Plenary VI, General Assembly 2013
General Assembly (GA) 2013 Event 4003
Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Moderator Gini Courter presides over the plenary sessions in which the business of the Association is being conducted.
Reports from UU World
- Three Proposed AIWs Added to 2013 Agenda
- Delegates Approve Bylaw Changes Adding Regions
- Rev. Mel Hoover receives Distinguished Service Award
- Delegates Consider Six Action of Immediate Witness (AIW) Proposals
- Charlie King Receives President’s Award for Volunteer Service
Late-arriving items may require rearrangement of the agenda as published.
- Call to Order
- Chalice Lighting
- Update on the 2011 Statement of Conscience: Ethical Eating
- Update on UU Legislative Ministries
- Presentation of the President’s Award for Volunteer Service
- Overview of Process for Actions of Immediate Witness
Selection of Potential Actions of Immediate Witness
- Selected: Proposed AIW A: Consider Divestment from the Fossil Fuel Industry
- Proposed AIW B: Stop Persecuting Whistleblowers
- Selected: Proposed AIW C: Support the proposed 28th “WE THE PEOPLE” Amendment to the Constitution: Corporations are not persons and money is not speech.
- Proposed AIW D: Stop Force-Feeding Prisoners at Guantanamo!
- Proposed AIW E: Protection of Digital Rights, including privacy and freedom from unreasonable search and seizure.
- Selected: Proposed AIW F: Condemn the mass incarceration, killing, and mistreatment of young men of color by police
- Presentation of the Distinguished Service Award
- Report of the UUA Board of Trustees
- Statements by Candidates for the UUA Board of Trustees
- Debate and Vote on Proposed Amendment to Enable Regions: Bylaw Section C-3.6, 13.1, 13.2, 13.4, and Rule G-13.2.1
- Debate and Vote on Proposed Bylaw Changes to Bylaw Section 3.1: Member Congregations
- Voting to Admit Potential Actions of Immediate Witness to the Agenda
- Right Relationship Team Report
Call to Order
GINI COURTER: I now call to order the sixth plenary session of the 52nd General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association. Please be in order. Let's have a chalice lighting.
SUSAN: This chalice holds our grateful hearts, hearts open wide by your generosity.
VIRGINIA: Super storm Sandy destroyed our homes, cast us into darkness, and washed away our lives as we knew them.
SUSAN: And you sent love in the form of notes and cards and children's drawings to kids. We know about hurricanes, they say.
VIRGINIA: Hearts opened wide by trucks full of help, shovels, brooms, and cleaning supplies.
SUSAN: Hearts open wide by gifts, great and small. Unitarian Universalists traveling hundreds of miles to muck out the houses, to bring the nebulizers, dry clothes, food, and fuel, to greet the sorrowful.
VIRGINIA: When a storm created havoc, weeks without power and water, towering trees broken like toothpicks, waters rising, winds howling—
SUSAN: Unitarian Universalists showed up with tools and their youth groups to toil in the basements, to plant the community gardens, to serve the food, to minister with those who still have no place to live.
VIRGINIA: When we did not know where to turn or how to pay the next bill, the Surge Disaster Relief Fund saved us. When all else was confusion and despair, our faith community, you, were there for us.
SUSAN: To those who gave what they had so that families could live together again in a place free of the ever—present black mold—
VIRGINIA: Through your generosity, we see how united we are, across difference and distance, united in spirit, united in action, in vision and compassion.
SUSAN: Through your generosity, we understand more about what Unitarian Universalist can be, because of what we always have been deep down.
VIRGINIA: Congregations devoted to service, to the greater good, to love and justice.
SUSAN: Congregations determined to forge a relationship with other congregations sunk in the aftermath of a storm that is still surging in so many ways.
VIRGINIA: We light this chalice as a symbol of our unity, of our gratitude, and of our faith.
SUSAN: One of our congregations has forged a new motto— "Love flows from the rivers to the oceans and from our hearts to yours and back again."
TOGETHER: We light this chalice with grateful hearts and hopeful spirits for a shared faith that continues to flow for us, through our troubles and our joys.
GINI COURTER: Thank you Susan and Virginia. Now please welcome Reverend Peggy Clarke and colleagues for an update on this body's 2011 Statement of Conscience entitled Ethical Eating.
Update on the 2011 Statement of Conscience: Ethical Eating
REV. PEGGY CLARKE: Good morning. I'm the Reverend Peggy Clarke, and I chair the President's Advisory Committee for Ethical Eating. I have with me here a portion of our committee— Nancy King Smith and the Reverends Beth Johnson and David Breeden. We have for you a video— it's, I promise, all of three minutes long, but I'm hoping that it gives you a sense of what we've been up to and where we still have to go.
Thank you very much. If you want to join the revolution, come see any of us.
GINI COURTER: Please welcome our friend, the Reverend Lindi Ramsden.
REV. LINDI RAMSDEN: Good morning, everybody. For the past decade, I've had the pleasure and privilege of serving as senior minister and executive director of the UU Legislative Ministry of California.
REV. LINDI RAMSDEN: Keep going, guys. Get everybody up there. We have been identifying, training, cultivating, and connecting leaders in communities to bring our UU values more powerfully into the public square. And we're here to say it's working. And California is not alone. Across the country, UU state advocacy networks are organizing now in 20 states.
REV. LINDI RAMSDEN: Together we are building the infrastructure of UU justice making, because to create systemic change, to implement the lofty resolutions we pass here, requires sustained, staffed justice ministry at multiple levels. As we wait for the Supreme Court to rule on marriage equality, we have a little amicus brief up there at the Supreme Court. It's there on our behalf. This is just one example of what your networks can do for you by working together.
So joining me on stage are representatives and colleagues from many of the state networks. They're doing amazing work. Show them a little love.
REV. LINDI RAMSDEN: I just was informed that they have lost our video. But they will be showing it at the start of the next plenary. That video shows you the story of the UU state advocacy networks. It's called What's Your State of Justice? And you can also find it on YouTube.
So thank you very much for your time this morning. We look forward to showing you the work in person, through the video, which you'll get a chance to see at the beginning of the next plenary. Thank you.
GINI COURTER: We're going to see if we can even get that on in this plenary, OK? All right. This is cool. These things happen sometimes, OK? But we're actually going to send— Lindi, keep right on going to the curtain. Tim, I'm sending Lindi to see you because she's got a USB in her pocket. Aren't those amazing, exciting things, USBs? All right, cool. Thank you.
Please welcome your UUA president, the Reverend Peter Morales, to present an award.
Presentation of the President’s Award for Volunteer Service
REV. PETER MORALES: Good morning. The President's Annual Award for Volunteer Service to the Unitarian Universalist Association is given to people designated by the president as having performed extraordinary and vital volunteer service to the UUA. I'm pleased to honor Charlie King as the 2013 recipient of this award.
REV. PETER MORALES: So let me tell you a little bit of background story about Charlie and begin with a story of his coming to Unitarian Universalism. Charlie began to embrace Unitarian values in 1955 as a courageous journalist for his college paper. Hundreds of copies of his provocative essay in support of integration were confiscated and destroyed by the dean of his college just before distribution— or so the dean hoped.
That night, Charlie and friends went through the trash, pieced together a proof, and brought it to the local newspaper. The next morning, it was published, picked up by the Associated Press, and plastered across the country.
REV. PETER MORALES: Within a year after this notoriety, Charlie made his membership in the Unitarian faith official. It didn't take long for his congregation to recognize an inspirational leader. They elected him as a lay minister two months later. Eventually, with moves and marriage, he found a spiritual home in the First Unitarian Congregational Society in Brooklyn, and this marks his 50th year of membership in that congregation.
REV. PETER MORALES: Charlie's significant leadership skills have been tested and challenged, honed, and so very much appreciated. Charlie has chaired a search committee, task forces on accessibility issues, served two four—year terms in the General Assembly Planning Committee, with two years as the chair of it. He served as church trustee four times and as board president for two terms. During his tenure as president, he helped smooth relationships with UUA leadership and the black UUA caucus. He also risked court martial while publicly preparing the Brooklyn congregation for possible backlash during the sanctuary movement for those who faced possible arrest for resisting service in Vietnam.
Most recently, Charlie served on our national UUA board as a trustee at large for nearly eight years. In this role, he was liaison for five years to the Annual Program Fund and for years to the Right Relationship Committee. It's obvious that Charlie is deeply committed to our faith. He loves church work, and he must love meetings.
His life of volunteer service has changed the way we experience General Assembly. Charlie was instrumental in adding, organizing, and promoting daily worship for this gathering. And we can't imagine it any other way now.
REV. PETER MORALES: He was instrumental in developing accessibility services at GA, providing scooters and another accommodations for those who need these services, and we can't imagine it any other way now either.
REV. PETER MORALES: Charlie's a strong and tireless advocate for racial equality, for the rights of people with disabilities, for creating a culture of generosity to support Unitarian Universalism well into the future. For your gifts to the association, Charlie, we are tremendously grateful. And in your honor, the UUA will donate $1,000 to the charity of your choice. It gives me great pleasure now to bestow the President's Award for Volunteer Service to Charlie King.
GINI COURTER: The folks on our tech deck are working wiki wiki to get the video so we can see it yet in this plenary which is a great thing. Just having it isn't enough. We have things we do with stuff like this. Excellent.
Is that Dr. Susan Goekler? Are you ready to talk with folks about the process for Actions of Immediate Witness? It must be that day. How many of you are interested in actions of immediate witness? They're your people. Let's go.
Overview of Process for Actions of Immediate Witness
DR. SUSAN GOEKLER: OK, we're going to need your honeydew sheet of paper and your lemon delegate card and your program book. So if you'll get out your program book, and you will notice on page 74 that there is information about actions of immediate witness. And these are statements that this body feels are about issues that are important enough that we need to say something before we leave tomorrow.
So we have six groups that have decided that there are some issues that they think meet those criteria. It is up to you this morning, based on the rules found in the bylaws on page 103, section 4.16— if you want to read that— to narrow these six down to three. Tomorrow you will vote on the actual language of those. Today you are voting on are there three topics that you feel are worthy and important enough that you want to spend some time on this afternoon in mini—assemblies and tomorrow in plenary to see about actually making a statement.
So here's the process. You get the honeydew sheet, and you look at the proposed AIW that are on the second and third page. These are in random order. They're not in any prioritized order. The letters that are there correspond to the letters on your lemon ballot card at the bottom stub. A is divestment of fossil fuel industry, B is stop persecuting whistle blowers, C, the We the People amendment, D, force feeding prisoners, E, digital rights, and F is mass incarceration of young men of color.
You now are to take out a pencil, pen, some kind of writing implement, and select up to three that you would like to see move forward. If you do more than three, your ballot will be invalid. If you select one three times, that will be invalid. If you only do two or only do one, that's fine. So right now, take out your pens, pencils, fill this out, just this stub. The A, B, C, D, E, or F refer to what's on this piece of paper. And then you're going to tear this stub off if you are a delegate. And this is going to be passed down the isle and the ushers are going to collect them. Any questions?
The statements themselves, the full statements, are at the CSW booth. They're not available now because you're not voting on the full statement. You're only voting on the concept or the topic. At the mini—assemblies this afternoon, you'll have an opportunity to look at the full statement and then to make decisions about whether you want to revise the wording on those. So you're really voting on the concepts, not on the actual language of the statement.
Don't vote yet. Sorry. We were going to hear statements from the proponents of each of these. Each one has two minutes to tell you about their issue.
GINI COURTER: So to be clear, now. Having looked at these, have you gotten an overview of the landscape here on the cantaloupe sheet? Is that cantal— honeydew was the name this morning. Honeydew. I'm liking honeydew. Yeah, I've actually seen that melon. All right. Good. We're going to hear from the six proposers in order. So I'm going to recognize the delegate at the pro microphone for a two minute statement.
Selection of Potential Actions of Immediate Witness
- Selected: Proposed AIW A: Consider Divestment from the Fossil Fuel Industry
- Proposed AIW B: Stop Persecuting Whistleblowers
- Selected: Proposed AIW C: Support the proposed 28th “WE THE PEOPLE” Amendment to the Constitution: Corporations are not persons and money is not speech.
- Proposed AIW D: Stop Force—Feeding Prisoners at Guantanamo!
- Proposed AIW E: Protection of Digital Rights, including privacy and freedom from unreasonable search and seizure.
- Selected: Proposed AIW F: Condemn the mass incarceration, killing, and mistreatment of young men of color by police
REV. FRED SMALL: Good morning.
GINI COURTER: Good morning.
REV. FRED SMALL: I'm the Reverend Fred Small, Senior Minister, First Parish in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Unitarian Universalists understand that climate is a justice issue. Global warming is theft from the most vulnerable people on earth, most of them poor and of color, and from children and youth everywhere. Flood, drought, famine, heat waves, extreme storms, agricultural collapse— these are no longer future dangers. They are upon us, and they will get worse.
Right now, a worldwide movement for divestment from fossil fuels is catching fire, igniting the passions of students and community activists and people of faith fed up with gridlock in the US Congress and business as usual in the boardrooms while the earth burns. Will we join this movement, or will we oppose it? Will Unitarian Universalists lead or surrender moral leadership to other religious movements?
The American economy today is as fatally entangled in fossil fuels as it was in slavery in 1850, when too many Unitarians and Universalists were apologists for that monstrous institution. Will we have the courage and the clarity to disentangle ourselves from the fossil fuel industry and fight back? If it is wrong to wreck the climate, then it is wrong to profit from that wreckage. This AIW invites a conversation within our congregations— just a conversation— about divesting from fossil fuels. Let us begin.
GINI COURTER: Thank you. I recognize the delegate at the off—site procedural microphone.
SALLY GELLERT: Hi, Gini. This is Sally Gellert from Central Unitarian in Paramus, New Jersey. I was wondering whether this could be handled as a responsive resolution to the financial report, whether we could do that and have three other actions of immediate witness, or whether we have to pass this [INAUDIBLE].
GINI COURTER: So I believe I understand your question. And let me double check with you, Sally, that the question is would be possible for us simply to do this AIW, A, as a responsive resolution this year and move on to the other AIWs. Is that your question?
SALLY GELLERT: Yes. In terms of responding to the financial report of the endowment fund, I guess.
GINI COURTER: Correct. So that would have been possible, but it actually is not at this point, because our rules of procedure state that any proposal that's been submitted as an action of immediate witness cannot be submitted as a responsive resolution in the same year. So if we want to do this this year, we would have to—
SALLY GELLERT: Understood.
GINI COURTER: —vote this proposal.
SALLY GELLERT: OK.
GINI COURTER: Thank you. I recognize the delegate at the pro microphone.
KAREN COURTS: Hi, my name is Karen [? Courts, ?] and I'm from Deerfield, Illinois. My proposed AIW is entitled Stop Persecuting Whistleblowers. The whistleblower issue has been in the news lately, as you know, involving Mr. Snowden. And it's something that we have a long history of dealing with, starting with Daniel Ellsberg, or maybe even before, depending on how you define whistleblower.
So I think it's very important that we make a statement that we support whistleblowers who are fighting for justice and— I'm sorry. I'm having trouble with my voice lately. Our government wants to silence these people and punish them, and I think it's important that we stand up and show that we support those who stand for justice. Thank you.
GINI COURTER: Thank you. I recognize the delegate, the taller delegate— they were adjusting the mic stand. I recognize the delegate at the pro microphone.
MICHAEL GREENMAN: Thank you, Madam Moderator. I'm Michael Greenman from the First UU Church of Columbus and in UUs for a Just Economic Society. I've been a UU for 50 plus years, and I believe what President Peter Morales told us a couple of days ago, and I paraphrase— we UUs have always led the way. We build alliances with other faith communities to do together what none of us can do alone. Today, we can do this again.
Look at us— our democracy is a mess. Huge corporations write the laws and buy our elections with unlimited amounts of money. Government is completely ineffective, and our constitution has been hijacked. When a 2012 presidential candidate said, "Of course corporations are people, my friends," he was telling the truth. And Congress can't take these rights away that the Supreme Court have been giving them for the last 127 years. Only we the people, for whom the Constitution was written, can do that.
The UUJEC is offering an action of immediate witness to support the proposed 28th amendment to the Constitution, which states, corporations are not persons, and money is not speech. The amendment was drafted by Move to Amend, a national grassroots organization coalition, and submitted by representatives Rick Nolan of Minnesota and Mark Pocan of Wisconsin on 14 February.
When adopted, it will once and for all completely remove corporations from the Constitution. The UUA and the UUSC have both endorsed Move to Amend. So have many of our congregations. This week, hundreds of you told us you want this change and are already working for it in your communities and your congregations. We can talk about this for years with study action issues and statements of conscience, or we can make this happen starting this week. By approving this 28th amendment AIW, we can be the catalyst in a national campaign that will eliminate corporate personhood, separate money from speech, and restore democracy to we the people.
GINI COURTER: That was every last second exactly. Somebody had their hand on the bell. OK, I recognize the delegate at the pro microphone.
KATHY LORR: Hi, I'm Kathy Lorr from the UU Church of Silver Spring Maryland, and I urge that we condemn force feeding at Guantanamo. In the human rights world, many strongly believe that the force feeding of Guantanamo prisoners is brutal and inhumane, verging on torture. Hunger strikers protesting their indefinite detention without due process are taken twice a day by government employees to the feeding block and strapped into restraint chairs, where nurses force a feeding tube into their nostrils and down into their stomachs.
In a process that may last up to two hours, patience report extreme pain, nausea, difficulty breathing, and a feeling of pressure in their lungs and chest as if they were drowning. The American Medical Association has said force feeding violations core ethical values of the medical profession. The New England Journal of Medicine urged Guantanamo's prison doctors not to take part in the procedure and say that force feeding a competent person is not the practice of medicine; it is aggravated assault.
The International Committee of the Red Cross, the World Medical Association, and the American Medical Association have said competent adults have the right to refuse medical treatment and that force feeding competent adults is never ethically acceptable. As one Navy lieutenant commander asserted, force feeding cannot be justified on the theory that it preserves life because these prisoners have no meaningful life. In essence, by keeping these people here, we have already killed their soul and their spirit and taken away their dignity. Under such circumstances, human beings have the right to choose whether to live or die.
If we profess to believe in the inherent worth and dignity of every person and in justice and compassion, this General Assembly should condemn this in the strongest terms possible and demand the President of the United States, as commander in chief of the armed forces, order the immediate termination of this practice.
GINI COURTER: Thank you, again. I recognize the delegate at the pro microphone.
PAULINE URBANS: Thank you. Digital privacy is not about keeping secrets. It is about preserving freedom.
GINI COURTER: I'm sorry. I need to start you again. Please tell us who you are and where you're from.
PAULINE URBANS: Oh, I'm sorry. My name is Pauline Urbans. I'm representing the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Athens, Ohio. And I am here in support of protecting our digital rights.
GINI COURTER: Thank you.
PAULINE URBANS: Digital privacy is not about keeping secrets. It's about preserving freedom. The Fourth Amendment speaks to the protection of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures. Our founding fathers, including Benjamin Franklin, were just starting to learn about electricity when the Constitution was written. They had no concept of digital data. Yet I am confident that if they had known, they would have affirmed that papers include all documents, whether on skin, on paper, or composed of electrons.
The Fourth Amendment also refers to effects. It is difficult for me to understand how our physical devices— this is our cell phones, tablets, and computers— are not protected effects. Yet in recent years, the federal government, and in some cases local and state governments, have taken these devices and downloaded their content without consent, without warrant, or due process. If our constitutional protections do not apply to all of our papers and effects, then we risk losing all of our freedoms. Thank you.
GINI COURTER: Thank you.
GINI COURTER: I recognize the delegate at the pro microphone.
PAUL EISEMANN: Thank you and good morning. My name is Paul Eisemann. I'm from the Brooklyn congregation. Yo, Charlie! Looking good, dude. I am a carpenter by trade and a little later in my life started traveling and doing some preaching. Now, any similarities to another figure, historical or fiction, that's exactly where it ends.
And we've all heard of the laying out of hands biblically. But there's a more contemporary version I'd like to speak to you about this morning. I would urge you all to take action against the racist stop and frisk policies taking place at this very moment through our land. And now in this moment and in this moment and all the moments that we will sit here, thousands and thousands of young men and women of color particularly will be degraded. And tomorrow and the day after and the day after.
Now, I stand neither against law enforcement nor proper authority, but this legal contra dance around the Fourth Amendment is aided and abetted through our individual and collective inactivity. Our eloquence is in our deeds more than our words. Our legacy lies not in our literature so much as in our literally what we do or do not do.
There is a large, powerful machine that supports the degrading and racist policy of stop and frisk. Where is our line in the sand? What is our verb? Playing with social justice fire yields far more results, well, with oneself. Action Immediate Witness, AIW. Thank you, Paulie.
GINI COURTER: I recognize the delegate at the procedural microphone.
JODI MALLOY: Madame Moderator, hi. I'm Jodi Malloy, and I'm from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Delaware County in Media, Pennsylvania. Over in our section there was a little confusion earlier, when we were being told what we were going to need to do by checking off the three on our ballot. We thought we were being told to do it then. So most of us checked off our ballots before hearing these statements. I'm worried that if we change our ballots, all of our ballots are going to be discounted. On the other hand, I'm worried that I'm not able to vote after hearing and having a better understanding what I really want to vote.
GINI COURTER: Hang on a second. Let me make sure we can do, OK? I probably need Marlene, Jerry. Marlene? Yeah, come here a second.
I get to vote now too. No, I'm kidding. Thank you, Mary Beth, for the quick prop. This is a good thing. So I'm talking to our folks who actually count the votes, because the voting happens into the auspices of our teller and usher group. We could thank them again right now.
GINI COURTER: And because we're going to churn a lot of ballots, they're going to be assisted by the folks from the Commission on Social Witness. All right. So here's the deal— because I actually had the same— how many of you already marked, and you're pre—marked? OK, normally in the normal course of events if you start scratching stuff out, it's a spoiled ballot, right?
Here's what I want you to do. If you want to change your votes on any of them, I want you to draw a line through all of them— OK, a line that goes up and down through all the boxes— and then mark what you do want in the margin to the left. Does that make sense? Let me say that one more time so I'm abundantly clear. Let's say you voted for A, B, and C, and now you want to vote for D, E, and F. Or no, let me give you a better example. You voted for A, B, and C, and now you want to vote for A, B, and F. I want you to draw a line through all of the votes that you made, all six boxes, then mark the three that you want to the left.
OK, are we clear? Is anyone unclear? And the tellers promised me that if you do that, they will be able to count your ballots, and ballots marked in that way will not be considered spoiled. OK? Thank you.
JODI MALLOY: Thank you, Madame Moderator.
GINI COURTER: And all the ushers are going, oh, yeah. Are we good, Jerry? I think we're good. Thank you.
All right, so now it's time to vote on your ballots. We're all ready. Go ahead and take out your pen or pencil. Mark for the first or second time. We have no provision for you getting it wrong twice.
And then you're going to tear it gently off your delegate card and you're going to hand it to the ushers who are coming around with big white baskets, right, to pick up your things in. Now, as soon as we have that process well under way, which it seems like we're almost close to that, thank you to everybody for patience this morning because we have a video to see. And isn't that cool? All right, so let's thank all of the folks on the tech deck who hustled to make this work.
GINI COURTER: Let's thank all the gracious folks from our UU legislative ministries who are standing up here saying I'm ready to be here, and they are graciously leaving and then staying with us so they can see stuff. It's all good. Let's thank them.
Update on UU Legislative Ministries
GINI COURTER: And are you OK if we're going to turn down the lights in about 30 seconds, just a little bit? Are you all good? Because all you have to do, if you're done voting, is you have to make sure your card gets in. Please welcome once again the Reverend Lindi Ramsden.
REV. LINDI RAMSDEN: So some of you have arrived since we had a large collection of folks here from our state advocacy networks. And we're really pleased to be able to show you a video called— excuse me— What's Your State of Justice? Take it away.
—Unitarian Universalism is a faith with a spiritual center and a civic circumference. From the abolition of slavery to women's suffrage, from the Civil Rights Movement to the environmental movement, generations of Unitarians and Universalists have lived out their faith by bending the arc toward justice. Today, as the climate crisis imperils our planet, money threatens our democracy, and poverty robs millions of their future, UU values of human dignity, justice, and respect for our earth are needed more than ever.
Unitarian Universalism is blessed by advocacy, witness, and organizing on the national and international level. However, movements that shift the values, priorities, and policies on the national stage often find their beginning and build their momentum state by state. And that's exactly where the state advocacy networks come in.
Across the nation, state advocacy networks are helping UU congregations magnify our impact at the state level by connecting us to each other and to our faith. We are building relationships, engaging young adults, and identifying and linking UU leaders. We are providing hands—on training, organizing for change, and building a network of leaders who are making a difference.
From Florida to Pennsylvania to Minnesota, state advocacy networks are organizing for economic justice for farmworkers, restaurant workers, and women and minority construction workers. State networks are rallying to protect our local communities from the threat of gun violence and our global community from the threat of climate change. In California, the UUA Legislative Ministry partnered with UUSC to play a pivotal role in the campaign that made California the first state to legislatively establish the human right to water. Following justice GA in Phoenix, UU state networks have been organizing support for immigrant justice and protection for immigrant families. And as the legal battle for marriage equality worked its way to the Supreme Court, Unitarian Universalists continued to stand on the side of love, providing leadership that is turning the tide toward love and equality state by state by state by state.
The networks are also bringing new life and new members into our congregations. Seasoned activists in need of spiritual renewal are finding their way back to church. Young adults are reconnecting with our UU faith as they explore justice centered spirituality. We are growing new leaders, rooted in faith, who can inspire sustained commitment and cultivate hope.
Alone, we can engage in important acts of charity. However, to change deeply rooted systems of injustice, we must build statewide networks that can link local and national organizing, weaving together congregations, young leaders, interfaith and secular allies, and national UU partners. From Arizona to Washington, from Texas to Ohio, from Maryland to Massachusetts to Michigan and beyond, together as Unitarian Universalists we're organizing for justice. We're standing on the side of love. We're making a real difference.
—The time has come.
—And the best part is we're just getting started. Visit uustatenetworks.org to connect with your UU state advocacy network. If your state doesn't have a network yet, we know the perfect people to get one started. Just take a look in the mirror.
[END VIDEO PLAYBACK]
REV. LINDI RAMSDEN: Thank you for helping to make this happen in so many states across our country. If you don't yet have a state network, come on and check out the booth at 506. We're doing a training tomorrow on how to get one started. And here's some of our advocacy networks still in the house over there. Give them a round of applause. Thank you.
GINI COURTER: How many of you would love to show that video in your congregation?
GINI COURTER: And so it's available on YouTube, and you heard that you can see it there from the folks who did it. Are we good? Yeah, all right. Excellent, excellent, excellent.
We're going to sing now, David. You ready to sing? Our UU music coordinator for General Assembly, David Glasgow.
DAVID GLASGOW: How you doing, Gini?
GINI COURTER: I'm doing great. It's starting to come together now, finally.
DAVID GLASGOW: I know, right? We're about out of sleep, but here we go. This is what I'm thinking. We're going to sing a song— words are by Reverend Dennis Hamilton. Music's by a good friend of mine named Jeannie Gagne. This is in our teal book. If you'd rise in body, spirit. This is called "I Know I Can."
[MUSIC—"I KNOW I CAN"]
DAVID GLASGOW: Amen.
Presentation of the Distinguished Service Award
GINI COURTER: Please welcome two members of your UUA Board of Trustees, Mr. Lew Phinney and the Reverend Doctor Susan Ritchie.
LEW PHINNEY: Good morning. I have the distinct pleasure today of being able to present the Distinguished Service Award to the Reverend Doctor Mel Hoover.
LEW PHINNEY: This morning I am joined on the platform by the other members of the committee that made this selection— the Reverend Doctor Susan Ritchie and Gini Courter. Reverend Hoover is joined by his wife, Rose Eddington. Rose is also his co—minister.
We had hoped to have three members of Reverend Hoover's congregation here. They were called away for other things. Those folks are Marion Keyes, David Miller, and Amy Weintraub. They've been direct support to Reverend Hoover; that's why they're mentioned.
So, the citation on the award. Mel, through your passion for justice you have called Unitarian Universalists to live to our deepest principles. When the biblical writer advised those setting out to do holy work should be as wise as a serpent and as gentle as a dove, he must have anticipated Mel Hoover's appearance on the scene in the 20th century. Mel is a truth seeker, a truth speaker, a collaborator, a networker, a community builder. His ministry is filled with the gifts of spirit, grace, hope, and courage. Where others see injustices and fall into despair, Mel looks for ways to make new paths.
Mel received the Urban League's Future Leaders of America Award. As part of that award, he met his social justice role model, Whitney Young. At the time, Whitney Young was the director of the National Urban League. Whitney Young was also a Unitarian Universalist.
In 1968, Mel graduated from Ohio State University with a bachelor's degree in social welfare and a commitment to civil rights through the civil rights movement and to nonviolent change. He was inspired by the work of Martin Luther King, Jr., to create a beloved community as his ministry.
Mel attended Colgate Rochester Crozier Divinity School. He was a ringleader of the black student lock out which led to the establishment of the black church studies program and a much more inclusive student body and faculty. The Episcopal Church of Southern Ohio ordained him as a deacon in 1971. It's important to note that Mel refused ordination to the priesthood because that path was not open to women.
LEW PHINNEY: Is there any question why Rose fell in love with this guy and married him in 1970? The Association of Community Churches of Rochester awarded him the doctor of divinity degree in 1975. In 1984, Mel transferred his ordination to the Unitarian Universalists. Following that transfer, Mel filled a variety of justice making ministries dealing with race, class, gender, power dynamics, and ecology on local, regional, national, and yes, international levels.
He returned to parish ministry in 2002 to serve the Unitarian Universalist congregation of Charleston, West Virginia, with his co—minister and wife, Rose Eddington. In both of those positions, Mel built on his experience in 1968 to '78 ministering as a community organizer and educator in Rochester, leading to efforts to integrate the Rochester School System, and becoming the first African American person in the country to head a white working class community organization. He founded the Neighborhood Street Academy for Students at Risk. From '78 to '87, he was Executive Director of the Council of Churches and Synagogues of Lower Fairfield County, Connecticut, and a leader of the National Association of Ecumenical Staffs. Through that organization, he spearheaded efforts to increase persons of color and women in the National Council of Churches.
In 1985, through the National Association of Ecumenical Staffs, he received their Outstanding Service Award. His service to Unitarian Universalism began with the Urban Church Coalition and the Black Concerns Working Group. In '87, he joined the UUA staff as Urban and International Programs Director, then became Assistant to the President to advocate for racial inclusiveness. He coordinated the UUA's justice work as Director of Faith in Action and as a member of the UUA Executive Council. The institutional changes he helped initiate led to inclusive nominating process for committees and officers.
Anti—racist, anti—oppressive practices are now part of the minister's education and placement effort. I read that sentence as it appears. It's backwards.
Mel continues to invite Unitarian Universalists to adopt anti—racist, anti—oppressive multicultural identity, and to fulfill the promise of the 1997 Journey Toward Wholeness Resolution. Mel chaired the boards of the Institute on Church In Urban Industrial Society and Crossroads Anti—racism Organizing in Training. The latter awarded him the Crossroads Ministry Anti—racist Award in 1996.
The questions he frames, the community he creates, and the resources he develops help shape the path of faithful justice making in the Unitarian Universalist Association. Mel challenges Europeans, European Americans, to move beyond denial of racial disparities and become allies to engage in justice making by taking steps to shape authentic accountable and accountability and see linkages with oppressions.
He has worked to build communities of empowerment and support for UU people of color through the African American Unitarian Universalist ministry group, the Diverse and Revolutionary Unitarian Universalist Multicultural Ministries that we know as DRUUMM, and the Diversity Diversity and Ministry Committee. He was the first recipient of the DRUUMM Beloved Community Award in 2002. A generation of religious professionals of color see Mel as a mentor, model, and a minister.
A bit of a personal sideline. I met Mel about 15 minutes ago. But yet I realized as I was thinking about this presentation that his work has definitely affected my view of the world. Thank you.
LEW PHINNEY: Mel is a friend and beloved colleague to countless Unitarian Universalists who have joined him in the journey toward wholeness. It is with great pride and pleasure that we present Mel Hoover with the Distinguished Service Award to the cause of Unitarian Universalism.
MEL HOOVER: Thank you. Kay Montgomery asked me, was I going to accept the award. And she said if I didn't, she would murder me. But I had to think about it, and that's an honest statement.
I also brought a few friends with me today. I hoped my brother would be here to be on stage with me, but he died a month ago. He and I were very close. He was five years younger. He was supposed to be able to talk about me, not me having to talk about him.
But I have a picture here of my brother, Felix. My thanks to Rosie's mom, when we were at Christmas, who gave us some gloves, and my sister—in—law who framed this picture. He is here— not only in my heart. And it says, "Family is the essence that helps define our very identity. Devotion, sharing, love, laughter, caring, crying, warmth, belonging, smiles, and memories. Family means believing, loving, and supporting each other."
I've got some other friends, some of whom you see on this stage, and I see every seat up here filled with friends. I see and hear the voices of many who have passed through our ways. I hear the voice of Henry Hampton. Do you hear that voice? Why do you hear that voice? Because he was a messenger who worked for the UUA. And when we got a call from those in Selma, it reached his heart, and he said, I have to carry the message to the board of trustees that was meeting at 25.
And he interrupted the meeting. He didn't follow the rules. He walked in the door and said, we've got to go. Martin's called us to come and be with him.
And I can see it. I wasn't there, but I see Dana Greeley with his tall self, sitting there and having a gavel in his hand and going, [THUMP], meeting adjourned to Selma. And the UUA Board walked out the door and walked into history. I didn't know Unitarian Universalists well then. The ones I knew were eggheads who lived up north in Columbus in the woods.
But when I was sitting there as a young man of color wondering how my life would be different because I lived in a segregated world, I SAW these white people on TV marching with some black folks that I knew, and I said, I gotta know those people a little better. I found out they were Unitarian Universalists. And then I found out that we shared something because lots of black folks had died and been killed and murdered.
And James Reed was killed. And all of a sudden— because he was a member of this family— we were connected. Because we knew death, we knew what it meant to risk your life. And thank goodness James Reed did too. And so I celebrate his death. I celebrate his death— I don't mourn it— because he changed us. He changed the conditions of our country. He gave this faith something to work for. And we've claimed it for a long time.
MEL HOOVER: But, you know, Selma was a long time ago. And I laugh, because folks say, isn't it wonderful that racism is gone? I'm laughing because I don't want to cry. I'm remembering when Obama was made president, and I turned to Rose and I said, I think we've got 24 hours to celebrate before the same old, same old sets in, and we have to keep on going again.
And that's what I was saying when I wanted my church family up here, because they have my back. My brothers had my back. I know that from phone calls and from letters I receive that a lot of people have had my back.
That's why I decided I need to stay up here this morning. Not because of me, but because this award is not about me. This award is about many of you. And we're at a critical moment in time in our faith. We're changing our governance. We're calling for ourselves to grow.
And I have a question for you. It's the same one I asked when I agreed to come on the staff and when Kay Montgomery asked me and said, will you come? And I said, will you give me protection? Will you give me my— will you back me no matter what? And she was crazy enough to say yes, because there were times, I'm sure, she regretted saying that. But because she said yes, and Bill [? Shoal ?] said yes, and others of you responded, I think we've reached a different point.
But you know what? The journey is not over yet. In fact, talk about reverse words as I was standing here, I think we ought to reverse the statement. It ought to be anti—oppressive anti—racist multiculturalism, because you all get any oppression because you know family members who are gay and lesbian and transgender, because you know folks who have disabilities. And you know and love them because they're your family, and you want your family to have love and to know love.
A lot of you don't have people of color as your family. And I think our efforts have lagged because in my family, we had a basic motto. There's one world, and we're one people. One world, and we're one people. No exceptions, my mother would say. And you don't have to like people, but you have to love people, because love is for everyone.
MEL HOOVER: And I know I'm supposed to sit down, because I know the schedule and the script says I'm supposed to stop. But as I was sitting on the toilet this morning—
MEL HOOVER: —thinking about what I wanted to say, and those words about having my back came into mind, and I got a call from Leon Spencer, apologizing for not being here. If you'll allow me to read it, can I read it? He sent a letter to me, and I just read it. Will you allow me to read it to you?
"Dear Brother Mel, oh, how I wish Inga and I could be with you and Rosie this morning. I know how much thought you've given to what you say at GA in accepting this much deserved award. I trust that you will say what we need to here. We have shared much over the years, and somehow I feel like I've let you down by not being able to be with you. Wednesday at our phone conversation you quickly helped me to get over it and reminded me of the depth of our love and what our journey together has been and always will be. You took care of me on the phone just as you have ministered with many of us over the years. At that moment in our conversation, you were my minister reminding me of how we need to keep self—care and focus as we continue the work of realizing our anti—racist identities.
Saying all this, I still wish that I could be with you and Rosie. You are my big little brother, my mentor, my friend, and fellow traveler on the journey towards wholeness. You have ministered to me, and all of us, especially people of color, in the fight for justice, living our anti—racist identity as an institution and keeping our faith. We have weathered many storms together. Sometimes we've even started storms. But we always knew that we were together, present for each other, and loved and trusted one another.
I look to you—" these are his words— "as the captain of the ship that guided us through predictable storms in fighting racism and injustice wherever and whenever we saw it. I know all this and much more about you being the captain of our ship as we start to eradicate racism in UUA and beyond, when we were awarded a $5,000 budget for the Black Concerns Working Group. As ridiculous as that committee charge sounded, you helped us to make it a call to action."
He says more, but that reminds me, I want to give a shout—out to Loretta Williams. We are here today because of Loretta Williams. Do you even know the name Loretta Williams?
MEL HOOVER: We wouldn't have had the $5,000 if she hadn't taken it out of her budget. We wouldn't have had— because the UUA resolution, like we've done so many times about things we say— Saul Alinsky told me— he was one of my mentors— that when an institution tells you what they value, when they describe how gloriously they're committed to something, ask yourself one question, one question— where is their money placed?
MEL HOOVER: Where are we placing our money in terms of our values? I'll never have this stage again, but you know what? I'm going to keep asking that question. And last night, I got some healing. I asked [INAUDIBLE] to come up here because she's one of those black youth that stayed with us through these times and these trials and tribulations and has grown into a fine woman that's leading us in other places and spaces.
MEL HOOVER: I asked Miss Norma to come on up here and be with me. Norma— at least finally you recognized her— she became one of those distinguished for her service. Norma Poinsett, you owe her so much you don't even know. Norma Poinsett stayed when we broke down and we broke our promise to black people, we broke our promise to ourselves to use our resources to change America. We made promises we did not keep.
We've done that more than once, and so many of us, Norma being among them, says always take what the UUA says with a grain of salt. Because we've got history that says sometimes with the best of intentions, they fall short. They get scared. They get focused on covering their own behinds. I'm hoping that won't be the UUA of the future.
MEL HOOVER: But I'm nearly 70 now. So it's only going to be the UUA of the future if you make it. And last night when I watched those young people cross bridges, I saw folks of color in that mix. I saw white youth who hugged them and welcomed them and says we are family together.
MEL HOOVER: And that gave me just a little hope. And that's what I've always had for this faith— just a little hope. Because I couldn't see another faith that proclaimed. We do something other folks don't say, that truth is not limited, that it emerges and changes, and it changes us. So as challenging as it is, I stand here today in hope that you and we someday may not just stand on the side of love, but stand in the midst of love together.
So Leon Spencer is watching right now, and he would kill me if I didn't do this. Thank you. Thank you for everything. I'm not talking about me as [INAUDIBLE]. I'm talking about groundwork. I'm talking about being— I came on board as a 16—year—old young person in the previously Thomas Jefferson district. And a lot of people that I met when I was a kid that are older than me are in this audience.
And so it's a thank you for all of the young people that you have guided and supported and mentored and loved and cared about. And I just want to say thank you on behalf of all of us. And it's not over. And we're going to carry that vision. And we are in the midst of love. And we are doing justice. So thank you.
NORMA POINSETT: This is one time that I will only take a minute. I love the stage. In the next life, I'll be on stage not as a minister— and someone said, well, Norma, you've been preaching all your life, so you are a minister. But I started— I met Mel right at the beginning of thinking about doing something about the situation that we had in this association that I was not recognized as a whole person. And I think we've gone a long way.
And I want to see it re—lifted, because it is not where I left it 9, 10 years ago when I came off the board. Love being here. Love you, and love Mel and all the work he's done.
MEL HOOVER: The other thing— as an elder, we don't call ourselves old farts in my faith tradition or our family. And I understand some folks do, and it was meant as a memorializing thing. But we recognize our elders. And in our family, when you become an elder, it's your responsibility to gift others. And on behalf of that, and Rose and my family, we want to gift the UUA. There's this book. It's called Energy: Overdevelopment and the Delusion of Endless Growth. I'm going to read these brief words.
"We have reached a point of crisis with regard to energy, a point where the contradictions inherent in our growth based energy system are becoming untenable, and where its deferred cost are coming due. The essential problem is not just that we are tapping the wrong energy sources— through we are— or that we are wasteful and inefficient— though we are— but that we are overpowered, and we are overpowering nature."
And one of the lessons I learned a long time ago from my Indian heritage is that life doesn't need us to survive. It can take care of us if we become an irritant and still go on. We are making this available to you, and the group that has produced this will make it available to any congregation here who wants to apply for it without cost. So I hope it will help us in the next phases of our work.
GINI COURTER: Thanks to the Board of Trustees for their selection. Thank you the Reverend Doctor Mel Hoover. I've been to church this morning. How about you all?
GINI COURTER: Schedules are important, but you've got to know sometimes to sit down when truth shows up.
Report of the UUA Board of Trustees
GINI COURTER: Yeah? So it will all be good. We have the report from your UUA Board of Trustees, and now that you've gotten used to seeing them two by two, we're bringing up a slightly larger contingent. So please welcome your trustees at large. I'm just going to note that— yes? I'm just going to note that in the future, all of your trustees will be trustees at large. So Reverend Clyde Grubbs—
CLYDE GRUBBS: Do you want us to [INAUDIBLE] this time?
GINI COURTER: No, no, no. And Caleb Raible—Clark and Katherine Allen. Sound good? Welcome them.
CLYDE GRUBBS: Good morning. For decades, our board has been 26 members with 19 trustees elected by the districts and four trustees elected at large, financial advisor, moderator, and president. At this General Assembly, we will elect members to the new 14 member board, electing trustees at large to staggered terms. The outgoing board has been working to prepare the way for this transition, examining work that will make the much larger work, all the work handled by the much larger board, possible for this smaller, more agile board.
In the future, we see much of this work being performed by the whole board, and the case of appointments is what we will select. The Committee on Committees helped the board design and institute an appointments committee, made up of non—board members, which now recommends to the board candidates for most board appointed committees. We have asked our UUA staff to recommend appointments to credentialing committees. Board policies have been updated to clarify and articulate accountabilities for open recruitment, diversity and committee appointments, transparency, and anti—racism, anti oppression, and multicultural competencies.
As most of you have read, in the UU world, an important and historically significant step was taken this year to transition the headquarters from Beacon Hill to Farnsworth Street in Boston. This came about as the result of a long and detailed study of all of our options. It became very clear that the cost of rehabilitating all of our property on Beacon Hill would exceed the cost of a new location. And still, even with millions of dollars of relocation, not provide the space and technology we needed to be effective and fully meeting our mission.
The funding for a full modernization effort of these aging properties would draw down many of our funds and even then would not produce adequate office space. A decision to do nothing would be a poor fiduciary choice and a poor operational choice. The option to moving to another city was seriously, seriously examined, and it was concluded that then costs would far, far out—strip the benefits.
CALEB RAIBLE—CLARK: During the last year, we have worked with the administration to develop a clear and mutual understanding of governance. Central to this effort has been a revision of the ends of the Association. These newly rephrased ends are the board's best efforts to articulate the goals of the work of the Association. More information on these efforts has been presented and discussed in small group sessions during the General Assembly and can be reviewed on the UUA website.
We've also worked to streamline the board's work under policy governance. We reviewed the policy manual and recommended eliminating or consolidating various policies. We expected this would make it easier for both the staff and the board to assure compliance with board policies going forward. In addition, we changed some our procedures around the way our board does the work under policy governance. This should help enable a new smaller board to operate more effectively.
Your board prepared several proposed amendments to the UUA bylaws which were approved for inclusion on the GA Final Business Agenda. These include two that originated in the districts. From the Southeast District comes a proposal to amend the definition of a member congregation. The Central Midwest, Heartland, and Prairie Star Districts asked the board to propose amending the UUA bylaws to including regions and to recognize the Mid—America region in place of the three existing districts. The latter amendment also includes language [INAUDIBLE] an orderly transition process.
We also proposed the bylaw amendment to affirm the goal of inclusion in all UUA institutions. All these proposed changes were sent to congregations and have been discussed by delegates in a mini—assembly prior to the presentation in plenary. The mini—assemblies are reporting out any changes to the proposals.
The Finance Committee of the board works with the administration to prepare the budget. The committee monitors the budget throughout the year. Of particular concern has been the need to eliminate 10 positions on the staff due to not receiving anticipated revenues from congregations. This stuff is in real terms. The administration submitted a balanced budget reflecting the shortfall, and this budget was approved for recommendation to the full board. The treasurer's report, along with the report of the financial advisor will have more information.
As a board, we hold ourselves and the administration accountable to what we've articulated as the sources of accountability and authority. They're defined as our member congregations, current and future generations of Unitarian Universalists, the heritage, tradition, and ideals of Unitarian Universalism, the vision of Beloved Community, and the spirit of Life, Love, and the Holy. We had a long practice of consulting with leaders of congregations, but we struggled with how to be accountable to these other four. They seemed like concepts rather than people.
KATHERINE ALLEN: We developed a practice of systematically consulting with youth and young adults as a way of assuring that we consult with all current generations and with those who will be most in touch with the future generations. We regularly have discussions on the history and theology of Unitarian Universalism to keep us grounded in our heritage and focused on our ideals. We consult with and keep in touch with the social justice, anti—racist, and anti—oppressive efforts of our Association.
As a board, we engage in spiritual practices to maintain our connections with the spirit of Life, Love, and the Holy. The board's work to overcome oppressive structures is aided by its Right Relations Monitoring Committee. This year, the committee met with members of Leather and Grace to explore ways of making real our nondiscrimination policy as it regards to affectional or sexual orientation. The board, led by its Right Relations Committee, has discussed the need for a culture shift in the Unitarian Universalist movement. We identified ministers and religious educators as the key players in culture change and both Young Adult, Our Whole Lives, and the Welcoming Congregation Program, currently undergoing major revision, in particular as possible tools to help in this process.
CLYDE GRUBBS: Thank you.
Statements by Candidates for the UUA Board of Trustees
TOM BEAN: Good morning. The bylaws have changed the size and the nomination process for members of the Board of Trustees. First, the number of trustees has been reduced to 11. And second, all the trustees are elected at large rather than from districts. The term of the nominees is changed to three—year terms with an eligibility for up to two terms. This year is a transition year with four candidates nominated for one—year terms, four candidates appointed by the board for two—year terms, and three candidates nominated for three—year terms. The Nominating Committee nominees for one—year terms— and I'm going to introduce them, and if they have a statement, please come on up— Natty Averett of Arlington, Virginia.
NATTY AVERETT: My full name is in a Natalia Maria Francisco Averett. Most people call me Natty. Some people call me Boss, including, for some reason, a lot of teenagers on the streets and on the buses in Washington, DC. But you all can just call me Natty. I'm going to do the candidate statements that many have done this weekend. I'm running uncontested, so I'm going to take this time to make a more general statement and say that if you want to talk to me later about other qualifications, we can go ahead and do that. If you came to Eboo Patel's Ware Lecture last night or the Synergy Worship, know that I wrote this before those things. So you may hear some things a second time. But whatevs— too much of a good thing is a great thing.
I am maladjusted. I am maladjusted to this work and this style of work. I am maladjusted to missing milestones of friends and family members because the UUA board meets for almost three full weekdays and weekend days per year. I am maladjusted to looking at the clock at a certain point in the UUA board meetings and knowing that the time on my time sheet has shifted from the line for comprehensive leave, which is paid, to leave without pay, which leaves me in a compromised position and also requires me to talk to my boss, my boss's boss, and my boss's boss to get that permission.
I am maladjusted to answering all too quickly in the regional and gathering what is it costing you to attend General Assembly— $659.85— knowing that this is not my most costly UUA board meeting and General Assembly since serving on the board and knowing that even though food and lodging and housing are paid for at meetings, I don't get paid for lost wages. But I'm in a really unique position, unfortunately, on the board— even though there's, like, two dozen of us officers, because most of the people on the board work for a UU congregation in a salaried position or because of age and lifetime economic achievement are not worried about daily wages paying their bills.
NATTY AVERETT: I am maladjusted to meetings and plenaries that start at 8:00 AM and end at 10:00 PM and go for days upon days on end to the point where you don't know the difference between two days and five days and seven days. I am maladjusted to the bylaws saying that the Board of Trustees acts as a whole body on behalf of the entire body of the assembly when the assembly is not meeting and then giving individual trustees individual voting rights when the assembly is meeting and making decisions for itself, and trustees still get to hold the trustee title rather than relinquish it if they want to be individual voting members of the assembly. And I know that's a thing that not everybody wants to talk about— the loss of individual voting rights for some people who are supposed to represent the whole.
I am maladjusted to youth and young adult worship activities and elections that sustain and promote cultural hegemony that puts the human descendants and traditions of white Western Europeans and Americans and Protestant Christianity at the center, with other cultures advising and accessorizing, dusted on like powdered sugar on a blueberry muffin. And it's accepted as if any age excuses accountability.
I am maladjusted to equating the faith, the community of Unitarian Universalists everywhere, and all of their cultures, traditions, and spiritual heritages, being equated with the movement, the collection of Unitarian Universalists, actually committing acts of liberal social justice in the name of Unitarian Universalist values with the Association, the institutional and administrative organization of congregations who have chosen to connect to one another, as if the three are one and the same, or some special trinity. No, they are not in my opinion.
I am maladjusted to all of this, and I am still at the table, as I was and am, as a peer mediator in a poor urban school helping resolve ethnic and gang violent conflicts, as a member of the peer mediation at the boarding school I received a scholarship to, helping students of all backgrounds deal with life issues, at the oldest boarding school in America. And let me tell you, if that's not a cultural learning for a black girl like me, I don't know what is. I was at the table as a volunteer coordinator, as a co—manager of the women's center at the Pomona College Women's Union. I was at the table as an outreach intern for Planned Parenthood Advocacy Project LA and a campus organizer for the Feminist Majority Foundation. As a member of the operations committee and a facilitator of the restructuring process and bylaws revisions for the Washington, DC, prevention planning group, as a security specialist, the role I fill now, at a Fortune 100 company, and as the chair of outreach of what became the company's largest chapter of its women's network, receiving and being nominated for awards on three different occasions for annual achievement, for excellence in corporate responsibility, and ethics.
And I was at the table as a member of the District Young Adult Steering Committee, as a two—time president of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, Virginia, one of the largest in the Association, and for the past two years as a member of the UUA Board of Trustees after being elected by the Dr. Joseph Priestley district assembly. I am, as MLK said, maladjusted, to paraphrase, and gladly so.
I am still at the table because I am of the world and in the world and totally in love with it. And I believe in human and planetary and universal wholeness and in bringing my whole self to the table wherever I am— corporate, UU, otherwise— and creating space for others to do the same. I am at the table because I believe in Beloved Community by its dictionary and real world definition without all the Unitarian Universalist scriptures, the pure dictionary definition as in "A group in which all are loved immensely."
I'm almost done, Tom. Neuroscience tells us that love looks the same— love, the noun, the emotion— looks the same across cultures. Psychology and sociology tell us that love, the verb, the action, the expression of the noun, varies across cultures and life experiences. Beloved Community requires cultural diversity that allows us to learn the varieties of ways that we can show love for one another and the variety of ways that love can feel, or one can feel or not feel, another's love.
I am here knowing that some are as uncomfortable with my presence and style of participation as I am uncomfortable being here in a decision making body that is comprised predominantly of members of the dominant culture working for an organization whose membership is predominately representative of the dominant culture. I am here in tribute to folks like Kay Montgomery who have stayed at the table for a long time through a lot of challenges, making it easier with each election cycle for people like me to stay, for people like Youth Observer turned trustee at large Katherine Allen, who made it possible for it to go without me saying, because finally there was someone else who had already said it. I am here—
NATTY AVERETT: I am here because I would like to warm the seat for the person who comes after me. I am here because I believe in love beyond and in healthy coexistence with conflict, consensus, compatibility, like, and dislike. I believe on Beloved Community, and I believe in Unitarian Universalism. Sure, the Association could use some improvement. Yes, the movement deserves more momentum. But the faith, the faith of Unitarian Universalism, that's mighty fine. It's more than fine. It's totes amazing.
TOM BEAN: Our second candidate for a one—year term is Reverend Rob Eller—Isaacs of Saint Paul, Minnesota.
ROB ELLER—ISAACS: When it comes to our Association, I do what I do out of gratitude. Long ago, a brave and healthy church said yes to me. Despite my adolescent insecurities, despite my sometimes strident condemnation of all things institutional, a brave and healthy church said yes not only to me but to my diverse, rowdy, too demanding companions.
For a brief time, I actually lived in the Beloved Community to which we, when we're at our best, aspire. I've lived my life and service to the vision that took hold of me then and still sustains me now. I've done my best to grow beyond that early strident reactivity. I've tried to cultivate a fine balance between being on the one hand a responsible critic and on the other an enthusiastic advocate for Unitarian Universalism.
For more than 40 years, service to our association has been central to my ministry. The congregations I've served have seen my efforts as an expression and extension of their ministry and have always encouraged my involvement. I'm grateful to the congregation and the staff of Unity Church of Saint Paul, which urged me to accept this nomination. I'm grateful for the confidence expressed in me by the nominating committee. I pledge to bring my years of experience to bear, both as a responsible critic and an enthusiastic advocate for our association. I want to thank Gini Courter and the board for the courage and forethought they have shown in helping us to bring our governance into alignment with our values. And I'm grateful to Peter Morales for his leader and his leadership circle for helping us to grow beyond a certain inbred parochialism we can no longer afford.
ROB ELLER—ISAACS: Beloved friends, the time is right for us to pledge ourselves anew to the work of our Association and to its purposes. May that good work be our promise and our prayer.
TOM BEAN: Our third candidate for a one—year term, the Reverend Clyde Grubbs of Revere, Massachusetts.
CLYDE GRUBBS: Hello, again. Rob Eller—Isaacs said to me, aren't you glad that you don't have to be the radical on the board. Two years ago, you elected me to the Unitarian Universalist Board of Trustees. Since that time, I've striven to improve our governance, to be more inclusive of voices of the whole faith community. I first became active as a Unitarian Universalist as a high school student and liberal religious youth and was deeply involved in college—age Unitarian Universalism. These personal experiences motivated me to maximize the participation of the tens of thousands of Unitarian Universalists who are not ordinarily included in our deliberations.
Today we are making decisions, decisions that will shape our faith community for decades to come. The seeds we plant today will be the harvest of tomorrow. My hope is that I and others being elected— and this is the first time I've seen all of the people on this new board, the very first time— I hope we'll all serve you well and make wise and courageous and inclusive decisions based on the promise of this faith community. Thank you for your vote.
TOM BEAN: Our fourth candidate for a one—year term is Susan Weaver of La Jolla, California.
SUSAN WEAVER: Good morning. Just a few things about me. I have been a member of First UU Church of San Diego since 2004. I served on its board as the congregation moved towards policy governance. I've practiced law in business, public finance, and health care. I have served on the board of the UUA Legislative Ministry of California for the past two years. I have read the trustee job description. As trustees, we're asked to do our work of governance with an outward vision, focused on the future. We're told no task has higher priority than dialogue with our sources of authority, like congregations.
So I am grateful for the gathered here conversations that have captured when we UUs are at our best, when we're welcoming, reaching out, practicing spiritual justice, and moving beyond barriers. And with the help and inspiration of my fellow trustees, I hope we do our work in a way that moves us all closer to being at our best.
TOM BEAN: The Nominating Committee nominates for three—year terms. First, let me introduce Michael Salwasser of Long Beach, California.
MICHAEL SALWASSER: 25 years ago, I first found my way into a Unitarian Universalist church. I witnessed and experienced the transforming power of Unitarian Universalism in my life and in the world. The religious odyssey that brought me to this moment overflows with connections, achievements, failures, relationships, epiphanies, disappointments, and moments of boundless grace— all of which informs my actions as a trustee of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations.
As I take this next step on my spiritual journey, serving on the UUA board, I will make new connections. There will be epiphanies and disappointments. I will form new relationships. I will rejoice in achievements and learn from failures. And throughout it all, there will be moments of boundless grace. I hope and pray that somehow, someway, each of you will be part of it. For I am not here to represent me but to be accountable to you.
TOM BEAN: Our second candidate is Julian Sharp of Craftsbury Common, Vermont.
JULIAN SHARP: Thank you. It's a great honor to serve the Unitarian Universalist Association at this critical time in its history. With the formation of a new Board of Trustees, we have an opportunity to forge ever stronger relationships across the Association. I am here with you today and look forward to my service because I am inspired and energized by our faith and its historic commitment to create a better, more justice, centered, and equitable world. Our congregations, our movement, and our message of love are saving and transforming lives every day.
Growing up in the Birmingham, Alabama Unitarian Universalist Congregation, with its rich history of heroism and leadership from the Civil Rights Movement to the current debate around immigration, has shaped my world view and stoked my passion to build bridges between one another and help heal our natural world. Growing up in Birmingham, I became involved in congregational and district leadership, which introduced me to anti—racism, anti—oppression, and multiculturalism trainings. The work to understand my own privilege and its societal footprint has been one of the most significant parts of my faith. It is a lifelong journey to open my eyes to the pain of social and structural racism and learn the tools needed to confront and counter oppressions of many kinds.
Since that time, alongside many of you, I have led anti—racism, anti—oppression and multicultural trainings for youth and young adults, congregations, and community organizations, including groundwork. During my previous time on the UUA board as youth trustee, I co—chaired the ARAONC Committee.
For me, this is deeply spiritual work. While at Antioch College, I became a community organizer, working in the Bay Area for the ACLU and with UU congregations to educate the public about the most egregious sections of the USA Patriot Act. Later, I worked for Mass Equality in Boston, at a time when Massachusetts was the only state where same sex marriage was legal. Today, because of our work and the work of our coalitions, I have the right to marry in 12 states. While we have—
JULIAN SHARP: While we have much to celebrate, we have a long path ahead. But being on this journey and in covenant with you gives me great hope. My commitment to anti—oppression work has led to a passion for environmental and food justice, which has shaped the last few years of my life. Given the gravity of our social, economic, and ecological challenges facing humanity today, I believe the time has never been more urgent for our message to reach further and our faith to dig deeper. Can I get an amen?
MICHAEL SALWASSER: I will do my best to be your representative and ally on the UUA board, and I thank you for this opportunity to serve.
TOM BEAN: Our third candidate for a three—year term is James Snell of Dallas, Texas.
JAMES SNELL: Out of respect for our schedule this morning, I'm going to abandon the script I sent the GA Planning Committee a month ago and just briefly follow up on a conversation I had with the Reverend Mel Hoover on Wednesday night here in the hallway. And I want to tell Reverend Mel that I promise to hold you and your family and your idea of family and your work and your admonitions to us in my mind and in my heart every hour of my service. Thank you.
TOM BEAN: These are the candidates who will appear on your ballot that you will be voting on any time after now— 10:30. We started. They're going to be joined by four trustees who serve currently on the board and were re—appointed under the bylaws section by the board for continuity purposes for a two—year term. If they would all stand— Donna Harrison, Lew Phinney, Reverend Susan Ritchie, and Reverend Sarah Stewart. If I could, if you would all stand, this is your new Board of Trustees.
TOM BEAN: And they are going to be joined by a youth observer elected by our youth, Rosemary Dodd from Petaluma, California. Thank you.
TOM BEAN: Yesterday, we had an opportunity to talk to some folks who are running for some other positions. And due to some glitches, we did that have Nathan up here available. I'm going to let Nathan introduce himself and make a brief statement for his nomination.
NATHAN ALAN HOLLISTER: Hello. My name is Nathan Alan Hollister. You can call me Nate—o. I live in North Carolina. I was raised in this faith. My grandparents helped to found congregations in Fort Worth, Bethesda, Atlanta, and Durham, North Carolina— which has nothing to do with me, but I just wanted you to know how amazing they were.
I'm on a slate for the Commission on Appraisal, and I'm very excited and very humbled to be asked to do this work. I'm a recent graduate from Meadville Lombard with a master of divinity degree and a master of arts and leadership studies. I spent— thank you— and I spent this last fall working in Oaxaca, Mexico, with women's empowerment collectives around women's rights, indigenous rights, and food sovereignty. And I spent the spring working in my town of Carrboro, North Carolina, to found a UU social justice mission. It's made up mostly of low income young adults who are new to UUism, and our mission is to give life the shape of justice.
NATHAN ALAN HOLLISTER: Very excited for that. And I hope to bring to the Commission on Appraisal thoughtfulness and humility, my perspective as a minister, my perspective as a lifelong community organizer, my perspective as a punk rocker, my perspective—
NATHAN ALAN HOLLISTER: Is that the youth caucus, or the Young Adult Caucus? And my perspective as a liberation and a revolutionist. So I hope to humbly serve, and I hope to thoughtfully serve. And I'd very much appreciate your vote to empower me to do so. Thank you.
TOM BEAN: A note about the election. We are having an election. It has actually started. And I've had some questions as to where it is and the timing and some other things. So let me tell you briefly. It's occurring in the exhibit hall next door. You'll find the line forming there.
You will need your delegate credential. You will also need that red or orange ballot stub. It needs to be properly signed. If you have any problem with that, I'm going to be over there a little bit later, and we can help make sure that that's properly taken care of. It's going to be open until 4 o'clock, and if you're in line at 4 o'clock, you will be allowed to vote. If you're not in line, you'll not be able to get in after that point in time. So please do be there no later than that.
And as a benefit to all of us, if you can make sure that you're there much before 4 o'clock, that would be much appreciated by the people who have to do all the ballot counting. So that's where it's located. Those are the things you'll need. That's the time we have for it. Thank you.
GINI COURTER: Thank you, Tom. Who's having a great time this morning?
GINI COURTER: Who could have known? How great is this? We're going to sing now. We're just making a couple of little adjustments to the schedule. I'm not at all worried about our schedule this morning, by the way. So let's sing something really wonderful. What do you have in mind for us, David?
DAVID GLASGOW: Well, you know, Gini, you were mentioning while we were down here being rude and talking while everyone was onstage that we've seen a lot of babies this week. There's a lot of new stuff happening in our movements, new people, Michael Tino's new baby girl, which we're all excited about.
DAVID GLASGOW: And I think we've heard a lot of words on stage this morning that really suggest a lot of growth is about to happen in our movement, and that's very exciting. But when we have a new bud, we have to hold it closely and carefully. So I'd like us to sing Mary Grigolia's wonderful song, "I Know This Rose Will Open."
[MUSIC — "I KNOW THIS ROSE WILL OPEN"]
Debate and Vote on Proposed Amendment to Enable Regions: Bylaw Section C—3.6, 13.1, 13.2, 13.4, and Rule G—13.2.1
GINI COURTER: Ah, thank you. We have some things that we need to debate and vote on. And at the top of our list is debating and voting on the proposed amendment to enable regions, which is bylaw section C—3.6, 13.1, 13.2, 13.4, and rule G—13.2.1. We had a mini—assembly yesterday. The original text is found on page 85 of the final agenda, and I'm going to ask— we didn't have any amendments to this. So I'm going to simply ask our First Vice Moderator to make the appropriate motion. Jackie Shanti?
JACKIE SHANTI: Moved that the proposed amendment to enable regions, bylaw section C—3.6, 13.1, 13.2, and 13.4, and ruled G—13.2.1, found at page 85 of the final agenda be adopted by this assembly.
GINI COURTER: Thank you. I called upon David Jackoway, trustee from the Heartland District to give the position of the Board of Trustees. Pro microphone.
DAVID JACKOWAY: Hello. I'm David Jackoway, member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Indianapolis and trustee from the Heartland District, which is the host of this year's General Assembly. For some time now, the 19 districts that comprise the UUA have been engaged in a discussion as to their future within the Association. This discussion parallels other decisions that have already been made to organize the UUA in new ways. For example, as we heard, starting at this GA, all members of the UUA Board of Trustees will be elected at large. Also, the UUA staff is now organized regionally for the delivery of services rather than by district.
Various districts are at different points in this discussion and may very well make different decisions as to what will work best for them going forward. But two months ago, delegates from the Heartland, Central Midwest, and Prairie Star Districts decided that what would work best for them is to cease their existence and merge together into a new structure, the Mid—America region.
However, regions are not mentioned in the UUA bylaws; only districts. To recognize that three of our districts have chosen to become a region and to enable other district to follow their lead if they so choose, your UUA Board of Trustees recommends that you pass the motion before you. The motion amends the bylaws to add regions as a new geographic governance structure along with districts. It also amends a rule to add Mid—America to the roll call of governing bodies that will help shape the future of our association. Thank you.
GINI COURTER: Thank you. I recognize the delegate at the con microphone.
TED DANIELSON: My name is Ted Danielson. I'm a member of Northwest Unitarian Universalist Church in Southfield, Michigan. Let me give credit for the idea I'm about to give to one of the people who attended the mini—assembly on this point by phone. I did not get her name. I only know that she raised this issue and that it was not adequately answered in the mini—assembly. Over the next two days, I realized more and more the truth she spoke.
Yesterday in the Tweet Fest, I suggested the UUA stop wordsmithing the bylaws. This proposal is an excellent case in point. There is no reason for the changes proposed to the C bylaw. The reason given is that three districts are merging and using the word region in the name of their new organization, the Mid—America region. Somehow, in the minds of some, this makes it vital to amend the UUA bylaws so they contain the word region.
This is nonsense. Let me illustrate with another term. Many of the members of the UUA use the word church in their name. Others use the word fellowship. Still others use the word congregation. And many use the word society. Some of the words used by the member congregations are in the UUA bylaws and some are not.
No matter. All the members are fully recognized by the UUA, whatever word they use in their name, be it in the bylaws or not. The proposed change to the rule calls the new organization Mid—America district. Read it carefully. It lists districts and declares Mid—America to be one. Let us leave well enough alone. It is fine for Mid—America to be known as a district in the UUA bylaws.
GINI COURTER: Thank you. I recognize the delegate at the pro microphone.
BILL SASSO: I'm Bill Sasso, delegate from the Carbondale Unitarian Fellowship in Carbondale, Illinois. I speak as President of the Central Midwest District and as president of the newly forming Mid—America region and on behalf of the congregations of the Heartland, Prairie Star, and Central Midwest Districts, asking your support for the proposed amendment.
Since 2010, the congregations and leaders of our districts have engaged in dialogue and discernment about how we can create new opportunities and energy at the intermediate governance level, in the space between our congregations and our entire association. Our three—year process came to fruition in April, when delegates at each of our three district meetings voted overwhelmingly in favor of forming Mid—America. We are now reorganizing into a single larger governance unit, representing about one fifth of the UUA's congregations and members. We ask you to recognize Mid—America as a region and as part of our UUA.
You may wonder why we want to be recognized as a region rather than as a district. There are several reasons, but the most significant one is that we aspire to form a new form of intermediate organization, one that intentionally works differently. Our term district carries 50 years of experience and expectations. We do not envision Mid—America as a big district. Rather, we seek to create a new set of opportunities and energy, a new era in Unitarian Universalism within this part of the country. We can do that work more easily if we frame ourselves as a region, something new, rather than as a district, something established and familiar.
We ask you to endorse our work over the past three years by supporting this amendment and welcoming the Mid—America region into our UUA. Thank you.
GINI COURTER: I recognize the delegate at the procedural microphone.
SPEAKER 1: Hi, I'm [INAUDIBLE] from the Unitarian Church of Evanston. I have a question for the legal counsel. Is this wording change absolutely legally necessary?
GINI COURTER: Hi. So just so we have a process, you can actually ask me that question, and I can ask them.
SPEAKER 1: OK, well I'll ask you that question.
GINI COURTER: All right, cool. I'm bringing legal counsel back with me.
TOM BEAN: How are you?
SPEAKER 1: I'm fine, how are you?
TOM BEAN: Thank you. At this point in time, our bylaws do not recognize the concept of a region. There are no regions, and there's no acknowledgement of the possibility of a region in our bylaws. So yes, this change is necessary and will allow for this region to be formed and potentially for other regions to be formed.
SPEAKER 1: OK, thank you very much.
TOM BEAN: Thank you.
GINI COURTER: I recognize the delegate at the con microphone.
KEITH CREYCIK: Thank you, Gini. My name is Keith Creycik from Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Atlanta, Georgia. I'm interested in this issue not so much from the perspective of whether it's legal or a wordsmithing change, but rather what is the effect of this change on the business that we do as an organization on the mission that we have. If this contributes to furthering what we're trying to accomplish, then I would say that I support it. But I do not see that there's anything related to this specific change that's going to change the behavior of our member congregations as they do the work of being UU.
GINI COURTER: Thank you. I recognize the delegate at the procedural microphone.
REV. NEIL ANDERSON: Yes, Madame Moderator. My name is Reverend Neil Anderson. I represent the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Northern Nevada as a delegate. I need your help with my own confusion. The changes in section C refer to regions, and I heard arguments from the pro microphone regarding a region called Mid—America. I look in Rule G, and I see that Mid—America in G is referred to as a district in the rules. I'm rather confused about why we're creating regions for this purpose and calling it a district in the rules. Is it not a contradiction?
GINI COURTER: How many of us are in solidarity with Reverend Anderson's confusion? So I'm going to ask— I know the answer to that, but we liked having legal counsel here so much a minute ago, I'm going to ask Tom Bean to come back again. Because it's a timing issue. Yeah, it's a timing issue. Come on up.
TOM BEAN: OK, so as many of you know, the process for amending C bylaws is a two—year process. In year one, we vote by a majority to preliminarily approve an amendment to a C bylaw. C bylaws are bylaws that people think are particularly important and should not be subject to change by a vote of one GA. So in the first year when we amend a C bylaw, it's a majority vote, it's a preliminary approval, and the change does not become effective.
So this year we're voting for year one on C bylaws to create the possibility of a region. Because that vote will not become effective unless there is a 2/3 vote in favor of it at next year's GA, as Gini said, it's a timing issue. For one year, Mid—America will be a district. If and when the GA 2014 approves by a 2/3 vote this same bylaw amendment, then Mid—America will become a region. Thank you.
GINI COURTER: I love this. I recognize the delegate at the procedural microphone.
JAMIE GIBSON: Hello, my name is Jamie Gibson of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Upper Valley. I am confused as to what the difference between a region and a district is.
GINI COURTER: OK, just a minute. Might that be cleared up by the next speaker at a microphone? I'm thinking that might. I recognize the delegate at the pro microphone.
KATHY BUREK: Hi, I'm Kathy Burek, Michael Servetus Unitarian Society in Fridley, Minnesota, and President of the Prairie Star District. The whole difference between a region and a district is that a region is a collection of districts to begin with. To respond to the gentleman from earlier from Atlanta as to how this will make a difference in the way our congregations do their business, we are creating a new entity for the precise reason that we want to do things differently than they've been done before.
The Mid—America region is going to be founded on a renewal of covenant among and between our congregations, and rather than continue the practice in many of our districts of having bilateral relationships between a congregation and district staff or a congregation and a district board, we want to promote greater connections among our congregations, invest in our clusters, invest in virtual congregations, and this is something that creating a new organization allows us to do that's simply perpetuating the concept of district as we've known and loved it for 50 years does not.
And we decided to create a new organization because trying to merge into an existing district would invariably keep us captured by a particular culture. We're starting with a clean slate. We've intentionally incorporated in the state of Iowa, because it was the first state— and up until Minnesota recently, the only state in our region that recognized marriage equality.
You might have thought that there'd be a lot of turviness in a discussion like this. The Iowa decision was a no brainer. You might have thought that there would be a lot of, well, my district does it this way, and we do it that way. And instead what we found were three groups of Unitarian Universalist Boards of Directors and Nominating Committees and Treasurers that came together and said, we are better together than we are alone. What unites us as Unitarian Universalists is far greater than the little distinctions among our districts.
And it is just the most amazing experience that I've had as a Unitarian Universalist in 30 years of leadership. We urge your support.
GINI COURTER: Thank you. And if you'd like to have a more in depth answer, slide over an aisle. Thank you. I recognize the delegate at the con microphone.
DAVID MCCLAIN: Madam Moderator, thank you. David McClain from Arlington Street Church in Boston, Mass. This amendment seems innocuous in that it's just a semantic change. But I guess first of all, it seems to be poorly planned in that the region name could be anything. And what happens the next time when somebody else wants to not be a district, not be a region, wants to be something else?
But I guess the main thing that bothers me about this in the tweet session yesterday, somebody brought up that there were plans to do things with regions going forward that may be part of the reason for this amendment, this change. And I guess I have no insight into what that is, and I'd be curious as to whether there's some longer term plan for regions as opposed to districts.
And I will also point out that the name is a little confusing because I'm part of a region now— it says anyway. I have a badge on that says New England Region. What's the difference between my New England region organizationally and the Heartland, Mid—America region, whatever the new one is.
GINI COURTER: That last question is almost a procedural question. It actually is. And the difference is that the long—term strategy is actually just to switch authority within the Mid—America region to a regional basis, so that their neighborhood becomes bigger. That's not what your region is asking to do right now. The New England region isn't asking to do that. They're doing something different.
And if we go all the way out to the West coast, we'll find that the region out there just got done having this spectacular regional gathering. What's happening is—
GINI COURTER: Thank you. What's happening is we're at a time sort of the level between my congregation and the national or international Unitarian Universalism, there are changes that are happening. And they're different depending on where you are. So somebody's always going first. We have the folks in the Mid—America region where— aren't we there right now? We have the folks in this region saying, we need something different.
And so the question you raised about how is that different than what your region's doing, we got more than one different flavor going on right now. It's kind of exciting to keep up with. So you have a valid reason that you might not want to vote in favor of it. But it's not the same everywhere, and that sort of the point right now, is we can be different in different parts of the country. It's almost exciting. Pro microphone. I recognize our delegate there.
AMY TAYLOR: I am Amy Taylor from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Bloomington, Indiana and president of the Heartland District and an at large member of the Mid—America Board. So there's a whole bunch of questions there, and Gini's adeptly answered many of them. Some of what's happening is that— I didn't know this until I found out there was a district— districts have governance structures, they have boards. Regions are geographies that have no recognized governance structures.
And this change that were requesting acknowledges that regions, particularly our region, has created a governance structure at the regional level. And also there's a bit of legality here, in that as we form this new region, we've already incorporated— we move forward after the votes in our individual districts— we also need to get 501(c)(3) status, and we can't have that until the UUA acknowledges that we are part of the National Association, because that's how our districts have gotten our 501(c)(3) status, and we want the same privilege.
GINI COURTER: Cool.
GINI COURTER: I have no one at the con microphone. I have no one at the procedural microphone. I trust you're not confused right now, right? Good. Oh, I'm sorry. Thank you, Charlie. I recognize the off—site delegate at the con microphone.
Hi, this is Sally Geller, Central Unitarian Church in Paramus, New Jersey. I was the one to whom the third speaker referred to earlier. I want to say that we just talked about having to have layoffs because of budgets, and now we're talking about adding a layer of bureaucracy potentially— not in Mid—America, which is already a district. I don't see why it can't get its 501(c)(3) as a district.
With all due respect, until a definition of a region goes into the bylaws, I really don't think we can just include the words. There is no clear definition in the bylaws as amended as the relationship between regions and districts, which apparently may vary from some of the others, some old dissolved districts, others may just not do. Do we know that all the congregations within the districts want to re—covenant with a regional body? And if not, what are their options? Thank you.
GINI COURTER: I have a delegate at the pro microphone who wishes to speak. I recognize the pro delegate.
KATHY SILVER: My name is Kathy Silver. I am from the delegate from the New Hope Congregation in New Hudson, Michigan. And I am vice president, currently, of the Heartland District. Contrary to what was just spoken, the putting together of our three districts actually saves a considerable amount of money, especially in administrative costs, over the first couple years. About $100,000 is our estimate. So we are not adding a new layer of bureaucracy and administration. We are actually taking three separate layers, three separate entities of administration, and combining them into one. And so we will have economy in terms of money, we will have economy in terms of staff, and hopefully by increasing our technological abilities, we will be reaching more and more Unitarians and providing people with more services rather than fewer services.
I would also like to say that in April, our three districts, Central, Midwest, and Heartland, Prairie Star, had their district annual assemblies. And at each of those districts, delegates from congregations from all over the Mid—America region voted for the Mid—America region by an outstanding majority. In Prairie Star the vote was unanimous, 100%.
I believe the other two districts had a combination of three people out of all those delegates who voted against it. There were hundreds of people at this meeting, and they were representing thousands of Unitarian Universalists in our country's midsection. I would ask you to honor the vote of these Unitarian Universalists and help us to become a new era in Unitarian Universalism and be the kind of Unitarian Universalists that we would like to be. Thank you.
GINI COURTER: I recognize the delegate at the procedural microphone.
PATRICIA COMPTON: HI. I'm Patricia Compton from the Unitarian Fellowship of Mount Kisco, New York. On a point of information, does this result in great district reduction in services from districts and downsizing of staff? Is there a great impact on staff services or staff personnel?
GINI COURTER: No, this is not— the answer is no. This is not related to that. The hope in the districts is that they'll actually have more staff because they'll get some economies of scale. But those two things aren't related. By doing this, you are not voting for a reduction in staff or a reduction of services. And I believe that's your question, right?
PATRICIA COMPTON: Yes. Yes, thank you.
GINI COURTER: Yes. No, you are not. I have a delegate on the off—site con microphone.
MARIANNA TUBMAN: Thank you, Madam Moderator. This is Marianna Tubman of the UU Fellowship of Redwood City. And I want to express that while I support what Mid—America's trying to do, I really have problems with section C, 13.4, about economy, because the people who've been speaking pro for this are talking about how region is a new level, intermediate, between district and national.
And yet there is nothing in there— and I think there will be confusion if we have districts within a region, and they are both defined as economists and controlled by member congregations. There's no relationships specified between districts and regions. And quite honestly, a region is just going to be another name for a district, a way for districts to combine to a larger district. I don't see any purpose for it.
If it's to be a distinct form as has been suggested by several of the pro speakers, that needs to be specified somehow, and there needs to be a relationship specified. Therefore I'm against this amendment because I don't think it's clear enough. Thank you.
GINI COURTER: I recognize the delegate at the procedural microphone.
KELSEY WILKES: I'm Kelsey Wilkes from the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Shenandoah Valley in Stephens City, Virginia. I think my procedural question follows the last speaker. So this group is saying that they have met regionally, they've pulled together their resources. If they become the— are they Mid—America, is that what they're saying? Or Heartland?
GINI COURTER: No, it's Mid—America.
KELSEY WILKES: All right, Mid—America Regional District, doesn't that take care of this problem? And can't they now be a district with a wider swath and still be covered? So what I would like to do, I think— it's kind of interesting. What I'd like to do is I'd like to say if it had been that easy, that's what they would have done.
GINI COURTER: We're talking about several years of effort because our existing language in form did not allow this group of folks to be able to gain the efficiencies and the collaboration and the culture that they wanted to have— these aren't my words. That's what I've heard said at this microphone. So if they could have done that simply by becoming a different kind of a district, we wouldn't be here. I could get the attorney to say something about it too, but it's the same answer he provided earlier. We've actually answered this question.
KELSEY WILKES: Sometimes we make easy hard.
GINI COURTER: I think that might be what we're doing right now.
GINI COURTER: I recognize the delegate at the procedural microphone.
BRUCE WIGGINS: Bruce Wiggins, First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee. I call the question. I think— I was just told I need to move the previous—
GINI COURTER: We all know what you mean. And you can't speak in favor of or against it. Is there a second? So what we're voting then now is ending debate. All those who think that they have heard enough to make a wise decision, raise your voting cards. Thank you. All those opposed. That motion clearly carries.
Because we have done that, we immediately now go to vote on the motion as it appears on page 85 of the final agenda to enable regions by altering bylaw section C—3.6, 13.1, 13.2, 13.4, and Rule G—13.2.1 in the awareness that C—3.6 will need to come back next year four a 2/3 vote. All those in favor, raise your voting cards. Thank you. All those opposed.
Thank you. For off—site delegates, the vote was about 95% to 5% in the hall. Thank you very much. The motion clearly carries.
GINI COURTER: OK, so let me ask— how many people are excited now to be in the Mid—America regional district?
GINI COURTER: And next year, come back here and be a little less confused and we'll help them be just the Mid—America region, OK? All good. Yeah, I liked whoever just said, sometimes we make easy hard. It's not like Three Dog Night said after all.
Debate and Vote on Proposed Bylaw Changes to Bylaw Section 3.1: Member Congregations
OK, so now what we have on the agenda, the next item— this is going to get real interesting. We have a debate and vote on proposed bylaw changes to bylaw section C—3.1, which is member congregations. The text appears on page 85 of the final agenda. And I'm going to ask the First Vice Moderator to give us some information.
JACKIE SHANTI: So we have kind of an interesting situation. We have an amendment that was made during the mini—assembly, but we ended up at the end of the mini—assembly with actually no motion to be brought forward to this delegate body. The mini—assembly agreed with the original proposers of the amendment not to proceed with this motion.
GINI COURTER: Ah. Now we're intrigued. So this came to us from a district, and we're going to ask to have that district explain why they would not like us to actually vote on this this year. So I'm going to recognize a delegate who will soon be at a pro microphone. That'll be a fine place for it, I think. No, procedural . Microphone over here. That's more correct. We're talking about procedures now.
NATHAN ALAN HOLLISTER: Nathan Alan Hollister, Eno River Congregation in Durham, North Carolina.
GINI COURTER: So help us figure this out here.
NATHAN ALAN HOLLISTER: OK. We had a lot of discussions about the theological nature of our bylaws. And this is a very identifying statement in our bylaws about who we are and how we get together. However, that's not the only consideration that goes into the bylaws. They're not only a theological statement. They're also a legal statement and also involved with protecting our collective institution.
So as a result of some of the conversations we've been having in looking at the multiple roles that bylaws serve, our district has decided to not move this particular amendment. We're very committed to this discussion. We're very committed to pushing this discussion at the UUA level about being autonomous or free and what those things mean to us about our identity.
But we have come to believe that this particular amendment is not the best vehicle for that discussion. We want to have that discussion. We want to have it in the best way possible. So we're committing to bring this back next year better and create a more robust deeper and more meaningful discussion that more people can participate in. So we're not moving, and we're asking that it not be moved this year.
GINI COURTER: OK. That's kind of cool. All right. Questions? Is anybody confused about the confusion? No. Great job. Thank you. Thank you, Nathan. All right, so— this is why sometimes people wonder how I can look so calm, because I knew this was going to happen. So it's good. Gosh darn if we aren't on time again. OK.
We took some paper votes earlier to choose the three AIWs that we would then have a choice to put on the final agenda. So the six have been narrowed to three. Now we get the choice, one at a time, to say yeah, now that we've thought about it, we actually don't want to spend any actual plenary time on it. It's probably not likely to happen, but every once in a while you all surprise me, like all morning today.
So I'm going to ask you to welcome back the Chair of your Commission on Social Witness, Dr. Susan Goekler.
GINI COURTER: And just so you're not surprised, she's going to move them from up here, and then there'll be an amendment process. Would you tell people what's going to happen next with these, please?
Voting to Admit Potential Actions of Immediate Witness to the Agenda
DR. SUSAN GOEKLER: What we're doing now is we are going to have three motions to admit to the agenda. So all we're doing now is based on the vote that you did this morning, the top three vote getters will be admitted to the agenda, and then there'll be mini—assemblies this afternoon on those three to actually look at the language and make any changes to the language. You'll get a new CSW alert tomorrow with the actual language after the mini—assembly. And then tomorrow, at the plenary in the afternoon, you will have an opportunity whether to accept that actual statement as a statement of this General Assembly.
So all you're doing now is voting to admit these three topics to the agenda for tomorrow for discussion and a vote tomorrow. But there has to be a 2/3 vote today to actually admit them to the agenda.
GINI COURTER: And this is like The Voice in a way, right?
DR. SUSAN GOEKLER: Yes.
GINI COURTER: OK. So go ahead and tell us who we saved first.
DR. SUSAN GOEKLER: OK. So based on the vote this morning, the CSW moves to admit to the agenda proposed AIW C, support the proposed 28th We the People Amendment to the Constitution, corporations are not persons, and money is not speech.
GINI COURTER: All those in favor of admitting this to the agenda for the purpose of a mini—assembly and discussion, raise your voting cards? Thank you. All those opposed. This item has been added to the agenda. I recognize the delegate at the off—site procedural microphone. Or no.
ELLIE: No, this was previous— and— oh, OK. We just got our vote. So—
GINI COURTER: OK, thanks, Ellie. All right, next.
DR. SUSAN GOEKLER: The Commission on Social Witness moves to admit to the agenda proposed AIW F, condemn the mass incarceration, killing, and mistreatment of young men of color by police.
GINI COURTER: All those in favor of admitting this item to the agenda, please raise your voting cards. Thank you. All those opposed. Vote in the hall about 98%. Thank you very much. And third.
DR. SUSAN GOEKLER: The final one to be admitted, if you so choose, is the CSW moves to admit to the agenda proposed AIW A, consider divestment from the fossil fuel industry.
GINI COURTER: All those in favor of admitting this item, please raise your voting cards. Thank you. All those opposed. The vote in the hall about 92%. Good. We have things to do then this afternoon. If you would like to perfect any of these items, the way to do it is to go to a mini—assembly. And do you have the locations of those?
DR. SUSAN GOEKLER: Yes, I do.
GINI COURTER: I bet you do.
DR. SUSAN GOEKLER: If you're interested in further discussion of AIW C, please go to room 208 at 1:45. If you are interested in proposed AIW F, please go to room 209. And if you are interested in proposed AIW A, please go to 207. You'll notice that they are next to each other, so if you want to talk about more than one, you can run back and forth between them.
GINI COURTER: And what are those room numbers again? Just the numbers.
DR. SUSAN GOEKLER: 207, 208, and 209 at 1:45.
GINI COURTER: Perfect. How are we? Do I have any report from the Right Relationship team? Am I hearing a yes? All right. Now we're early.
Now, please remember, friends— please, please, please remember— some of you left the hall early yesterday, so you didn't get this culture shift that we're trying to be the cause of. At the end of plenary, we're going to let the folks who have walkers and wheelchairs and scooters and canes get out of the hall first so that they can leave safely, because that's how we're rolling here now, right?
GINI COURTER: OK, and a way to not do that is not to cheat and start making it difficult now. So we're 15 minutes early. We expected to be here. At least I did. Come on up, Right Relationship Team. These folks have been working. You better love them up.
Right Relationship Team Report
GINI COURTER: Thank you.
REV. FRED HAMMOND: I'm Reverend Fred Hammond.
PHOEBE MASTERSON—ECKHART: I'm Phoebe Masterson—Eckhart.
RIHANNA JOHNSON LEVY: And I'm Rihanna Johnson Levy.
PHOEBE MASTERSON—ECKHART: So it is now Saturday, and we have been living our journey of Right Relationship at General Assembly for three of the five days we are all together in this congregation. We all came here with different expectations and are still learning how to be a living, Beloved Community. We all come into the room with our past, both the joy and our pain. Our relationships with our faith can be complicated and beautiful, and we don't leave our past and those relationships at the door.
REV. FRED HAMMOND: In order for us to live in true right relationship, we must allow our hearts to crack open and let new possibilities emerge. Without that opening of our hearts, the healing and reconciliation is not possible. But healing and reconciliation is possible. We lift up a story from earlier this week.
RIHANNA JOHNSON LEVY: We heard from a woman who said she really appreciated the Spoken Prophecy workshop leaders, naming at the beginning of the workshop that our expressions can have unintended negative impacts in inviting people to give each other feedback. A poem written by a fellow participant did hurt her, as it negatively portrayed a disability she has. She was encouraged to talk with the person directly about what was hurtful, and the conversation went well. And she wanted the team to lift up this experience as a positive example of living out Beloved Community guided by our principles.
PHOEBE MASTERSON—ECKHART: We've been here a couple of days, and in our comfort, we take for granted our similarities. How we communicate with each other is important. What we say and how we say it matters. Language has the power to harm and the power to heal.
RIHANNA JOHNSON LEVY: Just as our language makes a difference, so too do our actions. Let's all remember that to live Beloved Community means mindfulness, mindfulness of shared space, mindfulness of making room for each other, and mindfulness to embody the platinum rule— treat others as they wish to be treated. While we all may feel that we are in a rush, let's all take time to slow down and be gentle with how we are with one another. Thank you.
GINI COURTER: Before I call Tom up, I actually want to have a little mini—right relationship moment. I was in the exhibit hall yesterday. And when I walked in— because I'm up here all the time, I don't have my credentials with me. So they were still sitting in my bag.
And I walked in, and the security person was doing exactly her job, which was to say, I'm sorry. You can't come buy our UU stuff unless you have a name tag. You can't come into the exhibit hall, because that's her job. And a number of you rose to help me. And you said, but everybody knows Gini. Actually, I had never met the security guard before. She was on solid ground. They said everybody knows Gini. This is our moderator. You need to let her in.
And I assured them, and I will assure you, that I never worry that somebody's going to let me in. The fact that she'll shall stop me means that she's being fair to everybody. And when somebody who we don't know comes up to the door, you're not going to jump up and advocate for them in the same way, because you don't see them all day long like you do me.
So please, please, please— all the folks who are trying to keep us in safety and in containers, don't try to find a way that they should make exceptions for me or for you. Let's just let it all work so we can be safe and well together, OK? Thank you.
GINI COURTER: And I bought a couple of things, and that was cool— oh! And guess what you can get. Like, when I go to UU churches, we all have these European nametags. I have TVC, because I live in Traverse City. I have one with a bear on it. Look what we've got now. Check this out. Can we get this on camera? I need to turn this way to make that happen?
So it's like it would be on your back bumper, but it's on your front instead. We got a bunch of these at the bookstore. They're going to make people ask where you're from, at least. They come in all sizes, as you can tell, because I got one. And they're just cool. So from time to time, your Standing on the Side of Love shirt's in the laundry, and you wonder, what will I wear today? Tom, do you have some announcements for us before I go even crazier here?
TOM BEAN: I've got a few. Hi, GA.
TOM BEAN: I have to tell you, last night I took my grandson to dinner. And I must have had half a dozen people come by and say, Hi Tom. He loved it. All these people know his grandpa. So thank you, Gini.
GINI COURTER: You're welcome.
TOM BEAN: A couple of things. First, a safety announcement. Be sure that in the evening that you're careful outside, as you should be everywhere. But do take an opportunity to walk in groups if you're able. Stay in well—lighted areas, and using good common sense as you're outside and walking around and seeing this beautiful, beautiful city.
There's another announcement that was given to me that you should be aware of, and that is that a number of years ago, many of us had the privilege to be in the beautiful city of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. They are suffering right now. They've moved over 100,000 people out of harm's way from flooding. The Trans—Canadian Highway has been cut off. Towns like Banff, Kamloops, and others are cut off from getting immediate services. And we're asked to just give you a reminder that these kinds of things are occurring in many places, unfortunately. It's happening right now in a city that we have met during this week in June in the past. It could've easily been then as now. But to keep the people in Calgary and Alberta in your hearts and your minds as we meet here and think about what they're dealing with in their city.
And the last announcement I have is just a last reminder from Journey Toward Wholeness that their cards are still available. Reverend Wendy von Zirpolo is down here waving some. You'll see her down there. You'll have until noon to get these in. They can be done electronically, but she's also got the cards themselves. So if you haven't had an opportunity to fill that one out, grab one and get it in on time. Remember voting today, 10:30 till 4 o'clock. If you're in line at 4 o'clock, your vote counts.
GINI COURTER: Thank you, Tom. And a reminder that that survey is a survey asking for your opinions about where we are on the Journey Towards Wholeness. So if you came in having no opinion about that, I bet that's changed now. Right. How are we? Good? OK, I'm going to gavel us out, but we're going to stay in our seats and let folks leave.
So we're going to go immediately to David after I say the magic words. There being no further business to come before us and in accordance with the schedule set forth in your program book, I declare that this plenary session of the General Assembly will stand in recess until 3:30 this afternoon. David. Hey, let's sing "This Little Light of Mine," OK?
[MUSIC — "THIS LITTLE LIGHT OF MINE"]
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