Plenary IV, General Assembly 2011
Reports from UU World
- Board Members Urge ‘Yes’ Votes for Bylaw Amendments
- UUA Financial Advisor Reports a Brighter Situation
- Approved: Amendment Affecting Ministerial Fellowship Committee
- Approved: Rule Update Recognizing District’s New Name
- UUA’s Financial Picture Improves
- Delegates Vote to Fill 15 Open Positions
Call to Order
GINI COURTER: Good to go? I now call to order the 4th Plenary Session of the 50th General Assembly [GA] of the Unitarian Universalist U.S. Association [UUA].
I heard there's some good stuff in the newspaper today. And make some noise if you know this did not happen without the work, the prayers, the representation, the effort of us and our fabulous partners in faith in the state of New York.
GINI COURTER: Our chalice will be lit this morning by your General Assembly Planning Committee.
LYNDA SHANNON: We, whose visions are bent on serving, whose work is never done, have gathered here to light this flame. We've come toting our bags and our briefcases, our sacks, our books, our gifts, our talents, lending our work, our worry, our inspiration, and our perspiration to our common purpose of creating community, deepening connections, and nourishing dreams.
This is, in many senses, all of our work, but this is the work your General Assembly Planning Committee. May our time together be well spent.
GINI COURTER: OK, right here.
LYNDA SHANNON: All right.
Introduction of General Assembly Planning Committee
GINI COURTER: So this is Lynda Shannon, the chair of your GA Planning Committee. Are you loving GA? Yes or no on that?
LYNDA SHANNON: Yeah. [UNINTELLIGIBLE]
GINI COURTER: And Lynda is a member of the Westport Congregation in Connecticut and the Church of the Larger Fellowship, but before she was the chairman of the Planning Committee and on the Planning Committee, I met Linda when she was coming on as a president of her district, and she later became president of the District Presidents Association. So she's got a long history of leadership. She's going to introduce you to the rest of the committee. When she gets all the way to the end, you are going to appreciate them.
LYNDA SHANNON: Wildly. Thank you.
GINI COURTER: Wildly.
LYNDA SHANNON: Thank you, Gini. I now get to introduce to you the members of the team who have worked more than a year to plan this 50th anniversary of General Assembly. So, when Sunday evening rolls around, five of these talented and committed members of the key planning committee, and our most beloved of Board of Trustees liaison to the Planning Committee, will have completed their terms and not be with us next year. We'll miss their energy, their hard work, and dedication, but most of all, their experience, and knowledge, and their fun in putting together a meeting such as this.
First, our longest term member logging in 11 years on the Planning Committee. First as District Coordinator back when GA was in Nashville, Ginger Brown of White Bluff Tennessee.
Next, from Sharon, Massachusetts, eight years on the GA Planning Committee, which followed her eight years on a UUA Board of Trustees, which followed her service to the Ballou Channing District as district president, and she is the immediate past chair of the General Assembly Planning Committee, Beth McGregor.
Calling home Texas, Nebraska, and at one time Iowa in just the last four years on the Planning Committee, welcome, and give your appreciation to Joan Benziger, who has elected not to run for another term. She served us for four years.
Two members who are also stepping down are appointed members Kim Hampton and Melodie, The Dynamo, Feather. And Melodie been our stage manager, and we will miss her so much.
Eva is from Hingham, Massachusetts is ending her service on the board of trustees. When I met Eva the year that both of us were at a District Presidents meeting and we'd just been elected presidents of our district, me, metro New York, Eva from Ballou Channing.
Now for the remainders. Those members of the Planning Committee whose terms continue. To plan yet again. We come back again, after again. Vice Chair Programs and Services, and everything else not handled by anyone else, or even thought of by anyone else Barb Atlas of Long Beach, California.
Tim Murphy, vice chair of Worship Celebrations in Plenary. Tim are you here? Oh, Tim! Of Anderson and—he should be in the tech deck. Why aren't you in the tech deck. That's where you're upposed to be.
And Walt Wieder, the Reverend Dr. Walt Wieder from Surprise, Arizona. No matter if I line the Planning Committee members up by first or last name, it's always last to my dear friend, Walt Wieder.
Oh. Have I forgotten someone on the Planning Committee like Bart Frost, of Waltham, Mass?
He's on here last intentionally, because from the time Bart was elected to the Planning Committee, he sat close to me because he wanted my gavel. And he said, that's where I want to be. And you know what, I try to encourage that as much as I can. Please, give it up. [INAUDIBLE]
GINI COURTER: And let's all shout, Amen.
GINI COURTER: All right. Thank you, GA Planning Committee, very much.
Introduction of International Guests
GINI COURTER: I'd like to now welcome the Reverend Eric Cherry, who's going to introduce some very important guests with us on the occasion of our 50th anniversary. Eric? All yours.
ERIC CHERRY: Good morning friends. We are blessed to be joined by representatives from eight Unitarian and Unitarian Universalist faith communities from around the world at this year's 50th Anniversary General Assembly.
The Unitarian Universalist Association's sixth principle declares that we covenant to affirm and promote the goal of world community, with peace, liberty, and justice for all. We pray that the time all of us share together at General Assembly this year in this global gathering contributes to the achievement of that vision. And we are so glad to welcome each of our guests. As I introduce each of our guests, would you please hold your applause until all have been introduced.
From the Unitarian Union of North East India, president Reverend Derek Pariat.
From the Religious Society of Czech Unitarians, we are honored to have Reverend Petr Samojsky.
From the Canadian Unitarian Council, we are honored to have executive director Ms. Jennifer Dickson.
Representing the Transylvania Unitarian Church, we are honored to have the Starr King School for the Ministry Balazs Scholar, Reverend Levente Lazar with us.
From the UU Association of Uganda, we are honored to have the minister of the Kampala UU Church with us, Reverend Mark Kiyimba.
We welcome Eric Hausman, representing the German Unitarians.
Representing the British General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches, the Reverend David Usher is with us.
And we welcome Tina Huesing, the president of the European Unitarian Universalists to our General Assembly.
Please make all of our guests welcome.
Each of you come as representatives of member groups of the International Council of Unitarian and Universalists, known as ICUU, and we are all grateful for the collegial work that the ICUU promotes among all of its member groups, and the nearly 30 large and small UU worshipping communities around the world, including one of the most recent members of ICUU, the Unitarian Church in Bujumbura, Burundi. A message has come to the ICUU just recently that violence in Bujumbura is increasing, particularly in the neighborhood where the Unitarian church exists. Many of you who are with us at General Assembly two years ago met the courageous leader of that congregation, Reverend Fulgence Ndagijimana. Reverend Fulgence has made it possible for that congregation to nearly complete the building of the first Unitarian church in his city. They will be celebrating that later this summer. And today, we ask for your prayers and support in this difficult time for the Unitarian community in Burundi. Please hold them in your hearts.
In that spirit it is an honor to welcome the Reverend Steve Dick, executive secretary of the International Council of Unitarian Universalists to our General Assembly this year. The ICUU is now 15 years old. And in commemoration of that achievement, it is celebrating 15 of the men and women who have been pivotal in the founding and the vision of the world wide network of Unitarians and Universalist groups and organizations. The four American Unitarian Universalists to whom the ICUU is bestowing this honor are Reverend Polly Guild, who passed away one year ago. We receive her reward in the spirit of love and compassion which she shared with our world. Also the Reverend Jill McAllister, minister of People's Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and program director for the ICUU.
Also, the Reverend Ken MacLean, retired Unitarian Universalist minister from Cedar Lane Church in Bethesda, Maryland, and currently serving that UU congregation in Palm Springs, California, and the model of the leader of the International Office at the Unitarian Universalist Association. And Reverend John Buehrens, minister of the First Parish Unitarian Church in Needham, Massachusetts, former president of the Unitarian Universalist Association. ICUU recognizes that the implementation of its sustaining vision depended on many other people as well and that the vision cannot grow for the future without the dedication of many others to come. And therefore, it is expected that further ICUU Vision awards will be given in the future.
Friends, would you please give another round of applause to support these four award winners. Thank you very much.
Recognition of Kathy Sreedhar
GINI COURTER: I love introducing people I love. You could see Eric was doing that, too. Please welcome your executive vice president, someone I love introducing, Kay Montgomery.
KAY MONTGOMERY: I want to tell you a story about our faith and its role in the world. And the story of one person who has, in our name, changed thousands of lives on the other side of our small planet. In the late 1970's, the UUA gained access to a trust that came to us almost accidentally, designated for charitable work in India.
And then in 1984, Kathy Sreedhar was hired as director of the Holdeen India Program. And the world, or at least that part of the world that is India began changing. Kathy designed a program of social revolution, nothing short of that, that was, to say the least, non-traditional. Her vision, her idea, was to partner with individuals or organizations there who had an idea, a vision of their own for change. Permanent and sustainable change for the poorest of the poor in India, that complex and amazing country. The country in which she had lived and loved for many years.
She chose partners carefully and wisely. Funded what sometimes seemed like radical ideas, worked with those partners, tribals, dalits, others. As counselor, co-conspirator, colleague, cheerleader, higher bar setter. And slowly at first, and then more rapidly, real change began happening. Bonded laborers gained freedom. Those who were called untouchables began to be educated. India's quite progressive laws began, in small places, to be actually enforced. Women banded together to demand human rights.
Over the years, many, many partnerships were formed. Real permanent sustainable change. In villages, at brick kilns, in cities. Other much bigger foundations eventually noticed, and began funding those same groups as they grew.
All this in the name of Unitarian Universalism. Only UUs, Kathy says, would have funded such a radical and revolutionary idea. After almost 30 years, more than half the life of the UUA, Kathy is moving toward retirement. So let me tell you a little bit about this woman.
She is a visionary. She is indefatigable. She is determined. Well, let me be more clear about that, she is very, very dogged. Those of us who have traveled in India with Kathy have been privileged to see how she is loved, and even revered there. She moves as easily in, and is as much at home with scavengers, those who carry human waste away from villages and are scorned, as she is with world famous activists.
Yesterday, I heard one of our ministers say that Kathy never talks about theology. She doesn't have to, he said. She embodies it. She embodies justice. Not very many people on this planet have changed so many lives. Thousands and thousands of lives for the better. She has done all this in our name, with our values, will you join me in thanking her.
Report from the Right Relationship Team
GINI COURTER: Thank you, Kay. Christian Schmidt from our Right Relationship Team has a few things to draw to our attention this morning, Christian.
CHRISTIAN SCHMIDT: Thank you, Gini. Good morning, General Assembly. How are you all feeling?
CHRISTIAN SCHMIDT: I'm glad to hear that, because I'm a little tired. It's Saturday. It's already been a long week, and we have a lot to go.
And I'm tired, so I'm sure a few of you are, too. And that's why it's especially important now. To be careful how we are with each other. It's easy when we're tired to slip up and say something we don't really mean, do something that we didn't mean to. And I want to lift that up. That you take extra care today and tomorrow, and as we go forth in our lives.
I've spoken to many of you. And many of you, many, many more have spoken to other members of the Right Relationship Team, including those standing up here with me today. We've heard some wonderful things. And we've heard a few places where we still have a little ways to go.
I want to lift up a couple of those today. Particularly issues around people who are transgender people. We've come a long way, including we have gender-neutral bathrooms here that can mention center. Thank you. Big deal. But I want to lift it up. We need to take extra care in the words we use. Using pronouns that assume a gender is troublesome for some people who have never felt that they fit into that dichotomous model.
I also want to make sure that we respect the names that people use to call themselves, and use those when referring to them. We've had a few issues. And I remember this, and perhaps some of you do, too, from when we were a little younger. Or those of us who are not quite that old yet. That people who are 21 or 18, or anywhere in those age ranges don't like to be called children, necessarily. People other ages than that might not like to be called children.
Let's be careful in the words we use. Let's also take a moment to be especially respectful of our theological diversity. We embrace many traditions, many ways of naming the Holy. And let's be respectful of each others' theology in that.
I also want to lift up one final concern, which is around issues of class. Not all of us have the money to do everything we would like to do. Not all of us have the ability to do everything we like to do. It's not because we're not good enough people, or not smart enough, or we don't know any better. But there are things holding some of us back from all of our highest ideals, as they are in all of our classes, and all of our lives.
Let's be especially respectful that we honor who people are and what they do. And let's have a great final two days of General Assembly. Thank you.
Presentation of the O. Eugene Pickett Award
GINI COURTER: Please welcome the Reverend Stefan Jonasson to present an award. Stefan. Please welcome.
STEFAN JONASSEN: Thank you, Madam Moderator. The O. Eugene Pickett Award is given annually by the Unitarian Universalist Association to the congregation that has made an outstanding contribution to the growth of Unitarian Universalism. Nominations for the award are made through the districts.
Selection of the winner is based on honor society status, numerical growth, both in adult members, and children—however they describe themselves. And on the ways in which this congregation has expressed its commitment to the multi-faceted growth of its membership, and to the growth of Unitarian Universalism.
The recipient of the 2011 National O. Eugene Pickett Award is the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Northern Westchester in Mount Kisco, New York.
Founded in 1957, this congregation has experienced unprecedented growth in recent times. Over the past four years, it's adult membership increased by 42%, it's a church school enrollment increased by 190% and its Sunday attendance increased by 66%. During this period, the congregation has tripled the number of multi-generational worship services, and it has worked intentionally to diversify its hymns, music, and other elements of worship. The congregation has a long history of putting its faith into action by supporting three local organizations. Neighbors Link, which works with immigrant populations. The Mount Kisco Homeless Shelter, and the Mount Kisco Interfaith Food Pantry. And the congregation has emerged as a leader in anti-racism work within the metro New York district.
In these and many other ways, the Northern Westchester Fellowship has demonstrated its commitment to robust leadership development that is integrated with faith development, increased member diversity, and meaningful engagement with the larger community, along with an openness to exploiting electronic technology.
Some years ago, the members of the congregation recognized, in their own words, that the question we needed to ask ourselves was not do we want to grow? But rather do we want to fulfill our mission to the world? Recognizing that if the answer was yes, then growth would inevitably result from their efforts.
While he was president of the UUA, Gene Pickett was fond of quoting Emil Brunner, who said that the church exists by mission, as a fire exists by burning. The mission of our faith burns brightly in Northern Westchester, and our congregation there is a model of what all congregations can achieve, if they strive to fulfill their mission with energy, and with purpose. Suzi Novak, would you please come forward to accept our congratulations on behalf of the UU fellowship of Northern Westchester.
Beacon Press Report
GINI COURTER: How many people here read? It is my pleasure to introduce Helene Atwan, the director of your Beacon Press to give her annual report, Helene.
HELENE ATWAN: And it's my great pleasure to be here to report to you on Beacon Press. Thank you, Gini. And thanks to all of you who have helped Beacon close yet another good year, as you will hear from financial adviser Dan Brody later this morning. Here is some of what we have published and acquired since my last report.
This year, we decided to publish more books about public health, since health care has become such a crucial issue for all Americans. Dr. Gilbert Welch's book is indeed a paradigm shifter. One that received a great deal of publicity and has sold very well in both hardcover and ebook. How many of you read on electronic readers? Yeah. All of our books are available as ebooks.
As Susan Love said, everyone should read Over Diagnosed before going to the doctor. And you all need to read this one before filling your next prescription. This book, too, was very well received. Both the New Yorker and the Atlantic ran excerpts of it.
And we just signed up this wonderful new book, which explodes many myths about what is actually good for us, as opposed to what big food, big pharma, and even a large swath of the health care industry wants us to believe is good for us.
Michael Bronski is one of our most respected and beloved scholars in the LGBTQ world, the editor of our Queer Ideas and Queer Action series of books. His own book, just out, is a definitive and surprisingly entertaining history. Simply priceless. A must-read. and this latest book in Bronski's Queer Idea series received rave reviews and quickly went into a second printing.
Nick Krieger's book is, as Stephen Beachy describes it, the life experiences and tough decisions that inform transgender identities. Wonderfully told.
Our environmentalists grow stronger and more urgent every year and important figures in the world of environmental activism have taken note. People like Sandra Steingraber and Bill McKibben. We're very proud of these books and the attention that they've been receiving, including being compared to some giants in the field. You really can't do much better than Thoreau and Leopold. Did I mention that these books are drawing praise from some pretty big names? Meryl Streep, folks. Some of you met Mark at GA last year. I have no idea where he met Meryl. Don't think it was here.
Mary Oliver published 12 books and recorded two audios with Beacon Press. We were so pleased to be able to bring her to GA. This most recent book is, of course, a treasure.
We've always published influential books about race including this one, which first appeared in 1995 and has been in print ever since. This year, Time magazine named Geoff Canada one of the most influential people in the world. In fact, he was one of a handful to get a full-page write-up by U.S. Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan, and he came in at number five.
And I'm delighted to say that we were able to add another very influential thinker about race and gender to our list this year, thanks to an important assist from Rob Molla of the UUA.
Anita Hill's new book will be out on the 20th anniversary of the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings in October. Federal judge Nancy Gertner writes about women with great heart and genuine insight. We were delighted to be able to publish her memoir just last month.
Our books about public education in America have consistently broken new ground, and helped illuminate the crucial steps needed to repair our very badly broken public schools. We are very proud of this list and have several new titles in the field next year. We launched the King Legacy last year with these two important books, which had long been out of print, and added a magnificent collection of sermons, with a CD of two speeches, and the classic, Why We Can't Wait. As Eric Foner points out, this, the first original book in the King Legacy series, brings to life a different King. One whose dream called for nothing less than radical restructuring of American economic life. This is the King we intend to lift up with each of the new books in the series, a man who had a global vision of justice for all.
We published All Labor Has Dignity in January this year and it received quite a bit of attention, but it was when Wisconsin governor Scott Walker tried to strip labor unions of their negotiating rights that King's message was really embraced.
We Are One, the activist group working to restore and protect worker's rights, chose the anniversary of Dr. King's assassination to call for nationwide action, and use this book as part of their rallying cry. We're really proud about.
The next original book in the series will be the first ever collection of Dr. King's prayers. A beautiful book which I hope you will all want to own, and to give to others. I'd like to offer this prayer of Dr. King's, which seems so appropriate to our work as Unitarian Universalists.
We thank Thee, Lord for the fact that you've inspired men and women in all nations and all cultures. We call you different names. Some call Thee Allah, some call Thee Elohim, some call you Jehovah, some call you Brahma. But we know that these are all names for one and the same God, and we know you are one. Grant O God, that we will become so committed to Thy way and Thy kingdom, that we will be able to establish in our lives, and in this world a brotherhood. A kingdom of understanding, where men will live together as brothers, and respect the dignity and worth of all human personalities.
We so value your support. Please if you have time, visit the UUA bookstore in the exhibit hall, and look for the Beacon section. And if you don't, find us online. On our website, on our blog, on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, wherever you may roam. You'll find Beacon Press. As always, I want to thank the UUA administration, the UU Veatch Program at Shelter Rock, the UU Funding Panels, and most of all you, for your attention, and your invaluable support. Thanks.
Breakthrough Congregation: The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Beaufort, SC
GINI COURTER: Oh my, we have another breakthrough congregation. Beaufort, South Carolina. Let's love these folks. Come on up.
NAN WHITE: Barb, Barb, come here. Hover around me. My name is Nan White, and today I am the minister of the 95-member Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Beaufort, in South Carolina. And this is our president, Barbara Banus and some of our members standing behind me. We are ecstatic to share this video with you. We hope you enjoy it, and let the show began.
Greetings from the Low Country of South Carolina. We're here on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, also known as the Beaufort River, one of hundreds of tidal creeks, rivers, and marshes in this area. These waterways surround sea islands where you can find a unique blend of diverse local cultures, history, tourism, retirees, military bases and their personnel, and Unitarian Universalism.
[SINGING: "THERE'LL BE JUSTICE IN THAT LAND"]
In our 10-year history, UUs in Beaufort have actively established themselves as a progressive force for good in our community, tutoring our children, helping the homeless, literally bringing food to the hungry, getting out in our kayaks to clean up marshes like this one. As a congregation, each year we march in the Martin Luther King parade, and in the Heritage Day parade at Penn Center. And we continue to build our partnership with Penn Center on Saint Helena Island, a school founded for freed slaves by the Unitarians.
That's an amazing legacy for us to have and to honor as we move forward. Our congregation has moved across that bridge to our new home on Lady's Island, one of 60 large islands in Beaufort County. We have a new place to meet in fellowship, and a stronger will and ability to make a difference, helping others in our community. Let us tell you tell you more about our fellowship.
The founders of this congregation, like myself, longed for community. And we had a great desire to do social justice work. So our coming together has been a wonderful relationship.
Hi, I'm Reverend Nan White, and I serve this congregation, and I serve it in a shared ministry capacity. Living in the buckle of the Bible belt, where many conservative churches of all kinds and sizes are on every corner makes searching for a religious community challenging. Our guests on Sunday morning speak about how welcome they felt on their first visit. That's the result of work by our membership committee, but more so, it's the culture we've created and reinforced over the years.
We know we want to see more people of color, more young people, and more families. We're increasing our PR efforts using both print, electronic and social networking media to try to get our message out to the larger community. And as always, making everyone feel welcome is every member's responsibility.
Our family has been members of UUFB for about six years now. And one of the main reasons why we joined here was because of the commitment to religious education and to the children. I grew up in a church where children were seen and not heard and I didn't want that experience for my kids. And my husband is Native American and we wanted to incorporate those beliefs into our children's lives as well. And from the very first time we showed up, we felt accepted into this group.
I want to find a place of worship that I could go to. Where I won't be looked upon as not wearing a big hat, or whether I was rich or poor, even if the soles were flapping on my feet. I just wanted to be a human being and accepted as that.
Our mission is to create a joyful sanctuary for spiritual and intellectual growth, embracing all souls in a nurturing community—
My boys have been asked to read the Mission Statement, light the Chalice, and read the story for all ages. The people here understand that if we are to grow, we need more kids. The adults in the fellowship know my boys and the boys know the adults. My kids feel like they belong to the fellowship as much as I do.
Our congregation has grown from 32 original members in 1999 to 88 members today, with a growth of over 50% in the last four years.
[SINGING: "ENTER, REJOICE, AND COME IN"]
We are now rejoicing about our great location with two buildings. And we've arrived at this moment through fine ministerial leadership and well-trained lay leadership.
Over 45 volunteers have given 100's of hours of time and talent. We couldn't have done it without you. Some came to one work day. Some came to every work day. Our new motto is love, eat, pray, and paint.
[SINGING: "THIS LITTLE LIGHT OF MINE"]
The decision to call a minister was the first important decision we made. And I believe it was the critical success factor in our growth and vitality. Reverend White is visible, known throughout the community, and well-respected. And her leadership has been essential to our continuing and deepening relationship with Penn Center.
Our long range plan commits us to becoming a multiracial, multicultural community. The location of our new property positions us well to serve those ends, I think. As we walk together in love, we recognize that conflict can be and is a sign of growth. Moreover, our members understand representative democracy and grant power and authority to the minister, elected board, and the committees. We seem to get things done faster than the usual, what I term, speed of church. As an example, we established a property search committee in May, purchased property in July, and we closed on that property in August, all while the minister was on sabbatical leave. I think the future is bright and predict we will outgrow this newly-acquired property as new members are drawn to the way we live out our Unitarian Universalist values.
Personal relationships and shared ministry are two very important ingredients for building a healthy congregation. And I think that's why we're a breakthrough congregation.
[SINGING: "THIS LITTLE LIGHT OF MINE"]
GINI COURTER: Standing ovation. Excellent. If you were here last night, you know that Nick Page taught us sometimes it's just good to say, yes.
UU Women’s Federation Report
GINI COURTER: OK. I now introduce with three reports that we're going to hear. Our occasion of gathering is a great time for us to hear from partner organizations who've been with us for decades. And I now introduce Marti Keller who is going to give us a report from the Unitarian Universalist Women's Federation. Please welcome her.
MARTI KELLER: As we celebrate the UUA's 50th anniversary during General Assembly, I can't help but look forward to 2013, when we of the Unitarian Universalist Women's Federation will celebrate our own golden anniversary. And I couldn't help but think that it's more than a coincidence that 2013 also marks the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
I don't have to tell this audience what Roe v. Wade is, but I do feel the need to remind us all that we are not yet living in a post-feminist utopia. The 1973 landmark Supreme Court decision on abortion is all the more important in the face of constant and consistent threats to reproductive rights. Among them, this year's proposed Federal funding cuts to Planned Parenthood and Title X.
I am proud that in March, the UUWF's Board Of Trustees issued a statement in protest of these cuts, as did the UUA. I'm also proud that during this GA, we presented our Ministry to Women award to Reverend Debra Haffner, recognizing her for her outstanding work in the fields of sexual education, reproductive justice, and sexual abuse healing.
I am also proud that one of the projects funded by our Equity and Justice Grants program this year will help provide women and girls who recently ended their pregnancies with resources to help them view their abortion decisions as caring and moral.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Besides sharing an anniversary, there's another connection between Roe v. Wade and the UU Women's Federation, a connection that is especially relevant to the UUWF at this point in time. Because as members of the UUWF Board prepared to look forward to planning our anniversary celebrations, we first looked back at the rich tapestry of our past. And we saw, not entirely to our surprise, that most of the threads that make up that tapestry are the stories of women gathered together within our local congregations, women who gather in groups to pursue a wide variety of purposes and goals.
The women of our congregations have been gathering since long before the formation of either the UUA or the UUWF. Universalist women gathered together to support their national organization's missionary work in Japan and the British Isles, and schools for African American children in the American South. They also raised funds to support quote weak parishes, ministerial students, disabled ministers, and ministers' widows and orphans unquote. Women in Unitarian congregations engaged in similar activities and, despite what we might regard as strange choices of headgear, both Universalist and Unitarian women were noted for their activism in social justice causes that over the years ranged from abolition of slavery and the support of universal suffrage, to ending world hunger.
Many of these women's groups were and are activists in reproductive justice issues, and here's the connection with Roe v. Wade. For during the case's early stage in Texas courts, women from the Alliance of the First Unitarian Church of Dallas provided critical, much-needed support to attorney Sarah Weddington and others involved in the litigation. That support ultimately led to the Alliance becoming a third party to Roe v. Wade when they signed an amicus brief in 1970.
The UUWF honored these Dallas women, along with Sarah Weddington, with our 2005 Ministry to Women Award. And in the fall of 2010, inspired by their story and those of so many other UU women who gather, our board made strengthening our connections with, and support of women's groups in local congregations a top priority over the next three years.
Now I'd like to ask those of you who come from congregations that have at least one women's groups to raise your hand. Look at that. You can put your hands down now. And whether you raise them or not, I'd like to invite you all to follow the journey of connection support that we are about to embark on by visiting our website and our Facebook page. We may even be Twittering about it at some point.
We are still in the early stage of that journey, but we already know that women's groups in our movement now go by many names. From Women's Alliances and associations, to the Demeters and Womensphere. We are discovering that groups are being formed and forming that are taking on different labels with the evolving formats, emphasis, and partnerships.
Now some of these groups focus on what are sometimes thought of as traditional women's activities such as providing hospitality and refreshments for congregational events, or organizing rummage sales and holiday bazaars. And more than one congregation has the proceeds of such sales and bazaars to thank for everything from new hymnals to what might otherwise have been an overdue mortgage payment.
Other women's groups organize lectures and/or adult religious education courses, or focus on social justice issues. And we learned while putting together our How Women Gather in Twenty-First Century Congregations workshop for GA, not a few women's groups are using the new technologies to communicate through their own web sites and various social networking media. And once again, synergy at work—That same Dallas alliance that supported Roe v. Wade was featured during that workshop, and it is one of the women's groups that has its own website now.
Our plans for work with women's groups call for us to make maximum use of these new technologies to communicate with and serve this important community within us, including more strategic use of our own website and Facebook page, and building additional email discussion groups. We can make a significant contribution to the women in our congregations by creating networks through which they can exchange program ideas and membership strategies that work.
We also hope to use web technology, as the UUA Board has modeled recently, to hold webinars and/or forums targeting leaders in the women's groups in our congregations, both longstanding and new configurations.
We'll also continue our collaborative work with other UU women's organizations, such as we did at this GA by inviting the International Convocation of UU Women to participate in our Justice Work By and For Women workshop.
We also encourage women's groups to help us familiarize UUs at the grassroots with our three funding programs. Our newest is named for the late Reverend Marjorie Bowens-Wheatley and award scholarships to women preparing for our ministry who identify as women of color, Latina, or Hispanic. Since this program started in 2009, we have awarded scholarships to nine women from across the country.
In addition to asking for help in publicizing our other two funding programs, we will urge women's groups to apply for funding for them. Our Margaret Fuller Grants program supports accessible projects in UU religious feminisms. This year Margaret Fuller Grant recipients include a women's writing group from my own congregation in Atlanta, which will help finance a conference, Getting in Touch With the Source. This gathering will provide an opportunity and supportive environment for women to write, learn, and share materials on the themes of identity, and expression, and transformation.
Our Equity and Justice Grants program funds social justice work that directly affect the lives of women and girls. In addition to the After Abortion Talk Line project I referred to earlier, this year's funded projects include start-up costs for an online and telephone-based counseling program for liberal religious women in crisis.
We could do none of this work—none of this work, without the generous support of UUWF members and friends from across the country. You know who you are, and I extend to you my heartfelt thanks. And for the rest of you, I have an invitation. Come and join the growing circle of UUs who support our mission of advancing justice for women and for girls, and for promoting their spiritual growth. Thank you.
GINI COURTER: Thank you, Marti.
UU United Nations Office
GINI COURTER: Please welcome the executive director of the UU United Nations Office, Bruce Knotts.
BRUCE KNOTTS: Congratulations, Marriage Equality of New York.
Over the past year the UU-UNO has continued to grow and expand its work at the United Nations. We have maintained a close eye on the progress of the following international conventions, all but one of which have not been ratified by the United States.
The Rome Statute that established the International Criminal Court which insures that human rights violations will not be done with impunity.
The International Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.
The International Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, which President Obama did sign last year.
The International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.
The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
And the International Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Most of the world has already ratified most of these conventions. The last one, the International Convention on the Rights of the Child has been ratified by every nation on the face of the Earth, with the exception of Somalia and the United States.
We call ourselves the land of the free, but our reluctance to join the international community in recognizing the political, cultural, social, and economic rights in all ways recognized by most of the rest of the world, prompts the world to question our dedication to human rights as they are defined in the 21st century.
In 2008, I found that there was one group of people whose rights were not recognized at all, not even at the United Nations. There wasn't any discussion about ending global oppression based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The UU-UNO changed that dynamic in three years.
UUs in Uganda have been fighting oppression and the UU-UNO has been there to support their courageous stand. The UU-UNO and the UUA are jointly sponsoring an appeal to have help Reverend Mark Kiyimba in his work to create safe houses to protect LGBT human rights defenders.
One such defender, who has been called the founder of the LGBT human rights movement in Uganda, David Kato Kasuli, was murdered in his home on January 26 of this year. He was beaten to death with a hammer. The Ugandan Parliament again considered the infamous kill-the-gays bill which would also imprison anyone who helps, rents to, or ministers to a gay or lesbian person. Our activism kept that bill at bay for another year.
Those American fundamentalist ministers and politicians who inflamed homophobic hatred in Uganda are directly responsible for David's death and for many others besides. We must be agents of love and vigorously oppose those who preach genocide. In December, 2010, a Resolution on Extrajudicial Killing came to the floor of the UN General Assembly. The UU-UNO led a coalition of 60 faith-based and secular leaders at the United Nations and changed the votes of 23 countries to include sexual orientation onto the list of vulnerable classes of people deserving of extra vigilance in combating global extrajudicial killing.
In 2008, hardly anybody was talking about LGBT rights at the UN until the UU-UNO started its LGBT activism. Now, it's 2011 and the LGBT rights are front and center at the UN. Due to our activism, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has its first-ever officer with responsibility for LGBT human rights and his name is Charles Radcliffe.
Due to our efforts, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for the first time called on the world to decriminalize sexual orientation and gender identity at Human Rights Day on December 10, 2010. Last week the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva passed a binding resolution proposed by the Republic of South Africa against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. This is what your office at the UN has done and can continue to do with your support.
These days everybody wants the UU-UNO on their team. We have been asked to more joint more UN committees than I have time to mention, but here just a few.
The Ecumenical Working Group which brings the faith-based community at the UN together.
We participate in the NGO Committee on UNICEF and serve on the board of the NGO Committee on Sustainable which works on climate change issues. I chair the Faith and Ethics Network for the International Criminal Court, which brings together faith and ethical traditions to support US ratification of the Rome Statute.
In the late 1990's, the Canadian Elaine Harvey and the American John Washburn, both at the UU-UNO led the faith-based caucus to establish the International Criminal Court. Elaine Harvey was in Rome for the negotiations and the provisions of the Rome Statute regarding the protection of women owe a lot to her work. That leadership in support of the International Criminal Court remains firmly in UU hands. Finally, in June 2010, I was unanimously elected as the chair of the UN NGO Committee on Human Rights Thank you.
The UU-UNO has a long history of working for peace and disarmament. We helped plan the 2009 NGO UN Conference on Disarmament, Peace and Development in Mexico City. We played a vital role in drafting the UUA Study Action Issue on Peace, which passed General Assembly last year. We are working with others at the UN to reduce global military spending by at least 10%. In the 1970's, working with the UU-UNO, Reverend Homer Jack founded Religions for Peace with clergy from other faith traditions. We now see the UN acting with new energy to protect people around the world. The UN works best when the United States is engaged, not estranged. For years the US didn't pay its UN dues and boycotted the Human Rights Council in Geneva. Now we are engaged and we are getting what we want, while our monetary investment in the outcomes is minimal. If you want world peace on the cheap, invest in the UN. The UN is good value for money.
In addition to human rights, we strongly advocate for the rights of Mother Earth. Climate change is real and it is serious, and we are adding our weight to addressing its effects. The UN has reported a drastic increase over 10 years ago in the damage and economic loss due to extreme weather conditions. Our relationship with Mother Earth is less secure than we might hope.
Our growing advocacy for women's rights was the subject of our Spring Seminar in April that focused on the UN Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women, CEDAW, ratified by 86 countries, and which the United States might ratify with your support. So I urge you to fill out one of these postcards, two postcards, to your senators. They're available at our table. Our UN Sunday materials this year will be developed around empowering women for a better world, so have a UN Sunday.
Why is it that the UU-UNO can play such an important role at the United Nations when UU influence elsewhere is not so great? First of all, the United Nations is UU territory. UN principals are UU principles. We speak the same language about the inherent worth and dignity of every person. Our liberal free faith also allows us to be leaders in areas where other faith traditions can only follow. The UU-UNO has the only faith-based LGBT Advocacy program at the United Nations.
As we provide an example at the UN, we also provide an example in Africa, where we make a unique contribution to the UN Millennium Development goals to eradicate world poverty, provide universal basic education, combat HIV/AIDS, and empower women. The UU-UNO Every Child is Our Child project in the West African nation of Ghana is an example for the entire country and region.
We partnered with the Queen Mothers of the Manya Krobo people in Eastern Ghana to ensure that children orphaned by HIV/AIDS get health care and an education. Queen Mother Esther was at our seminar this year. She met with people across the country in her first-ever visit to the United States. For $120 a year, you can send a child to school and ensure that the child and the care-giving family get health care. When have you seen so little to do so much good?
The UU-UNO was founded in 1962 at the suggestion of Ambassador Adlai Stevenson to the first UUA president Reverend Dana Greeley. The UU-UNO will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year. In 1971 the UU-UNO lost its UUA sponsorship and became an independent non-profit organization. The UU-UNO Board and membership and the UUA Board have voted unanimously to merge the UU-UNO with the UUA. We expect the UU-UNO to return to the UUA on July 1.
The UU-UNO will continue to look and feel much as it does today. We'll continue to need sustaining friends, and we will fund-raise for our programs. However, we will be officially and logistically part of the UUA and we will strengthen our relationship with the Canadian Unitarian Council in model ways that we hope will attract other national Unitarian groups who want the UU-UNO to represent them at the UN.
As part of this merger, the CUC and the UUA have a new agreement to ensure Canadian Unitarians and continue to be represented at the UN. We will continue to need your engagement and financial support to enable the UU voice to change the world at the UN.
What would happen if the UU-UNO closed its doors? Given that we played leading roles to establish Religions for Peace and the International Criminal Court and we got LGBT rights onto the UN agenda, what future advances would not happen if we weren't there to lead? Without the UU-UNO, human rights and the rights of the planet would get far less attention than with the UU-UNO as a robust voice that is supported by our vibrant denomination. Support the UU-UNO even when we join the UUA. We are changing the world at the United Nations. With your support, our work to create the beloved world community will continue. Thank you.
GINI COURTER: Oh, yeah. Thank you, Bruce.
UU Service Committee Report
GINI COURTER: Please welcome the executive director, president of your Unitarian Universalist Committee, Bill Schulz.
BILL SCHULZ: Thank you, Gini.
A year ago, I stood here as acting president of UUSC, and I assured you that this year you would be hearing from a brand-new president. That was a dumb thing to have said. It may not have been as dumb as the Philadelphia politician who begged off a reporter's question by saying—Candidly, I cannot answer that question. It is too suppository. Maybe not that dumb, but dumb nonetheless. So here you are, stuck with me again, and you will be stuck with me for the next five years. Thank you.
That's how long I promised to be UUSC president. And part of the reason I have, is because John Gibbons is a very persuasive man. John has served as chair of the UUSC Board for the past two years. Witty, elegant, eloquent, cherubic, tow-headed, sleek of figure, and plump of cheek. And he has done so with more devotion than any organization has the right to expect of its chair. And when he asked me to stay on as UUSC president, I could not demur.
His term is now up and a few weeks ago, I asked John's wife, Sue, what we could get him to express our appreciation. What John really wants, Sue said is a new bed. I said we can't get him a new bed. That hardly seems appropriate, so we got him something else. But what we can all do now is to express our appreciation for all he has done for UUSC. And I mean that.
And the other reason I agreed to become UUSC's president is because I think UUSC is the best vehicle for putting Unitarian Universalist values to work in the farthest corners of the globe.
No one should have to live on this planet without access to affordable potable water That's simple. That's basic. That's simple. That's basic. And UUSC makes it happen.
No one should have their wages stolen by employers who refuse to pay them after a hard day's work, but it happens every day to undocumented workers in this country. That's simple. That's basic. UUSC puts a stop to that.
No one anywhere in the world, under any circumstances, should be tortured. That's simple. That's basic. UUSC puts a stop to torture.
In the face of a disaster, everyone—not just the privileged—everyone should have a chance to rebuild their lives. That's simple. That's basic. UUSC sees that they do.
Wherever we go, we ask ourselves two questions. Who are the forgotten people—the marginalized, the ones who the large aid agencies have overlooked? And second, where can our relatively modest resources make a huge difference?
You know, I ran a large organization called Amnesty International for 12 years. 180 staff, $42 million budget, well-known, well-respected. But large organizations like Amnesty are rarely cutting edge and rarely nimble. But UUSC is a modest-size organization—41 staff, $6 million budget—so we've got to make every dollar count. We've got to be smart, creative, fleet of foot. Let me give you just two brief examples of what I mean.
Following the horrific civil war in Uganda, UUSC has partnered with MIT to introduce in the war-torn regions of that country, a whole new way putting technology at the service of peace and development. Instead of introducing fancy Western equipment which the villagers aren't trained to use and which, when it breaks, they can't repair, UUSC and MIT sat down under the baobab trees and helped the villagers develop their own technology made of indigenous materials. Tools such as corn shuckers and ground nut harvesters that reduce the time it takes to shuck corn and harvest ground nuts by up to 75%. That's simple. That's nimble. That's UUSC.
Or, take Egypt. A few years ago, UUSC translated into Arabic a comic book describing Martin Luther King Jr's strategy of nonviolent change. Last February, copies of that comic book were being passed around Cairo's Tahrir Square in the middle of the revolution, and helped discourage violence there. That's smart.
That's smart. That's nimble. That's UUSC working on your behalf to transform the world, but we are not satisfied doing these kind of things just on your behalf. We want to help you do them, too. So UUSC has created what we call the College of Social Justice. Under the umbrella of the college, we will give every Unitarian Universalist who wants it, an opportunity to do hands-on work for justice. We will offer a comprehensive human rights programs for our UU youth. We will help any congregation that wants to be an effective agent of social change to have the skills to be so.
For years, UUSC has taken a handful of people each year to work on justice projects around the world. Now we intend to expand that kind of experiential learning to encompass 100's of Unitarian Universalists every year. Four weeks ago, I was in Haiti with leaders of the UUA and our two theological schools, and with ten Unitarian Universalist seminarians.
Our joint dream is that every person preparing for our ministry will be exposed to the developing world as part of that preparation. Our joint dream is that every Unitarian Universalist young person who wants to live out their religious values through a UU institution, rather than through say, Habitat for Humanity or Amnesty, every UU young person has an opportunity to do that.
And with the strong support of President Morales, we are doing all this in collaboration with the UUA. I have long dreamed of UUSC and UUA becoming true partners, not competitors, not walking parallel paths, but true partners in the struggle for a more just world. We Unitarian Universalists are simply too small in number for the UUA and UUSC not to stand in solidarity with one another. And finally, thanks to Peter Morales, we are doing just that. My admiration for his generosity of spirit and vision knows no bounds.
So this is just some of what UUSC is about. Smart, nimble, collaborative. Your best vehicle for extending UU values to the farthest corners of the globe. Only about one in every four Unitarian Universalists is a member of UUSC. If you're not, do join us. After all, we depend entirely upon your support for our existence.
I close this way. I have always loved what E.B. White said—As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate.
I'm proud of UUSC. After what I've just told you, I hope you're proud, too. So help us nurture the upright. Help us grow the compassionate. Help us spread the contagion. Because you know, bad as it sometimes looks, the scene is not desolate. Hope has not withered. Faith has not fled. And with your help, UUSC truly and enduringly thrives. Thank you very much.
Presentation of the Distinguished Service Award
GINI COURTER: I ask the trustee from the Prairie Star District, John Blevins, to come to the podium to present an important award.
JOHN BLEVINS: It's my pleasure this morning to welcome you to the presentation of the 2011 eleven Award for Distinguished Service to the Cause of Unitarian Universalism. This award is the highest honor bestowed by this association. It's given annually to a lay or professional leader who, over a period of time, is deemed by the UUA Board of Trustees to have made extraordinary contributions to the strength of our association, and who exemplifies the values of our shared faith.
The moderator, Gini Courter, the Reverend Susan Ritchie, who is the trustee from the Ohio-Meadville district, and I served as the Board's Committee to lead the selection process this year. And it's been my privilege to chair that group. And it's now my deep honor to introduce you to this year's recipient, the Reverend Victor H. Carpenter, minister emeritus of First Church in Belmont, Massachusetts. Victor? and to begin, our former moderator and a past recipient of this award, Miss Denny Davidoff, will share some of her thoughts on this election.
DENNY DAVIDOFF: More history. It was the final day of the 1992 General Assembly in Calgary, and a bunch of us from the UUA Board and other UUA institutions had put together a responsive resolution to Bill Schulz' President's Report. The resolution exhorted the UUA and it's member congregations to pursue a pathway to becoming an anti-racist and multi-cultural liberal religious movement.
Now, our coalition was chock-a-block filled with talent and passion. So, who to be the first speaker in favor of our motion? Our choice was Vic Carpenter. And I remember that Kay Aler-Maida and I had to rush to the annual lunch meeting of the UU Service Committee to pull Vic, who was the Service Committee's board chair and thus presiding, away from his meeting so he could be standing at the pro mike when moderator Natalie Gulbrandsen announced the introduction of our momentous resolution.
We have been given a second chance, Vic intoned. I grabbed Leon Spencer's hand, and I caught Mel Hoover's eye. It was a thrilling GA minute, and I'm lucky to have been there in 1992, and here in 2011 to honor my very dear friend, sailing companion, teacher of theology, and grief pastor extraordinaire, Victor H. Carpenter.
JOHN BLEVINS: Thank you very much, Denny. And now moderator Courter will share with us the actual award citation, after which Reverend Carpenter will share his thoughts with us on accepting the award.
GINI COURTER: Thank you, John. The citation that Victor will receive will read, as by way of introducing you to him—Victor Carpenter found Unitarian Universalism as a young adult, following service in the United States Marine Corps. Recruited as a willing Religious Education teacher at Second Church Unitarian in Boston, Victor was identified by the Reverend Clayton Hale as a worthy piece of ministerial material. Hale felt that giving it a try was a good idea, and arranged for Victor to serve as minister for the small Universalist church in Fryeberg, Maine the summer before beginning Harvard Divinity School.
It was in Fryeberg that Victor's heart would learn what his head already knew—liberal religion is his home. Victor's time at Harvard included studies with Paul Tillich, James Luther Adams, and Conrad Wright. As a student minister he served Christ Church, Dorchester Unitarian and participated in the Benevolent Fraternity, the predecessor to the Unitarian Universalist Urban Ministry in Roxbury, Massachusetts.
Following graduation in 1959, Victor was called by the congregation of the First Parish in Norwell, Massachusetts. During his service in Norwell, Victor created the South Shore Forum, featuring speakers like Henry Cabot Lodge, John Kenneth Galbraith, Paul Tillich, and Willard Uphouse. In 1960, half a world away, white South African police opened fire on a crowd of black protesters in Sharpeville Township, killing 69 people and injuring hundreds more, drawing international attention and condemnation by the United Nations. Victor reflects that he wondered, quote, How a liberal religious perspective fared without a democratic atmosphere, and what a minister would be called to do in such circumstances?
There was one way to find out. In 1962, Victor, his wife Cathe and son, Tyler moved to South Africa. Nelson Mandela had just been convicted of treason and sent to Robben Island. Victor and Cathe aligned themselves with freedom seekers, opened the church to integrated worship, and brought in study groups on racism.
Unbeknownst to Cathe, Victor also served called covertly for the Defense and Aid Fund as a courier delivering cash to lawyers serving prisoners and their families. He attracted attention from the authorities. He was required to report on a weekly basis about his movements and threatened with deportation.
And the Carpenter family was growing. Daughters Gracia and Melissa were each born with significant special needs. With Victor's effectiveness diminished from increased police scrutiny and the girls needing greater medical care, the family returned to the United States. But not before spearheading a campaign to raise awareness about autism, and found in the South African Society for Autistic Children, which connected families dealing with autism. Victor and Cathe's efforts led to the creation of a school and a house for students. Both were later named and dedicated to the memory of their daughter, Gracia.
Victor continued his ministry in the United States, serving First Church in Philadelphia at a time when the interfaith community was speaking against the Vietnam War and Mayor Rizzo's corrupt government, at Arlington Street Church in Boston at the height of the busing controversy, in San Francisco during the AIDS epidemic, and then in Belmont and Dorchester, Massachusetts.
Throughout his entire ministry, as you can tell, Victor has occupied a place on the leading edge of peaceful, but determined protest. He has more arrests for civil disobedience than he can count, and has experienced first-hand the power of interfaith allies seeking justice.
Victor knows that each passionate action for justice, no matter how small creates the possibility of transformation. That 10 minutes spent talking with a state representative can change the life for a child, or start a movement. He understands the connectivity of each action we take for justice, and he uses that sure knowledge to bring about change, and inspire others to do the same.
Victor has led efforts to stop wars, empower hotel and hospital workers, protect women's rights, halt corruption, protect victims, stop death to prisoners, instill accountability across cultures, and give voice to the most marginalized. His accessibilities work spans decades. But Victor is not a man of causes. Victor is a man who has chosen a religious path that calls him to participate in the world. Victor breathes most easily when he is working for justice with people for whom, and with whom, it makes a difference. His leadership is a gift and shining example to us all.
Cathe, could you join us please? Key to Victor's success is his ability to recognize what he does not know and his willingness to find ways to listen and learn. But he says that his primary guide and companion in that learning is Cathe Carpenter, who he describes as wife, friend, lover, confidante, editor, and life companion in the dedication of his book, Stations of the Spirit. To know Victor's commitment to live a faithful life and heed the call to justice, is to know Cathe's heart as well.
Victor, your lived faith exemplifies who we are called to be in the world. Your leadership offers a guide to all who will follow. And with deep appreciation, we now confer upon you the highest honor our Association can bestow, the Annual Award for Distinguished Service to the Cause of Unitarian Universalism.
VICTOR CARPENTER: Thank you. Thank you, Gini. I have to tell you that when Gini first called me about this award, I thought it was a joke. And I hung up on her. She called me a second time. I said I don't do business over the phone and hung up on her again. The third time she called me, I said stop bothering me. There's somebody at the door. Well, she forgave me, and here I am. Thank you to, Gini. Three times.
Unitarian Universalist religious leaders, professionals imagine themselves as change agents. We aspire to enlarge people's vision, even to change their life direction. And if we are lucky, we receive direct evidence of this accomplishment once in a lifetime, maybe twice. You changed my life, the young lawyer said to me. At the end of one of your sermons, you challenged the congregation, claiming that for Unitarian Universalists, the relevant question is not, what do you believe? It's, what are you doing?
What am I doing?, he asked himself. And dissatisfied with his answer, he left a job with a prestigious law firm in Boston, and he became an attorney for undocumented immigrants who seek refuge in this country.
And so this, on our 50th anniversary, the question resonates—What are we doing? Our brief history is punctuated with moments when we did great things. We marched for justice in Selma, we voted for empowerment in Cleveland, we claimed a second chance to journey to wholeness in Calgary, and on each of these occasions, we rose above the ambiguity of our middle-classness, we refused to trivialize our moral authority by asserting pronouncements of spirituality, and while acknowledging the virtue of tolerance, we refused to invoke it as a substitute for truth or justice.
On each of these occasions, on each of these occasions we presented compelling, convincing evidence of our claim to be a religion of wholeness, of reconciliation, and of universal redemption.
For more than 50 years, it has been my privilege to uphold and extend this claim. Testing its strengths against the tides of division and distraction, fashion and foolishness, and returning once again, and again, and again, to that one absolutely imperative moral touchstone. What are we doing?
Thank you. Thank you.
JOHN BLEVINS: Thank you all, and thank you, Reverend Carpenter for the magnificent gifts you've given this world.
GINI COURTER: Thank you. And let the people say—
GINI COURTER: And let the board say joy.
GINI COURTER: Please give—I just want to breathe with this for second, don't you? I thought I knew him 'til I started learning about him. It's like wow! Wow! When I grow up, I want to be Victor Carpenter.
What are we doing? OK. Please let's give—
Oh, by the way, we're way behind schedule, but let me tell you a little bit about it. Because some of you are probably bothered by it, because you look at the list and you just kind of—Don't worry. We're going to first the items that come later are mostly housekeeping, but I'm going to be working for a way for us to move a couple of the items that we probably won't spend a lot of effort on, and we didn't have amendments—to Sunday, so we get out on close time today.
Financial Advisor’s Report (Dan Brody)
GINI COURTER: But in the meantime, please give a warm welcome to your financial adviser, Mr. Dan Brody.
DAN BRODY: Morning. It's my pleasure to report on some highlights of the Association's finances. My written report, available on uua.org, goes into detail on these and other issues.
When I reported to you last year, the Association's financial picture was bleak. Operating budget income had fallen by $3 million over two years, requiring substantial program cuts, including staff layoffs. Further revenue decline seemed likely.
Although the cuts have been painful, the situation is now looking much brighter. The operating budget ended fiscal year 2010 narrowly in the black, and is expected to do so again this fiscal year, which ends next week. Balancing the FY 2012 budget did not require further cutbacks, although annual cost of living increases had to be deferred to mid-year, and no increase in staffing was possible. A real bright spot in the last few years has been the stability and the contributions from congregations to the Annual Program Fund, or APF. While other sources of UUA income were falling by 20% or more, APF income fell by only 5% from its peak.
My first chart shows the percentage of UUA's general income from various sources in recent years. The APF's contribution is in blue at the bottom of each bar. Because APF revenue has held up so well as other revenue is falling, the APF's share has risen from about one third of general revenue to almost half. While the UUA has had to endure difficult financial problems, the situation would have been far worse without the steadfast commitment of so many of our congregations at a time when they have faced their own budget challenges to maintain their level of contributions to the APF.
Endowment funds have been on a wild ride for the last four years. From Fall 2007 to Spring 2009, the stock market fell by almost half. But since then, markets have recovered most or all of their losses. How has our endowment performed in recent years? I was warned that the next chart is too complicated to show in a plenary talk, but its message is so strong, I'll take that risk. The chart compares the performance of the UU Common Endowment Fund, which we call the UUCEF, to that of similarly-sized endowments of other institutions.
Each box and pair of lines on the chart represents a reporting period, ending in December 2010, ranging from one year at the left, to eight years at the right. The range of performance of the middle half of all funds is indicated by the boxes. So, as the stock market rebounded during the last two years the average fund of our size returned about 17% a year. In this period, the UUCEF returned almost 22% a year. The position of the chalice symbols well above the top of each box, shows that the UUCEF outperformed at least 85% of comparable funds in every one of these periods. That's an outstanding record, especially since the Investment Committee, working with the Committee on Socially Responsible Investing has made great strides in aligning our investments with our values. You'll hear the details in the CSRI report this afternoon.
About forty percent of the money in the UUCEF belongs to congregations, districts, and other UU organizations. I doubt that more than a handful of congregations that manage their own endowments can demonstrate a record of professional fund management, strong financial performance, compliance with legal mandates, and commitment to UU values that comes close to matching what the UUCEF offers.
If your congregation has been taking the do-it-yourself approach to endowment management, I urge you to consider moving your endowment to the UUCEF. You can learn more about the fund at a workshop at 1:00 PM today in room 208B. As Helene Atwan reported to you earlier, Beacon Press continues to produce solid financial results, while advancing the mission of the Association.
The next chart shows that Beacon's reserves have increased in each of the last eight years, and now total about $3 million. These reserves protect the UUA from the impact of possible future losses, and also enable Beacon to take on exciting new projects, such as the King Legacy.
The UUA Health Plan has been a huge success. In each year since its inception in 2007, the plan has recorded a surplus and increased in membership. My final chart shows the plan's enrollment growth. Of particular note is the 57% increase in the number of ministers and congregational employees, many of whom had no health insurance at all four years ago, who are now in the plan. The plan's finances are in excellent shape, with reserves of $3.5 million dollars, or more than six months of premiums. And it has achieved these results while holding the total four-year increase in the average premium to just 22%, while the typical increase among other health plans was 30%.
And while other health plans have been trimming benefits, the UUA plan's Board of Trustees has approved many benefit increases. I'm particularly proud of our decision last year to start covering a substantial portion of the cost of hearing aids. This is a shining example of living out our values. Please join me in thanking Jim Sargent, the plan's administrator, for his outstanding work in getting the plan off to such a strong start.
But his work, and our work, isn't done. Jim estimates that about 90% of eligible employees now have coverage through the UUA Health Plan or another plan. Our goal is to have 100% of eligible employees covered by health insurance. I strongly urge all congregations, including those that now obtain health insurance from other sources, as well as those that do not now provide insurance to their ministers and employees, to participate in the UUA plan.
I'd like to close my talk with a help wanted ad. My final term as Financial Advisor will end in 2013. This is a great job. The pay isn't so good. Actually, there's no pay, because it's a volunteer position. But the job is important. The work is challenging. And the people you work with are inspiring. If you're interested in this position, please contact me or a member of the Nominating Committee.
Thank you for giving me this opportunity to serve.
Song: “Allelu, Allelu”
SPEAKER 2: How many of you need to stretch a little bit? OK, were going to help wake you up. This is Sarah Dan Jones, one of my predecessors and music coordinator. My friend and colleague. We're going to do an old camp song. Some of you may know the traditional words, like I first learned. Allelu, Allelu and then, Praise Ye the Lord. In our gray hymnal it's Sing and Rejoice. You can sing whichever one you're comfortable. Now those are the only words. So, if you can see us at all, it might be easier to look here instead of the screen for once, because we're going to do it in two parts. So I need you to decide if you want to be a little lower. I'm not normally the low one, but I'm going to do low and Sarah Dan will do high. And we go back and forth and when you sing, I'd like you to either stand, or wave your arm, or something. And when you don't sing, sit down or put your arm down. It's kind of fun that way and it'll get us a little stretch. So it goes like this. If you know it, you can join us right away, but we're going to do it a couple times and make sure we really can do it.
GINI COURTER: OK, well I'm ready.
SPEAKER 2: She, let's see. No I start, right? OK.
SPEAKER 2: You got that? It sort of switches in the middle. So we're going to do it one more time. Move how ever you need to move. Ready?
GINI COURTER: OK.
SPEAKER 2: One more time so we're really awake. A little faster.
GINI COURTER: Thank you for waving with us. Thank you, Dan. Thanks, [INAUDIBLE]. Tom, right?
Election of Candidates
GINI COURTER: Please welcome the Secretary of the Association. Tom Loughrey for an election. Let's have an election, Tom.
TOM LOUGHREY: Delegates all received a list of nominations that came to you in the mail prior to General Assembly. This list was prepared by the Nominating Committee and contained persons who have agreed to serve in a number of various positions. I have to tell you that as the number of candidates nominated are filing for vacant positions is equal to the number of positions to be elected for the Board of Review, Commission on Appraisal, Commission on Social Witness, General Assembly Planning Committee, Nominating Committee, and the Trustee-at-Large on the Board of Trustees, accordingly then, under our bylaws, section 9.10, I move that we elect the candidates for these positions, Madame Moderator by acclamation.
GINI COURTER: All those acclaiming raise your voting cards, and then acclaim something.
TOM LOUGHREY: Thank you.
GINI COURTER: Thanks, Tom. Good. Oh, Tom, quick question. So we're going to install the folks that we elected, as well as trustees who had been elected from the districts on Sunday, at the end of the plenary, right?
TOM LOUGHREY: On Sunday at the end of the plenary we're going to install everybody appropriately and to all of you who have been nominated and to our newly elected trustees from various districts, we'll greet them all on Sunday.
GINI COURTER: So we need them here about a half hour before the end?
TOM LOUGHREY: About that, yeah.
GINI COURTER: Check in with Tom.
TOM LOUGHREY: Check in with me.
GINI COURTER: All right. Excellent, excellent, excellent. Are we having a good day?
GINI COURTER: Good. Hmm. Oh, you're just—I'm thinking I have somebody at the procedural microphone. I have two tellers working to fix it. OK. All right good. Thank you.
Report from UUA Board of Trustees
GINI COURTER: I would like you to—Well, I'm going to tell you in my report on Sunday how fond I am of the time that I spent chairing our UUA Board of Trustees four times a year, which is wonderful. But you're going to get to meet some of your UUA Trustees now. Your Trustees-at-Large, and so I want to welcome the Trustees-at-Large from the UUA Board to provide you with their report from the Board. Please welcome them warmly.
JOSE BALLESTER: Good morning
AUDIENCE: Good morning.
JOSE BALLESTER: I am Jose Ballester, or Jose Ballester, [UNINTELLIGIBLE] que no hablan Espanol. I am one of four of your at-large trustees and interim minister at the Bell Street Chapel in Providence, Rhode Island. Yeah.
Now the board has a very interesting role under the bylaws. The authority of the board is to act for the Association between General Assemblies. This means that for five short, but glorious days of the year, when we're together in this beloved community, having fun and listening to reports, you, the delegates, run the affairs of the Association. How you doing? But the question is, what about the other 360 days of the year?
During that time, the board acts on your behalf. So how can we do this in an authentic way? We look to what you have told us through the various resolutions, actions of the assembly, and we engage in intentional and serious linkage work with our congregations. The board is charged with assuring that all parts of our Association live up to what you, our delegates, have directed.
The board's linkage work is sacred work for us. It is how we work with you. We work with you, the delegates, and other representatives of our congregations to go deeper and deeper to understand our shared dream. As we go deeper and deeper to understand our most heartfelt vision for our Association, our intentional linkage work is how we, the board, can be very confident that the vision we are working is articulated and is based on the dreams of our congregations and it's not just our individual dreams as leaders.
As we have reported at past GAs, your board has been deeply engaged in linkage work for years. The board created waves to connect with literally thousands of Unitarian Universalists in an intentional way over several years. And the result of these conversations is embedded in the end statements of our bylaws.
Now, these end statements are our best efforts, to date, to capture the vision that we share and the dream for our association. This vision is not tied to any particular leader, or group of leaders. The end statements are how we, as a board, keep your vision clear about what you want us to do through the changes in the board members, changes in administration, and changes in various communities and committees.
We take the obligation to assure that our Association works towards that shared dream very seriously. This truly is sacred work. But of course, we can always go deeper into the dream. Our shared vision can evolve and grow as we do. And that is why we continue to do linkage work. So let's talk about linkage. What have we done this year and have planned to do in the coming year?
One, the continuation of the linkage is a substantial way, should be a high priority for the UUA board, at the possible cost of other activities.
Two, we collaborate with district presidents association to continue real time, person-to-person interviews with the [? call ?] and elected congregation leaders. Now,I have to say, I have been president of my district while still serving on the board, and it was kind of strange talking to myself. But it worked. But not all district boards operate under policy governance, or a reasonable facsimile thereof. We have fun doing it. The desire to have meaningful conversations with those of whom we are accountable to is a common goal.
Three, we are assuring the future linkage has input from all sources.
Four, follow-through on UA board communication plans. We've began our April meeting utilizing two-way personal touches in content and delivery, including social media and videoconferencing. Hello Facebook friends. We emphasize respect, trust, and honesty in communication, and in our actions. The need for mutuality and support for all parties in our common goals. Now, this past year the board has taken on all four of these initiatives. And we are eager to find new avenues of engagement with our congregations in the this, our association. Charlie? Thank you. Gracias.
CHARLIE KING: Good morning.
I'm Charlie King, Trustee-at-Large and member of the First Unitarian Congregational Society in Brooklyn, New York.
Along with our linkage visits to congregations, we continue to decentralize our corporate presence with out of Boston meetings. Two years ago we met with our congregations in San Antonio. This past January our work called us to Phoenix. And this year we will join our congregations in New Orleans to witness their growth and renewal six years after Katrina.
There's been some discussion recently of a move of our headquarters, including a proposal to sell properties on Beacon Hill and to acquire the former campus of Hebrew College in Newton, Massachusetts. Your board has made clear the diligence and forethought we expect for such a proposal. And your president will engage in those considerations with us.
Your board continues to participate in conversations on ministry with UUA staff, the UU Ministers Association, the Liberal Religious Education Directors Association, the UU Musician's Network, and our [UNINTELLIGIBLE] Theological schools. Our efforts have been spurred by the Excellence in Ministry gathering convened in 2008 and focus itself with an eye toward the future of excellence of ministry in our association.
NICK ALLEN: Wow, this is really cool. Hey, everyone. My name is Nick Allen. I am Youth Trustee-at-Large on the board. And my home congregation is Unity Church in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Over there.
In April, 2010, your board dedicated itself to transforming three essential aspects of our associational governance—the General Assembly, our districts, and this board itself. We seek an association that is representative of our many congregations and our common faith. Responsive to the visions set by congregations in their polity, and equipped for the renewal promised by our evolutionary liberal theology, and a new national demography.
The more we have explored what such lofty goals may mean for our Association, the more we realized that the impediments to such ends are cleaved to the very bones of our governance. General Assembly is too costly and too long to be a fair and representative business meeting. Districts are historically arbitrary adjudicatories, with a frequently ambiguous relationship to congregations and our Association. And your UUA board is enormous, cumbersome, homogeneous. Our structure is unfit for the aspirations we hold highest.
We promised last year that change starts with us. And today we are ready to make good on that promise. Out of 23 UUA trustees, 19 represent each district. But what do districts represent? Our present UUA board structure suggests that districts are the primary constituency of an association of congregations. But we know congregations are that primary constituency.
Yes, there are great benefits to organizing regionally. A regional structure allows the UUA to specialize and go where needed. And our working clusters support networks and networking our congregations in their local work. But recall what our bylaws say. The board acts for the General Assembly between its meetings 360 days a year. And it is from that GA that the board derives rise its authority and to that GA that it remains accountable.
And though we love our respective districts, no UUA trustee arrives ready to vote the interests of their district above the interests of the congregations assembled here. Now, one oft-made argument for district trustee elections is that they safeguard the UUA's geographic equity, or that they keep power from collecting in a single region. It's time to put that rumor to bed.
If you favor a board that represents congregations across the nation, consider that the heavy concentration of small districts on the Eastern seaboard insures just the opposite. If you favor equitable representation, consider that the Southwestern trustee is elected by less than half as many congregations as the Saint Lawrence trustee and the trustee from Joseph Priestley represents four times as many congregants as the trustee from Mid-South. Consider that, until the last decade, almost every single district trustee ever was a New England transplant. We have a system of carpetbagging. And if we want to safeguard geographic equity, and diversity, district trustees are anything but an equalizer.
Instead, we envision a board that places geography as a critical diversity amidst a nexus of representation. We want to build an associational leadership that is diverse as we aspire to be. That can adapt and grow as quickly as we need to. But 23 trustees serving four- to eight-year terms achieve none of that.
Your board has voted unanimously—that's every single district trustee and four trustees-at-large, in favor of the motion for board restructuring that we will discuss this afternoon. And please, consider this an invitation to read ahead in your plenary agenda. We are eager to see this assembly elect a board worthy of the blended family gathered in this hall. A board that is a rainbow of leadership and talents, enabled by a more accessible and equitable election system. Thank you.
GINI COURTER: This is why we don't call them the future.
JEANNE PUPKE: I am the Reverend Jeanne Pupke, Senior Minister of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Richmond, Virginia. I knew you'd want to say something about that. And I am Trustee-at-Large to your UUA Board. Welcome y'all!
I want to read to you from a radical justice document. I want to read something that just inspires. So let me share this with you.
Whereas, the State of Arizona has recently enacted a law, State Bill 1070, that runs counter to our first principle affirming the worth and dignity of every person, and whereas the Association stands in solidarity with our allies, mobilizing in love against this divisive and oppressive legislation, and whereas we have been invited into an historic partnership with Puente and the National Day Laborers Organization to work for human rights, and against racial profiling, and whereas the UUA bylaws specify that the power to call and to locate a General Assembly belongs solely to the UUA Board of Trustees, therefore, be it resolved, that this Assembly calls on the UUA Board to gather Unitarian Universalists for the purposes of witnessing on immigration, racial, and economic justice, a Justice General Assembly, in which business will be limited to the minimum required by our by laws in June, 2012, to be held in Phoenix, Arizona.
It really kicks it. So last year, in a moment that was inspired by our commitment to justice and our faith in each other, we imagined what we could do together. Last year, we committed to work with the GA Planning Committee, the UUA staff, and a very special group of people to figure out what it means to gather for a Justice GA.
Our partners in defining what this shall be are an accountability group formed to help us insure that the mandate you gave us is brought to life, not just in fact, but in spirit as well. And so this group has given us a working definition of our role in Phoenix next year. They have affirmed that we will focus on human and civil rights issues in Arizona. And that we do this because every one of us faces, in our own home state, persons who would have like legislation brought forward. And it will not stand with Unitarian Universalists.
We will learn, we will grow, and we will bring home what we learn to our congregations, who are growing in their commitment to work on these immigration issues as issues of our time, and all the related human and civil rights issues that attend to these. You want to bring it home. We will engage in our own history of anti-oppression, which exists and we continue to face. And we recognize that all of us have different capacities and abilities to bring to this moment. And so we are guided to be accountable to our partner organizations right there in Arizona, whose invitation we received, and for whom we are violating a boycott because we are doing justice work that is needed in the area. Above all, we must gather to celebrate our deep and enduring theological imperative to work for justice, not simply to talk, not simply to theorize, not simply to work from the neck up, but to put our bodies in the place where we are in service and in witness to justice, in the place that needs our presence and signal of hope.
Accordingly, your board has carried out a plan to conduct as little business as is possible, as you directed them. So that our plenaries, when we do have them, will help us to contextualize the work we're doing with our partners. And to invite all of us to strengthen that witness. Hear this, however, friends. Hear this clearly. We, each one of us, and our organizations, must arrive in Arizona, willing to be disturbed.
In service of this witness and in partnership, we must prepare ourselves to tamp down our own interests and preferences, indeed, if we own them, our own privileges. And to serve a greater good, it will be hot, inconvenient, and difficult, and we must work on anyway. But it will be worthy work.
In specifics, this means that we must be willing to transfer the energy we hold for all our beloved traditions—our alumni dinners, our association meetings, our awards and worships—and to re-conceive them in service of the Arizona witness. Can you give it up?
Not business as usual, but witness in the highest tradition of our movement. We will be in action and our gatherings must support the witness. They must be re-thought, re-imagined, and we can do this better than most. Imagine how that energy flows into solidarity with those Arizonans who need us standing with them on the side of love.
Now, it will also take love, and perseverance, and a whole lot of forgiveness. And your board doesn't usually get up to talk to you about forgiveness. But in governance, we know that we must come humbly together in this witness, and we will err, we will say and do things we regret. Can we also commit to forgive, and understand, and get up and try again, to do what we need to do to stand on the side of love?
We must fund raise for our youth and young adults. We must pre-plan to get them there, yes? Go home on Sunday or Monday and begin our work there, to assure that we arrive in large numbers to provide witness.
Think later on in your General Assembly of whether your board's proposal to avoid the long engagement of many assemblies and plenary session work dedicated to AIWs makes sense to you. You will decide. Your board will recommend that you suspend and end AIWs for 2012. I think we all want to see something like that happen that would assure that our energies are directed directly to our witness. But you must decide how this is to be done and we will make it happen. We can do this work respectfully together. Now, for this I must ask, how many of you were here last year? Raise your hands please. OK, the people with their hands in the air know what the experience was and how we voted. Those of you who we're not here last year raise your hands. Those of you we're here must talk and witness to these folks, so that they are very clear on why and how we are doing this. And then together, we must take home to our congregations a sense of commitment and enthusiasm that fires the flame that is our faith. To deliver a large contingent of persons to Arizona in all of our names to do the work of justice. And most importantly, to bring that home and to do this work where we live. Just as 2012 does not happen only in Phoenix, but happens everywhere, there are Unitarian Universalists committed to the work of human rights and justice for all people. And this is our work together. Todos somos Arizona. Todos somos Arizona. Todos somos Arizona. Justice everywhere is the work of the governance of the Unitarian Universalist Association.
TOM LOUGHREY: We've done a lot of work in previous years. One of those was to change the way we nominate our moderator in future years. In 2013 we will have an election for a new moderator. The charge—yes, aw In 2013, we'll have that opportunity, but we have to be prepared now. The charge was given to the Board of Directors to do the nomination, and in our model of shared leadership, we put together a group to tell us and suggest to us a good process for doing that.
One of the major elements that came out of that was a recommendation to create a nominating committee of non-Board members for the most part, who would suggest to us and recommend one or more nominees for that position. And I'm here to introduce you to Ted Fetter, current president of the Metro New York District who will introduce the committee.
TED FETTER: Thank you, Tom. The Moderator Nominating Committee. Gee, I don't remember that from any other time there was an opening for moderator. You were right.
As Tom Loughrey has explained, the system is going to be different for the 2013 selection process. So the board has asked me to chair this new Moderator Nominating Committee and has selected also Linda Olson Peebles, Scott McNeil, two members who are not with us right now, Abhimanyu Janamanchi, who led that great synergy service last night, and the Reverend Manish Mishra. Our board liaison working with us is Jackie Shanti, Vice Moderator. There is a call for nominations for moderator, just last week put on the UUA governance website.
That's a preliminary call. We still have a few things we need to do to finish it. But the call for nominations is open now, and will remain open through October 15 of this year. If you want to be considered as a candidate for moderator starting in 2013, go to the website, follow the instructions, and let our committee know. Maybe you're not ready to be considered yourself, but maybe you know of someone whom you hope will be considered. Follow the instructions that are on the website in the call. And try to get that person interested in thinking about becoming moderator.
Now, I'm not sure I can say that the Moderator Nominating Committee will work with the Board to find the best possible candidate or candidates for moderator. But I'm absolutely sure in saying that the Moderator Nominating Committee will work with the Board to find the best possible candidate—[INAUDIBLE]
GINI COURTER: Oh God. That's right. I get to be a lame duck for two years now. Thanks, Ted. OK, now it's all good. It's all good. Actually, I want to say something before I introduce the next thing. I want to say that I have people come up to me and they say I don't know who in the world will follow you as moderator. And I remember a decade ago hearing no one could ever follow Denny Davidoff. And I was one of the people saying that, too. So I want you to trust that I will be well, incredibly well, succeeded, OK? That's where my faith is.
On we go. You have yet another UUA trustee! You must be one of the—How many of them are there, for heaven sakes?
Update: Gathered Here
GINI COURTER: Please welcome UUA Trustee from the Pacific Central District. Linda Laskowski for an update on an exciting new initiative of the UUA Administration, Board and DPA. Linda Laskowski!
LINDA LASKOWSKI: Good morning. We love you, Gini. And she's every bit as good in the board meetings as she is here.
Imagine if we could create an environment in which hundreds of our congregations were having deep conversations about what is important, and what it is we could do together.
What if a natural part of that process then was meeting with other congregations and other UU-identified organizations to uncover common themes about what has worked, and dreaming together about what could be?
Then imagine what might happen if we pulled all of that together across the Association, across districts, regions, involving thousands of Unitarian Universalists in hundreds of congregations?
What if together we created, actually, if we recreated a shared vision?
Since the Board's conversations last year with over 70 congregations that Jose referred to, we have continued to explore how we might engage on an even deeper level with congregations, including what Jose mentions in working with the District Presidents Association, to expand that effort.
Last October the potential for an exponential increase in congregational engagement took a giant step forward with a proposal that came from President Peter Morales to bring in Amanda Trosten-Bloom, a nationally known expert in Appreciative Inquiry, to lead us in a congregationally-based conversation, and including other institutions.
Appreciative Inquiry is known to many of us as a proven approach to congregational and organizational change that is based on what is working, and was used as part of the Board's work in 2008 with many of you.
David Cooperrider, who is known as the inventor of Appreciative Inquiry, says of Amanda and her co-author and business partner, Diana Whitney—I have worked with Diana and Amanda for years on projects ranging from Verizon, to the United Religious Initiative, to Hunter Douglas. And I recognized over and over again their uncanny abilities to translate theory into practice. I knew how fully their lives and work were organized around their belief in human beings' built-in bias towards goodness. And I felt confident that they would transmit the depth of what Appreciative Inquiry has to offer to individuals, organizations, and the world.
I am very pleased that Amanda Trosten-Bloom's belief in humans beings' built-in bias towards goodness is also tied to her active engagement as a Unitarian Universalist. And now she's working with us on Gathered Here, an invitation to all Unitarian Universalists to uncover our common aspirations and unleash the power of our faith.
And when we talk about creating a shared vision, the we is expanding. Not only are we the sponsorship of the UUA staff and UUA Board, but we're also endorsed by a growing list, including the Association of Unitarian Universalist Administrators, District Presidents Association, DRUUMM, the Diverse and Revolutionary Unitarian Universalist Multi-cultural Ministries, Liberal Religious Educators Association, Statewide Legislative Ministries, and the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association.
You may have seen the signs with some of these in the exhibit booths for these organizations. So come meet Amanda and other team members at the Congregational Life booth, which is 721, or preview the experience today and tomorrow at 1:00 in suite 2533 in the Westin. We did a preview—we, meaning this time the UUA Board—did a preview of three of these questions with members of the Youth Caucus yesterday and it was fantastic. Thank you, Youth Caucus.
So plan now to choose a day to hold this experience in your congregation between September and March of 2012. We'll provide training, support, and materials. Accept the invitation. Connect to something larger and together we can unleash the power of our faith.
GINI COURTER: How're you liking your UUA Board? We got more of them we' ll you later. All right.
Debate and Vote on Proposed Amendment Related to the Religious Education Credentialing Committee
GINI COURTER: So. The next item of business on our agenda would be to debate and vote on proposed amendments related to the Religious Education Credentialling Committee bylaw, and I'm looking for a motion from the Board. I recognize the delegate at the procedural microphone.
AUDIENCE: Barbara Ciccone First Parish towards the mike.
BARBARA CICCONE: Oh, towards the mike, OK. Hi. I'm a delegate for First Par—My name's Barbara Ciccone and I'm a delegate for First Parish in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
I wanted to speak to an issue that I saw in the hall yesterday. As a person with a disability, I was really noticing how the speed, and the race—because we were short of time—was for people with disabilities to get up and make a comment. And I feel that as an inclusive environment, and respect for people's worth and dignity, we really need to look at how we moved things along yesterday.
And I know we're short on time, but for many people with disabilities, they either move slowly because they have difficulty walking, there are people who don't hear very well and because of that it takes them a couple of seconds to pull it together, to hear what they get through what I call Swiss cheese, in order to put things into context.
There's many things that we need to consider for people with disabilities to be, too, participants in the process of voting. So I request that we think about that a little more.
GINI COURTER: Barbara?
BARBARA CICCONE: Yes.
GINI COURTER: First, I want to thank you very much and appreciate your remarks. We'll take them into account. I want to simply correct one thing. We were not running short on time yesterday. What we were running short of was anyone who wanted to even talk about the things we were choosing to vote on. And so I had a microphone with no one at it very frequently, even though we were going through the items, so I think the sense of rush was absence of dialogue. Again, however, I appreciate your comments and I will try to make sure that we leave enough time for people reasonably to get to a microphone. Thank you, very much.
I recognize the delegate at the procedural microphone.
DONNA HARRISON: Madam Moderator, I am Donna Harrison, the trustee from the Southwestern Conference. And in recognition of where we are on our schedule for this morning, I move that we modify the schedule for this plenary by moving to later in the schedule the following three items.
First, the debate on proposed amendments related to the Religious Education Credentialling Committee, debate and vote on the proposed amendments related to the Associate Ministerial Fellowship, and debate and vote on the proposed amendments to Bylaw Section 4.12, and that we schedule these items to be considered after the votes to admit or not admit Actions of Immediate Witness. In the event that we do not have time to consider these items before the end of this plenary session, that these be scheduled for consideration by the Assembly during Plenary VI.
GINI COURTER: Thank you. Why those particular victims?
DONNA HARRISON: These—
GINI COURTER: Do you have something against these particular items?
DONNA HARRISON: I have nothing against these particular items, and in fact, I will present the Board's statement in favor of one of them. These items received no proposed amendments during their many assemblies.
GINI COURTER: Ah, OK. So they come to us without additional need for study. Good. Is there a second for that?
AUDIENCE: I second.
GINI COURTER: Hmm, you must be wondering, why would we do this? Who's a little confused right now? OK, so let me tell you why the board is doing this. We have some items that people would like to be in Plenary IV. We are running, oh let me see just a moment, 52 minutes late.
And so the suggestion is that we take three items, two of which are really housekeeping items, move them to the end of today's time. Go with the items then that follow, which would include the debate and vote on proposed amendment about the name of the district in which we are doing business today, a substantive item on the Ministerial Fellowship Committee, and the vote for Actions of Immediate Witness which has to be done today according to our bylaws.
Then, after that—right? Right. OK. Then, after that, we'll go back to those if we have time, and if we don't we will do them on Sunday morning. Now, why don't we simply move Saturday, and Saturday into Sunday? Well, because there's an opening on Sunday morning because I had to leave time to discuss up to six Actions of Immediate Witness and there are only four.
Does this all begin to make sense? So the business that fewer people want to amend that seems to be going along, everybody is—Oh, yeah. I could vote on that as it stands—we'll move that to time that's a little less pressure. And folks who are in the hall to do specific business which was a little more interesting in the mini-assemblies, as well as the AIWs must be done in this assembly right here, we get to do that today.
So would you like to—now, do we understand that now, right? And it's your agenda so if you're ready to modify it in such way, raise your voting card please. Thank you. All those opposed. Thank you. I recognize the delegate at the—
So, when we come back in a second after this, we're going to go next to the item that is the debate and vote on proposed amendment to Rule G-13.2.1, Establishing Districts. Yes?
AUDIENCE: I'm Patricia Parcells of UU Fellowship of Corvallis. I'm also a volunteer at the Compost and Recycling table where my agenda was sitting out with my voting card paper-clipped inside. Someone has picked it up inadvertently and I would really appreciate its return.
GINI COURTER: You don't think it was accidentally composted, do you?
AUDIENCE: I looked.
GINI COURTER: Would the Secretary of the Association make a visible sign and a noise, because you can go see him and he can help you, even if it's not returned. But does someone here know they have somebody else's stuff? Well, that specific stuff. Never mind. Good. All right, so skipping forward, I recognize the delegate at the procedural microphone.
PETER FRIEDRICHS: Good morning, Madame Moderator. I am the Reverend Peter Friedrichs from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Delaware County in Media, Pennsylvania.
GINI COURTER: Yes, sir.
PETER FRIEDRICHS: I want to—
GINI COURTER: Do you have some delegates here from your congregation?
PETER FRIEDRICHS: We have 26 delegates here this year. Nearly 10% of our membership.
GINI COURTER: Thank you.
PETER FRIEDRICHS: I would like to first commend the work of the volunteers at our General Assembly this year for their commitment, and I appreciate all the work that they do. But it has been called to my attention that for people in the hall, who come into the hall who are not delegates, but who are members of the General Assembly, they are not being given the CSW alerts. And although they are not able to vote on the Actions of Immediate Witness, they should be able to be informed about them. So I would like to encourage us to hand these out to anyone who is wearing a badge, regardless of whether they're a delegate or not.
GINI COURTER: Thank you. I would actually turn to the—not in this moment to answer this, but we'll come back to this—the CSW and GA Planning Committee can come back with a statement, figure it out. Good? OK, we'll come back and find out why that is so. OK? And what the answer to that is, thank you. Excellent. OK, then.
Debate and Vote on Proposed Amendment to Change a District's Name
GINI COURTER: Next, we will consider and act upon a proposed amendment to Rule G-13.2.1 to change the district's name to Southeast District. The text of this rule may be found on page 33 of the Final Agenda. Looks like this. Will the First Vice Moderator of the UUA Board please make the appropriate motion?
JACKIE SHANTI: Moved, that Rule G-13.2.1 be amended as shown at page 33 of the Final Agenda.
GINI COURTER: Thank you. I've heard from several people that it's page 30. Let me look and I appreciate the people who like go, 30. My gosh, it is. Page 30, 3,0. Thank you for the motion.
I recognize the delegate at the procedural microphone. It was a big reach and it's you.
JAKE MORRELL: Thank you, Madam Moderator. My name is Jake Morrill. I am the minister from the Oak Ridge Unitarian Universalist Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and a trustee on the UUA Board from the Southeast District. 120 years ago this week in Norfolk, Virginia, a group of 20 families started a new congregation to share the gospel of Universalism. The good news that each of us is held by a love so stubborn that, no matter what we do in our lifetimes, we will not be let go. The preacher for these Norfolk Universalists was the Reverend Joseph Jordan, the first African American person ordained to the ministry of that radical faith.
While the congregation was mostly African American families, the spirit among them was so great, so generous, and contagious, that some white people broke through the habit of segregation and began to come, too. The gratitude with which this community received the love of the Divine was such that they were moved to start a day school for children, that the next generation might be raised and educated in that same spirit.
When the power of Universalism is realized in the world, through congregations like Joseph Jordan's in Norfolk, all things are possible. And yet, how often do we, in our human frailty, turn away from that wide and endless love? When we're lost it can take such a long time to find our way home. For almost two decades, your brothers, sisters, and transgender siblings in congregations through the South have engaged in a long and sometimes painful process to discover together how to accept the gift of Universalism, not only as comfort, but also as challenge. The challenge of declaring ourselves as the stewards of a radical love that will hold all of us.
Not two months ago, rising up through this challenge after long conversation, congregations across the South put the question to the District Assembly, by what name shall we be known? The act of naming is a holy act. A way to say who we are. To say how we will be. To claim a new name is to make a new promise. The vote was not even close. The congregations of the district I am proud to represent chose for themselves a name which affirms our commitment to live up to the standard of congregational life set by the faithful in Norfolk so long ago. This is not the end of a journey, but a time of rest at the top of a mountain to take in the beautiful view of what lies up ahead. Your Board of Trustees asks that you join the congregations of the Southeast at this mountaintop, and in this celebration, by answering the question put to you with an infinite yes.
GINI COURTER: Now there is no one at the con microphone. So I'm going to go to the pro microphone anyway—
AUDIENCE: Yes there is. Yep.
GINI COURTER: Just a second. There is now. OK. I'm still going to do what I was going to do because you taught me to do this, Dino. Hang on. Go ahead and I'm going to go to the pro microphone now and come back to you. Yes, sir?
JIM KEY: Thank you, Madame Moderator. My name is Jim Key and I'm of UU Fellowship of Beaufort, South Carolina, a Breakthrough Congregation. I also serve 63 congregations of the Southeast District.
I rise to urge the delegates to vote yes on this amendment. At our opening celebration and in workshops many of you have heard of events 18 years ago, in this city, in my district, that caused people great pain. The Thomas Jefferson Ball has been mentioned. I stand on the shoulders of leaders who have come before me who, in response to those events, and that pain, established Identity Task Forces, convened meetings, led workshops that examined white privilege, heard painful stories of exclusion and oppression, and gained cultural competencies in the process.
Good and faithful delegates to annual meetings in 1997 and 2010 considered bylaw amendments to change the name of the district, formerly known as the Thomas Jefferson District. Both initiatives failed that required two-thirds threshold by small margins.
But the democratic process was fully engaged again this year. 13 congregations made public expressions of support and brought the name change issue back to our annual meeting this past April. Delegates listened to each others' stories with compassion and when the vote was called, support for a change in our name was overwhelming.
So, after 18 years of prayer, reflection, and discernment, hearts have been touched, minds have been changed, and the arc of the moral universe was bent just a little bit towards justice. I believe this work our congregations have done will assure the multi-racial, multi-cultural world that we seek.
GINI COURTER: Thank you. I recognize the delegate at the con microphone.
DINO DRUDI: Yes, Dino Drudi from Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church in suburban Washington. Someone has to speak up on behalf of Thomas Jefferson, who is on our currency, and who was one of the authors of the Virginia Declaration for Religious Freedom.
As far as I know, he has done nothing since last year to merit having his name taken off from our district. We ought to honor, as a way of promoting our faith, the giants of our history who have been of our kind. Somehow, Southeast doesn't do the same as the name of such a giant. in my district, the Joseph Priestley District, we do honor one of our giants. And we would do well throughout the denomination for all of our districts to name them in honor of the giants of our denomination. And if it were not Thomas Jefferson, perhaps there's another from that district that they could choose.
But it would be difficult to choose someone of greater stature than one who has shaped the character of our government. And who did not even consider his being the 3rd President of our country as one of his great achievements, feeling the Virginia Declaration, and the Declaration of Independence, and establishing of the University of Virginia all to be greater achievements. Thank you.
GINI COURTER: I recognize the delegate at the procedural microphone.
REGINA LARGENT: Good morning, Madame Moderator. My name is Regina Largent and I'm representing the Church of the Larger Fellowship, although I also am a member of the First UU Church of Richmond, Virginia. I'd like to call the question.
GINI COURTER: So this is a question of whether we would like to stop with debate. Make sense? So all those in favor if you believe you have ready lots of information and you know how to vote, let's end debate. Raise your voting cards. Thank you. All those opposed. I think we're done talking then. Excellent. All those in favour of the motion please raise your voting cards. All those opposed. Thank you. Therefore Rule G-13.2.1 will be amended in the fashion in which it is shown on page 30. Mark, let's see it on screen. And so we have folks who are voting off-site. And it's coming. I'm sorry I wasn't clear. Let's show the off-site vote. Yea. Thank you. Just you remember they're there, yes? It's all good. They're out there voting.
I actually thought someone was going to ask me a procedural question, which would be what if we voted this down? And the answer would be, when we would call them they would not have to answer any more. The right to choose our names, friends. OK. All good. Thank you. Can we sing a bit? Let's sing. Let's sing. Welcome back Kellie Walker, Sarah Dan Jones.
SPEAKER 2: I've got a new name is an African American spiritual from the time of slavery. It reminds us of the importance of names. A time a name given to someone held in slavery did not reflect the true character of that individual. But in the land of freedom, there would be a new name. And whether or not we identify as female, or male, or do not want that classification, our true names are what is important. In honor of the newly-named Southeast District I invite you to please rise in body or spirit and sing with me, "I've Got New Name." If you don't know it, you can listen first and then join in.
GINI COURTER: Sarah Dan, you need this?
So I have an answer from your Commission on Social Witness and here's how it goes to procedural question that was asked by Reverend Peter Friedrichs earlier. We're trying to balance, at your request in the same way your congregation is, not having a bunch of paper at the end of the day that nobody wanted. And [UNINTELLIGIBLE] time during the day.
Apparently, yesterday we had 1,000 copies of the CSW alert that were never used. Today they printed fewer and there aren't as many, so the rules that the tellers are given is that they give one to delegates, and to any person who asks for one, if you're not a delegate. Make sense? And even right now I see that we have tellers in the hall holding them up.
So if you really want one raise your hand and someone will point in your hand. And they're going to print more tomorrow because we'll have amended text of AIWs. Does that make sense? So it sounds like our folks are trying to balance all those priorities in way that reflects our values and we should thank them.
Debate and Vote on Proposed Amendment to Article VII, Section 7.6.
GINI COURTER: And so, next we're going to consider and act upon proposed amendments to Article VII, Section 7.6 to modify the conditions for appointment to the Ministerial Fellowship Committee. This also opens the possibility of more than 14 members, and eliminates the obligation to have members of the Board of Trustees on that committee. The text of these amendments may be found at page 17 of the Final Agenda. And will the First Vice Moderator please make the appropriate motion.
JACKIE SHANTI: Moved, that Article VII, Section 7.6 be amended as shown at page 17 of the Final Agenda.
GINI COURTER: I call upon Nancy Bartlett, Trustee from the Mid-South District to give the position of your Board of Trustees.
NANCY BARTLETT: And Madame Moderator, I'm also a member of the UU Congregation of Atlanta. The Board supports the proposed amendment to Section 7.6 to allow more flexibility in the size of the Ministerial Fellowship Committee. The current bylaw restriction to 14 members has contributed to an unacceptable backlog in the number of ministerial candidates who are waiting to complete their credentialling process.
The proposed changes. They've retained the minimum of 14 members and the desired lay-minister ratio, but allow the Board to make additional appointments as needed. To accommodate the additional panels this flexibility and size would allow, the proposed amendment also increases the number of appointments by the UU Ministers Association from two to four. This change acknowledges the respect we have for our ministers' professional organization and what they bring to the credentialling process. Yet it also retains to the Board the responsibility for making just as many minister appointments, at least four, and all additional minister appointments should the MFC require them.
Finally, the amendment eliminates the requirement that UUA Trustees serve on the MFC, but does not prohibit such appointment. Requiring Board members to serve on various committees in addition to their already significant Board duties not only overloads Trustees and diverts them from their essential governance work, but limits the pool of potential trustees to those persons with extraordinary time, availability, and flexibility.
For these reasons, and out of deep respect for our ministerial candidates and our credentialling process, the UUA Board of Trustees urges the delegates to approve the proposed amendment.
GINI COURTER: Thank you.
I have no one at the con microphone, but I still want recognize the delegate at the pro microphone.
WAYNE ARNASON: Thank you, Madame Moderator. I'm Reverend Wayne Arnason from West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church near Cleveland, Ohio, and I'm the chair of the Ministerial Fellowship Committee.
I rise not to take much more, thank you, not to take much more of your time, but simply to assure the delegates of the full support of the MFC for this creative suggestion and response from the Board of Trustees to the dilemma that we've been struggling with.
As a result of our conversations with the Board, having this bylaw change will allow us to move flexibly with the demand for our interviews. The delegates may not be aware that what we do is we break our total membership down into panels, so that we can interview more than one candidate at a time. And to be able to increase the size of the committee through this bylaw amendment will allow us at our September meeting, if this passes, to add a third panel. We'll draw in some experienced members of the MFC, former members, some people from our RSCC's, our regional subcommittees. And our intention and expectation is that we'll do this again at our 3rd meeting of the year in March 2012.
We will continue to monitor the flow of candidates and try to increase our response so that we can keep before you the candidates who wish to become Unitarian Universalist ministers in a prompt and flexible way. So, thanks to the Board of Trustees for their assistance with this.
GINI COURTER: Welcome. Thank you, Wayne. I'm going to recognize one more delegate at pro microphone and you might think this is strange. But some of the pieces are starting to come together, right? Go ahead. Thank you.
LYDIA FERRANTE-ROSEBERRY: Thank you, Madame Moderator. I'm Reverend Lydia Ferrante-Roseberry. I'm the minister of the Boulder Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Lafayette, Colorado.
I'm also the vice president of the Unitarian Universalist Minister's Association, of which this amendment pertains to us as in we have been asked to provide the recommendation for two more MFC representatives and I just want to let the body know that we are fully in support of this amendment and are fully prepared to take on that responsibility.
GINI COURTER: Thank you. I recognize the delegate at the procedural microphone.
MARY FRANCIS: Yes, I'm Mary Francis from two congregations, the Unitarian Universalist Community Church in Norman, Oklahoma and the Norman Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Norman, Oklahoma. Both of which will exist for about four more days until July 1 because we are merging.
GINI COURTER: Excellent!
MARY FRANCIS: And our new name is going to be West Wind Unitarian Universalist. Not the only merger in town folks. My point is I need some clarification. It says here that no fewer than 14 members and yet if you add a, b, and c—6, 8, and 2—that makes 16. Is that a problem or is that going to be all right? Shall we change 14 to 16?
GINI COURTER: Well, the math would be different, huh? So, OK it—wait, wait, wait, wait, wait.
MARY FRANCIS: I'm sorry, I didn't see the brackets.
GINI COURTER: But now more you are curious. Can we have a live mike for UUA legal counsel which was what I was trying to do. We have an answer, we're just struggling with the tech. Go ahead.
TOM BEAN: Good morning. One of the things we've tried to do is make it clear what material is being added to the bylaws, and what material is being deleted. If material is underlined and in bold-faced type, it is an addition. If the material is in brackets it is being deleted. And the delegate was carefully reading. I note, however, that the item in c is in brackets. That's mean it's being deleted. So we're not going to consider those last two people appointed by the UUMA. And so eight and six is fourteen, but I do thank the delegate for bringing the matter to our attention, and to give an opportunity to explain to everyone what's being added and what's being deleted. So, thank you.
GINI COURTER: Thank you. That's our new legal counsel. Thank you, Tom Bean. I recognize delegate at procedural microphone.
ERICA BARON: My name is Erica Baron. I serve the Churches of Rutland and Bennington, Vermont and I'm a delegate from Rutland, Vermont.
I believe that these categories are not mutually exclusive, because one of them is ministers in final fellowship and one of them is ministers appointed by the UUMA. One person could fill both categories. I think. Right? Because the ministers appointed by the UUMA will probably be in final fellowship.
GINI COURTER: While the categories are not mutually exclusive, what is true is that one person would not fill both categories. It's descriptive of who is of the appointing body and the constraints on who the board appoints and who the UUMA provides.
ERICA BARON: OK. Never mind.
GINI COURTER: We wouldn't double dip.
ERICA BARON: OK, thank you.
GINI COURTER: OK, thank you. Good. We ready? All right. So having heard from your Board, from acclamation—from I'm assuming seminarians in the back, right? Who are saying, thanks for fixing this—from your Ministerial Fellowship Committee, from your ministers' association, it sounds like everybody is ready now to vote. All those in favor of this amendment please raise your voting cards. Thank you. All those opposed. Thank you, it clearly, overwhelmingly, amazingly, passes. OK.
Motion to Admit Actions of Immediate Witness
GINI COURTER: We will now move to consideration of Actions of Immediate Witness and this is the time to get out that lovely pink CSW Alert delegates because that's where they are. We have a question. Hang on. OK. Ready? Good. Let's go.
We will now take the first step in the process of adopting Actions of Immediate Witness. Bylaw Section 4.16 provides that not more than six Actions of Immediate Witness may be admitted to the agenda for possible action, and that two-thirds of the delegates must support the admission of each one.
Delegates will have had an opportunity to pick up a copy. Delegates and others, will have had an opportunity to obtain a copy of the proposed Actions of Immediate Witness as they came in the door or from the tables in the back. If there's any delegate who can't find a copy of this this is good time to raise your voting card so a teller can see you and put one in your hand, or near you. Couple over here we need—And just hold your cards up during this whole time while I'm talking. Until we get ready to vote on things.
The following proposed Actions of Immediate Witness qualified for possible admission to the Final Agenda. They are listed on the first page of the CSW Alert.
AIW One. Protest Representative Peter King's Hearings on Muslim quote Radicalization.
AIW Two. Support Southern California's Supermarket Workers Struggle for Decent Wages and benefits.?
AIW Three. Toward Ending the US Military Engagement in Afghanistan.
AIW Four. Oppose Citizens United. Support Free Speech for People.
The first step in screening process is a two-minute presentation by the sponsor of each Action of Immediate Witness. Following the presentation then, we will just vote. There's no opportunity to debate these. What we're trying to decide is, do we want to spend time today, mini-assembly time, time on Sunday talking about this? Is this a motion this body should consider? The motion to admit is not debatable and because we're amending the agenda they're making the amendment mike. But because the amendment mike's tight tucked back in, the CSW has just switched that with the pro mike so you can see people more easily. OK? So don't be confused, we're amending, potentially, the agenda.
So, I'm going to ask the sponsor the Action of Immediate Witness titled, Protest Representative Peter King's Hearings on Muslim Radicalization to give a two-minute presentation in favor of its admission.
GEORGIANA HART: Thanks and since you've all—Can anyone hear me? Ah, there we go. OK, I'm Georgiana Hart of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Essex County in Orange, New Jersey.
And I move to admit to the Final Agenda of the 2011 General Assembly the proposed Action of Immediate Witness that was just stated. I'll state it again. Protest Representative Peter King's Hearings on Muslim Radicalization, found on page two. I've only got two minutes but I'm going to take a couple of seconds to thank all the people who slowed down, and stopped, and listened to me while I explained this Action of Immediate Witness. Without your support I wouldn't even be standing up here today, so thanks very much.
Secondly, Muslim scapegoating has many similarities to the McCarthy era, as does the profiling of immigrants for poverty, and blaming them on poverty and unemployment. It's not the first time the tactic of divide and conquer has been utilized for the strategies of profit in war. But why Muslims, and why now? Much of the rationale for our presence in the Middle East has been Islamic terrorism. The number of civilian deaths in Iraq has been in the hundreds of thousands. In Afghanistan, tens of thousands, and in Pakistan recently surpassing Afghanistan, due to US drones. By now it's no secret that US oil companies have majority shares in the largest Iraq oil fields. So on May 21, Brooklyn UU, Shelter Rock UU and 23 other peace action Catholic, Christians, and Muslims united to protest Peter King's headquarters. We showed our strength of 60-some against only five or six of his supporters.
I got the idea that other UUs across the country could initiate such actions, such as urging all our local Congressional representatives to halt his hearings. So in conclusion, the TAPI pipeline agreement signed May 28 of this year, but initiated in the early 90's by UCAL and international oil remains under the radar of popular news sources. But the harangue of Islamic terror and US presence in the Middle East still is justified by the open hearings of the likes of Peter King. We in this room have the choice of years of death in the guise of fighting Islamic terrorism or to join the interfaith coalition for multi-racial unity and—
GINI COURTER: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. OK
All those who would like to put this on your final agenda for Sunday raise your voting cards. Thank you. All those who don't want to do this. This motion clearly carries. We will be having a mini-assembly and then talking about this on Sunday. OK. and 19 of 21 people voting offline also would like us to be talking about this on Sunday. That's cool. I'd like to hear now from—and I want to apologize. You saw us let the clock run over. It's because the clock actually starts when the person has made the motion and is giving their statement. We didn't get it right the first time, so we added an additional 30 seconds on for the last delegate, which was almost enough.
I'm going to ask I'd like next to hear about AIW entitled, Support Southern California Supermarket Workers' Struggle for Decent Wages and Benefits.
RICK RHOADS: Thank you, Gini. I'm Rick Rhoads. I'm a delegate from the UU Community Church of Santa Monica, California and the chair of our Faith and Action Commission. I move to admit to the Final Agenda of the 2011 General Assembly the proposed Action of Immediate Witness titled, Support Southern California Supermarket Workers' Struggle for Decent Wages and Benefits, that is found on page two of today's CSW Alert.
The contract of 62,000 Southern California supermarket workers expired in March, and the chains Von's, Ralph's, and Albertson's appeared determined to cut their health benefits and pensions, and continue the practice of giving very many workers only 24 hours of work per week. The workers voted to authorize a strike and the strike is likely to happen in the next week or two.
These workers face tremendous difficulties. Republicans and many Democrats promote shared sacrifice as a way out of the Great Recession. We've seen that shared sacrifice does not mean banks cutting interest on the debt to our broken cities, nor corporations cutting their profits. Shared sacrifice means that working people, us, our families, our children share all the sacrifice. Here at GA we passed the Statement on Ethical Eating that affirms the rights of food workers, from those who grow it to those who distribute it. And we've had many workshops on the need to oppose racism and sexism, and support the rights of immigrants. The workers in Southern California's supermarkets are disproportionately black, Latino, immigrants, and female.
This AIW calls upon us and our congregations to put our faith into action by supporting this strike. In Southern California, we can support it directly. Outside Southern California, congregations can do everything from write letters, to collect pledges, to not shop at markets owned by the same conglomerates—Safeway, Kroger, and SuperValu. This is not charity. The brothers and sisters are fighting in our interest against a culture that considers unemployment, layoffs, furlough days, and wage cuts to be the new normal. Furthermore, as Reverend Peter Morales has told us, for our Association to survive and grow, we must be relevant to these demographics nonwhites, immigrants, and the—
GINI COURTER: Thank you.
RICK RHOADS: —working class.
GINI COURTER: Thank you
RICK RHOADS: Supporting these workers is such an opportunity. Thank you.
GINI COURTER: All those—Ready? All those who'd like to have this on your agenda for Sunday, mini-assemblies today, and so on, please raise your voting cards. Thank you. All those opposed. We will be adding this item to the agenda. Thank you very much.
Can I please hear now from the proponent of AIW number three, Toward Ending the US Military Engagement in Afghanistan.
RICHARD KOPP: Thank you. I'm Richard Kopp, a member of the Huntington, New York Fellowship, and convener of the Peacemaking Caucus of our Peace and Justice Council. This Action of Immediate Witness was developed by our Peacemaking Caucus and has been endorsed by the UU Peacemaking Ministry. I move to admit to the Final Agenda of the 2011 General Assembly the proposed Action of Immediate Witness titled, Toward Ending the US Military Engagement in Afghanistan. And that can be found on the bottom of page three in today's CSW Alert.
I'm gratified that I have this opportunity to ask the delegates to place this on the agenda. This is going to be our one time together that we can do so. While I was asking delegates to sign the petition, several people did so visibly moved. They were those who had sons, or grandsons. They were sons who have been deployed, are deployed, will soon be deployed to Afghanistan. We know very well that the burdens and sorrows of war, this war, all wars, fall unduly on some more than they do on others. And we should not sit silently as silent bystanders to this continuing war now going on 10 years long. This is the time for us speak out for an end to the present course of the war. To speak out in support of setting a course for US withdrawal, and particularly withdrawal of US combat forces. And beyond that we need to act together to end the course of the war in Afghanistan for all the Afghans.
I see three difficult goals. One. Though President Obama has announced withdrawal of some 30,000 US troops by September 2014, we need to support a safe and orderly redeployment of all our combat forces. To keep our troops safe and to maximize security for Afghans in doing so.
A second one, and it is more difficult. We need to urge peacemaking and peace building as our own statement of conscience on creating peace [? call—?] I urge you to support.
GINI COURTER: Thank you. Thank you.
I recognize the delegate at the off-site procedural microphone.
SALLY GELLERT: Hi. Sally Jane Gellert, Central Unitarian Church, Paramus, New Jersey. This is really cool. My question is thought that there had been an Action of Immediate Witness proposed on behalf of Tim DeChristopher of Utah who was in, how cool, who was in who rose to protest the at least guesses auctions and was sentenced was supposed to be sentenced yesterday and there was an Action of Immediate Witness proposed I understand it gathered 190 signatures and yet I do not see it here and I wondered—what derailed it or why it was pulled or what? What? Thank you.
GINI COURTER: Thank you, Sally. I've asked for a brief explanation from the chair of the Commission on Social Witness, David May. David?
DAVID MAY: Right. We have criteria other than providing 150 signatures. It's grounding, fit, opportunity, immediacy, specificity, and civil language. All of them did well this year on that topic. We found with this one and two others that often it's the issue of specificity, immediacy, and this one had talked about the particular individual that was going to have a sentencing hearing, but it was also advocating for stopping global warming, and doing things for future generations, and so we felt that the immediacy level was not there. So it didn't meet our criteria. They did get the signatures.
GINI COURTER: Thank you, David. Thank you, Sally for your question.
We now are at a point where we would need to vote to place the Action of Immediate Witness on the agenda that we last heard about. Let me read it's title, Toward Ending US Military Engagement in Afghanistan. All those in favor of placing that on the agenda, please raise your voting cards. Thank you. All those opposed. We will be talking about this as well.
And finally our fourth proposed Action of Immediate Witness that met the criteria noted in the bylaws, I recognize the delegate at microphone.
KINDRA MUNTZ: Thank you, Madame Moderator. My name is Kindra Muntz and I'm a member of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Venice, Florida and the Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of Florida that is proposing this AIW proposal. Sorry.
I move to amend to the Final Agenda of the 2011 General Assembly the proposed Action of Immediate Witness titled, Oppose Citizens United Support Free Speech for People. UUs have an immediate opportunity to help elevate this issue of national importance to the presidential debates for 2012, by joining the movement to overturn the Supreme Court decision in the case of Citizens United v. The Federal Election Commission. This landmark decision has already upended our democratic republic by allowing corporations to spend unlimited money to influence elections. It cannot be solved by passing a law. It requires a constitutional amendment. We, the people, can shorten the time to achieve such an amendment by raising a hue and cry nationwide now to get the issue on the agenda for the presidential debates for 2012.
This is critical because this is the first presidential cycle to be affected by this landmark, unprecedented decision. The way to do it is to get one member of our state legislatures to file a resolution urging the United States Congress to pass and send to the states for ratification, a constitutional amendment to restore the First Amendment and fair elections to the people.
Five states have already done this—New Mexico, Oregon, Washington state, Vermont, and Massachusetts. Nine towns in Massachusetts have already filed resolutions in their town councils. UUs all over the country can help press their state legislatures and towns to follow suit. Social justice committees of congregations can help. Legislative ministries and our national UU state advocacy network can help.
If your state does not yet have a UU legislative ministry, please form one. What a wonderful thing it would be if UUs nationwide took a leadership role in this critical effort. It gives teeth to our first and fifth principles. It stands on the side of love of every person in this country. Please consider the alternative—Living in a land where we, the people, are replaced by we, the corporations.
Let's speak out now against the outrage of the Citizens United decision and raise the need to overturn this ruling to all Americans via the presidential debates.
GINI COURTER: Thank you. There's just a special joy in that isn't there? Like at the bell. I think you're ready to vote this one, too. All those who would like to talk more about this and vote on this on Sunday. Thank you. All those opposed. We have admitted all four Actions of Immediate Witnesses to the agenda for Sunday. I want to draw your attention to right where were—you don't have to run, we're good for second. Notice CSW Alert. Let's go back to that. 1 o'clock today. Mini-assemblies. You looked at one of these and you think, I want to change it just a little tiny bit, or had they thought this? Go! OK? Go to the mini-assemblies. And the rooms are listed right here, in case we passed them, which we did.
I also want to note for those of you who are here for the first time. Gordon Martin, our parliamentarian, can't remember another year when there were not at least six items brought as Actions of Immediate Witness, whatever that tells us. This is not the norm.
I recognize the delegate at the procedural microphone.
TERESA ALLEN: Thank you, Madame Moderator. My name is Teresa Allen and I'm with Northwoods Unitarian Universalist Church in The Woodlands, Texas. And I would like to know the off-site votes on those last two votes, if you can. Thank you.
GINI COURTER: I could. I don't announce them all, but can we see the last two, the question is, for the off-site votes? This is the last one. Now the votes weren't burning in the system this year, so I'm announcing sometimes and if there's somebody at a microphone, I will always recognize them. But I'm actually seeing every single vote. They don't count in the total this year. They will next year, based on actions that this body has taken, right? Go ahead.
MARY FRANCIS: Yes, Madame Moderator. I'm Mary Francis from the newly-merged—
GINI COURTER: Yep.
MARY FRANCIS: —congregation now known as West Wind Unitarian Universalist Congregation—
GINI COURTER: I'm on it.
MARY FRANCIS: —in Norman, Oklahoma.
GINI COURTER: I'm on it. What you got?
MARY FRANCIS: I have a question. Is it possible for this body—this body to overrule the commission's decision on the Tim DeChristopher Immediate Witness?
GINI COURTER: No.
MARY FRANCIS: It's not possible for this body to do that?
GINI COURTER: No. And that's because in the bylaws you have given that commission powers to operate on our behalf. OK? And this is another education piece for the house. The alternative is that all of us will come together and we'll spend all of our time with as many AIWs as was put together, debating them, and figuring out whether we want to debate them.
So we put some folks in—we empower a group of folks to have a set of criteria to work with people. Part of operating in a democracy and a faith in which we vote is, sometimes we don't agree with the decision OK? And we just go, OK, and we move on. Are we good?
Thank you. So the long term solution is, if you don't like this decision, vote him out and get some commissioners you agree with. I don't think so. Hello. We love our Commission on Social Witness don't we? If you've never made a decision that people disagreed with, please come see me for a ice cream cone later.
GINI COURTER: Do we have any announcements Tom, or nothing we need to discuss?
I think we have some announcements—Secretary, and do we have some Right Relations items? Please don't leave. We are close to done. I need—Folks, we're almost done, if you could hang in there, because this becomes an accessibility issue for folks with scooters and things. This isn't the football game. You don't know what the final score is yet.
TOM LOUGHREY: Real quickly. We were asked about the Service of the Living Tradition collection the other night. It was so good, it took 'til yesterday morning finish counting it. It is up 30% from last year, and it totalled $81,300.
I've also been asked to make sure people stop by the GA office, 105. They're about to be moved out with an awful lot of lost and found. Some of it might be yours. You'll want to get it before I have chance to do my Christmas shopping on Sunday evening.
And I've also been asked to give a shout out for all the folks who helped in the rain yesterday in the marsh. There were a lot of folks that did some extra stuff, so a shout out to them.
And last, if you haven't seen the front page of the Charlotte Observer. As our president, Peter Morales says, we're above the fold. Thank you.
Oh. I want to introduce for one final announcement our newest Trustee-at-Large, Reverend Clyde Grubbs.
CLYDE GRUBBS: Good midday. I'm Clyde Grubbs. I'm the co-president of DRUUMM, the Diverse Revolutionary Unitarian Universalist Multicultural Ministries. And on Thursday we presented Singing for Arizona, a workshop to prepare us for being in General Assembly 2012, singing. And the people at the workshop asked us to create some way to follow up on that workshop so we could learn the songs. So here's our followup.
LILIA CUERVO: So I am Lilia Cuervo, associate minister at First Parish in Cambridge. We are happy to announce that DRUUM the Revolutionary UU Ministers and LUUNA the Latino/Latina Unitarian Universalist Association and—
SPEAKER 3: The Unitarian Universalist Musicians Network.
LILIA CUERVO: —have a Facebook page where we will continue the conversation we started about hymns, music, settings and any other experiences with a hymnal, Las Voces del Camino, or any experience that you want to share in that Facebook page. Thank you.
GINI COURTER: What's the page to look for? What's the page name?
CLYDE GRUBBS: La voces.
GINI COURTER: Laboces?
SPEAKER 5: Las Voces.
GINI COURTER: OK so just look for—go to—Who's on Facebook? OK. So you or somebody who is, just search las voces, OK? That's what you'll find it. I'll get it captioned proper, right. No i. v, o, c, e, s OK? Las voces. Good? Need more information? You saw them leave. They're right over here. Body tackle them and ask them good questions.
GINI COURTER: OK, so there being no further business to come before us, and in accordance with the schedule set forth your Final Agenda, I declare that this session is in recess until this afternoon at 2:45. Y'all come back now. Have a great lunch.
And please be kind to let folks with scooters, walkers, canes, crutches, moving slowly just smelling the roses. Anyone moving who needs assistance by you getting out of their way, please do so. Hi Mark. Who Knows?
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Last updated on Monday, February 27, 2012.
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