The UUA Moderator Used to Be In Charge of Finances: The Answer to Today’s Trivia Question

To answer today’s question: when the UUA position of Moderator was created in 1961, it was a much more substantial position than it is today.  Originally this person was in charge of financial responsibility in the Association.  The Moderator, along with the Board, was supposed to be in charge of creating the actual policies of the UUA.  And at the same time, the President had considerably less powers, and was expected to carry out those policies, not make them.  But conflicts, including simple personality clashes between the President and Moderator, led to the Moderator being demoted and the President being given more power than originally intended (yet, these power struggles/personality conflicts also reduced the term limits for the President from twelve to only eight years).

Today the Moderator is basically just the Officer of the Board who presides at meetings, as well as moderates at General Assembly.   Unlike the President it is an unpaid position and has evolved into one typically filled by laywomen, as opposed to the President, which has been a paid position typically filled by male ministers.

By the way, here’s a little extra trivia for today: William Howard Taft was the Moderator of the AUA after he served his term as President of the United States.



Filed under Liberal Religious History, Unitarian-Universalism

3 responses to “The UUA Moderator Used to Be In Charge of Finances: The Answer to Today’s Trivia Question

  1. Question for you: How did the moderator’s role in the brand-new UUA compare to the moderator’s role in the mid-20th century AUA?

  2. Transient and Permanent

    My understanding is that the Moderator in the AUA at that time was empowered only a) to represent the Association at various functions and b) to moderate the biennial General Conference. On the other hand, the President of the AUA had considerable powers and was a paid position. Therefore, the model that the UUA eventually reverted to was the AUA model, rather than the new vision designed specifically for the UUA.

    We can note in passing that the Moderator of the AUA was often, though by no means always, a layperson (as opposed to the President, always a minister), and that the AUA’s first female Moderator was elected in 1940, more than two decades before the creation of the UUA, whereas the AUA never had a female President. So the Moderator position in the UUA has followed the general pattern of the AUA Moderator in more than just powers.

    This power of the AUA president, by the way, contrasts somewhat with the President of the Universalist Church of America, which was a voluntary position whose power was less sweeping, in part because it was shared with a General Superintendent.

  3. Taft served as Moderator of the AUA concurrent with his position as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

    Here’s an observation…

    With an approaching proposal to change the Board structure to a Policy Governance model, would not the Board again be making policy the President is expected to carry out?

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