Letter Concerning the Proposed 8th Principle

The Proposed 8th Principle

The proposed wording of the 8th Principle is: “We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote: journeying toward spiritual wholeness by working to build a diverse multicultural Beloved Community by our actions that accountably dismantle racism and other oppressions in ourselves and our institutions.”

The word “accountably” stood out as I read this. I wondered about what that meant. All our other principles have us monitoring ourselves and personally striving to follow our hearts. If adopted this would be the only principle that has an “accountably” phrase.

I read all 4 pages of explanations at https://www.8thprincipleuu.org/ and “accountably” was explained on the last pages as “White UUs hold themselves accountable to communities of color, to make sure whites do what they say they will do. In practice, that can mean having a People of Color Caucus within congregations, districts, etc., to discern and express needs and concerns to the rest of the community. Black UUs hold each other accountable and help each other see and dismantle signs of internalized racism. We need an effective mechanism or structure to ensure this. Similarly for other oppressions.” So what is an effective mechanism?

Is this saying one group tells the other group what to do, but there is no internalized racism inside the UUA coming from people who are not white? Ibram X. Kendi disagrees. He is black and has written books on racism. (Check out his books, How To Be An Antiracist and Stamped From The Beginning: A History of Racist Ideas In America.)

I’m of the opinion that if it’s a UU principle, it needs to fit ALL UUs. Our first principle is about the worth and dignity of every person. The 5th is about the right of conscience and the use of democratic process within our congregations and in society at large.

These two principles currently guide us to look for the worth and dignity of one another. The voices inside of us questioning how we treat each other (conscience) is our guide. The democratic process allows us to vote when more than one path presents itself.  We will be voting and it’s my thought that this 8th principle will wonder if it isn’t already covered in principles 1 and 5. Loving one another is interdependent and needs mutual respect. If one group is trying to make another accountable on a one way street, love will not be nurtured. Perhaps rethinking this proposal would be wise.

Hoping for mutual love,

Karen Christiansen

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Dick Burkhart
Dick Burkhart
3 years ago

Thanks for finding the UUA definition of “accountability”. We should make the point that this is strongly anti-democratic and open to abuse in that the groups of POC in question are apparently self-designated and unaccountable with unspecified powers. Instead, advisory groups could be formed and governed in transparent ways, as specified in bylaw amendments which would guarantee balanced representation and open and honest dialogue. Of might informal discussions be just as productive? But what is the actual problem? The Commission on Institutional Change was very disappointed in how few responses they got when asking for actual, detailed incidents of racism.… Read more »

Lilith Marie Haas
Lilith Marie Haas
3 years ago

I would like to say I am happy I recently found this group as a mostly ex-UU who has sat on the fence in disbelief as the spiritual church I raised my children in during the early 1990’s has de-evolved over the past decade into a divisive place I could not bring my bi-racial grandchildren to. I recently received an announcement from my old congregation who is mostly supporting this principle (I don’t) and I appreciate finding this thoughtful well researched article.

Topher Benum
2 years ago

In 2002, the Canadian Unitarian Council split off from the UUA. In terms of diversity, the UUA lost its greatest contingency in 2002. It was apparently acceptable to marginalize people who cannot even vote in the “right” national elections, so I don’t blame the CUC congregations for leaving. I just did a Google Advanced Search, and all of the results from “8th Principle” were from the US, and at least 50 results from individual UUA congregations, all in the US, who show it either as a “proposed” principle, or adopted by that US congregation. If the UUA adopts the 8… Read more »