There are also disagreements about whether or how to process social justice issues with the members of the congregation. Church leaders need to give serious consideration to whether an issue should be acted on or not. Ask:
Below are listed some suggested guidelines for processing controversial
social issues or major projects in a congregation:
After the agreed upon time of education and dialogue has passed, use a voting
method that affirms the spirit of an inclusive democratic process and maintains the dignity, and, if
necessary, the anonymity of the individuals voting.
One possibility is to have a preparatory meeting at which people can deal
with clarifying the language of a resolution. And make sure there is ample time for discussion before a vote is
taken at the meeting. Set aside a minimum of an hour for dialogue and debate if needed. Give everyone who
wants to speak an opportunity to do so.
If after education and dialogue it looks like a vote will destroy the
community, DON’T VOTE. The congregation isn’t ready. Sometimes, this means more information or dialogue
is needed. Sometimes it means that everyone needs more time to absorb the information. Sometimes it
means the issue should be dropped.
Discussion about controversial issues can sometimes be heated and divisive in
the life of a congregation. Sometimes there isn’t time for full discussion and maybe only one side is
presented. Pressure or coercion is used to get votes, rather than persuasion. And appeals are made to guilt and
not to reason. These are examples of bad process. And they alienate persons and divide
As a faith community, Unitarian Universalists are trying to live by our
Principles and Purposes and respond to crucial social issues at the same time that we honor the values and
traditions of our democratic religious communities.
That is why social justice leaders need to take special responsibility for
using effective and fair processes which respect the individuals involved and provide ample time for discussion
and reflection. It means honoring individual rights while working toward group consensus. It requires
making sure there is time for full discussion and that all sides of the argument are presented.
Remember, how the issue is processed is as important as the issue itself.
Success in processing one issue creates enthusiasm for taking on other issues in the future.
Social justice leaders need to avoid attitudes of arrogance, and
self-righteousness. It is dangerous to divide the world into those who are “moral” and those who are “immoral”. It is
important to understand that not everyone in the church or community is going to agree with them about issues,
and that is okay.
Social justice advocates need to be responsible in how they conduct their
business. Sometimes programs are not well conceived or presented. Persons who speak on issues are poorly
prepared. Statements are made that are not thought through or are hastily put together. Simple solutions
are offered for complex problems. Social justice leaders need to do their homework. They need to be well
prepared for meetings and show that they have studied the issue in depth. They need to be particularly aware of
both sides of the arguments.
For more information contact web @ uua.org.
This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations.
Please consider making a donation today.
Last updated on Monday, December 19, 2011.
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