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Plenary V, General Assembly 2000
General Assembly, Past General Assemblies

General Assembly 2000 Event 550

The chalice was lit by Rev. Lilia Cuervo of San Jose, CA. The fifth plenary was called to order at 2:00 p.m.

Empty Shelves Report

Moderator Denny Davidoff began the plenary by calling on Catherine Prentis, coordinator of the Empty Shelves program, to report on its proceeds during the General Assembly (GA). Prentis said, "Our goal was to place 1,000 books in the library. Thanks to you, we are able to place over 1500 books in the library, and collected in excess of $16,000. The project benefits the Fall Hamilton Elementary school, Dr. Phillip Pennington, principal. Pennington was introduced to the delegates and said, "Look around—someone's life will be changed because of what you did. Your commitment has turned a three-year project into five days. Bless you."

Report on Whitney Young Fund

Nanene Gowdy, who chairs the Whitney Young Fund, came to the stage to report on grants given by the Fund this year. The Whitney Young Fund Grants panel receives its funding from congregations, Gowdy said, and this year received eight applications for grants, from which the committee awarded six. The grants went to:

  • First Unitarian Church, PA: $3,000, which they will use to offer one dinner/month for the homeless or precariously housed in their vicinity, as well as programs, discussions, other entertainment.
  • Urban Hope UU Congregation, Cleveland, OH: $2,100, which will be used to invite one hundred neighbors into their space for a free evening of music and poetry.
  • Allegheny UU Church, Pittsburgh, PA: $1,000 to be used to help organize a tenant's group, protesting the loss of three hundred section 8 housing units in their neighborhood
  • UU Church of Norwich, CT: $2,000 to offer two anti-racism training events in Norwich, helping a Norwich anti-racism collective organize anti-racism collectives in other institutions
  • All Souls Church UU, Durham, NC: $3,000, to aid Minister Chester McCall in offering a weekly radio program, beyond Guilt and Rage. The grant will help fund thirty programs examining in racism and oppression in the community.
  • First Unitarian Church of Baltimore, MD: $3,000 to aid their ministry for the deaf so that they can expand signing (already offered at Sunday services) to all major church events.

"Go back to your congregations and encourage them to hold a Journey Toward Wholeness Sunday so that next year we can continue to fund these social justice grants," said Gowdy.

Wayne Arnason gave announcements.

Davidoff then called for debate and voting on Actions of Immediate Witness

The first Action of Immediate Witness, entitled "Support Tibet and the Dalai Lama" was adopted without amendments.

The second action, entitled "Protest Against Racial Profiling," also was adopted without amendments. The third action, on "Handgun Legislation," triggered active debate; an amendment to modify the text failed.

One delegate said, "I live in an urban city. When I lived in the country, I was in the Boy Scouts, I know the difference between (different types of guns). I live in a different world now. It's not just the issue of unregulated and regulated, and legal and illegal, it's an issue of guns. I live in a city where weekly, if not daily, we have children shot. It doesn't matter if that was a legal gun, if that gun was stolen. A year ago, a neighbor's home was broken into. He was so furious, he said, 'this is why we need gun regulation. If I had had a gun, someone would have died.' We are in some ways captive to an old idea that (handguns) will help us. It's not helping us any more, and I urge adoption of this action."

Another amendment failed; another one to alter the text to read "Whereas handgun owners need to be held responsible for the possession and consequences of their use..." passed. Another amendment to delete a line of text passed, and debate on the main motion proceeded.

Steve Finner, All Souls Church UU, Washington, DC, said: "In one high school alone, seven of our youth have died from handguns. At one of our academically best high schools, a student died of handgun violence. I understand that there are cultural differences surrounding the use of handguns, and differences between those who live in the city and the suburbs, but for those of us who live in the city...handguns don't cut it...they kill our youth, and...we need to get rid of them." Another person, speaking against the action, said, "Gun ownership is a first amendment right...I do not believe that regulation, licensing will be effective...I urge the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) to continue its work to reduce fear and anxiety in our society...that is the only effective tool..."

Still another speaker said, "For those of you that have a handgun to protect yourself from intruders, here is a statistic about law enforcement officials: one out of four dies from their handgun being used against them. We have studied the deaths of people from unnatural causes in North Carolina...by far the largest number are deaths from suicide, the second largest from homicide, third is accidents. I believe that if you have a gun in your home, the greatest likelihood aside from it sitting there, is that it will be stolen by a criminal..."

The vote on the action was taken, and the action passed.

A fourth action, entitled "End the Death Penalty," passed without debate.

A fifth action, entitled "Campaign Finance Reform," engendered debate in the assembly. Alex Cotton, of Birmingham Unitarian Church, Bloomfield Hills, MI, said, "For an Association committed to ending economic injustice, this is a moral imperative...correcting our society's economic inequities is essential...the ethical reasons to support this are irrefutable. The constituency pressure that we as UU individuals feel...can have a significant impact on the passage of those bills." The action passed.

A sixth and final action, entitled "National Missile Defense System," triggered debate. An amendment, to alter language to read "Whereas the non-military scientific community has pointed out that this system will be ineffective and easily made inoperable, making this project a waste of money..." passed.

A second amendment, which would have deleted the word 'national' throughout the document, failed. Debate was extended by five minutes. An amendment to line 235, altering text to encourage members of UU congregations to write to President Clinton in the US and Prime Minister Chretien in Canada to persuade them not to approve this system, passed.

View all Actions of Immediate Witness.

Energy Break / Report from Youth Caucus RE: Spontaneous Fundraising Effort

Davidoff called for members of the Youth Caucus to report on the results of their spontaneous fundraising effort to aid the homeless and underprivileged of Nashville. Members of the Caucus, including Kristin Leigh Grassel, Alex Winnett and Liz Schwartz, announced that in addition to the $300 that the youth had collected early Sunday morning, an addition 2740.35 had been collected from GA attendees on Sunday afternoon and evening. The youth had met, and decided to allocate the money in the following ways: $500 each to Room at the Inn, an interfaith project in which the First UU Church of Nashville participates; the local YWCA; and three local organizations which help homeless men and women get back on their feet and find homes and jobs.

Liz Schwartz said, "We recently came back from the (Nashville Union) mission and they were excited about the donation we gave and they thanked us. We are taking the leftover $740 from our fund raising effort and using it to establish the F.C. Phillips Fund, so that the youth of GA can continue this community service. The name of this fund comes from the alias we used to save $25 at the supermarket, and this Fund that we're hoping to put into place will help youth to do random acts of kindness, separate from the youth caucus and other committees. And we are hoping to keep a continuous fund of money at each city where the GA is used." The comments of the youth were greeted with loud applause and a standing ovation from the plenary.

Davidoff called on action on Bylaws Sections 4.12, 4.16, Rule G-4.16.1, Actions of Immediate Witness. This proposal suggests changes to the bylaws and rules recommended by a task force appointed by me to examine the process for adopting Actions of Immediate Witness. The Chair of the Task Force is Brad Brown and the members are Ruth Bruns and Kevin McCullough. She invited Brad Brown to give the delegates background regarding these recommended changes. Brown said that the task force recommended that the number of proposed actions be reduced from six to four, and that there be a change in calling actions "statements" of immediate witness. Gini Courter, Trustee of the Heartland District, offered the position of the Board and said, "The Board unanimously supports these amendments." Debate occurred, and there was a request to take up the motion piece by piece, which passed.

  • Section 1 (4.12): Centered on changes around prioritization of unincorporated amendments, and passed with little discussion.
  • Section 2 (4.16): Proposed a change in the number of actions to be entertained in a year, from six to four statements of immediate witness. This failed.
  • Section 3 (G-4.16.1): Proposed a change in calling GA Statements of Immediate Witness and Responsive Resolutions statements. The vote failed.

Women's Rights Anniversary Celebration

Davidoff invited Joan Goodwin, head of the Women's Rights Anniversary Celebration committee, to speak to the plenary. The Celebration was focused on honoring women who helped to advance women's rights. A presentation, soon to be available on video, was shared with the plenary.

Nominating Committee

Rev. Lindi Ramsden of San Jose, CA, Chair of the Nominating Committee, discussed the different ways in which people can get involved in the business of the Association. The nominating committee is seeking qualified individuals for nomination to a variety of committees. Applications for consideration are due to the committee by August 15, 2000, and announcements of nominations will be made in December, in advance of the election to be held at GA 2001.

The members of the committee, in addition to Ramsden, are the Rev. Jane Bramadat, Joel High, James Kepler, Young Kim, Julio Noboa, Marty Robinson, Laura Spencer, and the Rev. Barbara Wells. The committee can be contacted at nominating [at] uua [dot] org.

Action on Proposed Amendment to Rule G-10.1.3, Estimated Income

An action on an additional amendment to the Association's rules, put on the agenda by the Board of Trustees, was considered. This is an amendment to rule g-10.1.3 entitled "estimated income," and the proposed change would remove the option of making excess Annual Program Fund income available for the budget of the succeeding fiscal year.

Gini Courter, Chair of the UUA Finance Committee and Trustee from the Heartland District, gave the position of the Board of Trustees on this amendment, to unanimously support this change. The motion passed with no debate.

Proposed Amendment to Sections 8.14 and 8.16 of the UUA Bylaws: Officers of the Association

Davidoff said, "the next proposed amendments are to Section 8.14 and Section 8.16 of the UUA Bylaws. The amendments are to distinguish the duties of the Secretary of the Association from the duties of the Recording Secretary and to spell out the duties of the Recording Secretary."

Kathryn McIntyre, Trustee of the St. Lawrence District, to give the position of the Board of Trustees on this proposal. The action passed with no debate.

Unitarian Universalist Women's Federation Report

Davidoff called on Patsy Sherrill Madden, Vice President of the UU Women's Federation, for a report. Madden introduced the two newest members of the UUWF Board of Trustees, both youth members: Justice Waidner and Mandy Jacobson.

Unitarian Unviersalist United Nations Office Report

Bortin reported on the activities of the UU-UNO. He said that the office had hired Frances Mercer, part time Office Manager, and that the office's budget was in the black. "We are involved in several issues...we are abolitionists...we are for the abolition of nuclear weapons from the earth...total nuclear disarmament."

Elaine Harvey, UUA representative to the United Nations, briefly reported on her work with the international criminal court.

Action on Proposed Amendment to Rule G-9.12.10 and Bylaws Section 9.11, Nominations and Elections

The next item on the agenda debated action on proposals relating to election practices. The first proposal concerned a change to Rule G-9.12.10 that provides for a more timely notification to At-Large candidates of campaign practice guidelines and financial disclosures. Judi McGavin, Trustee of the Pacific Northwest District, gave the opinion of the board of trustees as being unanimously in favor of the proposal. The motion passed. The plenary then took up the proposal to amend Bylaw Section 9.11. This proposal, said Davidoff, provides for a more clear method of electing district trustees in the event that a district's Bylaws do not provide for an elective process. The Rev. Jim Hobart, Trustee of the Mountain Desert District, gave the position of the Board of Trustees, as being unanimously in favor of this motion. It passed without debate.

Action on Reports of Officers and Others

Davidoff called for action, if any, on the various reports by the Officers of the Association. Two actions were proposed.

Brad Brown, offered a resolution on elections in response to the President's Report, which called for the GA to recommend that the Board of Trustees appoint a Task Force to recommend revisions to Bylaw Section 9.5(a) "Nomination by Petition for the Moderator and President" for the election in the year 2005 and following, and that the charge to the Task Force be to identify procedures to reduce the expense and the time of the present process and to expand the opportunity for the nomination of the most capable individuals for these two positions. This resolution passed.

Danielle DiBona, a Cleveland resident, said, "I move this GA urge the Planning Committee and the Board of Trustees to consult and cooperate with the United Church of Christ's ongoing efforts to support the Cleveland Native American community in their struggle against the Cleveland Indians baseball team and the racism implicit in the use of the symbols, names and mascots which Native American people find offensive." This resolution passed. Passed.

Comments From the President

Davidoff invited President Buehrens to the stage. He said, "We have seen at this Assembly examples of extraordinary generosity on the part of Unitarian Universalists: we raised money for the homeless, we raised money for books to be placed in schools...now I am delighted to tell you that three additional gifts have been verbally pledged for our upcoming capital campaign, totaling another million and a half dollars.

"One of these gifts is in the form of a particular challenge. A goal of the campaign is to raise a million dollars as soon as possible in cash, to help launch a new generation of religious education resources for our movement. We have received a commitment of $250,000 in cash for that purpose, on the condition that other smaller gifts be raised to match it. We are going to do this. We are going to have wonderful new curricula. We are going to launch all the new strategic investments on behalf of the movement that we envisioned...generosity is alive and well...thanks to you all."

Moderator's Reflections

"I have been getting," said Davidoff, "what a friend of mine called 'twitchy,' when folks keep on telling me goodbye and telling me how sad they are that I'm not going to be the moderator any more...it reminds me of a list that Fred Wooden had sent to me of the top 25 country songs and one speaks to me...it's called 'How can I miss you if you won't go away...I have appreciated your nice words...I am intending to say goodbye in Cleveland but it's not over till its over and there are still so many things left to do.

"I wanted to put out a couple of facts to you in thinking about General Assembly...the Board of Trustees has created a new task force for technological implications for General Assemblies, to increase on and off site accommodation with the possibility of off site voting. We asked Brad Brown to chair this group, and the final report will be delivered in the spring of 2002.

"I wanted you to know that the District Presidents Association aired the question of going to biennial GA's and shared their opinions with me. Frankly the District Presidents did not like that idea, they didn't like it much at all. I'm thinking that the price for working so hard to make GA business sessions palatable, and the palpable quest to be in large community, is the price we pay for not wanting to give up large General Assemblies...it does not appear that there is any viability for this idea of biennials, and I will go on to other ideas.

"There is a lot of talk about restructuring...to give Canadian congregations more sense of self and services, restructuring the system through which we identify candidates and the Moderator. Restructuring our election campaign apparatus. I ask you to be a part of all these conversations. Log on to the UUA web site, urge governing boards to make suggestions, send ideas. This is your UUA and as I wrote in my letter, the work of the GA belongs to the representatives of the member congregations. I preside but YOU decide.

"So many of you ask me or ask John Buehrens to change things. The system, the Bylaws, whatever. You have the responsibility to change. You vote for the Board of Trustees, you can put things on the agenda. The GA is powerful. Feel it, and use it. Reflecting just today on this GA, I sense an overwhelming urge on the part of many of you to DO something. The energy to walk our talk is a reality I can feel everywhere, and obviously very urgent. Morris Dees called us to one such action; taking an active part in the campaign for tolerance...why don't we think about doing something about that.

"I want to complete the first phase of Fulfilling the Promise by bringing covenantal language for us to talk about. I want us to increase the number of congregations participating in the Journey Toward Wholeness and feel good about doing so. I want more of you to contribute to the Association's work by contributing to the Friends of the UUA. You have been a great delegate body and I feel privileged to have this absolutely best volunteer job in the UUA."

Davidoff's remarks were greeted with enthusiastic applause and a standing ovation.

Final Credentials Report

The Secretary of the Association, Rev. Wayne Arnason, made announcements, including a final credentials report. The total number of delegates at the Assembly was 2173, including 1666 representatives from congregations, 475 ministers, 6 representatives from Associate organizations, 26 representatives from the Board if Trustees. The delegates and attendees came from 612 member congregations, all 50 U.S. states, 6 Canadian provinces, the District of Columbia, the Virgin Islands, and Mexico. The total registration was 3429 adults, 418 youth, 223 staff and board for a total of 4070 registered people and 62 children in day care and young fun. This particular plenary had an attendance of 1,101.

Process Observations were offered by Phyllis Daniel, Trustee from Pacific Southwest District.

Invitation from Ohio Meadville District

Sibyl McNulty, President of the Ohio Meadville District, offered gifts from the Ohio Meadville Districts and an invitation to the delegates to attend the Cleveland 2001 GA.

Davidoff then offered thanks to the Planning Committee, Commission on Social Witness, and the General Assembly Administrator and staff, as well as the volunteers serving web coverage of the Assembly on UUA.org.

Adjournment

Davidoff said, "I now call for the official adjournment of the Assembly. Is there a motion from the Planning Committee?" The motion was made, and Davidoff declared that the General Assembly was now adjourned. "have a wonderful summer," she said, "and I'll look forward to seeing you in Cleveland, OH, next year!"

Reported by Debbie Weiner.

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