The Ball is in Your Court

Since 2017, when the UUA Board of Trustees declared that the Association and denomination were allegedly complicit with white supremacy culture, UU leadership has been able to further this discussion on their home court.

For example, after alleging the prevalence of white supremacy culture, the Board created its vehicle, the Commission on Institutional Change, to further this conversation. The Board framed the conversation by charging the Commission to “analyze structural racism and white supremacy culture within the UUA.” The Commission operated in its own realm without accountability to congregations.

The Commission extended the conversation by publishing Widening the Circle of Concern. Unlike the Article II comment period, there was no comment period on this report, allowing everyday UUs to critique the work. It was a fait accompli.

Although UU leadership touts General Assembly as an open and democratic process, the experiences of UU the Conversation reveal a different reality. The Association’s Executive Vice-president did not hesitate to censor UU the Conversation’s Platinum Level Sponsorship deliverables that urged a No vote.

Not surprisingly, UU leadership secured a victory at the 2024 General Assembly with the adoption of new wording for the Association’s second bylaw, Article II.

The Game is Now Afoot in Congregations

Now, the discussion has shifted to the home court of local congregations.

How will congregations respond to the national Association’s rejection of the Seven Principles?

No one knows how this will play out at the congregational level. We offer only a few observations regarding the “court” on which this discussion will be conducted.

The change was to the Unitarian Universalist Association’s bylaws

Congregations have long deferred to the Association as the “leader” of the Unitarian Universalist denomination. It is unclear if that deference will continue. Independent, autonomous, and self-governing congregations are not obligated to accept the Association’s updated bylaw into the character of their congregations.

The 80.1% passage of Article II is not a ringing endorsement

The UU leadership endorsed revision of Article II received only a B- passing grade. Congregations would not consider calling a minister with such a middling approval. Why would congregations consider changes to UUism with such a lukewarm approval?

It Doesn’t impact me UUs

For several years, the discussion on Article II involved “UU insiders” who knew of Article II’s sweeping impacts. With the discussion now taking place as internal congregational conversations, many of the “it doesn’t impact me” UUs will eventually be pulled into the conversation.

Impact on Religious Education

Parents of young children may express strong opinions if the Seven Principles are removed and the petal flower image of the value statements is introduced into religious education (RE) curriculum. No doubt the UUA’s new RE material will include such imagery.

The Other Shoe Yet to Drop

Within a year, we may see the first drafts of the Bylaws Revision Team that are expected to include significant changes to Article III, which covers membership in the UUA. The current language defines the Association as a

“voluntary association of autonomous, self-governing member congregations, which have freely chosen to pursue common goals together.”

This article also explicitly affirms congregational polity stating,

“Nothing in these Bylaws shall be construed as infringing upon the congregational polity of internal self-governance of member congregations.”

In view of what we have already witnessed, and in light of early work from the Bylaws Revision Team shows that such concepts are unlikely to survive.

A World of Unfolding Consequences

Over the next two to three years, we will see how congregations grapple with the fallout from the June 2024 General Assembly vote on Article II. As noted, we cannot foretell the actual events that will occur, but the contours of the coming conflict are in focus.

Keep Us Informed of Actions in Your Congregation

Please post comments or use our Contact Us feature to tell us what is happening in your congregation.

Guest Contributors

We have received a number of excellent contributions. We are still sorting through those contributions.  If you would like to be a Guest Contributor, we are still soliciting contributions. Topics may include, but are not limited to the ideas expressed below.

  • Reflections on the recent June General Assembly
  • The implications at the national level of the adoption of this new bylaw
  • Thoughts on upcoming changes by the Bylaws Renewal Team
  • Decisions by local congregations – continue with Seven Principles or change to Six Values
  • Speculation on whether congregations will dis-associate with UUA
  • Or any topic you believe would add value to the national discourse

If you would like to submit a Commentary of 850 to 1,000 words, please do so in Microsoft Word (or other similar formats) directly to fifthprincipleproject@gmail.com. Our professional editor may edit your work to be consistent with our style guide. We will not alter any key points in your work.

The Fifth Principle Project would like as many Commentaries as possible. Selection of works to avoid duplication may be required.

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David
David
10 days ago

Three recent substack posts of mine:

How Unitarian Universalist congregations have dropped the ball on democracy: The UUA is undemocratic for various reasons

How leaders limit the scope of what can be discussed: Expanding on a Noam Chomsky quote

JETPIG: The UUA has officially jumped the shark: A once respected liberal church is now the butt of international jokes

Last edited 10 days ago by David
A (Former) UU
A (Former) UU
10 days ago

The 80.1% passage of Article II is not a ringing endorsement

Not only that, but you forgot to point out all the ways in which the vote does not reflect the democratic will of UUs. Religious professionals make up a huge and non-representative voting bloc. Many congregations sent delegates without deliberating on the question, while others sent no delegates at all.

Years of indifference to this religion, of allowing its own Association to languish in an undemocratic pit, has finally wrought a religion indifferent to itself and the world.

John Veneruso
John Veneruso
10 days ago

Because I identify as an “Engineer,” an identity that goes back many thousands of years and spans all cultures, ethnicities, and global regions, I am very concerned that UUA’s embrace of Tema Okun’s definition of “White Supremacy Culture” that denigrates both Objectivity and a desire to balance Individualism with Collectivism undermines Liberal Democracy, our continued pursuit of Science and its associated objective truths, and personal commitment, responsibility, accountability, and the fruits of success. When the 7 Principles and Humanist values were tossed as part of the adoption of the new Article II, we lost the heart of what UU had… Read more »

David
David
9 days ago
Reply to  John Veneruso

Tema Okun herself has said the UUA-types have misused and misinterpreted her list. She says it’s not to be used as a weapon to target or call out individuals.

Tema Okun decries the misuse of her ‘Characteristics of White Supremacy Culture’ list

Terri
Terri
9 days ago
Reply to  John Veneruso

Temu Okun’s article/list was ridiculous, racist – against BIPOCS – nonsense from beginning to end. But it was useful in one respect: It helped the UUA to call all white UUs “racists” based on exactly nothing, and, with the addition of the fake research from the “Widening Circle of Control,” to say we were all “swimming in a sea of white supremacy.”  The UUA then took that “foundation” and proceeded to systematically destroy this great religion. For Okun to say she never meant for her work to be used in this way is disingenuous in the extreme. Any adult in… Read more »

Miles Fidelman
9 days ago

So… the Enlightenment & Transcendentalism are officially dead to the UUA. Seems like time for our congregations to declare themselves – either they’re true to their Unitarian & Universalist roots, or they’re not.

Are we committed to living together in peace, seeking truth in freedom, serving human kind in fellowship – or to the new Holy Office? It’s kind of a binary choice.

Justin Lapoint
Justin Lapoint
9 days ago
Reply to  Miles Fidelman

What is clear to me is that the UUA has moved away from its Unitarian and Universalist roots.When they eliminated the first principle, they ceased to be any kind of Universalist. By rejecting reason, denying free speech, and certainly NOT using toleration, they rejected E.Morse Wilbur’s 3 pillars of Unitarianism: freedom, reason, and toleration. They are using both names under false pretenses.

Burton Brunson
Burton Brunson
8 days ago

I don’t understand the indecision. Do we want to be told what to do? Then, stay in the UUA. Do we want to make our own choices? Then the UUA is not only useless, it’s a negative factor. There are plenty other options, including operating as an individual congregation, without formal association with other congregations. Why not the NAUA?

Terri
Terri
8 days ago

I can’t wait to hear what’s going on with everyone’s congregations! This is a world-wide re-awakening for us – I’m not sure what we’re called now, since those who congregate here may not consider themselves “Unitarian Universalists,” with the rewrite undemocratically “accepted” a GA 2024 – but staying in touch is going to be essential. This will help us encourage and support each other in the upcoming journeys. Some areas that will need addressing may include (1) What will the impact of the Article II rewrite have on our congregation?; (2) What will the changes to Article III, which deals,… Read more »

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