual evaluation because measurable change is not likely to occur within that timeframe.  Annual evaluation can mask gradual trends because data is usually only compared across three data sets.  Too frequent evaluation can imply stability  that isn’t actually there.  (Think climate change).

2) The assessment process itself is a catalyst for change.

It is impossible to know from one data point if things are getting better or worse in relation to the desired outcome. However, many organizations will try to avoid longitudinal data.

Why?  Because folks’ expectations are shaped by what is being measured.  Consequently, the assessment process itself tends to move a culture toward more critical discernment, greater expectation, and sometimes a downturn in results after the first assessment.

Strategic organizations can use the increased expectation as a measurable positive byproduct of monitoring.

3) Prioritizing monitoring based on a traditional definition of risk is risky.

Risk is very subjective and often contextual.  Somethings are considered more of risk because they are  imminent, others because of the scope of impact.  Most organizations focus heavily on financial or asset management and areas of recent industry legal liability.  However, the integrity and vitality of a mission based organization is built on much more than good accounting and good counsel.

Our former Financial Advisor, Larry Ladd, considered enrollment in religious education to be as important to our health as our financial performance.  There are many who consider our Association’s capacity to mobilize around justice issues to be as important as our asset management policy.

The UUA has many systems in place to audit areas of traditional institutional risk.  What we haven’t quite mastered is meaningful evaluation of the things that are harder to measure.  Because what we do matters, we should hold ourselves accountable for results.  We have limited human and asset resources, so we should seek evidence that what we are doing is working effectively toward the goals we have set.

Responsible asset management includes ensuring we  are using resources entrusted to us to make a measurable difference in the world.  I would argue that one of our biggest risks would be not holding ourselves accountable to our mission or not knowing that what we are doing is working.

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