Changing the Principles

The UUA General Assembly met this past week. One of the business items was to vote on changing Article II of the UUA bylaws. This is the section that covers the purpose of the Unitarian Universalist Association, the principles and the sources of our living tradition. Those principles were voted on and affirmed in 1986.

There is a requirement that we revisit this section periodically, not just to examine how they fit us now, but to see if they will carry us into the future. Some of that work was begun with the movement to add an eighth principle that directly addresses our work with anti-racism/anti-oppression. Then a more in-depth examination happened with the Article II commission. Last fall, they presented their recommendation about changing this section. Over this year, there has been much feedback, adjustments, and amendments.

On Saturday, June 24, 86.3% of the delegates to the General Assembly voted to give preliminary approval to the Article II proposal, with the approved amendments. This means that there will be another year of discussion before next June, when delegates will vote on final approval of the changes. (Next year’s GA will be entirely online. Let us know if you would like to be a delegate for Live Oak.)

I have stayed fairly neutral about all of this, because I wanted to see how it all played out with the delegates. But I have to say, reading the new wording … it really touched me. One of the things I have felt was missing from the principles was the word “love.” This is a religion where love is the primary guiding force in all we do. Why was it not named?

Now, it is. The proposed new Article II is posted below. It will be discussed and debated, and there may be further changes before June. What do you think of it?

Mostly, I have terrifically proud to be part of a faith that understands evolution to be core to our religion. There is an old story of a Universalist being asked where the Universalists stand on a certain issue. The Universalist retorted, “We don’t stand, we MOVE.”

Unlike other faith traditions that double down on antiquated ideas (cough, cough, looking at you, Southern Baptist Convention), our faith looks ahead to the future, examining our core values to see how we want to articulate them now, while still remaining committed to our tradition of congregational freedom and the individual’s right of conscience.

Rough Proposal as of now:

Article II Purposes and Covenant
Section C-2.1. Purposes.
The Unitarian Universalist Association will devote its resources to and use its organizational powers for religious, educational, and humanitarian purposes. Its primary purposes are to assist congregations in their vital ministries, support and train leaders both lay and professional, to foster lifelong faith formation and spiritual development, to heal historic injustices, to support and encourage the creation of new Unitarian Universalist communities, and to advance our Unitarian Universalist values in the world.
The purpose of the Unitarian Universalist Association is to actively engage its members in the transformation of the world through liberating Love.
Section C-2.2. Values and Covenant.
As Unitarian Universalists, we covenant, congregation-to-congregation and through our association, to support and assist one another in our ministries. We draw from our heritages of freedom, reason, hope, and courage, building on the foundation of love.
Love is the power that holds us together and is at the center of our shared values. We are accountable to one another for doing the work of living our shared values through the spiritual discipline of Love.
Inseparable from one another, these shared values are:
Interdependence. We honor the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
With humility and reverence, we covenant to protect Earth and all beings from exploitation, creating and nurturing sustainable relationships of repair, mutuality, and justice.
Pluralism. We celebrate that we are all sacred beings diverse in culture, experience, and theology.
We covenant to learn from one another in our free and responsible search for truth and meaning. We embrace our differences and commonalities with Love, curiosity, and respect.
Justice. We work to be diverse multicultural Beloved Communities where all thrive.
We covenant to dismantle racism and all forms of systemic oppression. We support the use of inclusive democratic processes to make decisions within our congregation and the society at large.
Transformation. We adapt to the changing world.
We covenant to collectively transform and grow spiritually and ethically. Openness to change is fundamental to our Unitarian and Universalist heritages, never complete and never perfect.
Generosity. We cultivate a spirit of gratitude and hope.
We covenant to freely and compassionately share our faith, presence, and resources. Our generosity connects us to one another in relationships of interdependence and mutuality.
Equity. We declare that every person has the right to flourish with inherent dignity and worthiness.
We covenant to use our time, wisdom, attention, and money to build and sustain fully accessible and inclusive communities.
Section C-2.3. Inspirations.
As Unitarian Universalists, we proclaim that direct experiences of transcending mystery and wonder are a primary source of inspiration. These experiences open our hearts, renew our spirits, and transform our lives.
We draw upon, and are inspired by, sacred, secular, and scientific understandings that help us make meaning and live into our values. We respect the histories, contexts, and cultures in which these understandings were created and are currently practiced. These sources ground us and sustain us in ordinary, difficult, and joyous times. Grateful for the experiences that move us, aware of the religious ancestries we inherit, and enlivened by the diversity which enriches our faith, we are called to ever deepen and expand our wisdom.
Section C-2.4. Inclusion.
Systems of power, privilege, and oppression have traditionally created barriers for persons and groups with particular identities, ages, abilities, and histories. We pledge to replace such barriers with ever-widening circles of solidarity and mutual respect. We strive to be an association of congregations that truly welcome all persons who share our values. We commit to being an association of congregations that empowers and enhances everyone’s participation, especially those with historically marginalized identities.
Section C-2.5. Freedom of belief.
Congregational freedom and the individual’s right of conscience are central to our Unitarian Universalist heritage.
Congregations may establish statements of purpose, covenants, and bonds of union so long as they do not require that members adhere to a particular creed.