Plenary II, General Assembly 2013
General Assembly 2013 Event 2003
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
Late-arriving items may require rearrangement of the agenda as published.
- Call to Order
- Chalice Lighting
- Right Relationship Team Report
- Report of the General Assembly Planning Committee
- Statements from Candidates for the GA Planning Committee
- Congregational Singing
- Report of the UUA President Rev. Peter Morales
- Statements from Candidates for the Presidential Search Committee
Call to Order
SPEAKER 1: Second plenary session of the 52nd General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association. All right. And I find myself wondering, are there some folks from a neighboring state who could light our chalice this morning.
SPEAKER 2: All right.
SPEAKER 3: As we come together for GA 2013 in the Appalachia Region, we delegates, attendees, and ministers from West Virginia past and press are thankful you are here with us for one of our sacred holidays, West Virginia Day.
SPEAKER 3: The key to your becoming a state was Abraham Lincoln's issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. This morning we light the chalice in the spirit of celebration and courage to honor the creation of the great state of West Virginia 150 years ago today, on June 20, 1863.
SPEAKER 4: We could have been an even older state, but war and politics changed our early fate. We were almost the 14th colony to be called not West Virginia, but Vandalia. And made up of present day West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky.
But the Revolutionary War stopped that development, And the American Continental Congress turned down the petition by settlers for recognition of Vandalia and its other proposed named Westsylvania because Virginia and Pennsylvania both claimed the land for their states, with Virginia getting most of the land.
SPEAKER 5: The western counties of Virginia felt separated by the Appalachian Mountains from eastern Virginia. The western counties had small farms and little need or used for slavery. When Virginia seceded from the Union during the Civil War, the representatives from Virginia's western counties met to form the reorganized government Virginia.
By presidential decree, Abraham Lincoln recognized the reorganized government of Virginia as able to grant the right of secession to the western counties. We West Virginians had our own revolution in the midst of the Civil War. At a time when things were not going well for the Union, it took courage to form the only state to secede from the Confederacy and repatriate to the United States.
SPEAKER 5: Yeah. Families risked their lives and fortune for the freedom they desired. Our state adopted the motto, montani semper liberi, mountaineers are always free. And one of the first acts of the West Virginia legislature was to outlaw slavery.
SPEAKER 6: West Virginia has played a key role in our nation's westward expansion and energy development. Booker T. Washington worked in the salt mines that lay under much of present day Charleston and Malden. Salt from these mines provided a way to preserve food for those going west.
Mining technology from the salt mines was adapted to the newly developing oil and gas industries, which in turn helped the coal industry that continues to fuel much of our nation's electricity needs but at the high cost of local pollution and global climate change.
SPEAKER 2: West Virginia enjoys a long-time ties with Unitarians and Universalist. Just prior to the outbreak of the Civil War, John Brown's attack on Harper's Ferry crystallized the polarization between the slave-holding South and the slave- free North.
His attack was funded by the Secret Six, wealthy New England abolitionists, among them Unitarian Samuel Howe, Reverend Theodore Parker, Franklin Sanborn, who taught Emerson's children, and Reverend Thomas Higginson, editor of the Atlantic Monthly.
SPEAKER 7: The Reverend John McWhorter, the first Universalist minister in West Virginia preached Universalism for 60 years in West Virginia and the Ohio Valley before, during, and after the Civil War. John's son Lucullus practiced Universalism all his life, especially in regard to respecting the worth and dignity of Native Americans. He regarded the western expansion of our nation as Indian genocide.
When Lucullus moved west to the state of Washington, taking West Virginia livestock and West Virginians with him, creating a mini-Appalachian culture that still exists today, he was adopted by the Nez Perce and Yakima Tribes for trustworthiness and for successfully organizing Native resistance to Federal legislation that would take away their tribal lands and water right.
SPEAKER 8: Today, as Unitarian Universalists in West Virginia, we stand on the side of love in the tradition of earlier UUs. We advocate and organize to end discrimination in housing and jobs based on gender preference.
SPEAKER 9: We advocate and organized for the rights of minors to unionize and to have safe working conditions. We also stand with those economically impoverished by the greed of extraction industries as we advocate and organize for the right of unpolluted air, land, and water and to preserve creation in the face of mountaintop removal mining and hydraulic fracking.
SPEAKER 10: Thank you for joining us in celebrating West Virginia's unique creation of statehood and it's uniqueness of being the northernmost southern state and the southern most northern state, a border state from the Civil War that continues as a border state for the nation at the intersection of environmental and energy ethics.
ALL: May freedom, justice, and love be reflected in the chalice flame and in our heart.
SPEAKER 11: Am I the only person who just learned a bunch of stuff they didn't know? What a chalice lighting. Wow. Cool. Please welcome the Reverend Wendy von Zirpolo, chair, and the members of the Journey Towards Wholeness Transformation Committee. Give it up.
REV. WENDY VON ZIRPOLO: At the heart of this General Assembly is an exploration of the kind of promises we are called to make as we seek to live out our Unitarian Universalist values, how we make them, with whom, and how we hold ourselves and each other accountable.
In 1997, those gathered for General Assembly made a promise. It took the form of a resolution passed by that year's GA. The promise was and is that we will together do what it takes to make this faith community an anti-racist, multicultural faith community.
Those gathered and voting in Phoenix that year said, yes, unanimously, knowing that this promise was not going to be filled quickly nor easily. For 15 years, this promise has been held worked on, passed on, once in a while dropped, and then picked up day after day, time after time.
One response to that resolution was the creation of a committee charged with monitoring and assessing our progress on keeping that promise, the Journey Toward Wholeness Transformation Committee. We are here today as members of that committee.
And we are Ben Gabel, Jonipher Kwong, Walter LeFlore, Tracey Robinson-Harris, David Slavin, Carrie Stewart, and me, Wendy von Zirpolo. And Taquiena Boston is the director of Multicultural Growth and Witness, and she's serves as our staff liaison.
REV. WENDY VON ZIRPOLO: And they all are just amazing. Since 1997, the committee has gather data and reported on the journey and relationship to districts, our ministerial credentialing process, and how we select and support our volunteer leaders. The time has come to return to this, the very body who made that promise.
SPEAKER 12: We come before you as this General Assembly to ask you how is this promise alive among us? Are we who we say we are? Where have we made progress on the journey? Where have we faltered?
How are we accountable to the promise to those that made it, knowing it would take years? To those who are living it now? And to those who will be here in the days and years to come? We want to hear your answers to these questions and hear your stories of life on our journey together seeking to fill the promise.
SPEAKER 13: And here's how we want to hear from you. As you entered the plenary hall this morning, many of you received a card that looks like this. And our ushers have some extras if you did not get one. The card asks you the question and also points you to electronic ways we will be using to collect answers via Twitter, Facebook, and one face-to-face late night meeting.
Near the doors of plenary hall, there are boxes for collections. The card on the box looks like this. If you prefer to write your responses and return the card to us, you can drop them in one of those boxes when you're done. We will be collecting responses through Saturday at noon.
SPEAKER 12: We will also be looking for people to participate in live interviews during GA. Each of us is equipped to record you answering the questions, what have we accomplished and what do we see as a current reality in terms of the journey.
Feel free to approach us. Provide your contact information on your card, so we can also find you. On Friday from 10 to 11:00 PM, join us us for a tweet chat. Use the #jtwtc or come to Suite 310 at the Marriott at that time for a live chat.
SPEAKER 13: And finally, we realize that many people are unable to be here physically but are very much a part of our collective journey. In some cases, the reality of not being here says something important about that journey.
The data gathering will be ongoing and so will the reporting. Information on how you can participate is on our Facebook page UUAJTWTC and will soon be on uua.org. You can follow us on Twitter #jtwtc to receive notifications of post, sharing stories, additional polls, interviews, and reflections as we move through this portion of our study.
REV. WENDY VON ZIRPOLO: We made the promise together. It's our collective journey regardless of where we sit, stand, walk, or roll. Please do come join us in answering the question with your unique voice and experience.
SPEAKER 11: Let's thank your Journey Toward Wholeness Transformation Committee for their challenge to us this morning.
Right Relationship Team Report
SPEAKER 11: And you should be choosing who it is you want to talk to. Watch them walk out the ramp and say, I'm going to go get that one to talk to. It's a great thing. We have report this morning from your Right Relationship Team.
[? BOB GRIEVE: ?] I'm Bob [? Grieve, ?] one of co-chairs of the Right Relationship Team.
ELANDRIA WILLIAMS: And I'm Elandria Williams, the other co-chair. So the Right Relationship Team exists to help the General Assembly participants stay in healthy relationship with each other.
If you find yourself falling out of right relationship with other attendees here this week and would like help returning back to that right relationship, we are here to help. Our team will support you in directly addressing those in whom you are out of relationship.
[? BOB GRIEVE: ?] Right relationship. It is easy to say, harder to achieve. Each and all of us have room to grow, and chances are good that all of us are going to feel stretched outside of our comfort zones this week. General Assembly is an intensive place, an intensive experience physically, mentally, and spiritually.
The schedule offers the possibility to keep us busy from morning until late evening and beyond. There will be moments when we are hot and tired, hungry and distracted, and not attentive to the fact that each encounter we have is a chance to practice being in right relationship.
We are going to make mistakes. But making mistakes doesn't necessarily mean that you will be out of right relationship. Stopping in the moment to notice your own or someone else's discomfort can make all the difference.
Set aside your desire to protect yourself. Listen to what each other is saying. And take the time to make amends. The Right Relationship Team is here to help you find a way back to right covenants.
ELANDRIA WILLIAMS: Please raise your hand if you have met somebody new here since you've been here. So let's all continue to grow our Unitarian Universalist family. Chosen family is built on relationships.
And we encourage you to stretch and embody Southern hospitality as you do so even if you're a lifelong Southerner or just a week-long Southerner here a GA. That means talking to random strangers, smiling at people you meet, and being a little extra accommodating than you may normally think it's reasonable.
We are happy to serve the community this year. And you can easily find a member of our team by these lovely for fluorescent orange shirts or bandanas by stopping at our office hours from 11:00 to 2:00 in room L-7 or by calling that number that's printed in your program book. Thank you very much.
SPEAKER 11: Thank you, team. How many of you are loving GA already?
Report of the General Assembly Planning Committee
SPEAKER 11: OK. So take all that love in your heart because you're going to showering it down the Reverend Dr. Walt Wieder and the General Assembly Planning Committee. Here they are.
REV. WALT WIEDER: It's almost , church so I'm going to start with announcements.
REV. WALT WIEDER: This year again we are offering an opportunity to connect with Unitarian Universalist with differing backgrounds and perspectives to reflect upon your experiences at this GA. The small group reflection times indicated in your GA program are self-organizing groups guided by a convener with discussion points to help you deepen your time with one another.
If you are unable to find a group during the regional or CLS in-gatherings, please go to the round tables at the lower level of the convention hall L2, L3, or L6 during the first session time today at 12:45 PM, and we'll find you a group to connect with.
For those of you using social media, whatever that is, if you would like to tweet about your experiences of these conversations, please use the #gacovenant. The second and very important announcement, and it's coming for the Planning Committee as a social justice issue. As a step toward being a welcoming assembly, restrooms inside the plenary hall closest to the plenary hall as well as at least one bathroom on other floors are designated for used by all genders.
REV. WALT WIEDER: Gender-specific men's and women's restrooms are available inside the Exhibit Hall and in other sections of the Convention Center as well as family friendly restrooms. In all restrooms, we ask you to trust that the individuals know which restroom is most comfortable and most appropriate for them.
We invite compassionate and ongoing dialogue around these issues. And as part of our work toward right relationship, it is important to remember the personal processing should not be done with a transgendered and or gender-nonconforming person.
Their job is not to educate you. We do encourage you to contacted a GA chaplain if you feel the need for any support in this justice work. End of announcements.
It it's been my pleasure to service as chair of the General Assembly Planning Committee during what the Chinese curse is pleased to call interesting times. It was a period where the Board of Trustees and the administration of the UUA struggled, as they continue to struggle, with their roles within policy governance, a period conflated with the issue of immigration and a call for a boycott of Phoenix and the decision arrived at with—because of time constraints—less-than-complete transparency to honor the issue with our presence, rather than our absence.
And in the heat of sometimes conflicting understandings of what a right path might be, good people were treated badly by good people. Relationships were harmed. And most of them mended. Adding the issues of moving a historic headquarters and a significant reduction in the size of the Board of Trustees did little to calm the waters.
All of this got me thinking about the heart of our shared tradition, not so much what that heart is but where it resides. Not at headquarters, whatever the address as important as the function of headquarters is. Not with the Board of Trustees. Governance exists not as a focus but to serve. Not with any individual congregation with or without walls.
The heart of our faith resides I believe here in this moveable gathering of congregations at General Assembly, messy, flawed. We need to find additional ways—in addition to having one near you eventually—to include more voices to make sure that everyone who wishes to be heard has a chance to be heard.
I believe General Assembly is life and cultural transforming. Its impact on environmental awareness and behavior has probably brought about as much positive changes as anything we've done. We have changed every city we have been to.
REV. WALT WIEDER: And lives are changed. I don't have the exact metrics, but I could ask for a show of hands. And you know it is so. These are the people who carry the double burden of planning this particular GA and the caring about the essence of General Assembly. I am grateful to each and every one of them for their willingness to step into chaos and create community. I will miss what has been for me an honor, working with and for your General Assembly Planning committee. And let me introduce them. Bart Frost.
REV. WALT WIEDER: Greg Boyd.
REV. WALT WIEDER: Debra Boyd.
REV. WALT WIEDER: Cathy Charles.
REV. WALT WIEDER: Tim Murphy.
REV. WALT WIEDER: Reverend Chip Roush.
REV. WALT WIEDER: Reverend Nan White.
REV. WALT WIEDER: Ila Klion.
REV. WALT WIEDER: Jacqui Williams.
REV. WALT WIEDER: And our Board of Trustee liaison, Jackie Shanti.
REV. WALT WIEDER: And we would be remiss if we didn't say, we work with the best staff in the world, beginning with Jan Sneegas.
REV. WALT WIEDER: Thank you.
SPEAKER 11: They're here all week. Take every opportunity to love them up please. Hmmm. We are electing people to serve on a number of committees and commissions at this General Assembly, and you will be hearing from all of them briefly.
When possible, you'll be hearing from candidates immediately after the report of the committee or commission they wish to serve on. So you can go, oh, that's what they want to do. All right. And the Secretary of the association, Tom Loughrey will be introducing the candidates. Tom. Oh, and the chair of the Nominating Committee, Larry Ladd. So please welcome Larry and Tom. I'm sorry
Statements from Candidates for the GA Planning Committee
LARRY LADD: The Nominating Committee is charged with nominating a diverse set of candidates for all of the positions elected by the General Assembly except for the president and moderator. This year are nominated candidates are unopposed, which we think is at least in part a credit to the Nominating Committee's good work.
Running by petition is possible. And candidates who run by petition often win. My 1997 candidacy by petition for financial adviser is an example. But there are several more recent ones. It is my pleasure to introduce UUA Secretary Thomas Loughrey to present the candidates.
TOM LOUGHREY: The Nominating Committee has submitted for the General Assembly Planning Committee four candidates, Mary Alm of Asheville, North Carolina, Bart Frost. New Orleans, Louisiana, Debra Boyd Gray, Columbus, Ohio, And Chip Roush, Traverse City, Michigan. We'll have some words from Mary Alm.
MARY ALM: I spent two years working with the General Assembly Planning Committee as the Southeast District Coordinator for GA 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina. I want to serve my religious community by using my talents to create successful General Assemblies. GA is where Unitarian Universalists develop a feel for the wider UU community. It's where UUs can experience the power of this free religion and our great potential as an activist movement.
If participants come from a lay-led congregation, they encounter great preaching. If their congregation is small, they get to hear what their favorite hymn sound like when sung by 4,000 voices. General Assembly is one place where the spirit of Unitarian Universalism lives.
That spirit, as Walt Wieder has already pointed out, changes lives. And lives are changed every year at General Assembly. I want to be part of making that miracle happen.
GA is a deeply collaborative effort. The moderator, the GAPC, along with the UUA president and staff and the professional leadership of our religious movement, all contribute to making a successful GA. Yet it is those serving on the GAPC who, working both collaboratively and independently, are charged with making GA happen. The buck stops there. Without a highly functional GAPC, GA would be a disappointment to many participants.
I've spent my lifetime in education, starting as a high school teacher and concluding as a college professor. This has given me skills in research, planning, and execution of programming to help others learn and. grow.
I like to think of myself as a detail-oriented big thinker. And I like to believe I maintain scrupulous lines of open communication. And I would appreciate your vote even if I don't have any competition for a position on the GAPC. Thank you.
LARRY LADD: They will all appreciate our votes. Let me introduce Bart Frost. From New Orleans, Louisiana.
BART FROST: Friends, I am Bart Frost, Director of Religious Education at First UU New Orleans, and a current standing member of the Planning Committee. General Assembly has always been a place to find greater community in our faith way and beyond from our congregations.
Here we sing and worship together. We educate and learn more about one another. And we commit ourselves to building a better world. Here we gather in community from all across the United States. From north to south, from east to west, we come. And we bring ourselves. And then we leave changed.
General Assembly transforms and changes lives in the most amazing ways. My first General Assembly cemented my commitment to our faith and inspired me to serve.
My goal for the Planning Committee for the next four years is to continue to create experiences at General Assembly that inspire and move all of y'all. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve another four years and the opportunity to keep building welcoming, festive, and energetic General Assemblies. And thank you for coming to them.
TOM LOUGHREY: Debra Boyd Gray from Columbus, Ohio.
DEBRA GRAY BOYD: Good morning. I am Debra Gray Boyd, and I'm from the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbus, Ohio, where I am hoping you will be joining me for General Assembly in 2016.
General Assembly is the largest manifestation of our beloved community. It is a time filled with opportunity and excitement and action which can necessitate tolerance, compassion, and reflection.
Over the last several years, I have seen us fulfill our promise to engage our congregations in work of addressing racism and classism that exists within them. I have seen a struggle to determine the best course of action to attain our shared goal of a more just immigration policy, only to see a unique pact emerge on the floor of the plenary hall that created Justice Assembly in Phoenix.
I joined the Planning Committee during the year leading up to Justice Assembly. And I stand here today to witness to the powerful, painful, meaningful, and holy work that led to our largest social witness ever.
DEBRA GRAY BOYD: We did not stand alone. We stood hand in hand with each other as we stood hand in hand with our local partners, serving them in their cause because their freedom is our freedom. General Assembly is where we speak to one another about our larger world and about Unitarian Universalist, about how our faith informed our lives. It instructs how we build community and shapes how we express our religious voice in the public square.
The General Assembly committee is charged with creating the container in which all of this happens. As a Montessori child, I grew up thinking that the way we shape our environment can substantially impact our actions and the outcome.
Therefore, I promise that I will endeavor to create a container for General Assembly that will support our mutual learning, that will facilitate our collective decision-making, and that will provide a platform from which we can share the salvistic message of Unitarian Universalism with each other and with the larger world. Thank you.
TOM LOUGHREY: Finally, Reverend Chip Roush, Traverse City, Michigan.
REV. CHIP ROUSH: Thank you, Tom. I look forward to serving you for four more years at which point I will have learned from Bart and Debra and Mary how to write a longer prettier speech. Thank you all.
TOM LOUGHREY: Thank you to all of our candidates for the GA Planning Committee.
SPEAKER 11: We're sliding in a short, extra report that got missed, and so it's moved up. If you look at your agenda, you won't find it there. I've asked for an update from the Committee on Socially Responsible Investing. And so please welcome the Reverend Glenn Coleman Farley, Chair of the UUA Socially Responsible Investment Committee and the minister of Sedona UUA Fellowship and the Reverend Clyde Grubbs of the UUA Board of Trustees, liaison to the Socially Responsible Investing Committee. Please welcome them.
REV. GLENN COLEMAN FARLEY: Last night on Facebook, our moderator Jennie pose the question, what would it be like to have thousands of people to talk with about what we might promise in the service of bringing a more just world into being?
Well, I'm here to find out what it would be like. I'm here to talk to the thousands of you who we are as a responsible investor, the promises we fulfilled, and the promises for the future.
The UUA is an activist shareholder, witnessing for social and environmental justice through its ownership position in companies. Shareholder proposals can be a very effective tool in changing corporate behavior. For the last several years, we've focused our engagement efforts on three broad areas, BGLT nondiscrimination policies, disclosure of political and lobbying spending, and action to address climate change.
This past year we've engaged nine companies. We engaged with Chevron to separate their board chair and CEO position. We referred to this internally as adult supervision for the CEO--
REV. GLENN COLEMAN FARLEY: --as their CEO has persisted in refusing to take responsibility for the destruction their operations wrought in indigenous communities in Central America.
One of our committee members, Simon Billenness, had to retain a lawyer this year as he was subpoenaed by Chevron to reveal all his email correspondence related to Chevron over the past three years for his over decade of work on this issue.
This is outrageously unprecedented, a chilling intimidation tactic, previously unheard of for a company to subpoena its own shareholders. We co-filed a resolution with GEO Group, the private prison company, in order to force them to reveal their political spending and lobbying disclosure.
REV. GLENN COLEMAN FARLEY: We hope this will make plain the political collusion of the school-to-prison pipeline for youth of color in this New Jim Crow world we live in.
REV. GLENN COLEMAN FARLEY: We engaged on political and lobbying spending also at Visa, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Aetna, and Dow. This past year we continued our engagement with Exxon Mobil and Conoco Phillips on sexual orientation and gender-identity expression nondiscrimination.
You need to know that shareholder engagement is a critically effective tool. For example, over the last four years as a result of UUA shareholder advocacy companies with 2.9 million employees have agreed to add gender identity and expression protection to their nondiscrimination clauses.
REV. GLENN COLEMAN FARLEY: In the world of shareholder engagement, the UUA has been and still is to my knowledge the only religious voice for bisexual, gay, lesbian, and transgender nondiscrimination. Thus, this committee and the administration feel and continue to feel it's an absolute priority for us to focus on.
In climate change, the year we filed one of the first two carbon bubble resolutions, challenging Alpha Natural Resources to justify the valuation of its reserves in light of the possibility that fossil fuels might lose value once the United States shifts definitively away from non-renewable energy sources. The company challenged the resolution at the SEC, but the regulators required them to keep it on the agenda, where it received very strong support for a first-year resolution.
In this work, we work closely with the Investor Network on Climate Risk and the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility. Shareholder engagement is a specialized knowledge which is only done with allies and with lawyers. Most shareholders don't have this capability. So if your congregation does not, I strongly encourage you to consider moving your investments to the UUA Common Endowment Fund.
In the work of shareholder engagement, I often think of the words by the poet Jayne Cortez, who instructs us to find your own voice and use it, use your own voice and find it. This is how we do our part in bending the arc of the universe towards justice. This is how we use our gifts to bless the world.
My first General Assembly was seven years ago in St. Louis, where the statement of conscience on global warming and climate change was passed. A part of it reads, quote, "We call upon our denominational leaders to provide sustainable investing by using ownership rights of the denomination's financial resources to positively address global warming, climate change crisis. Being silent and leaving the table is abdication of this responsibility." This commitment in the 2006 Statement of Conscience it's to advocate using our gifts to bless the world.
The entire Socially Responsible Investing Committee and the Investment Committee view engagement, not disengagement, as the most effective strategy for changing corporate behavior.
Looking forward to the next shareholder season, the UUA will continue its focus advocacy on climate change and increase it even more. Consulting with allies and leaders in the field of responsible investing, we've studied these issues in depth, and we promise to fulfill these commitments, to tighten our stock selection on carbon-intensive industries—this is already happening now with our consultants, Sustainalytics—to view new ways that we can focus on climate solutions, and invest in the foundations of a low-carbon future economy with alternative energy and reinvest our profits in these solutions.
We are working with our consultant who will present some of these options at our summer meeting. We will continue and increase our shareholder engagement by pressuring companies to disclose political and lobbying spending and report with metrics on climate change realities and possibilities.
And we need your help to make the investor case to policymakers that fossil fuel use is a demand problem not a supply problem that requires massive changes in public policy and our energy incentives and subsidies.
REV. GLENN COLEMAN FARLEY: The eco-philosopher Joanna Macy tells us there are three reality shaping our world today. It is our choice which to put in the foreground. The first reality is business as usual and the unsustainable industrial growth society. The second reality is the great unraveling as ecosystems and cultures fall apart. And the third reality is the great turning to a life-sustaining economy.
Each story is true, and each is happening right now. The question for each of us and as an association is which do we choose to identify with and devote ourselves to. Which reality do you choose? What do you promise in the service of bringing a more just world into being? Thank you.
SPEAKER 11: Thank you very much. Well, how many of us are on Twitter now? Is it going up? Because I know like there's just so—a callout like to sunshine excellent. And Walt, you may not know what social media is, but they're tweeting about you this morning.
SPEAKER 11: All good. It's all good. Perfect. So we'll have more tips tomorrow morning on how you can get on Twitter so that we can be ready to take advantage of our time together on Friday.
I want to tell you just a few things about the business schedule. How many of you were at orientation yesterday? OK. That's good. And some of you weren't. And that's all right. Who wasn't? So you can all exercise. That was our energy break. OK.
SPEAKER 11: OK. So just a couple of short things. I don't want to walk through the whole schedule with you because of—in the interest of time, but you do actually need to know a couple of things. One is that there are some rules that we passed last night about how we will engage together.
Starting on page 78 are sort of the short version of the rules of how we work in plenary and how business items come up, so page 78 of your beautiful Rules of Procedure book. The bylaws are in here as well. And of course, nothing trumps them. So if you have a question, you can look there as well.
But the thing I think disappoints most people in any given year, the thing I get the most feedback about, two items. One is this is not like your congregational meeting where amendments can come directly to the floor. Every business item that we have is preceded by a mini-assembly. And the mini-assemblies are in the book.
If you want to make an amendment here in plenary, you must go to the mini-assembly and offer the amendment there first. Even if it is voted down, that opens the door for you to offer it here in plenary. Does that make sense?
So some time between now and Sunday, I promise you somebody will come up and say they didn't know that, and that's because they weren't here at the time. But if you see somebody really excited about amendments, you might mention the magic words mini-assembly and see if it lights them up.
The next thing is that we have items that we sometimes have to take two votes in a day. And that might be because we took a vote, and it was close, and we needed to count it, but the most likely scenario is that we actually have first to bring something onto the agenda for you to hear it. And then we have to come and have it again.
So if you leave plenary early, you might find that we did a second vote on something at the end because that's where they fit. And so I find every year people who are a little discouraged because the thing that they wanted to have a say in its outcome happened after they had gone somewhere else.
I can't encourage you enough to make sure that you know everything we're voting on or possibly revoting before you leave. That would just be a grand thing to know. Good. I think we'd like to sing.
DAVID GLASGOW: I think so.
SPEAKER 11: I think we would.
DAVID GLASGOW: Well, then lets.
SPEAKER 11: You're down on the floor now.
DAVID GLASGOW: I'm just all over the places this week.
SPEAKER 11: You are. You're--
DAVID GLASGOW: I have logged about eight miles since Monday.
SPEAKER 11: That's perfect.
DAVID GLASGOW: Yeah.
SPEAKER 11: So. Excellent. Our music coordinator for General Assembly, David Glasgow, is going to help us sing together. Because don't you want to sing?
DAVID GLASGOW: Yeah. And I need to shout to the tech deck that this is the fast one. We're going to go with " Morning has Come" if that's all right. You might want to rise in body or spirit because it will help you sing. I promise.
[MUSIC - "MORNING HAS COME"]
DAVID GLASGOW: Here we go.
[MUSIC - "MORNING HAS COME"]
DAVID GLASGOW: Amen. You may be seated.
SPEAKER 11: Thank you, David. It must be Thursday morning because we have a special report on Thursday mornings, and this is just excellent. I would like you please to join me in a rousing welcome for our Unitarian Universalist Association president, the Reverend Peter Morales.
Report of the UUA President Rev. Peter Morales
REV. PETER MORALES: Thank you. And it's good—it's good to be together again. I invite you to think about the great religious stories, the stories across different religious traditions. One of the patterns that I see when I look at those stories is the repeated metaphor of the spiritual life as a journey.
Think about Abraham leaving a known place and seeking a new home and creating a new tradition. Think of the story of Moses in the Exodus and a journey toward freedom. Think of the journey of Jesus. First of Mary and Joseph and that journey as a vulnerable, poor couple having to stay in a stable but later on his own journey as an itinerant minister, an itinerant prophet in that tradition, and then finally, the triumphant and then tragic entry into Jerusalem.
Or the Buddha rejecting a life of privilege and ease and undertaking a ministry to share his enlightenment. Or Muhammad, a similar story, a story of achieving some level of success and ease and putting it all at risk to create a new tradition to convey the message that there is one God, meaning that we are all one people and that our little tribal allegiances are false. Those things the divide us are false, and those things that unite us are true.
I was thinking also about my own personal journey now that I'm a certified senior citizen and about how in my own journey—I'm sure this is true of so many of us if not all of us here—the things that have formed me, the experiences that I think are precious all involves taking a risk, moving, leaving something behind to seize a new opportunity.
The first one that comes to mind is as a 17- almost 18-year-old growing up in San Antonio having never been more than 80 miles west of the city jumping on a Greyhound bus and riding for two days to Northern California to go to this college I'd heard of that offered me a scholarship. There I am at the extreme right. Look at that dark hair and that slim body.
REV. PETER MORALES: That experience at Raymond College, a college really modeled after Oxford and Cambridge—we called it Cambridge on the Calaveras happily—was in that time of the '60s a place that's completely broke down my worldview.
Having grown up in a pretty conservative area, it exposed me to new and transforming ways of seeing the world. It also expose me to people who became lifelong friends and to one very special person who became my life's partner. And if we could have the slide of—oh.
REV. PETER MORALES: We were 14-years old. Or at least looked it. It's great to have a picture like this because I really have no recollection of being that young.
REV. PETER MORALES: Oh, yeah. That's probably enough so that. Let's get that off of there. But then, of course, that was our wedding day, the morning after graduation, began a new experience of being a family. And then, of course, life-transforming experience of becoming a parent.
If we could show. So that's my son Miguel who is now 40-years old. And look at that head of hair. Isn't that marvelous. And this one later on, 11 years—look at all the gray that's come on—my, daughter Marcella, learning how to use a Mac laying out a newspaper in Oregon.
The next journey I wanted to mention is that one that was involved in that photo where we were living in California in Sacramento I had moved up—I have worked for seven years with the State of California. I was a manager. I had only two promotions possible before I sort of reach the top.
Phyllis was teaching. We could see the next 25, 30 years of our lives, and it was a frightening prospect. And we quit our jobs, cashed in our retirements, sold our homes and bought a money-losing community newspaper in southern Oregon.
And that became a kind of community ministry. It was the sense of feeling what it's like to be at the center of public debate, to be able to help set the agenda, to be in an odd way a community leader. And that gave me a taste for what ministry could be.
The next big one was, of course, then leaving that at the age of 49 and going to Starr King and heading on the course of ministry. There's graduation at Starr King. Then went on to a wonderful settlement at a church in Colorado, Jefferson Unitarian Church, JUC, fabulous place.
And then there are a taste of what was possible in this movement of ours. I always had a sense of it, but I saw it blossom as a parish minister. And that led me into denominational leadership and finally to this position as your are president.
That was all driven by not only an abstract conviction but a conviction based in real experience of what is possible for us as a religious community. Our potential together is breathtaking. It is absolutely breathtaking.
So here we are together, together in the 21st century in a time of unprecedented change in our culture and in the religious landscape that surrounds us. We have been on a journey together for some time, our tradition. And we are beginning a new chapter in that journey.
I want to give you a sense of where we are. I am inordinately fond of charts. And so almost every year you get one or two, but let me show you this one. And you probably can't read it, and that's OK. This is the last eight years, eight years from 2004 to 2012, the most recent data that we had.
And what you see there in this chart is the percentage decline in membership in different religious denominations, including Presbyterian, Methodist, Episcopalians, United Church of Christ. The dark blue one that you see about halfway down with a very slight increase is us.
Now I wish that were a big blue bar going off to the right, and it's a classic glass half full/glass half empty situation. Because compared to the traditions to whom we are normally compared, we are doing far, far better.
But this is the important point. Last year I talked about the none, those who say none of the above. And let me repeat that just very quickly. When I was growing up only 1 person in 20 who was a young adult claim no religious identity, 1 in 20, 5%.
That grew to 12%, about 1 in 8, by the year 2000. It's 35% now. It is a stunning explosion of rejection of traditional religion among the young. It is a culture change that I think you have to look to things like the Reformation or the Great Awakening in New England to see the equivalent of.
That should give us pause, and it is a historic opportunity for Unitarian Universalism. Because nobody—and hear this carefully—nobody aligns with the values of the emerging generation the way we do, absolutely nobody.
REV. PETER MORALES: So we live in a culture where religion as it has been practiced for decades and centuries, church, is kind of a bad brand and in rapid decline, the sort of thing that the Western Europe has already seen. And we live at a time where people are hungry for a religion that I call multi, multicultural, multiracial, multi-generational, multi-faith multi-national.
I want to show here a picture of leadership development youth group that was taken just last year at the UUA. Isn't that beautiful.
REV. PETER MORALES: We need to see that explode because we're in the midst of a transformation, but we have to move quickly. And I have to give you one other little tidbits here. You look for signs of significant change in a movement. And I saw a sign that just stunned me, and I have to kind of cover up some facts because I don't want to single out this person.
But in my travels as I go around, I was in a congregation that had a fairly newly settled minister of color which has risen now in some of our most prominent pulpits. And I realized that something historic had happen in Unitarian Universalism when one of the leaders of the congregation pulled me aside worried about their minister because they were worried that someone was going to steal their minister.
REV. PETER MORALES: Because that minister was so good, and while this was a midsize church—and I can't get too many details—they were afraid somebody was going to recruit this person and snatch him to a larger one. I went, yes. That's exactly the kind of worry I want dozens and dozens of congregations to have.
REV. PETER MORALES: We're going to be guided on this journey of our by some core convictions. Convictions that you expressed in this gathered here process that we had of appreciative inquiry where we ask congregations and in clusters and we pull together your reflections. And it became so clear in that process that our people, you, want a tradition that is deep and passionate and passionate about justice and passionate about reaching out.
And in fact our next General Assembly theme is going to be loved reaches out where we're really going to focus upon how do we take this tradition of ours and share it in the wider world in a way that we never have.
REV. PETER MORALES: And we've heard mentioned also about last year's Justice General Assembly, which completely blew me away, and the people who were there found so much meaning in that. Here are a few photos of that, of being engaged.
And what made this so special wasn't simply that event—in fact there's a workshop coming up about taking it forward—the lesson to be learned is that how effective we could be when we were focused, when we were intentional, when we were prepared, and when we partnered with people both locally and nationally. It made it made us so much more effective, and it made it so much more meaningful for us. Collaboration is the key to our future.
REV. PETER MORALES: So moving forward—and you're going to hear me say this over and over and over again. Moving forward, we have to do two enormous things. The first is that we need to support our congregations better than we've ever done it, to support them with all the things around ministry, with resources, with consulting, all of those things to support our movement because of dynamic congregations have a tremendous future.
And simultaneously we have to experiment with new ways of being religious, with new forms that extend what our congregations are doing, even beyond our congregations.
I want to mention—and I don't have time to mention—so many wonderful things that your excellent, outstanding UUA staff is doing, but I want to lift up a couple because it speaks to partnership and what is possible.
One is the College of Social Justice that is a joint venture with the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee. We are working with the UUSC in ways that we never have before. And the College of Social Justice—and you're going to be hearing a presentation briefly about it headed up by the Reverend Kathleen McTeague. Here she is with one of our partners in India.
And they're having these journeys and experiences in Haiti, in India, in many, many areas. And these are increasing. This is in Africa—no this one is in Haiti.
Another area that I want to lift up because it's going to have such impact is all the work they began three and a half years ago with the strategic review of professional ministry. We took a look at where we are and what we need to do using input from ministers, congregations, the ministerial association and came up with a plan that highlighted a number of things. And these are being implemented one after the other.
One of these is fulfilling the call which is being rolled out at this General Assembly. And this is a program that pull together input from our ministers, some of our leading ministers who are asked, what is it makes ministry work? That makes it effective? What are the skills involved in that?
And what we developed over a period of time was the sort of matrix of what are all these skills, what is sort of beginning level, the levels moving on toward expert. This is a tool that potentially can help shape seminary education, help shape the work of the Ministerial Fellowship Committee. I think most importantly help ministers shape their own continuing education and personal development programs. This can have a tremendous impact for a decade or two decades out.
Another one that I want to mention that I'm terribly excited about is we are in the process, early stages of planning, a continuing education for ministers in partnership with leading business schools on entrepreneurial ministry, to take the learnings of places like Stanford and Harvard Business Schools about organizational change and bringing those skills and organizational change into ministry.
REV. PETER MORALES: When I was starting out in ministry, I would have died for an opportunity like that. Another thing that's going to be coming very, very soon in this effort to share who we are and to communicate it powerfully to people who are outside our fold is an exercise—the term used is branding, but branding usually we think of logos and that kind of thing.
This is about communicating who we are in a powerful way, and we're working with a wonderful consultant who's helping us distill our message to communicate really who we are, what it is that we do, and why it matters in the world. So stay tuned for that. That is going to be rolled out in the coming months.
I talked about the interfaith work. The future is interfaith. And we have cooperative relationships now with United Church of Christ. Remember Geoffrey Black being not only at last year's General Assembly, he and I in Rhode Island participated together in a demonstration, a rally around marriage equality. I like to think that we are single-handedly responsible for marriage equality passing in Rhode Island. That might be an exaggeration.
REV. PETER MORALES: And a word quickly about that. It's it amazing how Unitarian Universalists has been at the forefront in every single jurisdiction where marriage equality has passed. That is important, important work.
REV. PETER MORALES: We're developing a partnership with the Reformed Jews. I've met with their president, Rick Jacobs. We're looking for opportunities with the UCC and with people like Sister Simone to do public witness together because it's so powerful. And I have this wonderful image that I hope we can pull together when we find the right opportunity of this tall—Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reformed Judaism was once a professional dancers. He's very tall, athletic looking guy. And then the Latino UUA president and the African-American UCC president and maybe Sister Simone speaking out on a critical issue. It would be the kind of photo op that the media couldn't resist. So I'm looking forward to that.
Did we have the photos of Sister Simone working with us at our rally in Boston? I thought we did. OK. There we go. There we go. So that's the Nuns on The Bus. She's terrific. OK.
And speaking of journeys, you may have heard that we're on the move. And I'd like to invite my compatriot here—the comedic opportunities here are just overwhelming. I could talk about trying to distinguish which one is stiffer.
REV. PETER MORALES: Or how this is a wonderful metaphor of how being president often has made beside myself.
REV. PETER MORALES: Or perhaps the debates I've had with this sucker late at night so many times. We are moving to a new headquarters. And at one level, of course, why should you care if you're in Idaho or Oregon or Iowa, if there's a different return address on stuff that comes from the UUA?
That's not what's important. What is important is we are going to move into a headquarters that allows our staff, your staff, to work in the way we've always wanted to work. We work now in older buildings there were designed for another era.
They were really designed for a late 19th century, early 20th century kind of organization that involved individuals working in very specialized ways in individual offices, and we're into buildings, Each of them six floors. When I go to my office at the UUA, I have no idea who's in the building beyond those who came in exactly when I did and we get on the elevator together because you don't bump into people.
We're going to move into a building that is modern, open office space design. It's going to have all of us rather than on 12 floors on 3. We're going to connect them. And let me show you some pictures that'll give you a taste of what's going to happen.
This is our new headquarters—and by the way this is Photoshop-ed or something. Those banners are not—but they look so real. Those banners are in fact not on 24 Farnsworth, but that's a UUA banner and a Beacon Press banner. Let's go to the next slide. I want to show you so this.
So this is right now completely unfinished. You can see it's been gutted, and it's pillars and beams and open and quite light. That's the third floor of the new building. We'll have the first, second, and third floors.
We're working with an architectural firm that we found that I'm so excited about. This is Trinity Church, the very elaborate church at Copley Square in downtown Boston. And this is their—it's a new word in my vocabulary—undercroft. And they decided that this essentially not really a basement, this kind of a little bigger than a crawlway, they want to expand and use the space.
So take a look at this and look at the stone on the right, and look at what they did with it. Yeah. Go back and forth. Go, if you will, that's the under croft as it existed. This is what they have now. And someone pointed out, that's not fair. It looked so much better in person than this photograph has it looks.
They also did the downtown post office and Federal court in Boston. This is the entrance that existed in this 1930-era office building. And this is the entrance that exists today. So let me show you some conceptual drawings now of 24 Farnsworth.
As you come in, there's going to be what we're calling a welcoming Heritage and Vision Center for Unitarian Universalism that's going to use—we're in the very early stages of planning this.
But the vision is to use the kind of technology that's used in better museums now, in art museums, interactive, electronic stuff so we can tell our story for visitors but also talk about not only our distant past but who we are and what are aspirations are and have different ways of demonstrating that. And there'll be a little store there where we'll be able to sell books but also some other things, items as well. Let's go to the next one.
On the second four, this is a conceptual drawing of the new chapel. Again, it'll have doors that open out into another receiving area. It's going to be a wonderful multi-use gathering place for all kinds of meetings and gatherings that we can have there. Next slide.
Again, this is conceptual. Nothing will look exactly like this, but this is showing the kind of mixing of open space offices with lots of little places where people can get together to talk about things so that we can really have a facility that evokes collaborations rather than impedes it.
The next one is a bit of a meeting room. And if you look very, very closely—I love this. I haven't looked closely the first time—the sign, the banner on the left, actually says seven principles at the top. And if you look super closely, somebody imposed a Hosea Ballou in that meeting room, the portrait of Hosea Ballou.
And one more. Or is that—is that the—yeah, I think that might be the last one of our Farnsworth. There is so much a wonderful stuff going on--
REV. PETER MORALES: But I want to wrap to go back to we are on a new journey together, a new chapter, if you will, of our continuing journey. And what will guide us on this way are the values that have always guided us. And I see it as a way of living out our true identity.
Because as see the history of Unitarian Universalism, we are not the people who got stuck. We are not the people who clung to traditions that no longer were serving humanity and the human spirit. We were the people who saw new possibilities.
We were always the bold seekers, those who reached out and embraced new knowledge in the sciences, those who reached out and embrace the wisdom and the teachings of different religious traditions beyond the tradition of our birth.
That is what is before us now, to live out that identity, to be the passionate, bold, spiritual adventurers for the 21st century that offers not only to our people but people outside of our circle now, the progressive religious community that so many millions of people hunger for.
Our possibilities truly are breathtaking. I have never lost that conviction. Our challenge is to seize those opportunities. Let us join together on this wonderful, wonderful journey before us. Let's be on our way.
Thank you for everything you do for Unitarian Universalism in your own community. And finally, thank you for the unbelievable privilege of serving as your president.
SPEAKER 11: Thank you so much, Peter. Tom Loughrey.
Statements from Candidates for the Presidential Search Committee
TOM LOUGHREY: A change in the bylaws in 2011 now describes a new process for the selection of nominees for the position of president of the Association. The committee is charged with selecting two persons for the position to serve a single term of six years as president.
This will begin with the election to take place in 2017. Five members of the committee are to be elected by delegates, and the Board of Trustees appoints two members. The Nominating Committee has submitted for the Presidential Search Committee five candidates. And let me introduce them. Reverend Wayne Arnason of Rocky River, Ohio.
TOM LOUGHREY: Reverend Matthew Johnson Doyle of Rockford, Illinois.
TOM LOUGHREY: Reverend Michael Tino of Peekskill, New York.
TOM LOUGHREY: Elandria Williams of Knoxville, Tennessee.
TOM LOUGHREY: And Jacqui Williams of Albany, New York.
TOM LOUGHREY: We have a couple of statements. You don't have to hear from everybody, but you'll hear a couple statements. And I'll start with Wayne Arnason.
REV. WAYNE ARNASON: As a gesture of mercy to the delegates and an expression of the confidence in the oratory of two of our most excellent members, there are only two of us that are going to be making statements. So I'm proud to be nominated, and I'll move on.
TOM LOUGHREY: That may be the shortest statement Wayne's ever made from this podium.
TOM LOUGHREY: And Jackie Williams from Albany, New York.
JACKIE WILLIAMS: I look forward to serving the General Assembly of our Association on the presidential search committee with all of the identities that comprise who I am and the skills that I've acquired in my 60 years on this Earth.
For many of the jobs I've held and the positions I've advocated for or against, it has been useful to be outside of the system in order to speak the words to bring about needed change. Other times it's been useful to be part of creating or using the system to ensure the process flows as best as possible to achieve the highest outcome.
That is what I pledge to do in our search for the next president of the UUA. Thank you.
TOM LOUGHREY: We also have a statement from Reverend Matthew Johnson Doyle.
REV. MATTHEW JOHNSON DOYLE: Good morning. I could spend my time telling you about my qualifications for the job which are various and experience in ministry. We all could have done that. But there are only five candidates for five positions, and the write-in deadline has passed. So I don't need to convince you to vote for me or anyone else.
I want to take my time for another purpose, to ask for your help over the next few years as this new committee does its work. We need your help in identifying good candidates, but here's the truth. If all our committee does is present two names to you, then we will have failed our charge and the needs of this moment.
What is the job of the president of the UUA? What are the essential duties and skills? What is the relationship between this person and others, major funders, the UUA staff, the UUA Board, the Minister's Association, and congregation lay leaders?
I don't believe that we have anything close to a consensus about the answers to those questions. And this lack of clarity is a source of difficulty. It will be our job as the Presidential Search Committee to lead this Association in some discernment about the job in order to help whomever we nominate succeed and to help this liberal faith thrive in these changing times.
And for that, we need your help, your wisdom, and your willingness to adapt your expectations for this job to conform to a new consensus about the work. So thank you in advance. And I look forward and I know we all look forward to serving you in the years to come.
TOM LOUGHREY: Because of this committee and the members of it are—it's an uncontested election—the Board has taken the opportunity to go ahead and name it's two nominees to this committee, Liz Jones—I think I saw Liz over here earlier—and Joanna Fontaine Crawford. There are the two nominees from the board to this committee. Our best wishes to their great success in the years to come.
SPEAKER 11: There's really only one announcement, so I'm going to provide it. Normally, Tom would do that, but we've been working him already, and I know what it is and he doesn't so.
Last year, we did reflection groups for the very first time, and the results—and I can't give you the metrics, but I did read the evaluation from GA. And the folks who participated in those reflection groups said they were amazing, that they absolutely we're just thrilled to be in them.
And the people who didn't complain about how long the lunch hour was. It seemed to be a waste of time. Hello. Because it's long enough for lunch and reflection groups. How many of you are already assigned to reflection groups?
OK. Those of you who aren't don't worry. You can still get in one, and I would so encourage you to just because the feedback from last year was so stunning. We have a slide. Could I have that please?
If you don't already have Covenant Reflection Group, this is a group to talk about the questions of how we will be in covenant going forward. I hope you're detecting a theme that there's a lot changing right now in Unitarian Universalism. And it is appropriate that those changes be driven by this body, as the Reverend Walt Wieder says, the heart of Unitarian Universalism.
This is our method for talking about covenant. I hope you believe that the question of who we should be together and how we should relate to each other in the larger world are important questions for the future of our faith. If you do, the method—thank you—if you do, the method is not to post on my Facebook page, which is cool but interesting, but not what we're doing. We're doing this instead.
Please be part of the conversation about how we can be together and who we can be. If you are not already in a reflection group, at 12:45 go to L-2, L-3, or L-6, and you will be placed in a group of other folks who you won't know—new strangers, that's another word for friends you haven't yet met—so that you can engage in this important conversation. OK. Cool. Perfect.
I think that's it. Oh, one more thing. When you come—I'm going to dismiss us in a second—come to plenary a 5:15 prepared to go directly from here to witness. It's a very short plenary and then worship and witness. You won't have a break in between. Does that make sense?
Who's coming back this afternoon? [APPLAUSE] Yeah. All right. It's how it begins. There being no further business to come before us and in accordance with the schedule put forth in your program book I declare that this plenary session of the General Assembly shall stand in recess until 5:15 this afternoon. Go well and go love.