We have seen a sentiment expressed in comments recently that people are so frustrated with our UU leadership that they just want out. Some long-time UUs have already resigned their memberships in their home congregations. At the Fifth Principle Project, we fully understand this urge to finalize a divorce with UUism, but we urge people to preserve their congregational membership and voting rights. At the 2023 UUA General Assembly, there will be an election for a new UUA President and the first vote on the proposed new language for Article II. If there were ever a time for local congregants to be involved with their vote, next year will be that time!
At the Fifth Principle Project, we are considering next steps. Over the past two years, we believe that we have given UUs a safe place to share differing opinions; over 2,000 comments have been posted. Our membership has grown to 446 (We would like 500 to Join by the end of 2022, It’s free.). Many of our members are financial supporters. We wrote a book, Used to be UU, the Systematic Attack on UU Liberalism. What You Need to Know. What You Need to Do. We submitted our application, Fifth Principle Project, for a booth at the 2021 General Assembly, only to have that application denied and our book banned from General Assembly. We sponsored and financially supported candidates for UUA Board of Trustee positions in 2021 and 2022. We successfully advocated in 2021 for the defeat of the Board-sponsored bylaw amendment that would have eliminated a UUA presidential election. After 14 months of asking, the Article II Study Commission finally granted us a stakeholder interview.
What is clear from our prior efforts is that using the elective process, our Fifth Principle, to influence the current direction of the UUA Board of Trustees has a low chance of success. We had explored running a full slate of petition candidates in 2023 anchored by a presidential candidate. When the UUA caught wind of this effort, it immediately and imaginatively interpreted language gaps in the bylaws. It declared that timeframes for collecting presidential petitions from congregations was restricted to about ten weeks. Additionally the Board raised the requirement from 25 congregations to 50. The interpretation of the timeframe makes it impossible to successfully solicit 50 congregational boards or specially called congregational meetings to acquire the needed petitions. Finally and critically, the Board continues to dominate and control that ability of UU’s to communicate with one another, preventing a wider debate about the direction they are taking. One does not need to be a rocket scientist to see that the UUA will use its vast administrative power to thwart governance by the democratic process.
We now contemplate what to do next. We ask that members share their thoughts in the Discussion comments.
Rev. Dr. Todd Eklof included in his book, The Gadfly Papers, a chapter entitled “I Want a Divorce: A Case for Splitting the Unitarian Universalist Association.” Eklof argued that unresolved issues between Unitarians and Universalists from the 1961 consolidation resulted in a denominational identity crisis. This identity crisis was fertile ground for re-interpretations of UUism. One of these re-interpretations is the allegation of UUism’s complicity with white supremacy culture requiring abandonment of our traditional Unitarian principles of reason, freedom, and tolerance.
Some UUs have started divorce proceedings by reducing pledges to home congregations that have so closely aligned their policies with UU leadership that the congregation no longer represents the congregant’s UU values. Others have taken additional steps to redirect endowment gifts in their wills away from their congregations to organizations that do support their values.
What is needed more than anything else is for the vast majority of UUs to become “woke” to the threat to the true nature of UUism. Ideally, there should be outrage that the Article II Study Commission is openly ignoring their bylaw’s mandated two-year term that expires on August 7, 2022. Maybe this is a teachable moment to hold the Commission accountable for failing to complete its work in the allotted time.
How this awakening occurs is unknown. Maybe when changes to our Principles and bylaws begin to be published, more UUs will take note. Perhaps as the platforms and positions of presidential candidates become known, more UUs will take note.
Let us hope some awakening occurs. If not, the divorce may become final.
Two Important Things
Join the Fifth Principle Project. It’s free. The Fifth Principle Project is an organic grassroots initiative to gather into community Unitarian Universalists who want to reinvigorate the right of conscience and renew the democratic process in the governing of our denomination.
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