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Operational Interpretations of Sources of Authority & Accountability: UUA Governance Manual Appendix 3.C
Our Member Congregations
As the legal owners of our Association of Congregations, our Member Congregations are the board’s most direct source of authority and accountability. Through our Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) bylaws the board’s relationship with member congregations is not just legal and fiduciary, but also covenantal so that our Unitarian Universalist (UU) religious heritage underpins this relationship. We formally link to Member Congregations through their elected and called leaders including their delegates to General Assembly. In this way, we honor our congregations’ democratic process, connecting to the leaders elected and called to represent their congregations. Member Congregations are currently the primary instruments of the Association’s mission, offering a comprehensive range of perspectives to their role as owner. In linking with this Source, we intentionally hear those perspectives through such methodologies as surveys, focus groups, issues forums, interviews, and through their resolutions and debates in GA plenary sessions and mini-assemblies.
Current and Future Generations of Unitarian Universalists
Reminding us of our obligation to all Unitarian Universalists, and calling us to the future of Unitarian Universalism, current and future generations of Unitarian, including those generations not yet living. Universalists complements and expands the authority and accountability we receive from our member congregations. At any time “current generations” of Unitarian Universalists includes 4-5 actual generations from children to seniors, including those who are isolated due to mobility or impairment. Nonetheless, we expect the board’s most significant focus for this source of authority and accountability will typically be children (or their proxies), youth and young adults because they are the generations most likely to:
- Be at the forefront of cultural movement and technological change.
- Offer, by their less inhibited, group-centered, idealistic, exploring approach to life, vivid expressions of UU ideals and the quality of our beloved community.
- Represent, by virtue of their procreative power, how our heritage might be lived in next generations.
The Board will intentionally link with youth and young adults through caucuses or other formal gatherings at General Assembly (GA), cons and rallies, the Youth Observer and Trustee, regional or district events, and/or campus organizations and other Youth and Young Adult groups, as well as through social media. In addition to congregational settings; children, Youth, and Young Adults might be reached through extra-congregational gatherings such as camps and conferences.
Former and/or unaffiliated Unitarian Universalists are also part of this Source. We will link with them through surveys, both one-off and longitudinal, and through focus groups.
The Heritage, Traditions and Ideals of Unitarian Universalism
This Source reminds us that ours is a living tradition in which revelation is not sealed, grounds us in what it has meant to be a Unitarian Universalist in both its strengths and failings, and helps us to evolve that understanding for the future. We link to this Source through our study of:
- The collective voice of our movement and its history as recorded in the minutes, the resolutions and the actions of the UUA Board, the Administration, the board and administration of the organizations that preceded the UUA, and the General Assembly.
- The writings of our historical figures, ministers, denominational leaders, and UU historians, including greater access to correspondence, diary and journal entries.
- The works published by Beacon Press, particularly those that take controversial positions in the public square that live up to our ideals.
- Congregational data and writing.
- Our hymnals.
- Our bylaws.
- Photographs, art, and other non-text voices including recordings and interviews.
- The actions of those who are trying to live up to our heritage, traditions, and ideals.
- Note: I did not add “sacred texts from other faiths” because we interpret this to be traditions as incorporated and used within Unitarian Universalism. We believe sacred texts from other faiths speak to us directly through the spirit of life, Love, and the holy. We added “Native American and Pagan traditions” to spirit of life, Love, and the holy.
In linking with this Source, we will select elements from among these voices that are most instructive and articulate how our faith’s heritage, traditions and ideals speak to the question at hand.
The Vision of Beloved Community
This Source calls us back to our covenant and principles, our best selves, and our community and forward into an aspirational vision of how we would like to be together. The voices of the vision of Beloved Community include justice-seekers, justice-makers, and stories of oppression and counter oppression, speaking to us through stories about their lives, their work, and their successes and failures in building and living Beloved Community. We hear these stories:
- Directly in our visits with justice-seekers, justice-makers and stories of oppression and counter oppression.
- In sermons and sacred texts from all faith traditions that remind us of love, connectedness, relationship and community.
- Through the arts including literature, poetry, theater, music, and stand-up comedy.
- DRUUMM and other UU communities that might have a specific vision of the Beloved Community.
- Witness events or opportunities for cross-cultural engagement.
- Wisdom from non-dominant cultures.
- Conversation with communities and their leaders which approach the ideal of Beloved Community.
- Our stories of times our communities have approached Beloved Community.
- Writing/studies on relationships, conflict resolution, and models such as Ghandi.
In linking with this Source, we will systematically and intentionally choose a variety of ways to hear these stories to make sure this Source informs our board’s work.
The Spirit of Life, Love and the Holy
The Spirit of Life, Love and the Holy is the most personal of the Sources and also the most universal and accessible. It is the Source that links the Board to what gives life—to what is greater than us—to what is ultimate. This Source speaks to us through direct experience, spiritual texts and teachings of world religions, science and reason, Native American and pagan traditions, the arts and literature, and in acts of reconciliation, wholeness, and love. We will link to this Source both as individuals through applying our individual spiritual practice in contemplation of the question at hand, and collectively as a Board in group meditative reflections, prayer, singing and music, story-telling, experiences of witness, worship, ritual, and through other means, remaining open to a variety of spiritual practices.