by Jay Kiskel, UUA Board Candidate
With the publication of Used to be UU, The Systematic Attack on UU Liberalism and the submission of my petition for a position on the national UUA Board, I have been staying current by reading the weekly General Assembly updates and the 1st quarter UUA Board meeting minutes. After a careful review of this material, I recommend that alarm is warranted.
Systemic White Supremacy
The document that brought about the immediate cause for alarm was the draft of the Statement of Conscience (SOC) Undoing Systemic White Supremacy: A Call to Prophetic Action from the weekly General Assembly update.
The SOC opens with an embracing call for “universal justice and equity.” However, the method chosen to achieve these goals mires UUism in the ill-liberal ideological eddy formed by the far-left’s embrace of critical race theory. This approach has the practical effect of sidelining the power of our Principles in this battle. I fear shunning our liberal values will, unfortunately, doom this effort.
The other concern is that the Statement of Conscience portrays the moral authority of UUism in the public square as nothing more than a perpetual protester. The SOC asks UUs to commit to “building sustainable communities of resistance” rather than building sustainable loving communities of change, leaving heated rhetoric our only contribution to the public debate.
The Fifth Principle Project tested this reliance on rhetoric at the 2020 General Assembly by submitting an Action of Immediate Witness (AIW), “George Can’t Breathe, but We Can Vote.” The AIW was devoid of rhetoric and drew solely upon the power of our Principles and Sources to bring about change. When I was informed that our AIW would not be brought forward for a vote, I responded, “You can either be mad or you can win. It’s a choice.” Winning means foregoing rhetoric and advocating for the hard work of electing local, state, and federal representatives who share our goals, lobbying for legislation that reflects our values, funding legal efforts that challenge injustice, and building coalitions with other faith communities. Be mad or win. It’s a choice.
Currently, UUs are guaranteed a vote for the denomination’s president. However, from a reading of the draft March 2021 UUA Board minutes, this guarantee may be ended. A section of the minutes entitled “Rationale for bylaws changes” starts with its own alarming assertion.
“The Board of Trustees acknowledges the legacy of racism and oppression in Unitarian Universalism. The Board acknowledges its historic role in condoning, supporting and promoting White supremacy within the movement.”
Following this assertion was a recommendation to change the Association’s bylaws regarding the number of nominees that the Presidential Search Committee must put forward. The current requirement of “no fewer than two” nominees automatically triggers an election. The new language of “one or more” may result, if only a single candidate is nominated, in no election. No voting by UUs.
The rationale for the change continued, “The UUA Board works more closely with the President than any other volunteer group and is best positioned to assess the skills and competencies of nominees for the UUA Presidency.” In effect, the board is positioning itself to pick the denomination’s president.
My candidacy exposed years of neglect to recruit competing candidates for board members. If this bylaws recommendation regarding the election of our UUA president is passed, the last guarantee of a denomination governed by the right of conscience and the democratic process is extinguished.
Time to break glass.
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