General Session 3 (Commission on Institutional Change Report), General Assembly 2020
Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Co-Moderators Mr. Barb Greve and Elandria Williams preside over the general sessions in which the business of the Association is conducted. See the Final Agenda (PDF, 12 pages) for more about the business process.
- Call to Order
- Commission on Institutional Change Report
- Closing Words
Rough Edited Captioning
CART captioning provided by Alternative Communication Services, LLC.
This is being provided in a rough-draft format. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings.
>> Welcome to the third general session of the Unitarian Universalist Association's 2020 General Assembly. I'm Patrick McLaughlin and honored to be a trustee and the secretary of your board. The business of this session is to hear the report of the Commission on Institutional Change. We are deeply grateful to the commissioners for this work and for the faith, time, and labor that it took them to produce this. It reminds us that even as we attend to the injustices of the world, that we need to attend to the injustices that have existed and still exist within our own faith
Spirit of life and love, may we be as faithful and committed in doing this work as our commissioners have been. May we not turn away from it because doing the work is hard and discomfiting. May it be so.
This session is now in order.
>> We now call to order the second general session of the 59th General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association. Three years ago the UUA board formed a commission on institutional change. That was introduced as a 2017 general assembly. The individuals who have served on this commission have generously given countless hours and months of their lives due to the heavy lifting of gathering, analyzing, and presenting us with the hard truth around our collective patterns of white supremacy culture. Through the report they're about to give, the commission gives their analysis and their thoughtful recommendations of how we might selectively move forward to change our structures and ourselves in order to transform our faith for the better. The commission has also encouraged us to understand and recognize intercessionalty and all the ways it will manifest in our culture. Gratitude for the faithful work and the sacrifices both personal and professional they have made, please join me in welcoming the members of the Commission on Institutional Change to the screen.
>> Good afternoon, and welcome to the third general session of this year's General Assembly. We are grateful this afternoon to have the Commission on Institutional Change share their report with us, the delegates, of the general Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association.
>> I'm reverend Leslie Takahashi, she/her/hers.
>> I invite you to open your hearts and minds to a spirit of prayer. Spirit of life, God of many names and one abiding love, love which calls us to cries for justice, to move our bodies and actions, to move our faith towards transformation. Let us not stand aside in this moment. This moment is not the only moment. It is not the final moment, but today is our moment. Today is our (inaudible). We pray that we are brave enough and thankful enough to answer the call of this moment, the call to love and justice in the midst of pandemic fear, in the midst of hurt and pain and grief over the killing of Black people. In this moment, our moment, may we be brave enough, may we be faithful enough to do what only we can do, which only we, together, can accomplish. Add your voice, add your thoughts, add your hearts to the list of those who have marched forward to those who refuse to die. So may it be. Amen.
>> Now that we ask you take a moment and join with us in a moment of silent recognition of all the Black people, Indigenous people, and People of Color, whose life energy, gifts, passions, and love for our faith have been lost to our communities, to our congregations, and to our wider association because of our inability to hear the voices calling for change over decades and over centuries. Let us take a moment of silent recognition.
May their blessed memory be with us as we proceed through this. We are going to take a few minutes and share with you some of the questions that we have gotten through our work as the Commission on Institutional Change, and we're going to share with you some of the questions that we have had. The first question we'll share with you is, why should we care about the work of racial accountability and reconciliation, reformation, and change during this time when we have faced a global pandemic, an economic crisis, and a national conversation about race?
>> First and foremost, we should understand that our theology and our history as Unitarian Universalists leads us to the struggle against racism and any form of dehumanization because we believe in the inherent dignity of every human being. And that we affirm our interconnectedness and therefore our mutual need. One of us is not free if all of us are not free. One of us is not safe if all of us are not safe. The pandemic has accentuated, actually, has lifted up why we need to have this understanding of our theological heritage. Think about what the world would be like if we had lived to this point. Think of those who would not be lifting their lives because they were underinsured but still had to go out in the pandemic, those who didn't have health care, who don't have financial support to see them through this crisis. If we were able to wrap the world in our Unitarian Universalist theology, there would be so much less suffering, especially by those in underresourced communities, those people of color, those people who have different non majority identities.
Another question is, isn't it time to move past the race conversation?
>> As our national news shows every day, systemic racism is at the very root of the values, practices, and culture of the U.S. and that the global system the U.S. has influenced. Further, the pandemic has brought our attention to the cavernous divisions among us, particularly for Black and Indigenous people. As the hospitalization and death rates have shown, those groups are many times more likely to face health disparities, income inequality, and lack of basic social services. The attempts to control the virus have only brought more attention to the heavily militarized policing that goes on in those communities.
As we come out of this pandemic, this moment of uprising, those divisions threaten to become even starker. In many states and across the country, COVID relief is already being distributed unequally, and many communities are seeing their wealth gap widen. Rather than turn away from race and the problems of systemic racism and the problems of inequity, we must turn fully forward so that finally we can begin to close these gaps and make a difference for everyone.
>> Another question is why should we listen to the five of you and your opinions?
>> This is a question that, for us, was based in the elements of our theology. We make it a priority to listen to those most impacted by our denominational system and the impact of systematic racism. What was carried out over thousands of hours of interviews and in many testimonials, we also had two listening sessions. In addition, we carry our process with leaders across our denomination. Out of this process, we identify the priorities that guided our data analyses, and therefore, out of these analyses come our recommendations. These are recommendations of our particular preferences, but instead, they're a collection of voices from across our movement.
>> After question we've received is why are you calling us to be more (inaudible)?
>> So we've engaged with this question throughout our three years. People believing that any call for us to return to our theological legacy and roots is to require some kind of statement or test for our members and our association and for our congregation and communities. What we are saying is that in this time, we have a theological legacy that's one of our most treasured gifts, and we cannot abandon that or not use it at a time that we truly need to center what we're doing on what we believe, those beliefs that have been passed down to us, that we've inherited, and which are one of our greatest treasures.
>> In addition, our faith calls us to deep covenants with one another. We believe that our theological mandate, we need to find the ways both ritually and as a faith community that we have our bonds of community that help us overcome racism.
>> Another question is how can Boston make us do things when we have congregational equality? And also, are you trying to make Boston more powerful?
>> Our Association focus is often on congregational independence. However, it also incorporated our interdependence, our commitment to engage each other as individual congregations and as individual members within congregations. We're committed to learn and grow together a quality and mutual respect. To be part of the Association is to agree that we are one body trying to move to a transformed world together.
>> Another question we have received is, what does this work have to do with congregational life?
>> (Inaudible) we are an Association of congregations. Our deepest relationships are in congregations as members. If we change at that level, then we can spread that change throughout our Association.
>> Our work in listening to hundreds and hundreds of stories of what has happened to people who enter into our communities and congregations teaches us at some level this is all just about basic hospitality. People come into our faith through our congregational doors, and too often they leave through those same doors, never to return again, even though in their hearts they now know that they share our Unitarian Universalist values.
Another question that we have to ask to all of you, but which we will also answer is, what is the consequence of failing to take this particular time in history and address these issues not only individually but at an institutional and systemic level?
>> The first part of that answer is we're going to continue to do real harm to people the way that we have by not completing this work and continuing this work in the past. It means we're going to be living out of integrity with our values. We're not going to be honoring the inherent worth and dignity of all people. To do our work with justice, equity, and compassion at the center of what we do, and that's just the beginning.
>> Amidst this pandemic and rebellion, we face a historic crisis that will be a test of our systems, structures, and communities. Radically addressing these issues head on will position us to respond to the social changes ahead, and more important than the survival of our denomination, our legacy as a faith tradition, as well as the integrity of our members will be judged by history against how we responded to this moment. And the harder truth is that many of the people we are advocating for in these recommendations need these resources and critical changes now, or they may not be with us on the other side.
>> Thank you to the Commission for these questions, and we now invite you to share with us your takeaways and recommendations from your report.
>> For the last two general assemblies, we have stood before you amplifying the voices of Black Unitarian Universalists, Indigenous Unitarian Universalists, and other Unitarian Universalists of color. We have brought to you their anger, their pain, their sorrow, and their outrage. Today we stand before you in 2020, a year in which we have seen in more stark relief than ever before the disparate lives and treatment for Black people, for Indigenous people, and for People of Color in this nation. It is in that context that we present to you our recommendations. Our previous reports are on our website and are very accessible. We ask as we begin today that you imagine what it is like to be Black, Indigenous, or another Person of Color, to see a sign at a protest with all the right words or to hear a speaker give an impassioned plea as a religious Unitarian Universalist, and then to journey into that congregation only to find that the work and awareness that is needed to be a truly hospitable place, a truly sustaining faith, a place where we can truly widen the circle of belonging and welcome equity inclusion and diversity, that that work is not being done. Imagine the trauma to the heart and to the spirit that occurs over and over again.
We have been a faith that has often fallen short of what we need to be. We can be a faith that widens the circle to ensure that those who need our saving message can find a home among us.
Our report has ten final areas of recommendation. Theology, governance, congregations and communities, hospitality and inclusion, living our values in the world, religious professionals, educating for liberation, innovations and risk taking, restoration and reparations, accountability and resources. And we will now share with you the recommendations and takeaways from each of these areas.
>> We are required to address equity, inclusion, and diversity issues. Faith and covenants are not dirty words. Freedom and individualism are the most important values. We'll have little to offer in these times. These times require a faith that invites us each into the spiritual work and empathy of healing. (Inaudible) and faithful justice making requires our theology.
Our articulation of what is commonly believed among us (inaudible). Too many Unitarian Universalists do not know what truth can be found within their own faith tradition. We need to put together a greater emphasis on what it means to be bound to one another in an interdependent web and in keeping with our covenant or tradition. A greater emphasis on the theological basis for our worth or diversity, equity, and inclusion will help us to make decisions about the forms of this work most appropriate for our individual and faith wise. Our recommendations, we engage our theological legacy and is used today to ground our efforts to welcome all who are drawn to our faith and provide resources for resilience for Unitarian Universalists in this difficult time.
The interpretation of our theological legacies in these times should commit to affirming and welcoming those who have been marginalized in our larger society and within our communities and organizations. Acknowledgment of anti oppression work as a theological mandate is essential. We need to resurrect, research, document, and teach the words of Black people, Indigenous people, people of color, LGBTQI individuals, women, and others who have been largely lost throughout history. These constitute a valuable tool for our times.
Education about the covenants or nature of our faith will allow communities the support to nurture one another as overall the U.S. climate becomes more hostile and disinterested in a life of faith.
>> Our second area, and here are some of our takeaways. At the local and regional level, our structures can be too informal, perpetuating a club like mentality of leadership. Our overly complex governance system makes change difficult. Change, agility, and innovation are needed for Unitarian Universalism to survive. Black people, Indigenous people, and people of color encounter aggression and ignorance in many organizations, and the lack of a common commitment to anti oppression and multicultural work makes such service hazardous.
We have a history of disbanding bodies and not reinstating them, as happened with our Continental Youth and Young Adult Programs. We must address this ongoing need. We need a congregational policy that serves us rather than blocks progress. We need understanding among all Unitarian Universalist organizations. And we need to refocus the resources we have on critical areas of leadership that lead to more inclusive and equitable practices.
And here are our recommendations. The board of trustees and the president of the association should articulate clear goals, plans, and measures for our times. Governance within the association needs streamlining, as outdated and duplicative structures exist. The unnecessary complexity of the current Unitarian Universalist governance structures is biased towards the more privileged who have the time and resources for extensive volunteerism. Misconceptions about the nature of our congregational equality should be addressed, as they are used to empower individual ministers and layleaders to maintain a stagnant and exclusionary status quo.
>> Congregations that choose to engage to increase equity, inclusion, and diversity are leading the way into the future. Too often, these congregations must do this challenging work by themselves when learning communities would be easy to form. Curated resources, learning circles, and funding to develop needed tools should be a priority for UUA led efforts under the leadership of the Liberal Religious Educators Association. Anti oppression tools, as well as conflict facilitation, are essential to leadership development efforts and leadership development is needed in the complex and often conflictual context of leadership today.
None of this can be accomplished without better communication between the Unitarian Universalist Associations and the congregations it serves. Regional gatherings could touch more and help provide a common frame of reference. Regional staff should provide a consistent structure for work on diversity, equity, and inclusion. And so our recommendations are covenant and commitment, not comfort, should be the binding fabrics of UU congregations and other communities. The UU board and the president and administration should continue to prioritize efforts to create communication channels and strengthen regions, clusters, and other structures the congregations can live into. The UUA board should look at the best way to provide ongoing active governance for congregations as the current general assembly system is too costly and cumbersome for many to participate in, as this disproportionately affects people of color. Development of a common frame of anti oppression training and multicultural competency is needed for all regional staff, those trained to advocate for UU professionals during times of conflict, and boards to help prevent injury and wrongdoing.
>> Our takeaways from hospitality and inclusion, most Unitarian Universalist congregations and organizations need ongoing education and structural change to be hospitable to all. A certification process for those interested in addressing racial bias is overdue. Identity based groups could provide those for marginalized groups with needed support while longer term cultural change is happening. The defunding of our national youth programs has hindered our efforts. Congregations committed to equity, inclusion, and diversity should demonstrate this through funding of travel and scholarships for Black people, Indigenous people, people of color, LGBTQIA people, disabled and poor people, as well as for youth and young adults as a regular part of annual budgets.
Our recommendations, new structures to provide leadership education to UU leaders are needed and should include multicultural hospitality practices as foundational. Volunteering should be emphasized to allow support from our generalized groups, including people of color. Providing resources to promote young adult and youth convenings that include support and caucusing for those with marginalized leadership is essential.
>> Living our values in the world, our takeaways. Our theology calls us to respect the work and dignity of all, and that is the foundation for our justice work. That foundation, alongside our own understanding that we are bound together, means that we need to center justice work in our accountable partnerships. Diversity, equity, and inclusion should be applied to all areas of justice work, including climate change. Accountable partnerships are dependent on our ability to educate ourselves and avoid microaggressions and other forms of modern racism. Our accountability and justice work should be leading organizations to be an organization in which we have partnership. We should not ask individuals members of a particular group to serve as our accountability partners.
Our recommendations, a leader of faith will deliver the mandate of our theological legacy to those most affected in our justice work, which should follow the voices of those most at risk. Through the original structures, the UUA should promote for those who will accompany the journey with Black, Indigenous, and people of color and their leaders and groups to ensure more competency in this area. Develop more theological resources to center our justice work in our faith and make clear the interconnection between action in the world and spiritual development.
As people of faith, our call to collective justice work through accountable partnership is our basic path.
>> Our takeaways for religious professionals. Religious professionals of color are central to a more equitable, diverse Unitarian Universalism. It will provide new models of professionalism that will bring in new ways of working and model better practices at the congregational level. Team ministry will give voice to professionals of color in nonministerial positions. In order to ensure inclusivity, equity, and diversity within the body of religious professionals, we need to take specific steps to ensure the quality of life as a religious professional to our Black people, Indigenous people, people of color, and other ministers of oppressed groups. It is not consistent with our values to harm, abuse, or damage the health and well being of our employees. Lay leaders, congregations, or religious professionals with a history of aggression towards religious professionals from oppressed groups should be identified so that further damage will not be done. In this time of unprecedented change, lifelong learning for religious professionals should be the standard and consistent with continuing education requirements for most other professional groups.
Our recommendations, we need to reduce the barriers to entry for those who seek to serve as religious professionals. This is true for all people, but these barriers are especially damaging for Black, Indigenous people, people of color, and other marginalized people who tend to have fewer financial resources through the historic and continuing patterns of discrimination. Improving the quality of livelihood for religious professionals who are Black, Indigenous, and people of color should be an ongoing goal, recognizing the particular demands of serving a predominantly white association and its congregations and communities. Lifelong learning is the standard for all religious professionals, and this learning should address generational and multicultural awareness.
Takeaways in educating for liberation. Unconscious bias is real. Unconscious bias when unaddressed creates toxic organizations. Many congregations have not addressed this, and so can be toxic to people of color. Addressing unconscious bias requires education, not guilt. Many good tools are available and need to be curated for lead who are are overwhelmed by today's challenging religious landscape and need easy access to resources. More Unitarian Universalist specific ideas are needed, including a certification program, which would indicate commitment and readiness for leadership from people of color.
Our recommendations, the Unitarian Universalist Association and other national UU organizations should prioritize the development of resources that allow Black people, Indigenous people, people of color, and other targeted groups to address the effects of today's racism and other oppressions in their minds, bodies, and spirits. Resources and tools to ensure a variety of entry points into spiritual work, of embracing one's own identity, and the identity of others should be curated and where not available developed. Resources on healing religious wounds and productive conflict engagement are also needed as a core path of faith development. A comprehensive path to understanding the work of equity, inclusion, and diversity should be developed and maintained as part of our faith development.
>> Innovations and risk taking, our key takeaways. People in communities who are front runners in innovators in combatting while the supremacy culture and developing practices of diversity and innovation have traditionally faced barriers when what we need to have is support. The limited resources we should showcase and spread successful innovations because such exchanges are critical to our survival as a faith tradition. We should not be culturally appropriative as a way of being inclusive, and education can help prevent that. We should do this education. Congregations taking the risk of engaging in inclusion, equity, and diversity work will pay a cost because of those unwilling to adapt to the times. They should be supported. Recognizing and honoring those engaged in equity, inclusion, and diversity work at the national level can build support at the local level. And so our recommendations in innovation and risk taking.
The Unitarian Universalist Association should fund, spread, and curate the ideas of those congregations working for decades now to become more diverse and amplify this work at the general and regional assemblies. Assistance to congregations supporting circles or caucuses involving Black people, Indigenous people, people of color, as well as young adult groups within their local context should be prioritized. Funding it needed to ensure that Black leaders, Indigenous leaders, leaders of color, and leaders from other marginalized groups with lower financial resources can be engaged and provide leadership in a more inclusive future. We need to continue to figure out ways to use the leadership, expertise, and life experience of Unitarian Universalists who are Black, Indigenous, or people of color or have other marginalized identities as they are very valuable in designing faith based experiences that speak to resilience and inclusion in an increasingly diverse context. New settings and structures for worshipping and convening for Black people, Indigenous people, people of color, and youth and young adults should be funded, including new communities.
>> Restoration and reparations. The complexities of harm built by hundreds of years of oppression cannot be overstated. Therefore, this report will not issue one size fits all responses and policies for action. We offer takeaways as we have in other chapters, but we believe the emphasis in responsibility for innovation and implementation lies primarily in the hands of the institutions and actors holding power. The same energy, foresight, determination, organization, and passion displayed in the European Conquest of the World should be brought to bear in the dismantling of genocidal practices.
The UUA should invest in researching the best reparations platform from existing international, national, and local models. Best practices for this research would include prioritizing the voices of those most marginalized and harmed. The cultivation of reparative values within our theology is a moral imperative. We need an ongoing commitment to reparations at the institutional level under the authority of the board of trustees and ongoing reform and accountability groups. While Unitarian Universalists probably do not have the will or collective imagination to offset the harm done, especially to Black and Indigenous people among us, we can offer reparations by ensuring the continued funding of spaces of marginalized people to survive among us, such as equal access, et cetera. Congregations in decline or closing their doors should be actively encouraged to donate their resources to the association rather than making donations to their local community. These resources could be used to fund next generation communities and practices.
Our representations for restoration and reparation. As an act of reparations, funding and administrative for groups that allow Black, Indigenous people of color, and other marginalized groups to convene and gain the support necessary to worship and serve. Methods for encouraging and channelling productive conflicts should be established and promoted to decrease harm. Channels and procedures of identifying harm, making amends, and financial reparations should be established. And widespread practices of acknowledging Unitarian Universalism's practices are essential to understanding the need for continued support.
>> And our last area is accountability and resources. Accountability structures should be built into the bylaws and have direct representation on the board of trustees and should include accountability to representative groups, not individuals. We may not survive the past decade's disruption of our commitment to anti oppression work. We know we cannot afford to abandon it again because of its larger societal significance. Work to counter oppressive practices in our systems should be embedded in all levels of the UUA, including at the congregational and community level. Regular reporting on our progress can keep us focused and on track. All who facilitate conversations during times of conflict should be trained in anti oppression and how to address systemic bias.
Here are our recommendations. Accountability should be embedded in the structure of the board and other key organizations, including all affiliated and professional organizations. Ongoing monitoring is needed to make sure that work to counter bias and oppression is not interrupted again. The UUA should establish an ongoing, independent body to identify systemic changes and monitor accountability on work towards equity, inclusion, and diversity. And our final recommendation, those responsible for managing and negotiating in times of change and conflict should have training in anti oppression work.
We have shared with you many recommendations. We hope you will take the time to read the report, which gives the context and our findings and the details of what we are saying here. We also hope you will take a moment now to just check in with yourself and your heart and to see what is resonating with you in this discussion. Then after that moment of silence, we will ask each of our commissioners to share a personal statement about what this work has meant to them over these last three years.
>> I'm Reverend Dr. Natalie Fenimore. One of the gifts of these last three years has been getting to know them and be in their company. Another gift has been to hear and hold the stories of Unitarian Universalists of color and others who have struggled but remained committed to our faith. I can say that despite all the challenges this work has shown me that are present in our association, it has also affirmed my belief that we do have within us the resources to transform our institutions, our congregations, our culture, and ourselves for the better. We can work to create a Unitarian Universalism which we pray for. We can become a place that enables all those within our faith to thrive, no matter their identity, no matter their finances, no matter their accessibility needs, no matter their race, no matter their gender. We can do this. I am sure.
But I still ask if we will.
>> Hello. I'm Mary Byron. As a lay leader, these past three years have been a journey of learning, growing, and evolving as I work to understand what are the ways we UUs uphold systems of oppression and white supremacy within our faith community. A place where as white people we feel we must be past this, where we know we are good people, where some of us challenge even the idea that racism can exist in our faith. It's hard to face that. Denial is a strong force within us. However, you can't listen to the stories of the Black people, Indigenous people, and people of color who have left our faith, who were harmed in our congregation, and whose ministries were cut short or undermined by our adherence to white supremacy and still maintain that denial. If you can, then your heart has not yet been open to hear, and that may be where you should start your journey. It's been an honor and a great privilege to work with this commission, with the Reverend Leslie Takahashi, Cir L'Bert Jr., lifting up the voices that need to be heard and making recommendations for our congregations and communities with what we should all want our justice making work to be collaborative, thoughtful, and joyful. Thank you for your wisdom, your grace, and your dedication. I will miss working with you. To all UUs, I hope all of you will take this work forward into your congregations and support the UUA and affiliate organizations as they undertake the necessary changes that will bring us to our collective liberation, a future with an inclusive, equitable, Unitarian Universalism we are dreaming it to be.
>> I am Dr. Elias Ortega. First and foremost, I want to extend my thanks and appreciation to each and every member of the commission, not only those serving now but those who served a short term and are no longer a part of our ongoing work. I need to say from the outset, this work was very personal work. It is a work for me that took me to consider and think through my own commitments as a Unitarian Universalist. Why do I remain committed in a faith that seems to many that I do not belong, that I have to make a case not only for my existence, but the existence of others as part of the larger fabric of our faith. But this work also reminded me of the reasons why I have not left, not only myself, but also others. Why do we remain committed to this faith movement? We are committed to Unitarian Universalism not to the institution but to the larger faith that it represents, the aspiration of working for justice, of inclusion, the power of what it means to be universally included into a sacred community and a beloved community. Many of us remain committed Unitarian Universalists because of a promise. It is true that during this work, I and my fellow commissioners heard the pain of many in our movement, a generation of pain. We heard from folks who are currently in our midst, in our community, serving in our congregations as leaders, both ordained as religious professionals in many capacities and also lay. We also heard from those who are no longer with us and we mourned their loss.
So the reason for me to continue on this work, it is for the future of Unitarian Universalism. I asked myself the question when I started this work, and it's a question I'm still answering myself today. What is the future of the faith that we will inherit to the next generation? I hope that you join me in creating a faith that is more inclusive, more equitable for all, more justice, and more committed to our ongoing transformation.
>> My name is Cir L'Bert Jr. First, I would like to extend my gratitude to my fellow commissioners for their valiance, and passionate and educated work, and my gratitude for them to bringing me in to this chair. As an atheist, I'm sometimes asked what I consider sacred and meaningful about human life. In the Black community, we lift up the wisdom of our ancestors, directly tied with what makes humans special, quote/unquote, is our ability to teach our future across generations using the written word. That is fundamental to our ability to survive and thrive. The way we honor them is in the way we live and utilize the values and knowledge they fought so hard to carry to us. For me, the eight principles of UU have been a wonderful example of the power of written values. The worth and dignity of every human being, justice, inequity, the democratic process, the goal of world community, respect for the interdependence of life, a commitment to actions that dismantle racism and other oppressions in ourselves and our institutions. These principles serve as our constitution, a guide which we grow and mandate by how we act. Sadly, the nation in which we live and sadly the faith in which we share fails to mention our highest ideals, and the deeply embedded racism by which it operates has affected the hearts and minds within its boundaries. It is my hope that this report serves as a decisive declaration of Unitarian Universalism's values and intentions and a guide for how we may implement those values within our spaces and all the spaces we inhabit. We need to make sure our actions live up to the highest ideals of our ancestors and lift a banner both to our future members and leaders, to the end of the world, saying clearly we are a faith for all people.
>> In my 30 plus years of the Unitarian Universalist, I have spoken many times about how this faith has saved my life when I was in my 20s. That was because of the long reach of oppression and hatred based on race. What I have not spoken about as much is how the Black people, the Indigenous people, the people of color in this faith became my family. The first truly loving family that I had in my life. And it has been so hard over the decades to hear the family stories of pain, of loss, of oppression, of dehumanization that happened within the frame of this faith community that I love. It has been such a great privilege to serve as part of this commission and to serve with these amazing and dedicated people. I also want to lift up the gifts that were given to us by DeReau Farrar, Caitlin Breedlove, and Marcus. It is important now for us to recognize that it is time for us to seize this moment. It is time for us to widen the circle. The people of color, the Black people, the Indigenous people in our movement are asking this not be an exercise in just meeting and simply listening to the stories of pain without making the systemic changes needed to keep it from happening in the future. Let us do this work now. Let us widen the circle of concern.
>> Too many times we have marveled at our heritage which values each life and yet not lived up to its mandate that we treat each life as sacred. Too many times we have taken our ideals out into the streets to be on the right side of history and have failed to do the work within our own walls. Too many times we have wept when we heard the stories of harm done, felt indignation and resolve, and then not done the needed work to make true repair. Too many times we have proclaimed our interdependence, our oneness without making the changes that would allow all to survive and thrive.
Few times have we looked at the damage done when those most in need of shelter come into our sanctuaries seeking solace only to find a lack of hospitality. Too few times have we asked those harmed how the healing they need can best be done. They know. Too few times have we lifted up to the expansive, inclusive, mutually enriching view of the world which is our true heritage. Too few times have we been willing to give up comfort of honor, commitment, and covenant with one another. Too few times have we recognized that this widening is essential to the survival of our beloved faith. How do we widen the circle of concern? By witnessing to the stories of those who would offer their gifts among us and yet who too often are outside the stretch of our hospitality. How do we widen the circle of concern? By remembering that we can be of service beyond our walls and yet must also do our work within our walls. How do we widen the circle of concern? By listening rather than refuting those stories which are told at a cost and can only be honored if they lead to righteous action, dismantling oppressive practice and structures to build for this new day. How do we widen the circle of concern? By being willing to risk fear, conflict, civility, and familiar ways to embrace the integrity of deep change. How do we widen the circle of concern? By taking the learnings of this uprising time and cradling them against our hearts, knowing that this healing work is balm for the mind, heart, and spirit. Widen the circle. To recognize the gifts of our Black, Indigenous kin, and those of color offer. Widen the circle to include our transgender siblings, those with disabilities, those with limited economic means, those who embrace our culture while still dwelling within their own, to include all who struggle to be witnessed and honored among us. Widen the circle to let this be the last report that has to say what has been said so many times by so many generations. Widen the circle so that all those who are weary of spirit might rest by the mighty fountains of our faith and know themselves cherished and witnessed, renewed and revived. Widen the circle so that the living teachings we inherit might stretch out to embrace who would dwell within this expanding perimeter. Widen the circle of concern.
>> Thank you to the commissioners for this report. For a complete record of the Commission on Institutional Change's work over the last three years, please visit the UUA website's page for the Commission on Institutional Change. There you will find a link to the widening the circle of concern report of the Commission on Institutional Change, available for purchase through the In Spirit Bookstore. Join us tomorrow for five workshops to further our understanding on the commission's report. The commissioners will be participating on five panel discussions tomorrow, Friday, June 26th, at 4:00 p.m. eastern, 3:00 p.m. central, 2:00 p.m. mountain time, and 1:00 p.m. Pacific. The workshops will be theological grounding for diversity, equity, and inclusion. The second workshop, education and transformation in UU congregations. The third workshop, why diversity, inclusion, and equity matter to your congregation. The fourth workshop will be hospitality, reparations, and our first principle. The final workshop, accountability, agility, and good governance.
>> If you took notes during the breakout groups during the session prior to that report from the Commission, please email your notes to administration [at] UUA [dot] org. Again, that is administration [at] UUA [dot] org. Thank you, and come back to the main hall at the quarter past the hour to hear reports from Beacon Press, the Service Committee, and the UU Women's Federation. See you in a few minutes.
>> May we have the courage to do the work the Commission calls us to do, knowing our souls depend on our doing so, knowing the future of our faith depends on our doing so.
>> 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 general session of the General Assembly shall stand in recess until 1:30 p.m. Eastern, 10:30 a.m. Pacific tomorrow.