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General Assembly 2010 Event 3003
Unedited Live Captioning (TXT)
The following final draft script was completed before this event took place; actual words spoken may vary. See the UU World General Assembly Blog for up-to-date reporting.
[Moderator Gini Courter speaking]
I now call to Order the Third Plenary Session of the Forty-Ninth General Assembly [GA] of the Unitarian Universalist Association [UUA].
I have the distinct pleasure of introducing to you the members of the General Assembly Planning Committee. They have created an outstanding General Assembly experience for all of us. The members, all volunteers, are:
I call upon Tim Wilson to let us know about this year’s GA Service Project.
[Tim Wilson speaking]
Good morning. My name is Tim Wilson and I am the Liaison for the Service Project of this year’s local GA Planning Committee. Right now, at this moment, several of our friends are painting, planting and otherwise tidying up properties on and around Hope Block, the anchor of Hope Community, located at the intersection of Franklin and Portland Avenues, just a few blocks from here. As you are probably already aware, Hope Community is our service project this year.
Beginning in the 1990s, a few local activists got together to try to turn around an area that had deteriorated and become a relatively safe place to buy crack cocaine but not for children to play. They used as a base for their efforts, an existing shelter for homeless women and children—something near and dear to my heart, since I run a homeless shelter in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The group incorporated and gradually acquired other properties, some of which could be renovated and others torn down to make way for new structures or public space.
Over time, the block was rebuilt and Hope Community was able to help create affordable housing on nearby blocks in this area, known as the Phillips Neighborhood. As the previous destruction and violence gradually gave way to a new reality, a vision for more ambitious growth emerged, built on past success and aiming toward more diversity and expanded affordable housing. This is the Hope Community that we are becoming part of here during General Assembly.
The contributions we make at the Hope Community booth in the Exhibit Hall or through the collection at Sunday worship will go into a reserve/maintenance fund for properties occupied by low income families. The Block properties are up to 100 years old in some cases, and even though some of the buildings have recently received rehabilitation funding, the funding agencies that assisted with that work do not provide funding for maintenance reserves on those buildings. Thus, over the course of the next 5-10 years, as the buildings continue to age and require significant maintenance, our donations will provide a lifeline to the Block properties as emergency repairs and replacements are needed.
Our contributions will have a positive impact well beyond our stay here in Minneapolis. Our work with Hope Community in creating this moment of engagement—however brief—and the work being done right now by volunteers and by those volunteering tomorrow, will have lasting impact. Thanks to those of you here this morning who are volunteering tomorrow. Thanks to those of you who have already contributed and to those who will do so Sunday. Please give generously. We are leaving a bit of ourselves here and hopefully we will take a bit of Hope home with us. I know I will. Thank you very much.
Tom Loughrey, Secretary of the Association, will now give us a preliminary report of the Credentials Committee.
[A quorum consists of 300 accredited delegates from not fewer than 100 certified members societies located in not fewer than 10 states or provinces. Section 4.10.]
On the basis of the preliminary report of the Credentials Committee, I declare that a quorum is and has been present since this meeting was called to Order.
And now may I introduce the Rev. Harlan Limpert, Vice President for Ministries & Congregational Support. In his role at the UUA, Harlan leads and manages the staff groups who work most closely with congregations. This includes members of the district staff, those who support our multicultural growth and witness efforts, those who assist congregations during changes in their professional leadership, lifespan faith development and religious education, and many others.
[Harlan Limpert speaking]
When President Peter Morales talks about the role the UUA staff can play in the life of congregations, he sometimes says he wishes the UUA had created the slogan that Home Depot has made so popular in recent years: “You can do it, we can help.” This cute and catchy slogan conveys a belief that congregations already have the capacity to do all those things that enable it to live out its mission in the world. They sometimes just want help, and sometimes we can provide it.
At other times the role of UUA staff becomes that of lifting up the good work of congregations and encouraging other congregations to learn directly from them.
That is the idea behind the Breakthrough Congregation initiative. Created six years ago, it was an effort to identify those congregations that had achieved significant and sustained numerical growth and give them an opportunity to share at General Assembly what they’ve done, and how they’ve done it. Why not look to the experts—those lay and professional leaders who have already "cracked the nut" around growth—and give them the opportunity at general assembly to share their wisdom?
The four Breakthrough Congregations for 2010 include:
And now may I introduce to you the leaders of our first of four Breakthrough Congregations, the Unitarian Church of Summit, NJ.
[Vanessa Rush Southern, Parish Minister, speaking]
So when I came to Summit about nine years ago, the congregation had a property up the street where there was religious education … that it had bought when the religious education program blossomed forty or fifty years before and it had the church and a little Victorian house.
[Carolyn Lockwood, Office Manager, speaking]
It was almost like there were two churches. There was the church on Sunday where mostly adults gathered in the sanctuary… and then there was Unitarian House where the children had their service and their classrooms and their religious education classes. And the two didn’t always come together. And it began to be divisive, I think.
And so after years of wrangling decided to bring the two properties together; selling one, consolidating on another. And when I came they were busy, you know, digging up the foundations of this church and lifting it up and building an extension. And that actually began the first set of changes, where the congregation was together, larger, many ministers in one place, people got the sense of synergy, and immediately there was more programming and more life just by that one risky change. And then one summer the staff sat down and we all talked about what we thought the mission of the community was. We were trying to get aligned about our vision for what we were going to do going forward and what spirit and what came out of it was this unexpected synergy and that if I had to describe it in one phrase would be essentially the church’s job was to equip people for bold living. Bold living of our values…but nonetheless bold living in the world and so everything we did then really began around a conversation of is this doing the work of equipping our people to live their values boldly in the world. And we preached a sermon about the fact that our job was to equip one another to live boldly. And if I had to pick a moment I would say that really set the tone for a whole bunch of conversations and whole framework about what we were doing that was transformative. Asking what is the bold thing to do can be exhausting. Sometimes it’s just nicer to ask what is the good enough thing to do, not what is the bold thing to do. And so it’s a constant challenge. Every so often we have to say in a board meeting or a committee meeting, “Okay that sounds like a reasonable choice but is that the bold one and are we called to the bold decision in this case” and sometimes you don’t want to be there but we are trying to call each other there.
[Tuli Patel, Director of Religious Education, speaking]
The staff had a long extensive discussion about permission granting. People had ideas and they were really looking for us to say “Yes! We support you in your ideas”. Of course that doesn’t mean we say yes to everything, but generally when those ideas were good ideas we wanted to support them and what we said to people was “Great, you’ve got this brilliant idea, we’ll figure out the systems and the strategies to make it happen.”
[Lorraine Franz, President, Board of Trustees, speaking]
They come to this place with things they want to do… with dreams…with hopes and we have to give them a way to do it. And while talking about policies and procedures is a little boring sometimes, it does put in place a way for people who have ideas to come and do things.
So after a few years of this happening all around us in every aspect of our religious lives it actually came to be our 100th anniversary and so two lay people were chosen as the head of our Centennial Committee and they were basically told “You tell us what it should look like, what do you think it should look like to celebrate our hundredth birthday appropriately?”
[Julia Miller, Co-chair, Centennial Committee speaking]
We thought that after speaking with the leadership in the congregation that raising $100,000 in our 100th year to give away would be appropriate.
Lots of congregations use their centennials to raise money. Usually it’s for an endowment or to change something about their building, but their idea was we’re going to give it all away. Every cent.
Joseph Parsons, Former Board President: One of the things that I remember was when the Centennial Committee came to the Board and said you know we want to do all these things. We want to raise $100,000. And the first thing in my mind was… there’s no way. I mean we’ve got to stop this. We’re out there raising money for the church. There are so many other things going on and kind of right in the middle of that thought I said this is insane! I’ve had this group of people who were very enthusiastic about doing this. They’ve got great ideas. They want to raise a lot of money and of course we should encourage them to do it.
[Barbara Goldberg, Co-chair, Centennial Committee, speaking]
But also we asked everyone in our congregation if they could come up with ways to live this service throughout the year and we asked them going along with the idea of the Centennial to perform 100 hours of service throughout the year. Some younger children said they were going to help their mothers, other older people said they were going to deliver food to people ill in the neighborhood. But I think what happened was we started the momentum and we tried to involve as many different people and as many different parts of the church as possible so that everybody was involved and it just kept on rolling and rolling and rolling.
We feel very grateful to the congregation for... for stepping up to the challenge and meeting it in many different ways.
[Gary Nissenbaum, Social Action Chair, speaking]
When someone says to you “Here’s a budget, here’s a bunch of people who want to help you, now come up with a vision of what social ill you want to fix.” It’s a dramatically interesting moment because now you have to say okay… well what is important to me and what is achievable and how can I do the best I can with the limited resources we have? And what I came up with, with their help, was to go into a challenged community. The issue was could we find one where we could partner with the mayor? With the actual administration, with the superintendant of schools so that we would not be going in at a level where we would not be able to have an impact. I wanted to bring us in at the highest level of their government to ask them a very important question. How can we help? And they were very receptive to that. And the mayor put us in touch with one school in particular, the Chancellor Avenue School. It’s an elementary school and we made connections with the principal, the vice principal, the PTA, even some of the teachers. You know, they didn’t know what a Unitarian was … we kept being called the Ukrainian Church, but be that as it may, everything sort of coalesced very well. They were very welcoming. We discussed tutoring. Maybe tutoring in reading and math. And just starting and ending with that and seeing how far we could get. We did that for maybe six weeks. It worked extremely well. When that word spread among our congregation we had more and more people in the congregation who wanted to go down and wanted to tutor. We ended up having more volunteers than we could handle. We had more volunteers than there were kids to tutor. From there, we moved into other areas of Irvington. We actually were involved in the beautification of the school itself. There was a day in the spring when they asked us to come down and help them plant things and beautify the place and we had easily thirty congregants go down there and do this and it was just a wonderful, wonderful experience. Irvington has been a 100% positive experience for all of us.
[Emilie Boggis, Youth Minister, speaking]
I think many people in our congregation needed to respond to the war in Iraq in a way that felt meaningful to them. And one of the ways that we in worship were able to do that was to ring our gong and chimes in honor of the American soldiers who had lost their lives there and as well as the Iraqi services and civilians who lost their lives there. And that ritual that we did every Sunday at the end service became very powerful. And it was able to hold both people who were for the war and people who were against the war. A Moving Towards Peace Committee was formed in order to understand how we’re going to take a stand on peace. One of the central things that they did was to make a display on the front of our congregation’s building, from the sanctuary building, that had ribbons, beautiful ribbons in all different colors and on each ribbon was written the names of U.S. soldiers who had lost their lives and each ribbon had a different meaning whether it was a soldier in New Jersey or 10,000 soldiers in Iraq or 100,000 civilians. Each ribbon was beautifully displayed and it transformed our actual building from one that people in the city of Summit overlooked again and again to this place where people knew that something was happening here. And then on Memorial Day the Moving Towards Peace Committee led a service. After that service they read each of the names right in front of this display for anyone to listen to.
We are not the last word on social action in this congregation. There is a huge amount of social action that goes on completely outside of our initiatives, and we love that.
I think what’s magical is, that’s the first hundred years. This is the beginning of the next hundred years and that’s very exciting to be on the cusp of.
A hundred years from now will they look back on us as a congregation that dreamed big dreams and made those dreams come true? Or would they think we were absolutely crazy, but we lived with big heart, we lived boldly and we tried and some of the things we did succeeded wildly, others succeeded sort of, and some didn’t succeed at all, but at least we were a congregation that was willing to take risks and big chances to make the world a better place which is actually about walkin’ the walk.
In this congregation for whatever reason we have a group of people who are energized and ready to go and all they really need is for the institution to open up and allow it to come down on the side of life.
We were moving our congregation along in ways that we had never moved before. And now that we’re there I see us continuing.
Lorraine Franz, President, Board of Trustees: If we keep doing what we’re doing, it will touch more and more people and will have a bigger and bigger impact.
The ideas are so exciting and we are so driven by them because they speak to who we are as Unitarian Universalists. Keep on living out these very bold visionary dreams that we have and that’s why we come here.
That’s what this all seems to be about…is learning to live your principles.
I think fundamentally that the reality is life is too short to do anything that’s not bold and exciting and pushing the boundaries of what it means to live our faith in the world full throttle. If we really believe in these values, if we really think they have the… the power to change lives and we’re committed to seeing them institutionalized across…you know… all major pieces of our life, education, political, social support systems… whatever that means… what are we waiting for? We don’t have that much time.
You’re going to see the Reverend Meg Riley, newly-called Minister of the Church of the Larger Fellowship, a lot at this Assembly. Meg, could you please introduce our speaker?
[Meg Riley speaking]
[Mark Ritchie speaking]
I ask Joan Lund, Trustee from the Florida District and Second Vice-Moderator of the UUA Board to come to the podium to present an important award.
Joan: It is my pleasure to welcome you to the presentation of the Distinguished Service Award to the Cause of Unitarian Universalism. This award is the highest honor the Association bestows and is given annually to the person who is determined to have provided, well "distinguished service," as designated by the Board of Trustees. I was the chair of the committee who made the recommendation this year. And also serving on the committee were John Blevins and President Morales.
It is my deep honor to introduce you to this year's recipient, the Rev. Jane Rzepka.
Reading the award citation is the Rev. Mark Belletini, minister in Columbus, OH, who is Jane's and her family's long-standing close friend.
Our congregational delegates referred the proposed Statement of Conscience on Peacemaking that was on last year’s General Assembly agenda back to the Commission on Social Witness [CSW] for further study. In the year since, the Commission has done a lot of work, including consulting with UU theologians who are working on peace. I call upon David May, Chair of the Commission on Social Witness, to give us a report regarding the Commission’s work on the Proposed Statement of Conscience [SOC].
[David May speaking]
Our next order of business will be to debate and vote on the Draft Statement of Conscience, entitled “Creating Peace.” Delegates to the 2006 General Assembly selected the topic of “Peacemaking” as the Congregational Study/Action Issue. This is the first Congregational Study/Action Issue, under the amended UUA Bylaws, that extends study and action from two years to four years.
This extra time allows congregations to conduct a greater depth of study and action. The Commission on Social Witness and the UUA Washington Office for Advocacy established, for the first time, a volunteer Peacemaking Core Team to prepare study materials for congregations. They also advised the Commission on Social Witness as it prepared the first draft of the Statement of Conscience on Peacemaking. The original Co-Chairs of the Core Team were Judy Morgan of Austin Texas and John Hooper, a member of the Commission on Social Witness. In the last year, the Core Team was replaced by a volunteer UU Peace Ministry Network created to provide ongoing assistance to congregations on all aspects of creating peace. The Chair of the Peace Ministry Network is Mac Goekler.
The Commission on Social Witness presented a Draft Statement of Conscience on this topic to the delegates to the 2009 General Assembly in Salt Lake City. The delegates voted to refer that draft back to the Commission for an additional year of study. The Commission has conducted that additional study, submitted a revised draft to the congregations last November and received their comments through February 1st this year. The Commission revised that Draft and brought it to this GA.
Yesterday, the Commission held a four-hour Mini-Assembly with delegates and attendees to receive additional proposed amendments to the Draft. The Commission reviewed these proposals last evening and revised the Draft again. We bring this latest Draft to you this morning for your consideration and vote. The Commission did not accept all proposed amendments from yesterday’s Mini-Assembly. The proposals that were not accepted are listed below the Draft in the CSW Alert that you should have. We give a brief explanation there of why we did not accept each proposed amendment. Advocates for those unincorporated amendments will have an opportunity to ask you to vote to overrule the Commission, as will those of you who do not want to include amendments that the Commission accepted.
When your debate and vote on the amendments is complete, you will be asked to vote on whether to adopt the final Draft Statement of Conscience. Our Bylaws require at least a two-thirds majority vote by delegates to adopt a Statement of Conscience. That Statement of Conscience then become the policy of the Unitarian Universalist Association.
It is important for you to realize that this Draft Statement of Conscience cannot be referred back to the Commission for another year of study. The UUA Bylaws allow only one referral. Therefore, a Statement of Conscience on the topic of peace must either be adopted now, or it dies now. If it dies now, we cannot reconsider the topic of peace until it is proposed again as a Congregational Study/Action Issue. Even though you will be asked to select the next Congregational Study/Action Issue after we finish considering this Draft Statement of Conscience, the next opportunity to propose a peacemaking topic will be in 2012. A draft Statement of Conscience on that topic would not be drafted and voted on until 2015.
The Commission on Social Witness believes that a Statement of Conscience should be addressed to Unitarian Universalists, as a guide to our work as individuals, congregations, and as an Association. We believe that a Statement of Conscience is a policy statement. This Statement addresses the creation of peace not just at the international level, but at all levels of human interaction. It identifies principles on creating peace that apply at all levels. By its nature, a policy statement should state principles that withstand the tests of time and should not parse every possible consequence of those principles. Ideally, the principles will guide an individual in managing the consequences of those principles.
I would now like the opportunity to introduce three advisors the Commission has used for the past year in drafting the Statement of Conscience. We are very thankful for their sage advice. They are: Dr. Sharon Welch, Professor and Provost of Meadville-Lombard Theological School, Dr. Dan McKanan, Ralph Waldo Emerson Unitarian Universalist Association Senior Lecturer in Divinity at Harvard Divinity School, and Reverend Dr. Paul Rasor, Director of the Center for the Study of Religious Freedom at Virginia Wesleyan College All have written about peace. They will speak now on their perspectives about this Statement of Conscience.
[Sharon D. Welch speaking]
When I was first a peace activist, the choices facing us seemed clear: the limited violence of just war or the renunciation of violence in any form. Now, however, our options are greater and our choices more complex. The debate between advocates of just war and advocates of creative nonviolence has been transformed by a third way: joint efforts to prevent war, stop genocide and repair the damage caused by armed conflict. Peace activists, military personnel and government officials are asking a new set of questions: if war is the last resort, what are the first, second, third, fourth and fifth responses to aggression, domination and exploitation? And, if war is not the answer, what is the answer?
My thinking about fundamental issues of war and peace was transformed when I moved to Missouri, and, I must confess, for the first time, worked closely with conservative students and colleagues. In listening to my colleagues and students, I realized that the peacemaking strategies that I had used before were sadly misguided. I had thought that if we could only convince people of the tragedy and unintended consequences of war, that we would automatically turn to concrete and effective forms of peacebuilding. That strategy was ineffective, for it assumes what is not the case, that those who have families in the military, who choose to serve, who support military action in certain situations, do not know the cost of war. They do. They bear those costs in their bodies, in their lives, in souls and psyches ravaged by the trauma of combat.
The issue is not whether or not war is destructive. The issue is quite different: What are concrete, tested, systematic institutionalized nonviolent responses to terrorism, to threats to national and international security, to violations of international law, to genocide and crimes against humanity?
We live in a time in which people throughout the world are exploring such alternatives, and creating institutions to foster the multidimensional work of creating viable alternatives to war. We can join others and take up the triple tasks of peacebuilding—addressing the root causes of armed conflict, peacemaking—negotiating equitable and sustainable peace accords, and peacekeeping—intervening in the early stages of conflict to stop genocide and crimes against humanity.
William Schulz, in his endorsement of the Creating Peace statement of conscience, states that “some may be tempted to regard ‘Creating Peace’ as a compromise document—a compromise between strict pacifism and hard-edged realism. But it is not that. It is a full-throated articulation of the most responsible position possible: a preferential option for peace grounded in solid progressive theology coupled with the recognition that the world is not a simple place.”
This statement has been endorsed by Unitarian Universalists who serve in the military and by Unitarian Universalists who are committed to pacifism and to creative nonviolence. Together we acknowledge that it is not enough to say no to war. We can do far more. To quote the statement itself : “Too often we have allowed our disagreements to distract us from all that we can do together. This Statement of Conscience challenges [us]. . . to engage with more depth, persistence and creativity in the complex task of creating peace.” I support the Statement of Conscience and bear witness that such creative work is the best gift that we as individuals, congregations, and as an Association, can bring at this time to a world longing for peace and weary of war.
[Dan McKanan speaking]
I am delighted to join my colleagues in speaking on behalf of this Statement of Conscience. I would like to say a few words from my perspective as a pacifist and as a historian.
As a committed pacifist, I first came to Unitarian Universalism because I had been inspired by the prophetic witness for peace of so many in our tradition, including Noah Worcester, Adin Ballou, Samuel Joseph May, and John Haynes Holmes. We have a vital peace tradition, one that is a bit different from the historic peace churches. While those churches have generally called for peace because God demands it, Unitarian and Universalist pacifists have typically called for peace because humanity demands it. Our inherent dignity makes us capable of solving conflicts nonviolently, and it requires us to resist the dignity-destroying violence of war. Personally, I probably would have been happy with a Statement of Conscience that simply repudiated war on those humanistic grounds.
However, my work as a historian makes me aware that there is another Unitarian and Universalist peace tradition, one cherished by most of our predecessors and, I suspect, by most of the people here today. That tradition affirms that everyone, pacifist or not, can work for peace. The American Peace Society, which grew out of a gathering in William Ellery Channing’s parlor, had many pacifist members, but it also included governors, judges, and military officers. Together, these people worked to promote institutions of international law and cooperation. Together, they stood against the injustice of the War of 1812 and the Mexican War. The same spirit of cooperation was present when UUs, some pacifist and some not, worked to create the United Nations, and continue to work today to strengthen the UN. It was present during the Vietnam War when the Arlington Street Church provided sanctuary and support to young people of all faiths and ideologies who found they could not participate in an imperial war in Southeast Asia.
The proposed SOC stands very much in this tradition. It does not offer easy answers, and it does not resolve the difficult question of whether violent coercion is justified in extreme circumstances. We will continue to disagree about that. But it insists that those disagreements not prevent us from working together to end the grossly unjust violence that is so common in the world.
The proposed SOC challenges a pacifist like me to remember that pacifists are not the only ones needed to build peace. It challenges those of you who are members of the military to ask tough questions about each war in which you are asked to serve. It challenges all of us to stand together in our diversity.
I support the adoption of this statement of conscience.
[Paul Rasor speaking]
As many of you know, my writings and public lectures over the past few years have focused on finding a new way to think about issues of peace and war, a way to move beyond the old dualistic paradigm of just war and pacifism. I have tried to keep two main goals in mind in this work. The first was to honor our genuine differences in a way that affirms our deeper commonalities and helps us avoid falling into old patterns of divisiveness. The second was to name the moral and theological principles that ground us in this work and make our stance one that is truly Unitarian Universalist.
The Statement of Conscience we considered last year attempted to do this, and I was disappointed when it did not pass. Yet as I look back, I can see that last year’s proposal—and even some of my own earlier writing on this subject—was still largely grounded in the old dualistic paradigm even as it took some important steps to move beyond it. I came to see the referral for further study as a blessing, one that gave us the chance to start from scratch rather than simply fine tune our earlier language.
The Statement of Conscience you have before you today represents a radically new approach. It is not simply a compromise that tries to hold our old disagreements in some sort of precarious balance. Instead, it moves us beyond the old paradigm in both its language and its fundamental orientation. It states in positive terms the ideals we espouse, the principles that guide us, the specifically Unitarian Universalist theological and historical grounding for those principles, and the commitments we are led to affirm as a result.
Being clear about our theological grounding is an important step for us. Of the nearly 100 resolutions and other statements on issues of peace and war we have adopted since 1961, only six bother to name even one of our Principles. Most read like political platforms or social policy statements. This Statement of Conscience lets us know—and lets others know—why we are taking this stand as a religious community.
This is a remarkable document, and I urge you to support it. Rejecting it would do far more than set us back six years or more. It would send a signal to other religious communities, and to the larger world, that we have nothing to say on issues of war, peace and peacemaking. But we Unitarian Universalists have much to say, much that our world needs to hear. And one of the things our world badly needs to hear today is the message contained in this Statement of Conscience on Creating Peace.
[Final Statement of Conscience: Creating Peace (Passed)]
Now we will take up action on a UUA Statement of Conscience. The Proposed Statement of Conscience is entitled “Creating Peace" and it is found on pages 10-12 of the Final Agenda. If you are a delegate, when you came into this Plenary session today, you were provided with a copy of the Statement of Conscience with amendments proposed at the mini-assembly, but not incorporated by the Commission. They appear in the order of priority determined by the Chair of the Commission on Social Witness in consultation with the Parliamentarian, our legal counsel, and me. Also, pursuant to Rule 12 of the Rules of Procedure, the Commission on Social Witness has a recommendation regarding the length of time to debate the main motion before taking up any amendments.
Will the Chair of the Commission on Social Witness please give us the CSW recommendation regarding the time for debate without considering amendments, and make the appropriate motion?
Moved: That the time for the Statement of Conscience to be debated, without consideration of amendments, be ______ minutes, if there are both pro and con speakers to be heard.
There being no [further] discussion, a vote is in order. All those in favor, please raise your cards. Opposed?
(A majority vote required. Rule 12.)
Will the Chair of the Commission on Social Witness please move the Statement of Conscience for adoption.
Moved: To adopt the UUA Statement of Conscience entitled “Creating Peace" in the manner and text set forth at pages 10-12 of the Final Agenda [or as set forth in Revised SOC document]
There being no further discussion, a vote is now in order. All those in favor of adopting the UUA Statement Of Conscience entitled “Creating Peace” raise your voting cards.
(Pause). All those opposed (Pause).
(A two-thirds vote is required to adopt. Section 4.12 (D).)
Song: "Rhythm Song"
Please welcome John Hubert.
[John Hubert speaking]
It is my pleasure to introduce Matt Meyer to you for this next song break. Matt is an artist of percussion, knowledgeable and experienced in a variety of styles, including latin-jazz, Brazilian, folk, funk, Hiphop and pop. He is a graduate of Berklee College of Music and has studied in Cuba, Ghana, and Central America.
We are now at that part of the agenda where a vote will be taken to decide which of the five proposed Congregational Study/Action Issues that appear in your final agenda at pages 13 through 23 will be referred to our member congregations and districts for study and action. See Bylaw Section 4.12 for a complete outline of the process. This is the first step in the process that may ultimately produce a UUA Statement of Conscience.
Pursuant to Rule 11 of the Rules of Procedure, the sponsor of each issue will have two minutes to speak in favor of the issue.
The first proposed Congregational Study/Action Issue eligible for referral to member congregations and districts is found on page 13 of the Final Agenda and is titled, “Energy, Peace and Justice.”
Will a member of the Commission on Social Witness please introduce the sponsor of this proposed Congregational Study/Action Issue, who shall have two minutes to speak in support of this issue?
The second proposed Congregational Study/Action Issue eligible for referral to member congregations and districts is found on page 13 of the Final Agenda and is titled, “National Economic Reform: A Moral Imperative.”
Will a member of the Commission on Social Witness please introduce the sponsor of this proposed Study/Action Issue, who shall have two minutes to speak in support of this issue?
[Selected; see Immigration Resources]
The third proposed Congregational Study/Action Issue eligible for referral to member congregations and districts is found on page 16 of the Final Agenda and is titled, “Immigration as a Moral Issue.”
The fourth proposed Congregational Study/Action Issue eligible for referral to member congregations and districts is found on page 18 of the Final Agenda and is titled, “Ending Slavery.”
The fifth proposed Congregational Study/Action Issue eligible for referral to member congregations and districts is found on page 21 of the Final Agenda and is titled, “Revitalizing American Democracy.”
We have heard from the sponsors of the five proposed Congregational Study/Action Issues [CSAI]. There will now be up to four additional statements of support for each issue.
We are ready to vote. Ballots will be distributed to delegates. Please mark your ballot for one CSAI. The tellers will then collect and count the ballots. If no single CSAI receives a majority of the votes cast, there will be a run-off vote later in the plenary between the two CSAI’s receiving the highest number of votes.
It is my pleasure to introduce Helene Atwan, the Director of Beacon Press for a report.
[Helene Atwan speaking]
Thank you Gini, and thanks to all of you, once again, for your support and attention. [Slide 1]
I’m here to report on the work of your press over the past year, and I want to focus on our activism. In 2009 and 2010, we have been standing with UUs throughout the county firmly on the side of Love. [Slide 2]
John Buehrens once called Beacon a prophetic voice for Unitarian Universalism, and I don’t think you can get a lot more prophetic than publishing a book about immigrants in Arizona just weeks before Arizona’s governor announced the draconian law that so many UUs have been actively protesting over these past weeks. [Slide 3]
Author Margaret Regan has been busy writing blog posts and op eds, doing interviews in Arizona and on the national media (including NPR’s Talk of the Nation), and—thanks, for example, to First Unitarian in Rochester—traveling to speak out about the dire situation of immigrants in Arizona. She’s been a powerful and eloquent voice of advocacy for people who are being marginalized and silenced. [Slide 4]
But Beacon had published on this issue before, and our backlist authors were active as well in raising consciousness and witnessing on the side of love, including David Bacon, and Avi Chomsky. [Slide 5]
And we had another book about immigrants coming off the press around the same time; Danielle Ofri’s Medicine in Translation, which looks at the experience of immigrants in our health care system. [Slide 6]
Dr. Ofri was active in speaking and writing about the rights of immigrants, about their contributions to American society, about the vital importance of keeping faith with our fellow humans. She was invited to start a blog on Psychology Today, she contributed pieces on immigration and healthcare on CNN's Opinion page, she visited eleven states and even Canada. [Slide 7]
And of course Eboo Patel, author of Acts of Faith, continues to be out in the world working with interfaith groups and the UUA’s youth office, to spread the message of working together for the common good. Another four colleges adopted his book this year as required reading for all incoming students this year. [Slide 8]
Defending speech rights is so essential to our democracy, and Beacon books and authors have always called for free expression. Bill Ayers has been “disinvited” from confirmed speaking engagements at several universities this year because of threats stemming from right wing campaigns. But just last month, a landmark court ruling forced the U. of Wyoming to allow him to speak to their students. The judge wrote: "These fears were based on, at best, veiled or indirect threats and apprehension"—calling it a "heckler's veto." He stressed that "fear is not enough to override the First Amendment." Ayers spoke and a handful of hecklers showed up, along with over 1,000 eager students. [Slide 9]
In defending a woman’s right to choose, Beacon author Carol Joffe was all over the media this winter and spring. [Slide 10]
The Nation.com ran an interview between Carole and Katha Pollitt, Slate selected her new book as book of the week; Salon.com, The American Prospect, the San Francisco Chronicle, and Ms. Magazine all featured Dispatches from the Abortion Wars. [Slide 11]
Some of you heard Amie Miller speak yesterday. [Slide 12]
Her writing on parenting and gay families has appeared in Salon; Brain, Child Magazine; and Greater Good Magazine. She has spoken about gay and lesbian families at conferences, at high schools and colleges, and on the radio. She is a powerful—and often witty—advocate on the side of love. [Slide 13]
And while we’re on the subject of wit, Terry Galloway attacks prejudice through the funny bone. She speaks to audiences nationwide about being queer, about being deaf, even sometimes about being mean—though actually that part is a lie. [Slide 14]
Her book is a 2010 Lambda Literary Award finalist, quite an honor, and has been covered in Curve, Bust, and More Magazine, and excerpted in the Advocate, and in Salon. Powerful advocacy for the too often marginalized communities she writes about so beautifully. [Slide 15]
And speaking of powerful advocates, public high school principal Linda Nathan stands on the side of her students. Her kids have an unprecedented college matriculation rate—90% of Boston Arts Academy students go on to college. She believes in them, and makes great things happen. [Slide 16]
She is also a co-founder of a nonprofit education reform organization dedicated to creating more equitable schools. The Beacon staff was privileged to work with Linda Nathan and to connect her with another Beacon author and activist, Michael Patrick MacDonald. [Slide 17]
David Chura also works teaching kids, in an even tougher environment than the inner city—in lock-up. [Slide 18]
Jonathan Kozol praised Chura’s book, I Don’t Wish Nobody to Have a Life Like Mine as being “beautifully done, rich with devastating narrative.” His is a rare voice in advocacy for these children, reminding us of their humanity. We were honestly thrilled by the amount of media attention his raw and very moving book received. [Slide 19]
Look again, that’s not Mary Poppins joining the Beacon line-up. It’s our acclaimed environmental writer Fred Pearce, who has written important books for us on water, global warming, and now population. [Slide 20]
Jon Stewart invited Fred to talk about his new Beacon book, and joked that he’d arrived from England in the midst of the volcanic ash on the only transport still working—the reliable umbrella. Fred did a slew of other interviews, but it doesn’t get much better than The Daily Show. [Slide 21]
One of the most important writers of the Black Arts Movement, Sonia Sanchez is an active speaker and tireless advocate of civil rights. This year alone, she has made at least 30 public appearances, many in schools. Her new Beacon book is especially accessible to students and particularly appropriate for students of color. [Slide 22]
And, as always, she’s in the popular media, talking about black arts and the importance of that legacy for students. For this book, she appeared on the Tavis Smiley Show (both his radio and TV programs), the Mo’Nique Show, Visions 2010, CNN Newsroom, and in Ebony Magazine, Literary Nation, Essence and the Philadelphia Inquirer. [Slide 23]
Dispatched by the MacArthur Foundation to a small town in Iowa, Patrick Carr and Maria Kefalas studied the rural brain drain, developing strategies for arresting the process and creating sustainable, thriving communities. [Slide 24]
The book was covered by Newsweek, Wired, the Chronicle Review even Reader’s Digest, and discussed all across public radio, including on On Point, the Leonard Lopate Show, Radio Times, the Tavis Smiley Show, and the Bob Edwards Show. For those who live in small town America, this crisis has been too often ignored, and Carr and Kefalas shone an important light on the issue. [Slide 25]
Beth Whitehouse followed a family struggling to save their daughter’s life for almost three years. In her fascinating account of the Trebing family’s journey, she explores the urgent ethical issues raised by modern medical technology. If you can engineer a baby in order to save a sibling, is that acceptable? How much does the “savior” child owe an ailing sibling? [Slide 26]
These are clearly issues we need to discuss as a society; the decision cannot be left to desperate individuals. So Barbara Walters sat down with the Trebings on The View and asked them about their decision—asked the kids about it too. And Diane Rehm discussed it with Beth Whitehouse and a panel of bioethicist. And AOL opened the discussion on line. It’s a conversation we will need to continue as technology continues to offer more opportunities and more ethical dilemmas; we have more books coming in the field of bioethics. [Slide 27]
Talk about Standing on the Side of Love! This is what progressive religion is all about, especially Unitarian Universalism. We’re proud to bring the voices of prominent UU thinkers to the wider world. [Slide 28]
This year we lost some important authors. The ground-breaking, even earth shattering Mary Daly. [Slide 29]
The much beloved historian and activist Howard Zinn, who had also served as one of our most valued advisors for the past decade. [Slide 30]
Our own Forrest Church. We remember and miss them all.
So we’ve been busy standing with our authors on the side of love. [Slide 31]
And have I mentioned that we officially launched The King Legacy this year? We have been very proud of what we’ve been able to achieve so far, and we have lots more to come with this project. Just two weeks ago, a community group in Ithaca purchased ten thousand copies of Where Do We Go from Here. [Slide 32]
So, how can you become more involved in our efforts? Here are a few simple ideas:
As always, I want to thank the hardworking staff of Beacon Press, the administration and staff of the UUA, the Veatch Foundation at Shelter Rock, the UU Funding Panel, and all of you for your support, and for your attention today.
I now call upon our UUA Financial Advisor, Dan Brody, to give his annual report.
[Dan Brody speaking]
Good morning. My name is Dan Brody. This week I complete my fifth year of service in the volunteer position of UUA Financial Advisor.
Today I’m going to follow my practice of presenting a financial report with no graphs and few numbers. (This year I will show you one very compelling photograph, however.) For details about the Association’s finances, I hope that you’ll stay tuned for the next plenary presentation, by Finance Committee chair Paul Rickter, that you’ll attend the budget hearing at 2:45 this afternoon, and that you’ll consult the new report on my page of UUA.org.
The recession has had a severe impact on the Association’s finances. UUA income fell by 3.6 million dollars, or 10%, from FY08 to FY09. The budgets for FY10 and 11 were based on predictions that income would continue to fall in each year. Balancing these budgets has required significant cuts in spending, including personnel savings through layoffs and attrition. I believe that the Sinkford and Morales administrations have acted responsibly in making these painful, though necessary, spending reductions.
One bright spot in the fiscal picture has been the performance of Beacon Press. As Helene just reported, Beacon expects to finish FY10 in the black, recording its eighth consecutive year of surpluses. The net assets of the press have grown by 1.2 million dollars in the past seven years. With a reserve of more than 2.7 million dollars, Beacon and the UUA are well-protected against the possibility of future losses.
The steep stock market decline that began in 2007 has hurt the UUA, as it has hurt every organization with a substantial endowment. The total value of the UU Common Endowment Fund, or UUCEF, fell by 14 million dollars during FY08 and another 24 million in FY09.
However, the fund had a total return of 22% during the first nine months of FY10, as the stock market rebounded. The fund’s performance for the past one, three, and five years has put it in the top quarter of similar-sized endowment funds in the nation. This excellent performance reinforces my recommendation that congregations that manage their own endowments should instead consider investing in the UUCEF.
The sharp decline in the value of the endowment from 2007 to 2009 forced the Association to cut endowment spending by 16% over two years. Our spending policy, which was similar to that used by most endowment funds, tried to reduce volatility by basing spending on a multi-year average of the value of the endowment. But a major market decline still required substantial spending cuts.
To prevent this problem, many universities have implemented a new type of spending policy that minimizes fluctuations in spending while still protecting the inflation-adjusted value of the endowment. Yale pioneered this approach, which has been adopted by Stanford, Dartmouth, and others.
In January, the UUA Board approved a new policy that follows this precedent. It requires the Association to set aside more money in years of strong endowment performance in order to prevent the need for spending cuts during downturns. I’m confident that this prudent policy will reduce the volatility of our endowment spending in the future.
I first saw this picture [Slide 1] on a billboard in Boston in 2007. The advertisement from SaveDarfur.Org has text that reads, “When Fidelity was told their investments support genocide in Darfur, this was their response: ‘Fidelity portfolio managers make their investment decisions based on business and financial considerations.’” The ad then asked, “What’s your response?”
The campaign to persuade Fidelity to divest from Darfur reached a peak several years after the 2005 General Assembly passed a resolution urging UU’s to take action to end the genocide. In 2007, Bill Sinkford asked the Compensation, Benefits, and Pension Committee to consider whether the UUA should continue to use Fidelity to provide recordkeeping services to our retirement plan. The UUA’s contract with Fidelity had not been reviewed in the prior ten years.
The Committee is composed of two active ministers, a retired minister, the spouse of a retired minister, and experts on financial and human resource management. We issued a request for proposals for recordkeeping services, and received adequate proposals from two firms, Fidelity and TIAA-CREF. TIAA-CREF is a non-profit firm, founded in 1918, that serves as recordkeeper for more than 15,000 retirement plans with 3 million participants, mostly in higher education but also in the non-profit and government sectors.
The Committee considered four broad issues in evaluating the firms:
The issue of mission compatibility included not just Fidelity’s investments in companies linked to genocide in Darfur, but also a broad range of environmental, social, and governance issues. It was striking that TIAA-CREF voted to support the UUA on 17 of the 18 shareholder resolutions that the Association filed in 2008 and 2009, while Fidelity voted with the UUA less than one-third of the time.
The Committee hired two expert consulting firms, one to consider administrative capacity and the other investment issues. The firms concluded that TIAA-CREF could provide outstanding administrative services and an excellent menu of investment choices, and both firms recommended that the UUA switch to TIAA-CREF.
In April, the Committee unanimously recommended that the UUA board should make this change, and in May the board voted, also unanimously, to accept the recommendation. I’m proud that the Association is taking this step to align our practices with our values.
Another area where the Association has made great progress towards living out our values is in providing health insurance for ministers and other congregational staff. I’m delighted to report that the UUA Health Plan has successfully completed three and a half years of service. Membership in the plan grew by 6% during 2009. The plan now serves 768 enrollees and retirees, as well as 550 dependents, in 300 congregations. Many of these people previously had no health insurance or inadequate coverage.
While holding premium increases to a minimum, the plan generated a surplus of 120 thousand dollars on revenues of 6 million in 2009. The plan has accumulated a surplus of 2.5 million, which will cushion against future premium increases and serve as a reserve against future losses. It cannot be used for any other UUA purpose.
The reform law that Congress passed this year keeps employer-provided plans the foundation of the nation’s health care finance system. Therefore, we have an obligation to work to assure the continued success of the UUA Health Plan.
In today’s economy, it may be difficult for congregations to even maintain, let alone expand, the health insurance benefits they provide to their employees. However, I believe that congregations have a moral responsibility to do so. Employees without employer-provided health insurance are often unable to find health insurance at any price, and certainly not at an affordable price.
All employees who work at least 750 hours a year (the equivalent of a half-time job during the church year) are eligible for the UUA plan. About 90% of eligible congregational employees now have coverage through either the UUA plan or another plan. Our goal is to have 100% of eligible employees covered. I hope we can get half way to this goal, with 95% coverage, by the end of my term in 2013. If your congregation has any eligible employees without health insurance, will you work to help us reach this goal?
I’m delighted to have the opportunity to continue to serve our association.
Financial Advisor’s Report to UU Congregations (PDF, 12 pages)
UUA Organizational Chart (PDF)
I call upon Paul Rickter to give the report on the 2010-2011 budget on behalf of the Board of Trustees.
[Paul Rickter speaking]
Good morning [Slide 1].
I'm here to give you a report on the Fiscal Year 2011 budget of the UUA. But I want to start by thanking my fellow members of the UUA Finance Committee [Slide 2]: John Blevins, David Friedman, Donna Harrison, Linda Laskowski, Jeanne Pupke, Will Saunders, Dan Brody, Tim Brennan, Gini Courter, and Peter Morales. In addition, we are joined by our staff liaison Kay Montgomery and Tim's assistant Rachel Daugherty. Thank you to all of you. It is an honor to serve with this wonderful group, who understand that finance is truly at the core of our religious values, because this is where our generosity is cultivated and where we decide how to spend our resources to make real our mission in the world.
We'll start on the income side [Slide 3]. As the slide shows, the total income for upcoming fiscal year is expecting to be $22.6 million, with $14.5 million (or 64%) classified as general income and about $8.1 million (or 36%) designated for specific purposes. The income for designated purposes comes from a variety of trusts, funds and other sources, including our capital campaigns and support from our most generous congregation, the UU Congregation at Shelter Rock, NY.
To give you a picture of how income has been affected by the economy and by policy changes, let's look [Slide 4] at how the expense numbers have changed over the past three years. Income for general support is up over a million dollars this year compared to last but is virtually unchanged compared to two years ago. Meanwhile, the income for designated purposes is down significantly compared to last year and the year before that—this decline is the result of a policy change we implemented this year. Until this change, we were drawing an additional amount from endowment income to pay the expenses of conducting capital campaigns—this was based on the idea that money raised in the past should help us raise money in the future. But this meant we were drawing a little more from endowment income than was sustainable over the long haul. The overall effect of this policy change is that the total income is about a half a million dollars less compared to last year and over a million dollars less compared to two years ago.
Now, let's look at some more detail [Slide 5] on income for general support. The biggest item here is fundraising, which at $8.9 million is about 61% of our general income. The other items are administrative fees, endowment income, and other income. Because fundraising income represents such a big piece of our income, let's look at further detail on that [Slide 6]. The biggest piece of fundraising is the Annual Program Fund, the Fair Share support of our association's work by our member congregations. APF income is about $6.6 million or about 75% of our fundraising income. We also expect to receive $1.0 million from Friends of the UUA, our program of individual support. How many of you out there are Friends? Thank you for helping us make real our mission in the world! The third piece of fundraising at about $1.3 million is unrestricted bequests—these are donations from individuals who have included the UUA in their wills and have not tied their donations to specific programs or projects.
As we look [Slide 7] at how the fundraising numbers have changed over the past three years, we see some very good news—although the economy has affected all of us, congregational and individual giving to the UUA is holding steady. I want to thank you for your continued support for our association. Unrestricted bequest income varies from year to year, but has been trending higher than budgeted in recent years. We expect this number to be considerably higher next year for two reasons: one, because the income in this category has exceeded the budget this year and we are recognizing this increase in next year's budget; and two, because we are aware of additional estates that are in process. We are very confident that this $1.3 million value for unrestricted bequest income will be met or exceeded next year.
On to expenses [Slide 8]. The expenses in next year's budget will total just under $22.5 million. About 70% of the budget goes to programs, about 20% to infrastructure, and the remaining 10% to administration and the board and committees.
Because program is such a big piece of the budget, lets look at that in more detail [Slide 9]. Total program expenses are $15.8 million and the exploded pie chart shows the various program areas that receive funds. The program areas listed here reflect organizational changes that President Morales has initiated. About 17% of the program budget goes to Multicultural Growth and Witness—this includes our international work, identity-based ministries, and advocacy and public witness. About 23% goes to the new office of Congregational Life, which includes district services, congregational growth, and services to our large congregations. About 30% of the program budget goes to a new staff group: Ministries and Faith Development. This new staff group includes both the old offices of Ministry and Professional Leadership and Lifespan Faith Development. About 8% of the program budget is the UU Funding Program, which is generously supported by the UU Congregation at Shelter Rock—the UU Funding Program will be giving out $1.2 million in grants to congregations and UU institutions. The rest of the program budget includes 19% for communications and 3% for crisis relief and other programs.
I have one more graph and this shows [Slide 10] how expenses have changed over the past three years. Expenses next year will be down by $500,000 from this year and down by over a million dollars from the year before that. This time last year, we managed to pass a budget that avoided any staff reductions, mainly through attrition. However, this year we weren't so fortunate and sadly were forced to reduce staff—13 valued UUA staff members have been laid off. Still, we want to make sure that our remaining staff are adequately compensated, so we are including in the budget an across the board 3% cost of living increase in staff salaries.
As I close this report [Slide 11], if you have questions you want answered or if just want to delve more deeply into the budget, we will be holding a UUA budget hearing this afternoon at 2:45 p.m. I look forward to seeing you there.
We have the results of the vote on the Congregational Study/Action Issue. No CSAI received a majority of votes cast. Therefore, pursuant to Bylaw Section 4.12(a), we will have a vote between the top two CSAIs. They are ______________________ and ____________________. Remember, you can vote for only one of these two. All those in favor of __________________________, please raise your voting cards. All those in favor of ___________________________, please raise your voting cards.
I now call on our UUA Secretary, Tom Loughrey, for today’s announcements.
There being no further business to come before us and in accordance with the schedule set forth in your program book, I declare that this Plenary Session of the General Assembly shall stand in recess until 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, June 26th, 2010.
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Last updated on Thursday, September 8, 2011.
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