Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Moderator Gini Courter called Plenary VII to order on Sunday, June 24, 2007, at the Oregon Convention Center, and informed delegates that the day's business included voting on the Open Space presentations and debating Actions of Immediate Witness.
Courter called on Open Space Technology Chair Dr. Helen Bishop to explain the process for voting on statements expressing priorities for the Association's work. Bishop explained that people can vote for five statements, and that they can either vote for five separate items, or for any specific statement more than once. In response to questions, it was clarified that ballots with more than five votes would not be counted, however tellers can provide new ballots if errors are made.
Voting occurred, and ballots were collected by tellers.
In response to a question from the procedural microphone, Courter stated that the results of the voting will be available by the time the UUA Board's packet of information (for its October 2007 meeting) is published on UUA.org in September. The Open Space Technology volunteer facilitation team was acknowledged, and it was repeated that this is the largest number of people ever to use Open Space. At this GA over 1400 were involved in the process, Bishop said, whereas the typical size of a group is 200-400.
Courter explained how the AIW discussion and debate would work, with time allocated for discussion on the proposed AIW for up to twenty minutes before considering amendments. If, however, there is no one discussing the overall merits of the proposed AIW, amendments could be made immediately. All AIWs are admitted to debate by motion of the chair of the Commission on Social Witness, Rev. Jan Carlsson-Bull.
Read Support for the UN CEDAW.
Debate began on this AIW. The only person speaking against the proposed action stated they were doing so in fear that this AIW was asking for lobbying elected officials in a way that would create difficulties for congregations and their tax-exempt status. Rob Keithan, Director of the UUA's Washington Office for Advocacy, stated that there are no clear cut guidelines on this issue, but that the rule of thumb is that as long as non-profits are not spending more than 5 percent of their time and financial resources on any specific piece of legislation by name, they are not in legal jeopardy. Congregations do not have to restrict their work as issue advocates on general issues, Keithan said, provided they are not speaking about specific legislation.
Some of the points made by delegates from the pro microphone:
Seeing no one at the con microphone, Courter called for the vote on AIW 1, and it carried.
Read Support Immigrant Families.
The debate on AIW 2 began with a series of procedural questions, including the definition of "fair and legal," and the difference between something that is legal, and something that is fair. One person rose in opposition to the proposed AIW expressing concern that the language in the Action needs to be accurate "so that we will not appear silly to the outside world." One person spoke in favor of the proposal as a whole, citing experience as a union organizer and the impact on workers' lives when immigration issues hang over them.
There being no one at the microphones to discuss the overall merits of the proposal, Courter turned to the amendment microphone. One amendment moved to insert bulleted text to urge religious communities to speak strongly about these issues. Without this, it was stated that the AIW would be too narrow. No one spoke against the proposed amendment, the vote was called, and the amendment carried.
An amendment was presented to delete the amendment incorporated by the Commission on Social Witness at its mini-assembly. The language urged congregations to create a dialogue with their local business community, politicians and minority coalitions. The concern was specifically about language calling for fair and legal deportations: "instead we need to call for simple cessation of immigrant deportations," said the individual moving the amendment. Another person speaking in favor of the amendment indicated concern that this would lead to confusion about what is legal and illegal.
Those speaking against the amendment stated that the incorporated amendment points out action that congregations can take, while another indicated that a discussion on what is fair and appropriate is necessary. Yet another said that in their community immigration reform is a local issue that necessitates conversation at the local level.
Courter called for a vote on the amendment to remove the incorporated lines, and the motion failed. Courter then called for the vote on the overall AIW 2 as amended, and the motion carried.
Read Support Comprehensive Sexuality Education Legislation.
Speakers in support of the proposed AIW included the co-author, who is a member of the Church of the Younger Fellowship, and another delegate who urged for options other than abstinence to be taught since not all people choose that option. One person spoke against the AIW stating that it is not the job of the federal government to fund sexuality education, and that the local and state governments should be doing so. With no other people at the con microphone, and no amendments pending, Courter called for the vote, and AIW 3 carried.
Read Stop U.S. Sponsored Torture.
One person spoke in favor of the proposed AIW, saying that torture violates the basic dignity of human persons that all religions in their highest ideals hold dear, and urged delegates to vote to abolish torture now without any exceptions. With no one wishing to speak against this AIW, and with no amendments pending, Courter called for the vote and AIW 4 carried.
Courter declared a break in debate on Actions of Immediate Witness, and the Right Relations Team came to the podium to share their report.
Courter told delegates, "This has been a good General Assembly relationally, and that this was in no small part because of the Right Relations Team—they have figured out how to do their job well."
Petra Aldrich, chair of the team, began by delivering a personal message to the Moderator from the members of the Pacific Northwest District. They are concerned that they are not in right relationship with the Moderator due to her continued mispronunciation of the name of the state of Oregon —it is "or-eh-gun," not "or-eh-GONE." Much laughter ensued as the Moderator practiced her pronunciation.
Aldrich continued in a more serious note by speaking about scooter and wheelchair etiquette. She reminded plenary attendees, "These are not armrests—unless it is your chair—nor should you pull yourself up with it. When approaching doors or hallways, it is generally more polite to allow scooters to go ahead rather than jumping in before them. When in rooms where there are indents in chair rows for wheelchairs or scooters, it is polite to leave the adjacent seats for scooter/wheelchair companions." Aldrich also pointed out that some of the people who are using scooters at GA do not do so at home, and so their driving abilities might not be perfect—so be understanding and flexible. She said that there were enough complaints received that she wanted to offer these statements, but that "there are also wonderful reports of people making enough space and being conscious of mobility issues."
Aldrich stated that some of the most difficulties come up around music: how it is used, how it is sung, what is sung. "Issues of cultural misappropriation have been some of our most broken relationship issues." She noted that "the musicians are working hard, supported by DRUUMM and the Committee on Cultural Misappropriation. We're not quite there yet, and we appreciate the time, effort, and attention that has gotten us this far."
She pointed out that having 6000 UUs together is nice for so many of us. UUs of color are a smaller group, and it is rare to have so many people of color at GA—the celebration, joy, care, healing, and networking here is fundamental to their core. We should all be celebrating their presence.
Aldrich also pointed out that at past GAs the Opening Ceremony has included a welcome from and acknowledgement of the original peoples who lived on the land on which this General Assembly gathers. This has been an effort to be in relationship with the local Native American tribes, and an acknowledgement of the land's history and the violent takeover of those lands. Aldrich reminded those in the hall that the city of Portland has not always been here, and that this land was once Mexico. She invited the delegates into a moment of silence in recognition and remembrance of the history of the land.
Aldrich said that many youth and young adults had mentioned how painful it was for them to see so many people leaving the Plenary the previous day rather than staying for the Bridging Ceremony. So often, Aldrich said, UUs state that youth and young adults are our future. Half of the Right Relationship Team are young adults, she said, and "youth and young adults are our present, not just the future. Working to recognize this needs to be a priority for all of us." Applause greeted this statement.
Beth Norton and Leon Dunkley from the Cultural Misappropriations Task Force were introduced. Dunkley, an ethnomusicologist and seminarian, stated that the Task Force has taken on large issues, some of which have names, and others which are not yet nameable, and that many are difficult. The Task Force is examining issues with as much integrity and compassion as possible, and "we know that we will be making mistakes." In recognition of our humanity and our inevitable mistakes, Dunkley and Norton asked delegates to join in a sung litany of forgiveness. The piece, from "Singing the Journey," was written by Rob Eller-Isaacs and Les Kleen, and is entitled, "We Begin Again in Love."
Moderator Gini Courter returned to debate on remaining Actions of Immediate Witness.
Read Repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell".
Many people rose to speak to this proposed AIW. The discussion included the following:
Courter responded, "There should always be time for prayer," and the delegates entered into silence. Courter said, "To whomever we pray," and asked "that delegates be reminded there is enough love to go around if we create it, that we need to be sensitive and caring for each other, [that we] learn to speak more for what we need than for what we don't believe others are entitled to," and asked that delegates be centered, forgiving and caring as the plenary votes on this and other resolutions today.
Discussion on the proposed AIW then continued:
Time having elapsed, Courter called for the vote, and AIW 5 carried. Courter then said that she thought she heard concerns about this proposal from people of color, and in particular that we only care about DADT, and not about the fact that for many young people of color there are only two options, jail or the military. "We need," Courter said, "to take back the nuanced conversation we've had here." She suggested that people set up a projector in their congregations and show this debate to them for further reflection and discussion.
Read Pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act with Transgender Inclusion and Protection.
Immediately after admitting this AIW to the floor, a delegate appeared at the procedural microphone. When acknowledged, he identified himself as Rev. Ken Collier, minister in Santa Barbara. He rose, he said, to a point of personal privilege. Collier said to the Moderator, "I don't always agree with you, but you are running these proceedings superbly, and I want to thank you." The delegates responded with enthusiastic applause. Courter said in response that "this is magic we make together, and we are at our best when we look at each other. We are so smart and caring when we dig deep."
Debate on the AIW then began and included these highlights:
Courter called for the vote, and AIW 6 carried.
This Plenary session concluded after announcements, and the singing together with music leader Sarah Dan Jones of Blue Boat Home.
Reported by Lisa Presley; edited by Deborah Weiner.
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Last updated on Thursday, September 8, 2011.
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