Thursday, June 22, 2023
Today was not so exhausting.
I attended an information session with Empower, the new custodian for the UUA retirement fund, and the UUA benefits staff. Normal life things go on even during times of significant change.
I rushed back to have lunch in my hotel room and join the UUMUAC Conversation. The people on the call wanted to know what was happening in real-time. In exchange, I told them their job was to give me hope and encouragement. They did their job, and the encouragement helped the day go better.
I had to leave the UUMUAC’s Zoom to join the Article II mini-assembly on amendments to the Article II Proposal. More than 600 people participated in the mini-assembly on Zoom. Some grouped around screens at tables in the convention center. We were there to prioritize and discuss the amendments.
There had been about 900 proposed amendments. These were filtered down to about 80. Many amendments were similar. Sometimes the people who offered an amendment got together to wordsmith and consolidate an amendment. In other situations, the Article II Study Commission worked with the UUA Board to pick an amendment representative of those on the same topic and, perhaps, more workable in their mind. For example, there were about 17 amendments to insert back the Seven Principles. Through this process, the amendments have been filtered down to 15.
Note: The amendment numbering system is fluid. Initially, the amendments were assigned a number based on when they were posted. Then as amendments were withdrawn or found out of order, later amendments moved up on the list; 8 became 6 because 6 and 7 were withdrawn. Then the prioritizing process started; 15 became 31. 156 became 61. The only thing that remained constant was the name of the submitter.
Charles DuMond, UUA co-Moderator, led the meeting. He reviewed the amendment process. The schedule to review these amendments was the first five amendments would be discussed at Thursday’s mini-assembly. The next five at Thursday’s General Session, and the last five at Friday’s General Session.
Lack of Mini-Assembly Progress
About 30 minutes into Thursday’s mini-assembly, people began to complain in the Zoom chat about how long it was taking to start the discussion of the proposals. As the minutes ticked by, the chat heated up with people complaining about how this mini-assembly was becoming a waste of time. Then 15 minutes before the scheduled end of the meeting, Charles ended the meeting.
So nothing was accomplished at the mini-assembly. I have a theory about why. The amendments had been carefully prioritized by someone to guide the mini-assembly to a pre-determined endpoint. If 600 delegates were able to be involved, that would have messed up the plan.
After the mini-assembly, I had a little time to engage delegates on the sidewalk and hand out business cards.
At the General Session, one of the first orders of business was to apologize for how the Banner Parade was handled.
The discussion on the 15 amendments to the proposed Article II language started with proposals that weren’t very substantive. When these amendments were raised, the Article II Study Commission didn’t object or only mildly objected. The “con” line for the first two amendments was short or non-existent.
More objections were raised when the discussion turned to the next amendment by Bek Wheeler on Equity. The fourth amendment, Amendment 61, to insert the Seven Principles in the proposed Article II language generated quite a bit of discussion. Howard Tolley’s amendment on accountability was also vigorously debated.
The amendments we will discuss on Friday are more complex. I suspect the Article II Study Commission hopes we will not have time to discuss the amendments at the end of the list of 15 prioritized amendments.
It was announced that there were 1,796 credentialed delegates, including clergy and laity. A total of 632 congregations were represented. A breakdown of delegates was: 641 onsite, 772 online, and 383 business only.
The UUA Board’s report focused on the success of the Article II revision process. It touted the large number of members, forums, and events that were a part of this process. What they don’t mention is what seems to me to have been a targeted effort to involve certain special interest groups and not a cross-section of UU congregants. The Board also mentioned their success using the Carver Policy Governance method.
Kathy Buerk mentioned the implementation of the Accountability Launch Team without explaining what that meant.
Note: The charge to this team is “The [UUA] board has adopted a values statement about our commitment to the goals set out in the Widening the Circle of Concern report and mandates by the overwhelming majority vote for the 2021 General Assembly Statement of Conscience, “Undoing White Supremacy: A Call to Prophetic Action.”
When the Article II Study Commission presented their work, one of the Commission’s members echoed yesterday’s message, “Will we go forward with the discussion or will we stop the conversation now?” Cheryl Walker said, “Will we go forward or back into a comfortable past?”
In her departing presidential report, Rev. Susan Frederick Gray, UUA President, highlighted her accomplishments. She did not mention the bitter divisions that had spread during her tenure. She could have used the time to seek healing, understanding, and unity, but instead, she doubled down, saying that those who disagreed with the direction of the Association were mired in the past.
Action of Immediate Witness (AIW)
Only three Action of Immediate Witness are allowed to be brought forward for discussion at General Assembly. All of them are popular. Rise Up to Stop Cop City, Organize for Health Equity, and Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice (UUSJ) on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
The two other submitted AIWs not brought forward to General Session were: Not on Our Watch (opposition to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and its associated human rights violations) and Code Red for Humanity: The Climate Impacts of Military Emissions.
After General Session
Members of my church attending GA had a pleasant dinner together, despite our differences of opinion.
The evening ended with the Service of the Living Tradition. I did not attend.
On Friday, we will hear from Sofia Betancourt, the single candidate for the UUA president. There will also be a discussion on the other amendments to the proposed Article II language.
There are no amendments to the Divestment from the Fossil Fuel Industry and Subsequent Reparations proposal, so we will have more time to discuss the Article II amendments
The final discussion on the Article II amendments will be on Saturday.
The ballot will be published on the delegate platform at the close of the business session Saturday (5:30 PM). Voting will end on Saturday at 10:00 PM. The results will be announced Sunday afternoon.
Active Shooter Alert
There was an active shooter alert.
Around 3:00 PM, I walked out on the balcony at the west end of the Convention Center to look at the river. There were two police boats with lights flashing below me on the Rachel Carson Bridge. There were several emergency vehicles lined up on the bridge with lights going. At first, I thought it was a possible suicide attempt and someone had gone into the water.
Dick Burkhart said that they closed the exhibit hall at one point and had everyone exit through a back entrance and use the pedestrian bridge to the Westin hotel instead of going down to street level.
There has been nothing in the local news about this.
Visit the Savethe7Principles Website
The Savethe7Principles’ GA23 Recommendations web page is an excellent resource for understanding the details of the discussion of the proposed Article II language.