Update on National Article II Conversation

Two weeks ago, on March 13, the Fifth Principle Project supported an effort by a coalition of UUs, known as UU the Conversation, in their mass mailing to UU congregations and local congregational leaders. The UU the Conversation email was sent to approximately 1,700 email addresses. The email asked individuals to join a national conversation on Article II by visiting a new website, UUtheConversation.org.

This national conversation was deemed necessary since too many UUs are still unaware of the changes and impacts of the proposed Article II language. A vote is scheduled at the June 20 – 23, 2024, virtual General Assembly to accept or reject those changes. If accepted, the Article II changes will go into effect immediately.

Results from the Mass Mailing

Generally, the results from the mass mailing were positive. The email had an open rate of 47%. By industry standards, a 30% open rate is considered a success. The UU the Conversation website saw more than 2,000 unique visits, with people subscribing to the website’s mailing list, watching videos from the website’s Video Library, or registering to attend  Town Hall Zoom meetings. These resources were provided to give people multiple ways to engage in a national conversation.

Some Just Don’t Want a Conversation

Not surprisingly, some UUs were not interested in any conversation.

Several UUs shared their experiences from the mass email campaign. The experience of one UU typified a common theme. That person received the email as a church leader and then waited patiently for her board president, who also received the email, to discuss the national conversation campaign with their congregation. Nothing was ever mentioned to the congregation’s members.

Seen again was a disturbing but common practice in the denomination when ministers and church leaders become gatekeepers—deciding what information congregation members may have access to.

One commenter on the Fifth Principle Project shared

Our Board was a recipient of your mass email. Our minister has instructed them not to read it or do anything with it as it is divisive and not helpful, and she is going to find out who sent it. LOL.

So, I guess giving people a platform to discuss changes (both pro and con) is divisive… must be because the powers that be do NOT want people questioning anything spewed out by the UUA. Blind following is what they want.

First Town Hall Meeting

As part of the national conversation, four Zoom Town Hall meetings were organized. The first Town Hall was held on March 27, and nearly 100 people attended. The theme of that Town Hall was “Amendments for Article II,” and it provided sponsors of the four Article II amendments to be voted upon at General Assembly an opportunity to discuss their amendments, their journey, and their next steps. The meeting was then open to all to ask questions and comment.  People who both support and oppose the proposed Article II language attended

There is a link on the UU the Conversation Town Hall Registration page so you can access the meeting slides and a video of the presentation section of the March 27th meeting. The Question-and-Answer portion of the meeting was not recorded to provide a freer environment for conversation.

Visit this link for the full schedule of Town Hall meetings.

Polarization within the Denomination

Reactions from the mass email campaign and comments during the March 27 Town Hall revealed that polarization has deeply taken root within the denomination.

It is unlikely that the result of the vote on Article II at General Assembly, whatever that may be, will end this polarization.

Conversation at the Town Hall meeting made clear that the often-mentioned admired feature of the proposed Article II, the inclusion of verbs calling for accountable action, is the very feature most objected to by many UUs as an attack on freedom of action and belief. “If this passes, I’m leaving!” was a feeling expressed by some.

One UU opined about a post June General Assembly town hall forum topic, “How do we get back together again?” An intriguing question. It may also be asked, “Can we get back together again?”

Next Town Hall Meeting

The theme of the next Town Hall meeting is “What We Gain, What We Lose.”

The proposed Article II rewrite has good new ideas that come with substantial modifications to how UUs function.  This Town Hall will address what is gained and lost with the new proposal so UUs can decide if it represents the right direction for our faith.

  • Date: Wednesday, April 24, 2024
  • Time: 8:00 PM Eastern, 7:00 PM Central, 6:00 PM Mountain, 5:00 PM Pacific
  • Duration: 75 – 90 minutes

Pre-registration is required. Visit this link to register.

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No longer a member
No longer a member
3 months ago

In our UU, I posted on Groups.io that we could find more productive ways to discuss key matters, and I outlined the methodology of formal debate. The minister posted a lengthy counterpost declaring that debate was bad.

John Eichtodt
John Eichtodt
3 months ago

Again, and again, I wish to state how impressed I am with the enormous courage, energy, and intelligent work being done in the face of the worst crisis our faith has ever faced.

John Eichrodt

Peter Anderson
Peter Anderson
3 months ago

Thank you for driving home that these changes are honed to divide an organization, which is already precariously tottering on the edge of being too small to sustain itself.

But, I hope you would, at the same time, also play up the great irony in their death wish.

That is that their version of performative racial justice, intended to supplant UU’s proud civil rights history of the real thing (think James Reeb) with counterproductive woke totems (say your pronouns or we’ll cancel you), will also set back freedom’s cause at the same time it sunders U&U’s long rich history.

Renate Bob
Renate Bob
3 months ago
Reply to  Peter Anderson

The UU turn to wokeness reflects that of liberals outside our community. Unfortunately, this comes with silencing dissent which makes for divisiveness. The shameful treatment of Todd Eklof and Kate Rhode is a disgrace! And now to have the new president preach that “ Trans is sacred” and all white members are “white Supremacists “ is another slap in the face of the majority of UU’s .
We probably do need a divorce.

Terri
Terri
3 months ago

Last night’s Town Hall was wonderful! I especially loved when we did a poll, and it was found that a whopping 83% of those present would reject the proposed rewrite if they were voting at GA2024. Very good news! Thanks to all who attended, and to those who did the hard work setting this amazing meeting up. I am very much looking forward to future Town Halls. If this one was any indication, a lot, including an increased feeling of camaraderie between more and more UUs, can be accomplished in a relatively short amount of time. This made me even… Read more »

Steve Caldwell
3 months ago

FPP WebMaster wrote: Seen again was a disturbing but common practice in the denomination when ministers and church leaders become gatekeepers—deciding what information congregation members may have access to. Ministers in UU congregations are called (another way of saying “voted into ministry by a congregational vote”). Board members are voted into their board officer positions by congregational vote as well. Both ministers and board members obtain their authority to make decisions from congregational polity (congregations voting them into office). It sounds like your criticism is directed towards representative democracy when elected leaders make decisions that you disagree with. Sometimes democratic… Read more »

Frank Casper
Frank Casper
3 months ago
Reply to  Steve Caldwell

By your logic, then, all the efforts of Trump to destroy democracy are democratic because he was elected. This of course extends to Putin, who is the legitimate president of Russia because he was elected. In that line as well, it was democratic when UU leaders in 2023 decided to include a sentence in their proposed changes that was voted down by more than 70% of the delegates because the board was, according to them, elected. And of course, it was democratic to offer only one candidate to the Presidency when the bylaws clearly stipulate otherwise. Recently, a congregation in… Read more »

Renate Bob
Renate Bob
3 months ago
Reply to  Frank Casper

Well said. The new UUA president was not elected democratically ! When Todd Eklof wanted to run, he was blocked from ever getting congregations to vote for him to run! This is authoritarian behavior! The UUA leadership is obviously not interested in democracy.

choknpuke
choknpuke
3 months ago
Reply to  Renate Bob

Comment removed. Violation of Code of Conduct. Invalid email address.

Steve Caldwell
2 months ago
Reply to  Frank Casper

Here is what the UUA Bylaws say about the responsibility of the UUA Presidential Search Committee (Section 9.5. Nomination of President and Moderator): The Presidential Search Committee shall submit no fewer than two nominations for the office of President for an election at the end of a presidential term or for a special election. The report of the Presidential Search Committee shall be announced by November 15 of the year before the General Assembly at which there is to be a presidential election, except in the case of a special election, in which case the report of the Presidential Search… Read more »

Jay Kiskel
Jay Kiskel
2 months ago
Reply to  Steve Caldwell

Steve, we appreciate your comments, which are typically clear and well-articulated. Unfortunately, this comment is simply riddled with errors and misinformation. You content that the elevation of Betancourt to the UUA president was consistent with the democratic process. Let’s consider six points that undermine your observation. 1.     At the 2020 GA, the UUA Board attempted a bylaw change to lower the Presidential Search Committee (PSC) requirement from “two or more” to “one or more.” This was a clear “tell” that the UUA Board sought greater influence over who would serve as president. The bylaw amendment was defeated. 2.     The relevant bylaw clearly… Read more »

Anna
Anna
2 months ago
Reply to  Steve Caldwell

A church that only allows only one viewpoint and no dissent in its church magazine is not practicing democracy. Democracy requires open debates, platforming of diverse viewpoints, etc. The current UUA is the definition of an illiberal democracy. As Jay points out, the casting of ballots is not itself proof of democracy. Russia and North Korea have ?votes.”

Steve Myles
Steve Myles
3 months ago
Reply to  Steve Caldwell

Almost no one on the UUA Board of Trustees or the UUA Nominating Committee faced an opponent in their election since at least 2013. The “elections” for UUA leaders have thus become “appointments” and the result is a self perpetuating leadership. I do not call that a “democratic” system.

Renate Bob
Renate Bob
3 months ago
Reply to  Steve Myles

It is a sad state of affairs indeed . We may as well have a pope and bishops .. and even those are elected!

Bill Baar
Bill Baar
3 months ago
Reply to  Steve Caldwell

Steve, Elected leaders can make poor decisions. The criticism here is on poor gatekeeper ship; not the elections that put them at the gate.

Frank Casper
Frank Casper
3 months ago
Reply to  Bill Baar

Respectfully Bill, while it’s a bit of a tangent in this thread, we at 5PP view our leadership as more appointed then elected, the GA vote not withstanding.

Anna
Anna
3 months ago
Reply to  Bill Baar

Even if the board and president were elected, which they were not, elected boards and officials can make bad decisions worthy of harsh criticism and correction.

Bill Baar
Bill Baar
3 months ago
Reply to  Anna

You bet… criticism of a board for shaping a message on issues coming before GA is not a criticism of democratic process. Steve seems to think criticism of a boards action implies criticism of the process behind the elections. It’s not IMO

Steve Myles
Steve Myles
3 months ago
Reply to  Bill Baar

Both the process behind the elections AND the shaping of issues brought before GA have are a direct result of the candidates “appointed” to the Board and the disproportionate voting power of Ministers and RE directors as GA delegates. Their influence can be both subtle and overt. If ministers and RE directors had NO vote at GA, delegates elected by their congregations, and it was much easier for congregations to nominate candidates for the board and nominating committee, then I might be able to agree with you.

Tim Bartik
3 months ago
Reply to  Steve Caldwell

Democratic institutions can be both liberal and illiberal. For me, the distinction is whether democratically-elected leaders stay committed to fostering more information, more diversity of perspectives, and free and open debate. In a liberal institution, such as a church, we would hope that leaders would want to promote free and open debate, regardless of their personal opinions. Thus, I would hope, for example, if a minister and Board President were strongly OPPOSED to the Article II revisions, that they would still feel the obligation to inform their congregation of information available online that is in FAVOR of the proposed Article… Read more »

Bek Wheeler
Bek Wheeler
3 months ago
Reply to  Tim Bartik

Wow, Tim Bartik, yes, yes, and YES. Thank you for expressing this OPEN access and sharing of diverse information. I have been really tied up at my church with other things (purchase of a new building, canvass, etc) but you inspire me to, this afternoon, share a balanced list of approaches to the proposed A2 revision. Of course, I have done so previously — shared both UUA materials and also links to 5th principle, and Savethe7Principles, and I participated in UUTheConversation. Thank you.

Judy
Judy
3 months ago
Reply to  Bek Wheeler

Yes! And thank you Bek for being part of the open conversation.

Bek Wheeler
Bek Wheeler
3 months ago
Reply to  Judy

My pleasure and honor to engage with us all. And I know that all these comments are in response to the excellent work by UU the Conversation, but I just wanted to put another plug in for the upcoming Town Hall. I can’t attend but just recorded and submitted a short clip expressing why I’m pleased with the Article II revision: https://uutheconversation.org/

Jon
Jon
3 months ago

The UUA is beyond reform and saving. It is institutionally doomed and will wither to a few congregations as the membership grays and shrinks. I suppose the church properties will be bought up and turned into bakery/coffee shops or homeless shelters.

Jeanne Macauley
Jeanne Macauley
3 months ago
Reply to  Jon

Not sure about property/asset tiring into local use. UUA has a Dissolution Clause in its bylaws, which I found easily on its website. Our church and many others has bylaws with the same wording, to the effect that voluntary dissolution of a UUA affiliated congregation will result in assets transferring to the UUA.

Jeanne Macauley
Jeanne Macauley
3 months ago

… turning into local use

Jay Kiskel
Jay Kiskel
3 months ago

A congregation, however, could simply withdraw its membership in the UUA and then decide how best to distribute its assets.

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