Board Update #3: Board Leadership Transition

We’ve been a busy Board already this year! Because we have so much to share, we are offering it in three parts, this is the third (you can find the first here and the second here). This one provides news about a recent transition on the Board.  

Last in our news roundup is a change in leadership. Due to work stresses, Sara Edwards has resigned from the Board. Sara contributed a lot in the last 16 months as she served as Secretary-Elect and Secretary. The Board is very grateful for all that she did.

Per our By-Laws, the Board is required to appoint someone to fill any vacancies when it occurs mid-term.  As a result, at our meeting last week, the Board appointed Cheryl Hazlitt to the Board. She will serve the remainder of Sara’s term, and is considering the possibility of being nominated for one of the vacant positions beyond that.  More information on this around February or March when the Nominating Committee begins its work of determining a slate for our elections in May.

Cheryl has been a great asset on the Personnel Team and we’re sure she will be a big help on the Board as well. Please give both Sara and Cheryl your thanks the next time you see them.

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Preparing for our Annual Meeting this Sunday

Dear members and friends,

We are excited to be nearing our congregational meeting this Sunday.  We hope you all received the following two documents to prepare you for this important gathering:

Because of the complicated nature of this year’s agenda, the Board leadership met earlier this week with a professional Parliamentarian to prepare.

In that meeting, we realized that it would be ideal to establish a few standing rules at the beginning of our gathering to ensure our meeting runs smoothly, respectfully, and within a reasonable time frame.  While these rules will need to be approved by the gathering on Sunday (2/3rd majority), we wanted to give you the heads up about what we’re thinking in advance.  So, here are a few of the sorts of rules we’re considering:

  • An agreed-upon time limit for speakers;
  • An agreement that everyone who wants to speak gets to speak before anyone speaks a second time;
  • An agreement to abide by our covenant of right relations as a part of our business;
  • For any amendments (particularly to the by-law portion) that they be submitted in writing in advance to the Board so that the whole gathering does not need to wait while editing/drafting occurs.

While we believe that our governance proposal has been thoroughly vetted through our many meetings and conversations with the congregation over the course of the last 18 months, our process leaves open the possibility that there remains something needing further consideration.  As a result, please do note this last potential rule if you are considering an amendment proposal, and please submit it in writing as soon as possible (and no later than 11:15 am on Sunday) to the Board of Trustees at theboard@foothillsuu.org.

Thank you all for your partnership and support as we continue to grow our congregation in service of our shared mission, unleashing courageous love across our whole community, and beyond.

In faith,

Erin Hottenstein, Board President

Proposed Bylaws Revisions, to be Considered at a Special Congregational Meeting April 19, 2015

As we on the Board have worked to refine the governance structure at Foothills, we have kept an eye on our bylaws. They are, we’re told, unusually specific and restrictive. There are areas where our practices have drifted away from the structures prescribed in the bylaws – in some cases, years ago. We have not kept a Church Council since before I began my time on the Board, for example, and we long ago began calling our Canvass Committee by the new name of “Stewardship Committee” instead. The bylaws were not kept up to date as these practices evolved.

More recently, we’ve come to realize that there are some other ways the Bylaws mandate a structure that poorly suits our needs as a large church experimenting with different ways of operating. When Rev. Keyes arrived, he pointed out that we might not want to continue to have a Committee on Ministry or Personnel Committee. He suggested that we might find we were able to get more accomplished with a smaller Board – perhaps 7 members, rather than the 11 that our bylaws mandate? And as we have begun to adopt what’s known as policy governance, where the Board focuses on questions of purpose and mission rather than day-to-day operational decisions, it’s become clear that the bylaws suit this new structure poorly.

In short, our bylaws need a thorough rewriting.

The changes you’ll see below do not represent that thorough rewrite, however.

In some cases, we’ve felt that we wanted to delay action on questions that we don’t feel confident we’ve decided yet. Our Committee on Ministry, for example, has spent most of the past year in recess, but neither the COM nor the Board has comfortably decided what that committee’s future should be, so we’ve retained the language in our bylaws requiring that there be a COM, for now.

In other cases, we on the Board have felt that changes suggested by Rev. Keyes, or practiced in other churches, might not suit the needs of our church well. For instance, we have decided to reduce the size of our Board of Trustees, but have settled on a 9-member Board rather than the 7-member size that’s been recommended by David and others. We may yet decide that 7 is the right number, but the composition of the Board seems like an area where caution and gradual change is called for.

Above all, we’ve tried to adopt a slate of bylaws revisions that do not make drastic, sweeping changes to the way this church is operating right now. Some of the changes we’re recommending impact the elections at the upcoming Annual Meeting on May 17th, and need to be made as soon as possible so that our Nominating Committee can know what is required of them. But there simply hasn’t been time for adequate discernment, adequate engagement with the congregation, adequate debate about the content of any broader changes that might be needed some day.

So… what you see below is a set of bylaws revisions that change only what really needs to be changed now. These are edits that seek to protect the church from dangerous practices, reasonably increase our flexibility and efficiency as we experiment with our governance structure, and – critically – leave for another day the biggest potential changes that will really require more debate than we have time for in the waning months of this church year.

I’ve detailed the exact changes below, along with line numbers referencing the most recent (May 2014) edition of our bylaws, and a brief explanation of the thinking behind the change.

Proposed bylaws revisions

Thanks are due to Trustees Elizabeth Stanley and Nate Donovan for their hard work and attention to detail on this project, and to David, Gretchen, and the rest of the Board for their insightful questions and suggestions on the drafts we’ve considered along the way. If you have questions about the revisions we’ve proposed, please feel free to contact me via the Board of Trustees address, bot@foothillsuu.org. We will vote on these revisions in a Special Congregational Meeting, to be held on Sunday, April 19th, between services. That meeting will follow the typical parliamentary procedures, with space for questions and comments as usual. But in the interest of time, I’d welcome a chance to publicly address any common questions beforehand, so I hope you won’t hesitate to reach out to me if you’re confused about the rationale behind anything we’ve proposed.

Thanks for taking the time to read about this. I’ll see you Sunday,

–Rich Young

President, Board of Trustees