Jacksonville Statement

May 11, 2024


[Address redacted]

Dear Congregation Leadership and Members,

After more than 12 months of engaging our congregation in research, in-depth discussion and discernment, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Jacksonville has voted with an overwhelming majority for our delegates to vote to reject the amendments to Article Il at the upcoming Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly.

From its beginnings, Unitarianism has attracted individuals who seek to examine their relationship to the transcendent and have engaged in exploring their connection to spiritual practices in matters of faith. What many of these individuals have in common is the invitation Unitarian Universalism extends to them to bring their questioning minds, and their reasoning to a beloved community that values diversity in its fullest meaning (theology, religious background, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability, financial status, political preferences, etc.); and to share with others their expansive hearts ready to practice unconditional love.

The Beloved Community sustains individual belief systems and practices and provides the seven principles and six sources as the glue that bonds individuals to the whole. The seven principles illuminate the path of moral and ethical living, foster personal responsibility and accountability, and call for promoting universal justice, impartiality, interdependence, and the democratic process. The six sources provide wisdom of the ages, from voices from the millennia to our current voices, that open the heart and demand action for eliminating unjust practices wherever they may be. That is why we will continue to be guided by the seven principles and six sources of wisdom.

As a matter of practice, Unitarian Universalism does not create, require, or enforce creeds or dogmas. There is no centralized seat of theological order. The absence of a hierarchical governance structure allows congregations to draft locally meaningful mission and vision statements; to choose its governance structure and practices; to hold its members accountable to its covenant; and to design justice-focused action plans focused on community needs.

We believe the proposed Article Il changes could pose grave consequences for Unitarian Universalism. We do not judge people’s intentions; we look only at the facts. The change in the first line says it all. The current Article lI states, “We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association…” The proposed change begins with, “The Unitarian Universalist Association…” It is evident that there is an ideological movement to pivot the Unitarian Universalist Association from being an umbrella service body of the member congregations, to becoming a governing body that imposes its positions on congregations with consequences for those congregations and members that don’t adhere to its edicts.

What we do know is our congregation and the Unitarian Universalist Association have been at the forefront of opposition to racism in the fight for racial justice. We are constantly reflecting and learning to ensure continuous improvement. However, there are accusations of being inherently racist to such a degree that we must reject our past, discount our history, and abandon the underpinning spiritual and ethical principles that guide us; replacing them with a set of nebulous values that anyone would be hard-pressed to recite, let alone define.

We are seeing concerning glimpses of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Board plans to define the new values and to impose severe sanctions for congregations and individuals that don’t adhere to them. Here are just three examples

  • Even before the upcoming vote, the UUA Board is setting up procedural policies of congregational accountability requiring congregations deemed to not be “doing the work” as defined by the UUA, to be in-need of some type of consequence.
  • At the 2023 General Assembly, the delegates voted to remove the sentence “We will work to repair harm and damaged relationships” from the proposed amendment, but it was re-inserted by the UUA board, negating the vote of the General Assembly.
  • The new value of “discipline of LOVE,” as addressed by the Article Il Study Commission, is shorthand for “Doing the Work.” According to the Commission on Institutional Change, that means focusing on fighting racism and oppression, and upholding multi-culturalism at the possible expense of other justice issues needing advocacy.

Our congregation has voted to reject the proposed amendments because the proposed changes

  • Use language that is divisive, and espouses practices based on blaming and shaming.
  • Introduce a creedal approach to which all members would be required to adhere for a congregation to remain certified by the UUA.
  • Expect that only individuals who share the UUA values may be welcome to join a congregation.
  • Focus the reason for being a Unitarian Universalist solely on fighting racism and oppression, and upholding multi-culturalism, at the expense of other justice issues needing advocacy as determined by congregations.
  • Dissolve the seven principles and six sources which have been the core of Unitarian Universalism and replace them with language that equates Unitarian Universalism to a socio-political organization rather than one that serves as a source of spiritual guidance.
  • Reject an individual’s right of conscience, the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large, and the free and responsible search for truth and meaning.
  • Imply an authoritarian, hierarchical governance structure with UUA leadership at the top with the authority to judge congregations and declare congregations to be out of covenant setting up procedural policies of congregational accountability with consequences for congregations deemed to not be “doing the work.”
  • Conflict with congregational polity and the rights of congregations to democratically choose their mission, covenant, their minister, and governance structure.
  • The importance of your congregation’s discernment regarding the proposed changes to Article Il cannot be overstated.

Sincerely, Meg Rohal President, Peter Racine Lay Minister, Marge Powell Article II Task Force Co-Chair, Fresie Tessie Bond Article Il Task Force Co-Chair