Proposer's Guide—Part 2: Actions of Immediate Witness

The Action of Immediate Witness process at General Assembly offers delegates the opportunity to engage in collective social witness to courageously affirm what is just and good through a statement that demonstrates solidarity with those who are mistreated or that imagines and articulates social justice or collective liberation. This process takes place during the General Assembly and is distinct from the three-year process of the Congregational Study Action Issue culminating in the Statement of Conscience.

Unlike a Statement of Conscience, an AIW does not carry the full authority of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA); rather, it expresses the conscience and carries the authority of the delegates at the GA at which it is passed. This distinction follows from the difference in procedure: Congregational Study/Action Issues are initiated by congregations or districts or covenanted communities and move through a three-year period of study and action with opportunities for comment. There are no such opportunities for AIWs, which are initiated by individual delegates or groups of delegates and move through their entire creation and adoption process during one GA. The AIW process allows Unitarian Universalists to respond quickly to social issues deemed urgent. Affirmed AIWs are used by congregations in local efforts and empower the UUA’s Advocacy and Organizing staff to take action and recommend action.

Frequently Asked Questions:

  1. What is witness?
  2. Who may propose an Action of Immediate Witness?
  3. What kind of issue is appropriate for an AIW?
  4. Where do I begin?
  5. What should my proposed AIW look like?
  6. How do I submit my proposed AIW?
  7. What happens after the filing deadline?
  8. What happens to an AIW after General Assembly?

What is New About the Process for Affirming AIWs at the 2020 GA?

  1. Requirement to gather and submit signatures in order to qualify eliminated.
  2. No mini-assemblies; therefore proposed AIWs are not amendable.
  3. The number of AIWs available for consideration by delegates is theoretically unlimited (previously the CSW had to make the first cut and get the number of proposals for consideration to 6).
  4. The CSW’s role in AIW selection is limited to determining whether proposals meet the published criteria.
  5. The vote to select 3 AIWs for final consideration will use electronic ballots open for over 24 hours (instead of general session voting limited to a few minutes).
  6. Delegates will have access to the full text of all AIWs to be considered before they vote electronically.
  7. Delegates will have more time to consider the AIW proposals before needing to vote.
  8. Delegates will not hear from the proposers of AIWs before voting for their top 3 choices.
  9. The general session vote to add 3 AIWs to the final agenda will be during the same general session as the vote for affirmation.
  10. The vote on an AIW will be for affirmation, not adoption.

What is The Same?

  1. The criteria are unchanged.
  2. The cover page and format for AIWs are unchanged
  3. The deadline for submission is still Thursday of GA at 5 p.m. local time.
  4. The final number of AIWs to be discussed and voted on is 3.
  5. Proposers of the top 3 AIW proposal vote-getters will have 2 minutes to speak in its favor at the Saturday general session.
  6. Delegates will have a limited time for discussion before voting on affirmation.
  7. AIWs will represent the opinion of delegates at one General Assembly versus being an official policy statement of the UUA, as is a Statement of Conscience.

Why the Changes?

  • To free up General Assembly time for general conference-type deep conversations.
  • Bylaws changes in 2018 allowed more flexibility in process.
  • Consistent with the SOC on democracy, to be more democratic – the CSW is less involved in eliminating proposals; delegates have access to full texts of proposals; there is more time for caucusing and consultation with home congregations before voting to select 3 AIWs for consideration.

Proposer's Guide—Part 1: Congregational Study Action Issues / Statements of Conscience