Changes You Should Know About

If you want readers to immediately abandon your article, start with, “I want to talk about bylaws.” Hopefully, you are still reading. Your attention is needed on two UUA committees that are laboring away to revise our Association’s bylaws. These efforts have the real potential to change the nature of the Association and UUism substantially.

We are sharing this information with the hope that you will be motivated by concern, curiosity, or love of UUism. This board-sponsored work is moving forward without input from you or your congregation. Although the Association’s primary purpose is to serve its member congregations’ needs, it is unclear what need is served by these Boston-centric efforts.

Entire Rewrite of the Bylaws

The first committee is revising the entirety of the Association’s bylaws. This committee has already progressed through the first eight of 15 articles. A preliminary report reveals that the committee is taking wide license. One recommendation changes the Association’s underlying organizational structure.

To be clear, our national leadership has a poor record when it comes to modifying the Association’s governance structure. In 2009 the Fifth Principle Task Force made recommendations to fix the structural inadequacies of General Assembly. The Task Force’s recommendations were never implemented. Two years later, in 2011, the board sponsored the consolidation of the Association’s 19 districts into five regions and eliminated national trustees with direct accountability to their constituent districts. If anything, our Association has become less and less aligned with the democratic process.

There is little expectation that the third time will be the charm. We are “a voluntary association of autonomous, self-governing member congregations, which have freely chosen to pursue common goals together.” This structure has roots in our heritage denominations and has been a bedrock of the UUA for six decades.

The preliminary report does not mention any deficiencies of this organizational structure. The rationale for the change comes from the question, “Does limiting membership and delegate voting congregations stifle innovation?” Given the crisis of relevance of our Boston leadership team to UU congregations, the question is vague and lacks any sense of compelling purpose to the work. A better question to ask may be, “What changes can we make to our bylaws that will engage more UUs in the democratic governance of the Association?”

The proposal to expand Association membership to individuals, professional groups, identity groups or potentially to other non-congregational groups continues the decades-long erosion of congregational governing authority and only serves to memorialize the shift to top-down governance under the influence of interest groups.

This rewrite again illustrates that our leadership operates under the mistaken assumption that they “own” the Association. We saw this mistaken assumption in 2017 with the declaration that the Association is allegedly based on white supremacy culture. That declaration led to the 2020 adoption of the flawed Widening the Circle of Concern report as well as the flirtation with creedalism based on liberation theology. Our UU leadership team did not seek input or consent from our congregations on those decisions. The same is true for this bylaws rewrite.

The committee acknowledges that they have no direct authority to carry out their work. Instead, with a bit of sleight of hand, the committee self-authorized their work as part of the revamping of UUism based on Widening the Circle of Concern. This bootstrapping of the revision of bylaws to a report commissioned and adopted by an unelected board does not bode well for democracy or UUism. We may ask, what is our leadership commitment to our Fifth Principle or to any of our Seven Principles?

Article II Study Commission

That question segues to the second board-sponsored committee, the Article II Study Commission. That committee was given sweeping authority to revise Article II that contains the purpose of the Association, our Seven Principles, Six Sources, Inclusion, and our Freedom of Belief clause.

We will publish another Discussion when more information is made available from these committees.

What are your thoughts?

Please leave your comments and thoughts below.

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J.C McLoughlin
J.C McLoughlin
1 month ago

In pondering any potential changes, a brief look at how others see us might be useful:

https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/news/articles/beacon-unitarians-joseph-keegin

Paul Alan Thompson
Paul Alan Thompson
1 month ago
Reply to  J.C McLoughlin

UUs, in the agency of the Beacon Press, have a lot to answer for. The entire DeAngelo swindle is run out of that Press.

Jay Atkinson
Jay Atkinson
1 month ago

Interim reflections from the Article II revision commission may be found at: https://www.uua.org/uuagovernance/committees/article-ii-study-commission/blog

Judith McGavin
Judith McGavin
1 month ago

I am the former PNWD/UUA Trustee. There are a number of things I could discuss is relationship to the Fifth Principal but I will refer to only one that I believe has contributed greatly to the eroding of the democratic process. The consolidation of districts into Regions. This completely silenced the voice of “member” congregation. District Trustees representation to the UUA Board gave voice to congregations. Trustees visited congregations, District Meetings gave congregational representatives a voice and created the opportunity to congregations participate in Beloved Community and connect, share, celebrate and grieve together, it gave us a sense of community.… Read more »

Paul Alan Thompson
Paul Alan Thompson
1 month ago
Reply to  Judith McGavin

Since we are NOT based in “white suppremacy culture”, you cannot dismantle it. That basically would involve dismantling ALL of history. You cannot overturn the race of the preachers who led to the founding of UUism. That was not “white suppremacy”. That was merely the state of the country at the time. This entire pernicious notion of “white suppremacy culture” is, at its heart, the fallacy of presentism, the denial of history, and failure to understand actual events of the past.

Judith McGavin
Judith McGavin
1 month ago

I respectfully disagree. White supremacy is not just overt but covert. Whites have been the dominate culture, even though we are moving away from that. Most of our institutions have been set up to the advantage of whites. As to history, that’s what I base my beliefs and opinions on, and that says White Supremacy to me.

Paul Alan Thompson
Paul Alan Thompson
1 month ago
Reply to  Judith McGavin

The notion that “history = white suppremacy” converts an incredibly complicated sequence of thousands of events into a single thing, racism. It’s completely ignorant. History is composed of many things. But “white suppremacy” is nothing more than a post-modernist perversion of history. Much of history involves the undoubted success of non-white groups. For instance, the central Asian tribes of the Mongols, Huns, etc were hugely successful. They did not succeed due to “white suppremacy”. They succeeded due to superior tactics of weapons and armaments. The Europeans did not succeed in the American hemisphere due to the mythical “white suppremacy”. They… Read more »

Jacques
Jacques
1 month ago

If Africans colonized Europe, enslaved Europeans for centuries, then post-slavery created institutional structures to make sure people of European descent couldn’t fully participate in society, would that not be “Black supremacy”?

Paul Alan Thompson
Paul Alan Thompson
1 month ago
Reply to  Jacques

Right now, in a lot of places, there is “black suppremacy”. In a lot of places, there is “Chinese suppremacy”. But the term is meaningless, since as noted above, it converts history into the myth of “white suppremacy”. It’s part of the myth of “white people invented slavery”. Slavery has been part of human history since the beginning. The only place in the whole world that it continues in are China and Africa.

Jim
Jim
1 month ago

“Supremacy” is a powerful, nasty, universal human trait. From the Yanomami tribe in the Amazon, whose name means “The Humans” – as in all others are “subhuman” – to modern nation states like Rwanda, where the Hutus slaughtered the Tutsi “cockroaches,” there is a universal tribal xenophobia that runs through all human history. This ethnic egocentrism has expressed itself over and over again in nasty murderous acts like genocide and warfare – the nature of war requires the dehumanization of the enemy in nationalist and ethnic-nationalist propaganda so that they can be killed with a clear conscience in order to… Read more »

Paul Alan Thompson
Paul Alan Thompson
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim

Yes, agree with much of your comment. Tribalism is a key notion, and is present in every society in human history and every age. The UU focus on “the evils of whiteness” are unreasonable.

Jim
Jim
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim
Paul Alan Thompson
Paul Alan Thompson
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim

I pretty much regard that entire statement as a pile of crap, really. And that’s a fair and honest appraisal.

Paul Alan Thompson
Paul Alan Thompson
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim

That piece is nothing more than race hustling hystericization.

Janet
Janet
1 month ago

I agree completely. It is actually worse than you say because “presentism” not only denies history, it denies any possible change in the future as well! Structuralism had no way of theorizing change; post-structuralism had no way of theorizing change; likewise second generation post-structuralisms like CRT and post-colonialism have no way of conceptualizing change. Once a racist country, always a racist country … because that is what the theories affirm. Since these theories do not include a way of talking about change, there is no such thing as even a slightly less racist country. This is why there is a… Read more »

Paul Alan Thompson
Paul Alan Thompson
1 month ago
Reply to  Janet

This is the “culture of victimhood” stated clearly. In the “culture of victimhood”, there can be no success or progress. If there is a success, it is due to the member of the “victim class” denying their authentic victimhood. You only succeed if you betray the group. Thus, Clarence Thomas, John McWorter, Glenn Lowry are “uncle Toms”, enemies due to success. if even a single member of a “victim class” succeeds, it is a refutation of the victimhood narrative. The “culture of victimhood” along with “intersectionality” defines much of contemporary Woke culture. It is a profoundly pathological view of the… Read more »

Cynthia Townsend
Cynthia Townsend
17 days ago

Fact, (according to the 2019 census & it has only gotten worse with COVID) : 1 in 3 black children live in poverty, in the US, the wealthiest country in the world. That’s the truth not manufactured victimhood.

Paul Alan Thompson
Paul Alan Thompson
11 days ago

And 80% of black kids are born to single mothers. That’s got a lot to do with poverty. In fact, almost everything about poverty involves the status of the couple who make the child.

Adrienne
Adrienne
1 month ago
Reply to  Janet

Excellent comment! I agree 100%.

Miles R Fidelman
Miles R Fidelman
1 month ago

It seems to me that the entire study commission is invalidated by the lack of direct & extensive engagement with congregations.

Aston Bloom
Aston Bloom
1 month ago

Just read everyone’s comments. I’m new to this forum, and have a few questions. Did the UUA dissolve all those districts because of economics, or why? I was wondering why I hadn’t heard anything about district assembly for several years. I live in Tucson and we hosted the Justice District Assembly, as we called it, for the Pacific Southwest District, several years ago, We had field trips to see the wall in Nogales, to see where No More Deaths, which is a ministry of our church, puts out water jugs for migrants crossing the desert, etc. It was a great… Read more »

Miles R Fidelman
Miles R Fidelman
1 month ago
Reply to  Aston Bloom

As far as I can tell, the UUA dissolved the districts for the usual bureaucratic reasons – staff and insiders wanting to take more control over the organization & the denomination (and, perhaps, the budget). The UUA basically has two, and only two missions: provide services to congregations market UUism to potential congregation members The first, it used to do middling well – notably through things like the Extension Ministry – which saved my congregation from demise, about 35 years ago. And then there are things like help with finding ministers and such (which is really more of a service… Read more »

Janet
Janet
1 month ago

Interesting. I was thinking somewhat along the same lines after seeing my UU friends at church this morning. We don’t all agree on anti-racism, but we all care a lot more about getting along with each other as than we do about orthodoxy (myself included). No matter how much the UUA attempts to control congregations, the control will always be imperfect.

In the car on the way home, I reminded my husband that even in Stalinist USSR, that had the black market. Worst comes to worst we will have our own little black market of ideas.

Cynthia Townsend
Cynthia Townsend
17 days ago
Reply to  Janet

I am confused David, you say you no longer identify with Unitarian Universalists. Are you still a member of Westside Unitarian Universalist Congregation? Give me one example of how the UUA has forced our congregation to do anything, if you can. If not just ignore my point & change the subject, like you usually do.

Miles R Fidelman
Miles R Fidelman
15 days ago

David, Perhaps a silly question… are you a MEMBER of Westside (signed the book, recite a covenant every week)?

Beyond that, it’s not at all clear what it actually means to “be a UU.” One is a member of a congregation, or not. Congregations may or may not be members of the UUA – which does not grant the UUA any central authority over congregations, or their members. It’s not like there’s a UU Vatican, or a Nicean Creed the UUs have to swear to.

Miles R Fidelman
Miles R Fidelman
15 days ago

But you didn’t actually answer the question. Are you a MEMBER of the Westside congregation? Did you sign the book? Do you consider yourself in covenant with the Westside congregation? Are you eligible to vote at congregational meetings? You say you identify as Jewish. Are you a member of a Shul? Are you a citizen of Israel, or otherwise recognize the authority of the Israeli government, or the Vad? IMHO, Being Jewish is BOTH a tribal & a religious designation – but more tribal. Personally, I consider myself a member of the tribe, subscribe to much of Jewish philosophy, but… Read more »

Miles R Fidelman
Miles R Fidelman
15 days ago

Oops… my eyes must be going – good thing I’m scheduled for cataract surgery next month.

But then, one further ask – WHY you attend Westside – and what you consider your relationship to the congregation?

Last edited 15 days ago by Miles R Fidelman
Miles R Fidelman
Miles R Fidelman
15 days ago

Sure, it’s a free country – but communities are more than that, and generally there’s a level of mutual commitment involved. It’s one thing to watch a tv show, it’s another to be “fan,” yet another to write fanfic,and yet another to be crew, cast, writer, showrunner, whatever. There’s a difference between being an Amex “cardmember” or a AAA member, and being a member of a professional association. A difference between being a renter and an owner, a resident and a citizen (and a sheeple or an engaged citizen). I guess I’m asking, what’s your commitment – if any –… Read more »

Tim Bartik
1 month ago

Is there a specific document you can link to? I have not seen this level of detail in what is part of the UUA Board packets.

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