In February and March each year, the national UK Unitarian movement elects members to its Executive Committee – but what is it?
How the national movement works
As a quick recap, the national movement is known as the ‘General Assembly’ (short of ‘The General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches’) and is a registered charity The underlying principle for governing is: “Unitarians value the contribution of every individual to the life of the community and democratic principles underpin how we operate at national and local level. Authority within the Unitarian movement rests at the local level”.
The overall national body, the General Assembly, is governed by an Executive Committee elected by the members of the Movement, who are the Trustees of the national movement (and its assets). They provide leadership for the organisation; officially, they “determine the overall direction and development of the GA in line with the recommendation and policies adopted at the Annual Meetings”. You can find the full details of read the full GA constitution and find out more details about this here: https://www.unitarian.org.uk/pages/our-object-and-constitution
Who’s on the Executive Committee (EC) and how are they elected?
There are always nine members of the EC, including the Honorary Treasurer. Current GA members are: Marion Baker, Matthew Smith, Rev. Rob Whiteman, Hilda Dumpleton, Sir Philip Colfox, Peter Hanley, Lynn Readett and Christina Smith. EC elections are held every two years in February, and four members are elected at each one. They serve for a term of four years starting in April (after the national meetings), and can serve for a maximum of two successive terms. After that, they have to wait a year if they want to stand again for re-election. To be able to vote in the election, you need to be a member of your church, or an associate or honorary member of the GA. Our Church Secretary supplies details of who is a member to Essex Hall so that people can be sent ballot papers, and ensures church members receive their ballot papers!
Who can be on the EC?
The Unitarian movement is asked to nominate candidates for election in early February each year (with their consent!). They have to be Full, Honorary or Associate Members of the GA, or a member of a congregation which makes a quota payment for them. They cannot be ministry students in training, a close family member of anyone employed by the GA, or connected with Popularis, which runs EC elections.
What does the EC do?
The EC meets six times a year, and their role is to appoint any subsidiary committees (such as the Local Leadership Group), and a Chief Officer and all other paid staff. They raise and administer the national movement’s income of the Assembly, administer the Trust Funds and look after other property held by the Assembly. Essentially they are the national equivalent of the Newcastle Church’s Management Committee, and, like us, they present an annual report on the Annual General Meeting (the GA meetings held every year in April). You can also find out what it does through the monthly ‘Uni-News’ email about what’s going in the national movement (forwarded by the Church Secretary), and through our EC link person, currently Rev. Rob Whiteman. Perhaps at some point our church will nominate – or supply – an EC member!
Much of the information for this article was taken from the UK Unitarians website, to whom many thanks – it can be found here: How the Unitarian Movement Works