General Assembly: GA Presentations: Presenter views and opinions do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the UUA.

Plenary II, General Assembly 2005

General Assembly 2005 Event 2083

Plenary II Presentation (PDF, 43 pages) by Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Washington Office Interns

Moderator Gini Courter called the assembled delegate body to order at 2:45. The session began with General Assembly (GA) Planning Committee Chair Linda Friedman explaining to the attendees that this year work has been done to continue the "greening" of GA. There is greater recycling, hotels will only change sheets and towels as requested by guests, and presenters have been encouraged to reduce the amount of paper distributed. Then Friedman introduced the other members of the GA Planning Committee, to a round of applause.

Helen Bishop, chair, and the other members of the Accessibility Committee, presented their report by way of song. They reminded delegates of the common courtesies involved in being welcoming to people with different abilities.

The Rev. Wayne Arnason, Secretary of the UUA, presented the preliminary credentials report. As of Friday morning, there were 3554 people registered for GA. This included 201 youth, 1694 delegates, and represented 549 congregations in 49 states, 2 Canadian provinces, the District of Columbia and Mexico.

UUA President the Rev. William Sinkford was called on to introduce the various international guests at this Assembly. Present were:

  • Rev. Guji Yamamoto, Chief Priest of the Tsubaki Grand Shinto Shrine in Japan;
  • Rev. Kamiya, Deputy Director of External Affairs, of the Buddhist Rissho Kosei-kai;
  • Deputy Chief Priest Gon Guji Motoyama, from the Tamamitsu Jinja Religious Corporation, accompanied by Mr. Baba, from The Jinja's California Institute for Human Science;
  • Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, President of The Interfaith Alliance (former UUA Moderator Denny Davidoff serves as the chair of The Interfaith Alliance).

Sinkford introduced the Rev. Abhi Janamanchi, minister in Clearwater, FL, to introduce the guests from the International Association of International Freedom (IARF). The IARF is the oldest international religious foundation, and it now has more than 100 member groups. Janamanchi, a member of the IARF Council, introduced:

  • The Rev. Dr. Daryl Balia, General Secretary of the IARF;
  • Miss Ramola Sundram, Program Director of the IARF's Religious Freedom Youth Network;
  • The Rev. Johanna Boeke, President, of the International Association of Liberal Religious Women (IALRW);
  • Ms. Akiko Sekine, Vice President of IALRW and a member of the Rissho Kosei-kai of Japan.

The Rev. Ned Wight, first Vice-Moderator of the Board, serves as the Board's liaison to the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists (ICUU). ICUU celebrates its tenth anniversary this year as the organization that supports and sustains Unitarians, Universalists and Unitarian Universalists around the world. Wight introduced:

  • Derek McCullough, from Christchurch, New Zealand, President of ANZUA, the Australia New Zealand Unitarian Association;
  • Dawn Buckle, immediate past president of the British General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches;
  • Prof. Gabor Kolumban, co-president of the Unitarian Church in Transylvania;
  • Rev. Eniko Ferenczi, president of the Transylvanian Women Ministers' Association.

Wight also introduced the Rev. Roger Pym, minister of the Auckland Unitarian Church in New Zealand.

President Sinkford returned to the podium with Guji Yamamoto. It was Yamamoto's father, along with the Rev. Dana McLean Greeley of the UUA, founder Niwano of the Rissho Kosei-kai, and others, who created Religions for Peace in the aftermath of World War II. Together, this organization built up the IARF. He called for a moment of silent remembrance for these men. Rev. Yamamoto then addressed the delegates, thanking them for their warm welcome. He thanked the delegates from the IARF member groups, and from the individual members in Japan, for their help over the years and, reflecting on the family focus of this year's GA said, "We are one big family...the IARF family." Yamamoto said that together we can lead the next IARF world congress in Taiwan to great success. "It will be up to us to walk side-by-side to achieve peace for our own families, the IARF and the world."

The Rev. Rob Eller-Isaacs spoke of Project Harvest Hope, an organization that helps create sustainable family farming in Transylvania. "We belong to the land," he said, "and we owe it our allegiance." Eller-Isaacs explained that when the Communist regime fell in Transylvania, there were no seeds available for crops-it had been the job of the party leader to provide these. That spring, the farmers found their own seeds, beginning their turn to self-sufficiency. Project Harvest Hope now works alongside the farmers to create sustainable agriculture. He then presented Gabor Kolumban, Co-President of the Unitarian Church of Transylvania, to address the delegates.

Kolumban, noting that this was his first trip to the United States, expressed greetings from the 80,000 Transylvanian Unitarians. They are, he said, the oldest Unitarian community in the world, and the ties between them and the UU congregations in North American have been greatly strengthened over the past fifteen years through the Partner Church Council. "We are jointly challenged by increasing globalization, but our faith in the one God, and our shared values, are the basis for our shared vision: unity in diversity in the world. It is a sustaining partnership, with Transylvanian congregations receiving generous support from the UUs in North America, through buildings and theological school help. The question now is 'how can we, Transylvanian Unitarians, help you?'

Barbara Beach, President of the Partner Church Council, presented to the Rev. Dr. Richard Boeke the Louis C. Cornish "Living the Mission " Award. She thanked all those present who are active in the partner church adventure for their hearts, contributions, and congregations that make the effort possible.

Moderator Gini Courter then returned to begin the business of deciding which of five proposed Study/Action Issues would be accepted at this General Assembly. The Rev. Me g Riley, UUA Director of Advocacy and Witness, explained the Study/Action process to the delegates. She said, "The issue accepted today will be studied for one year, and then next year a draft Statement of Conscience will be presented to the delegates for further study." The draft, amended by feedback from member congregations, will be presented for discussion and voting in the 2007 GA.

The five issues are:

  • S1: Women's Rights Worldwide
  • S2: Safety of All Children and Youth
  • S3: Peacemaking
  • S4: Need for Affordable Housing
  • S5: Moral Values for a Pluralistic Society

Delegates spoke, outlining their reasons for supporting each of the Study/Action Issues.

Those supporting S1, Women's Rights Worldwide, offered the following comments:

  • Women's rights are human rights, and the oppression of women is damaging to all
  • Women's rights are violated world wide, and women and children are not collateral damage, but need our protection
  • even with education, women's rights there are still being violated, and that we have the wisdom on leadership and should help with this key issue - a position expressed by the Unitarian Church of the Phillipines
  • There is no human liberation without women's liberation
  • Since we are so involved internationally, passage of this statement will allow us to speak with a clearer voice to all of the women in the world who we have traditionally supported.

Those supporting S2, Safety of All Children and Youth, offered the following comments:

  • Children are the most vulnerable among us, and too many do not yet ensure their safety
  • Each of us can make a difference in a child's life, and they learn trust from us
  • Children do not have a voice, and they are not heard
  • Children of one congregation chose this as the most important study/action issue, and we should respect them and vote on their behalf.

Those supporting S3, Peacemaking, offered the following comments:

  • People around the world are living in fear, and in these times of war we need a statement of conscience to advocate for peace
  • So long as we are at war, peace should be a priority for us
  • We should be a voice of conscience against the unjust wars in this world
  • We have too many weapons of war, and we now need statements that the science of war should not be continued.

Those supporting S4, Need for Affordable Housing, offered the following comments:

  • The average wage earner makes $36,000 a year, while the median price of a home is $206,000, and so if a wage earner wants a home, they must choose between housing, food, clothing and health care
  • There are many ways that we could join in partnership with others already working on housing issues
  • The Constitution, by implication, shows a belief in private homes as a right
  • The need to divert money away from the "home building" evident in the expansion of prisons, to the creation of real homes for people
  • Homeland security begins by having a home to be secure in
  • There are currently 5.5 million people paying over half their income for housing, and by 2020, there will be 9.5 million low income seniors, so affordable housing is now, and will continue to be, necessary

Those supporting S5, Moral Values for a Pluralistic Society, offered the following comments:

  • This is an issue that affects every member of our congregations
  • This theme is consistent with the mission of our congregations
  • This theme was the choice of the Youth Caucus-the need to show religious conviction is not inconsistent with rationality and tolerance is paramount
  • The more we discuss and question our moral values together, the more effective we can be
  • Even if we don't choose this study/action issue, we will still be talking about it, and morality may well be defined for us by other people.

Following the presentation of comments, delegates cast written ballots for the study/action issue of their choice.

President Sinkford returned to present the President's Award for Volunteer Service, honoring one person whose contributions to the life of the UUA have been especially important. This year, Sinkford presented the award to Kenneth Carpenter. Carpenter has served the UUA for 40 years. A founding member of the UUA President's Council, he and his wife Lois were, said Sinkford, "leaders in transforming a culture of scarcity into a culture of abundance." Carpenter also served on the Southwest Conference Board, was that district's Annual Program Fund chair for eight years, and served on the UUA board for eight years. He chaired the Board's Finance Committee from 1995 to 1999, bringing business experience to the UUA's financial decisions. Carpenter currently serves on the Board of the Liberal Religious Charitable Society. He is, Sinkford said, "a trusted advisor, a selfless worker, and an articulate spokesperson for our faith." Carpenter's real passion and commitment has been to two small congregations located in Durango, CO, and Midland, TX, where he served on the board for 17 years, four times as president, and was a crucial leader in rebuilding the building after it was destroyed in fire.

Lyn Conley, UUA Board of Trustees member for the Mid-South District and chair of the Finance Committee, presented the budget report. She thanked other Finance Committee members: John Blevins, Burton Carley, Paul Rickter, Will Saunders, as well as staff Kay Montgomery, Nancy Lawrence and Treasurer Jerry Gabert.

Conley stated that 67% of money received by the UUA is for undesignated purposes, while 33% is designated. Designated money comes from various funds including the Holden India Project, Veatch grants, and capital campaign funds. Part of the undesignated funds come from charitable bequests, and Conley thanked these donors: Jean Barnhart, Betty M. Benjamin, Dorothy L. Bond, Theresa B. Carlson, Rev. Jesse R. Caviler, Norma E. Cossey, W. Edward Cossum, Helen I. Fuller, Edna B. Heidgerd, Martin Hilby, John W. Howe, Rev. Dr. Nathaniel P. Lauriat, Helen H. Mahy, Mary B. Moon, Proctor H. Page Jr., Hazel Evangeline Peterson, Raymond R. Ramseyer, Betsy N. Robinson, Helen Corcoran Schlenke, Walter H. Stockmayer, Elizabeth Storer.

Income sources are: Friends of the UUA, 11%; investments 14%, administration fees 6%, other services (including UUA Bookstore sales and rentals) 20%, Annual Program Fund 46%, and bequests 3%. Judy Pickett, chair of the Annual Program Fund Committee, reported that the UUA was $169,502 from the APF goal of $6,228,592, and urged delegates to "call home if your congregation has not fully paid their fair share." Pickett also said that this year the UUA is honoring 450 congregations that have been fair share congregations for ten years-that, she said, is almost half of our congregations.

Conley reported that expenses in 2005-06 will be just over $21 million. The breakdown of expenses are: administration and contingency, 9%; Board and leadership (all committees, task forces, moderator, financial advisor) 8%; infrastructure (treasurer, financial services, banking, audit, building loans and guarantees, facilities) 24%, program 59%. Of the program money, ministry and professional leadership (credentialing and settlement for ministers and religious educators, including regional subcommittees, and church staff finances) are budgeted at 22%; district services (district grants and district staff) at 19%; congregational services (growth, health and vitality of congregations, fundraising services,Interconnections ) at 15%; advocacy and witness 17%; lifespan faith development (curricula and leadership development, OWL, family ministry packets, youth office, YRUU) 6%; identity based ministry (resources and strategies to make sustainable identity based programs) at 4%; and publishing (UU World, bookstore, Beacon Press) 17%. Conley informed delegates that starting in the fall UU World will become a quarterly print publication, with weekly electronic updated versions.

Conley called on the Rev. Ned Wight, first Vice Moderator of the UUA Board, to give the report on Beacon Press. Wight reminded delegates that four years ago, the fate of Beacon Press was uncertain-the losses were alarming-and in 2002, the Board announced a three-year strategic plan to assess ongoing viability of the Press. Wight said he was "pleased to report that cost saving and strong sales have paid off-the 2003 financial report resulted in the Press being $305,000 ahead of plan, last year 2004 reported sales were up slightly, returns under projection, and cost of goods looked good. By the end of the 2004 fiscal year, Beacon Press was $391,000 ahead of plan. This year, as we approach the end of the 2005 fiscal year, Beacon Press is still ahead of plan, and it looks rock solid for another positive financial year. The Press is projected to end $302,000 ahead of plan. This is incredible work, and," Wight continued, "the UUA Board voted in January to continue to own and operate Beacon Press under the same financial guidelines reached three years ago. They commended Helen Atwan and her staff for maintaining high quality while meeting the bottom line. Publishing still is volatile," said Wight, "and we still need you all to keep on buying Beacon Press books."

The Rev. Michael McGee from Arlington, VA, and Fran Ateto, Director of Religious Education in Annapolis, MD, came to the stage as members of the UUA's Growth Team to introduce the presentation of four "breakthrough congregations" whose stories will be featured during this General Assembly. These are congregations that have significant positive energy, where being dynamic is the norm, with strong programs for children, you and families, with radical hospitality, and wide welcome. Ateto said that four congregations are of various sizes, "each with a unique story to tell and a willingness to share lessons learned."

The first breakthrough congregation—the smallest of the congregations whose stories are being shared—was the Quimper UU Fellowship. The Rev. Bruce Bode, minister, began by saying that Quimper has an adult membership of 220 with about 100 youth and children, in a "funky" community of 8,000 souls. Located on the Quimper peninsula of the Olympic Peninsula 30 miles north and west of Seattle as the eagle flies, the congregation has grown from a group meeting monthly in a member's living room to this vibrant community. Bode said, "The elders knew that if they did not grow, the congregation would die. So they rented space in a community center, and started growing."

Bode credited their wise choice of Kathy Walker as religious education director. The congregation put good resources into the RE program, and this was doing well long before there were ministers. In 1995, a core group of 30 people decided to build the congregation's home with their own hands. The building, comprised of a sanctuary and RE wing, was completed in one year, and is environmentally friendly. Quimper doubled its membership within one year of completing their building.

Another key factor in the Quimper history is the willing relinquishment of leadership to the next generation. After a period when this was not the case, different generations found ways to work better together. Since then, all the members have kept the commitment to stay together, even when the course is difficult, finding ways to reach resolution. Bode says that one of the secrets to the congregation's success is "location, location, location." Surrounded by water on three sides, the congregation's growth was an unplanned consequence of making themselves ready for it.

Bode concluded the presentation by sharing Quimper's Covenant Statement: "We are travelers. We meet for a moment in this sacred place to love, to share, to serve. Let us use compassion, curiosity, reverence and respect while seeking our truths. In this way we will support a just and joyful community and this moment shall endure."

Moderator Courter invited Planning Committee member Ginger Brown to explain this year's service project. Brown explained that every year GA supports local service project as a way to give something back to the community. This year, the project will raise funds for three emergency assistance agencies in Tarrant County, Texas: Community Store House, East Side Ministries and West Aid. Each of the three has support from local Unitarian Universalist Congregations.

Courter then reported that the results of the balloting on the Study/Action Issues was complete. The results were:

  • S1: Women's Rights Worldwide 214
  • S2: Safety of All Children and Youth 47
  • S3: Peacemaking 130
  • S4: Need for Affordable Housing 152
  • S5: Moral Values for a Pluralistic Society 487

Despite S5 receiving the highest number of votes, the rules state that in order to be selected, the Study/Action issue must receive a majority of the votes cast. In this case, that would have been 515, so Courter held a run-off vote between the two highest, S1 and S5. With a show of hands, S5, Moral Values for a Pluralistic Society, was selected as the Study/Action issue.

Courter called upon UUA Secretary Wayne Arnason for announcements, and the plenary session recessed until Saturday morning.