Letter from AEU Board and Staff
While looking for just the right quote on generosity, we found the "Science of Generosity Initiative" at the University of Notre Dame. Their aim is to create a field for the study of generosity in all its forms—using scientific research that explores the sources, origins, and causes of generosity, how generosity is manifested and expressed, and identifying the consequences of generosity for both donors and recipients. Well, the science of generosity marches on, but we rely on a traditional idea about generosity that underpins the American Ethical Union's work—that people are generous with any group which they feel a part of.
Since you are reading this, you probably have some feeling of being part of the American Ethical Union. Here is more of what the AEU and its Board have been doing, and we hope that you will find something here with which you would like to be involved. Your own generous spirit may move you to action, to volunteer a few hours over the next year, and help the AEU move forward.Organizational Activities
Board Activities in Other Areas
The 2012 Assembly will be in Albany, New York June 14–17. For it, the National Leaders Council has developed ethical action programming focused on humanizing criminal justice. Our Assembly Committee is already investigating possible sites for 2013.
The Board Development Committee will be operating under the amended bylaws so the President has appointed Arnold Fishman as Committee Chair and he has been finding Committee members which they will jointly appoint. (This committee will have at least five members, no more than two of them Leaders, no more than two of them current Board members, and none to be candidates for any AEU office.) The Board has also discussed building connections between the Board Development Committee and the Lay Leadership Summer School.
We noted, with admiration for all he has done, that Tom Hoeppner would like to be replaced as Chair of the American Ethical Union's Membership Committee. There have been no candidates yet; perhaps because we are all still in awe of Tom’s service.
We are working with the National Leaders Council to develop a proposal for an Executive Director of the American Ethical Union as well as funding for the proposal.
The American Ethical Union office stands ready to meet requests for Leader Services, including those collected and publicized in last year's Leaders' Services Catalog
, and also for other services to Societies. In addition, each AEU Board member will continue to be a liaison between several Societies and the Board.
The Lay Leadership Summer School faculty, including its newest member Jan Broughton, is surveying its recent graduates and working on final plans for Lay Leadership Summer School 2012. The Board is promoting the Lay Leadership Summer School—both by encouraging people to attend and by encouraging Societies to facilitate such attendance. (Our President, Jennifer Scates, fondly remembers her theatrical opportunity at the Lay Leadership Summer School where she played both the good witch and the bad witch in a short, somewhat musical, production of "Follow the Ethical Road.")
At Lisel Burns' request, Just Matrimony funds, amounting to $1,300, were formally placed under the control of the Ethical Action Committee. (The Just Matrimony funds are already listed in the budget under Ethical Action.) The Ethical Action Committee will use the funds to create a website to make Just Matrimony more visible and active.
We are working to make use of the space available to the American Ethical Union on both the International Humanist and Ethical Union and the Secular Coalition of America websites.
We noted (from Bergen) enthusiasm for attending the "Reason Rally" on March 24th in Washington, D.C., including organizing travel to it and home hospitality in the Washington, D.C. Area.
We always look forward to hearing from the Planning Committee, and are working to collate the results from listening sessions for review and comments this spring, and to distill those results into proposals for discussion, adoption and implementation by our 2012 Assembly. We are also working on the American Ethical Union's part of the Strategic Planning process—what the American Ethical Union (from its Board's perspective) knows it can offer Societies, what the AEU wishes it could offer Societies but isn't able to at this point, and what the AEU already perceives that it needs, to be more effective.
Happily, as of the end of the 2010–2011 fiscal year the American Ethical Union is in good financial shape. Donations have remained level, and limits on expenditures served to keep the budget balanced. Further, a bequest allowed us to increase the amount restored to the endowment to three times what was originally planned for the fiscal year, significantly decreasing the amount to be restored over the next four years. Leader Developments
Discussions of funding for the Religious Education conference and the Future Ethical Societies conference led the Board to several conclusions. Probably the most important is that the more information the Treasurer and the Finance Committee have about the needs and wishes of the AEU's committees, the better it can allocate its resources. We plan to invite all committees to contribute to budget design. We also discussed how conference planners can work toward revenue-neutrality, and to improve their financial planning to facilitate conference attendance.
The Board has recognized the possibility of expanding its existing College and Health Care Chaplaincy Programs into other areas. Therefore, in a resolution, we expressed our willingness to support any Certified Ethical Culture Leader who becomes a Military Chaplain, and invited our National Leaders Council to develop materials that would assist all Military Chaplains to minister to the needs of non-theistic members of the military. More recently, the AEU Leadership Committee has been working with the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers to initiate such a Military Chaplaincy Program. At the Board's fall meetings, we continued to coordinate information from the Leadership Committee and the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers on the development of a humanist military chaplaincy.
The Board happily confirmed the recommendations of the Leadership Committee in certifying four new Officiants and in renewing the certification of nine Officiants.
The Board ends our meetings with a reminder to do these things:
Note from Jennifer Scates, President of the AEU Board:
- make sure we know what our responsibilities are;
- remember the phenomenal talents and expertise we bring to the table;
- govern with our mission in mind;
- make progress in our vision and long-term future;
- lead, rather than react;
- make sure we have the information we need to make good decisions; and
- be conscious of the important contributions made by our paid and volunteer staff.
I want to thank the members of the American Ethical Union Board and the American Ethical Union staff, particularly L Miller and Donna Pang. Their combined contributions time, treasure, and talents have moved mountains. My thanks to Richard Koral, Tom Weishaar, Jan Broughton, Carol Bartell, Randy Best, Karen Elliott, Arnold Fishman, Anne Klaeysen, Laura Stark Steele, Scott Walton, Lisel Burns, Tyler Lurie-Spicer, and Emily Newman.