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

Plenary II, General Assembly 2012

General Assembly 2012 Event 202

Reports from UU World


  • Call to Order
  • Chalice Lighting
  • Song
  • Business Agenda and Mini-Assembly Overview
  • Building a Community for Justice

    • Right Relationships
    • Accessibilties
  • Announcements
  • Recess


Call to Order

GINI COURTER: Good morning, sir. I now call to order the Second Plenary Session of the 51st General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association. I'd like you to please welcome, if you would, the Reverend Marti Keller, President of the Unitarian Universalist Women's Federation, who is here to light our chalice and tell you a bit about the work of the Women's Federation as it pertains to Justice General Assembly.

Reverend Keller will be assisted by legal counsel. It's all good, it's all good. Thank you. Thank you, Tom, Thank you, Marti.

Chalice Lighting

Now let's welcome Reverend Marti Keller, please. Come on, it's all right.

MARTI KELLER: The one thing they didn't teach us to do in seminary is how to use a lighter for the [? chalice, ?] so thank you.

As we at the UU Women's Federation looked at this year's GA's focus on immigration, racial and economic justice, we immediately saw what a good fit it was and is for us. Indeed, the UUWF's mission statement begins with the words "Advancing justice for women and girls." So we are already positioned to address these issues as they relate to women and girls.

We have been vigorously engaged in this work for nearly 50 years. And while the human rights of immigrants and the racial targeting of persons of color were most prominent in our hearts and minds when this Justice General Assembly was conceived in reaction to the draconian and damaging immigration legislation adopted here in Arizona. We can now, unfortunately, add the status of women and gender targeting of women to our priorities here.

On Capitol Hill and in state legislatures, the attack on women's rights have been unremitting recently. With stunningly mean-spirited and/or cynical rollbacks in the areas of reproductive justice, access to health care, equal pay and measures to stop domestic violence.

We at the UUA Women's Federation are outraged and are working on several fronts to support Unitarian Universalist's as they work to counter the omnipresence threats to the welfare of women and girls. We are also heartened by the UUA's renewed focus on women's issues.

Late last year we worked closely with the Association's Multicultural and Witness Staffing Group to help revision the UUWF Clara Barton Internship for Women's Issues. A position supported by an endowment comprising funds the UUWF donated and helped raise in the first years of this 21st century. That process has placed the internship in just the right spot to support UUs at the grassroots. Since it has moved the position's emphasis from direct advocacy at the federal level to providing resources and opportunities for congregations and their leaders to advocate for justice issues specific to women, notably reproductive and economic justice.

Jessica Halperin filed the redefined position in January, and the UUWF board and I have been working closely with her to support her efforts with UUWF's resources. In addition to giving her space in our newsletter, we have also arranged for her to post action alerts and other information on our Facebook page website and LISTSERV. We're also working to connect her with the appropriate women in UUWF affiliated women's groups in our local congregations.

Later this morning, Jessica will join Reverend Helen Zidowecki and me in presenting a workshop on Engaging Women in Justice Work through Small Group Ministry. She will also develop follow-up resources on our Justice Ingathering on Saturday which will feature the University of Arizona's Dr. Cecelia Rosales speaking on her work on reproductive justice and compassion among vulnerable populations of women and girls on the US-Mexico border.

In preparing for this GA, we also looked at two of our grants programs. In addition to selecting grant recipients who come to us from a general call for proposals, the perimeters of both programs allow us to select recipients more intentionally sometimes by commissioning specific projects. For 2012, we opted to select funding one project for each program that specifically addressed immigration, racial, or economic justice issues as they affect women and girls.

Our equity and justice grants program supports UU justice projects directly affecting women and girls. And I am so pleased to announce that we are giving a $5,000 grant to the UU congregation of Green Valley, Arizona, for Amigas de Amado, a project to assist marginalized Hispanic women and girls in the congregation's home community of Amado, Arizona.

The project will be carried out by women from the congregation, and will involve working in partnerships with existing agencies, a youth alliance, an adult education program, and a local elementary school. To increase their capacity for serving women and girls. And in the process, identifying some of the underlying systemic issues.

We next look at the Margaret Fuller Grants Program which supports projects that explore feminist thought and action within a religious or a spiritual context. Our intention here was to commission a project that deepens our understanding and appreciation of women-centered religious beliefs, or spiritual practices of immigrant or indigenous cultures, as we heard last night. Little did we know that our search for this project would lead us to the Panama Canal, which many of us were taught as children to view as a triumph of American progress over nature.

Sofia Betancourt, recipient of our $4,000 Margaret Fuller Grant, has seen instead how the creation of the canal involved sickening violations of both the first and the seven of our UU principles. For over 30 years, thousands of laborers were recruited from outside Panama to work on the canal, their inherent worth and dignity under constant assault from a variety of abuses. And it is hard to imagine more disrespect for the interdependent web of all existence than is demonstrated by the canal's initial and continuing impact upon the natural environment.

The resilient spirit of the Caribbean women brought to Panama to work on the canal is the subject of Ms. Betancourt's project, which will explore ecowomanist ethics drawn from their experiences. This is work that can be characterized not only as womanist, but also as mujerista and ecofeminist. It also represents a "first," as to date there is not a single complete monograph on ecowomanist thought, and we are helping to bring that forward.

These commissioned grant projects are not only worthy in themselves, they place UUWF, as always, in solid partnership with the vision and priorities of our entire progressive faith movement. We are so confident that they will be models of the scope and depth of work on behalf of equity and justice, we would hope to support and promote as we very proudly move towards our 50th anniversary celebration in 2013. Thank you.


GINI COURTER: Thank you, Marti. Please welcome our music coordinator for this General Assembly. You met her last night, Kellie Walker.

KELLIE WALKER: Good morning. Feel like doing something singing? Good. We're going to do the Spanish version of "Gathered Here" which you started learning last night, "Unidos en el Misterio."

We'll do it twice through. If you're confident and want to try the round after the first phrase in Spanish, that would be great. And David Glasgow is helping me on piano.


Business Agenda and Mini-Assembly Overview

GINI COURTER: Thank you, Kellie. Well, good morning. So, I'd normally assume that you're all delegates, it's the only thing that explains why you are here on Thursday morning. But I also realized walking through the hotel lobby that there are a bunch of people here from New England who've been up since 3 o'clock just waiting for other UUs to pounce on and be with.

So whatever brought you here this morning, welcome. I'm glad to see you in this day of learning, and singing, and worship. An amazing ability for us to deepen our commitment to our faith, to deepen our commitment to justice.

My job is to make sure this morning that you understand how we're going to process business for the rest of the week so no one is disappointed. There are really three kinds of things we'll be working on in plenary together this year. We'll be choosing a new congregational study action issue this year. And we will be working on some bylaw amendments that had their first year with us last year and are coming back for a second year vote. And then the third thing is that we have at least one, and possibly more responsive resolutions, but one of which was placed on the General Assembly agenda by your board as you heard last night.

How many people were here last night? OK, so you know this, I don't need to tell you again. Good.

If you will pull out the version of the program that you have in English, el programa in Ingles, as opposed to the program in Espanol which doesn't have this section of the agenda in it. So if you have someone near you with a Spanish language version who'd like to see or who needs some help accessing this information, let me know.

Let's flip, if we would, to page 81 together. One, two, three, flip, and a rustle goes through the hall.

First at the top, it points out that there are many assemblies. You might remember last night that I said anything that came up on the floor for business, we don't amend anything here if the amendment hasn't been offered in mini-assembly. So there are two mini-assemblies being held, both of them are in Room 121 of the convention center. The first is at 3:15 PM, and that's the mini-assembly on Proposed Bylaw Amendments, of which there are a few. And the Proposed Bylaw Amendments actually start in—I had this folded over—on page 103.

So if you'll just hold a finger in at 81, or have someone else grab that corner for you, and you flip to page 103, it says for example that there's a bylaw amendment was voted last year. It got a majority last year, but this year requires a super majority that would change our definition together of the word congregation. Note that it says that the mini-assembly for this item is Thursday, 3:15 PM to 4:30 PM in Room 121.

So, what you need to do if you think you might want to amend something, you can't wait until it's here on the floor in plenary. You actually have to today, this morning as a matter of fact, go through the few items of business on pages 103, 104, and then again on page 110. And say oh, OK, I might want to either know a lot more about them, or understand how a democratic process for thousands of people is pretty well run, or I just want to bring an amendment.

And if so, you will be in a mini-assembly today. If you are not, you will have missed your opportunity. Does that make sense? Because invariably, someone will say when was all this decided? And the answer would be last night. You voted on one thing, it was this.

So back to page 81 if you would with me. So now you know that you can find the business items in the back if you didn't discuss them already or look at them already. And if you want to amend them or know more about them, that you can easily find which of the two mini-assemblies they're in. But my big hint for you is that if it's not the Doctrine of Discovery, it's in the first one. OK? All right.

And the second one is a mini-assembly about the Doctrine of Discovery. How many people want to know more about the Doctrine of Discovery? Well, there are lots of workshops, you will find them. But there's also the ability to go listen and get explanation. You can go to a mini-assembly and ask a question, you don't always have to have an amendment.

The next thing that's listed on page 81 says Bylaw Amendments. That section is just wrong. So Tom Bean, your legal counsel, and I were wondering why it's in there. And then we realized that we kept some stuff in for next year so that it wouldn't get omitted because this is a special year.

So I'm thinking if you come back in Louisville that might be true next year, but it's not true here. If, in fact, you show up at 10:45 in the morning and expect that you're going to go right from here into a mini-assembly, you're actually going to go to fine workshop on The New Jim Crow. Not a bad place to be, but they won't be asking your opinion about how to amend what they tell you.

We will then be voting on a new congregational study action issue. Something that we're going to promise to take back and study in our congregations. And so the discussion of the five proposed congregational study action issues that are listed immediately after the agenda—they start being listed on page 91 in the program—that discussion is going to happen in the same room 121 as mini-assemblies are held in. And that will happen at 10:30 this morning. Make sense?

So you're not going to go amend that, but that's so you can hear and understand. Because you're going to try to decide which one of those five congregational study action issues our congregation should take up for the next two years. And that would mean your congregation, too, so you're looking for something that you feel we would make difference in the world, that would further our work for justice, and that we need more study on. That would probably be almost anything, and so it makes it a little more difficult, right?

But then after we choose a study action issue, there will be a lecture on the topic next year. But we chose one two years ago in Minneapolis. Do you remember what we chose? Thank you. Immigration as a Moral Issue, how timely was that?

So how many of your congregations have been working on immigration as a moral issue? Oh, I love you. All right, so if you want to know more about how you can do even more depth on that, or to share ideas about how congregations can study, today, 3:15, 227 A-B. That's what is listed under 2010 Congregation Study Action Issue.

No actions of immediate witness this year. Budget hearing is tomorrow, not today, at 3:15 PM in that same room 121. So just keep going back there for governance-related things, except for the workshop on CSAIs from 2010.

If you want to make a motion on the budget—this group doesn't vote on the budget. But you can amend the budget, and by voting on it you are voting on the budget. And there's a process for that, but if you want to know more about the UUA budget and just hang out with some really cool people who ask budgetary questions—I used to be a finance chair, I would be there—3:15 PM on Friday. OK? Makes sense?

So this is the day to start engaging with business, particularly if you think you want to amend something. There's the big, big story of the day. If you have one takeaway, flip to page 81 and get engaged, starting today. Makes sense? All right, anyone unclear?

There are 2,000 people who aren't here, and when they come to the procedural microphone and ask later when this was done, you can all say yesterday. Whatever day it is, just say yesterday. It will all work.

Building a Community for Justice

Who's excited to be here? Me, too. At this year's Justice GA, we have an opportunity to learn so much from each other about how best to be in community.

And when I say from each other, I don't just mean Unitarian Universalists. I mean, we have a whole community of folks here with us. And I hope you got that starting last night, if you hadn't ahead of time, that what a wonderful opportunity.

I want to ask you to please welcome and be very attentive to the co-chairs of our General Assemby's 2012 Right Relations Team, Tomoko Takano, and the Reverend Melissa Carvill-Ziemer. Give it up, show some love.


Right Relations

MELISSA CARVILL-ZIEMER: My name is Melissa Carvill-Ziemer.

TOMOKO TAKANO: And I am Tomoko Takano. We are honored to be serving as the co-chairs of the Right Relationship Team at our Justice General Assembly. Serving with us this year are [? Rezeek ?] Brown, Owen Huelsbeck, Michael Salwasser, Lee Freeman, [? Laida ?] [? Resiple, ?] Karen Lynn, Garner Takahashi Morris, the Reverend Fred Hammond, and the Reverend Chip Roush. You will see us wearing our green t-shirts and bandannas throughout this General Assembly.

If you would like to talk with us, please don't hesitate to stop us or call our number, which is printed on our t-shirts and in the program book. If you are attending General Assembly from one of our partner organizations, we want you to know that you are warmly welcome to be in touch with us as well. Should it be helpful, we do have two members of our team who speak fluent Spanish. And every person on this team is prepared to help support the practice of right relationship amongst us this week.

MELISSA CARVILL-ZIEMER: Right relationship. It's easy to say, harder to achieve. Each and every one of us in this room will have opportunities to grow. And chances are good that we may feel stretched outside of our comfort zones this week. General Assembly is always an intensive experience, physically, mentally and spiritually. The schedule offers the possibility to keep us engaged from morning 'til late at night.

This year, our experience is made even more intense by the incredible heat of this desert. There will be moments when we are hot, or tired, or hungry and distracted, and not attentive to the fact that each encounter we have is a chance to practice being in right relationship. We are going to make mistakes.

TOMOKO TAKANO: When that happens, we hope you will remember three things.

SPEAKER 1: Intentions do not always equal impact.

SPEAKER 2: Critical feedback can be a gift.

SPEAKER 3: Forgive, but don't forget.

TOMOKO TAKANO: Intentions do not equal impact. You might say something you intend to be funny or playful. You might ask a question intending to learn about one another's experience. You might do something intending only to meet your own physical, emotional or spiritual needs. But no matter your intentions, the impact of your words and actions can be experienced quite differently.

SPEAKER 1: Like the time I told you I envious of your interesting background, so exotic compared to my plain old American heritage. I intended a compliment, but you told me you felt othered, unseen, and hurt by my racism and white privilege.

TOMOKO TAKANO: We want you to know that even if your intentions were innocent, the impact of your words and your actions can still be painful to another.

MELISSA CARVILL-ZIEMER: When that happens, giving and receiving critical feedback in the spirit of love can be a tremendous gift. If someone says something that offends you or hurts your feelings, please consider speaking directly to that person about how you felt. To do this, you first have to be in right relationship with yourself. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself about what you're feeling.

So often, our instinct is to minimize or negate our feelings. We're inviting you to notice your feelings this week, to feel them. And if you're willing, to share them with the person who caused you hurt. If you tell someone else, there is little chance the person who made the painful remark will realize that they made a mistake. But if you approach them and explain how you've been impacted by their words, you're giving them a precious opportunity to learn.

SPEAKER 2: Like the time when you told me that you felt run over by my big, adult presence and authority, when I thought I was trying to make room for youth leadership. It was hard to hear, but by telling me you gave me a chance to apologize and learn about how disempowering youth is a form of adultism.

MELISSA CARVILL-ZIEMER: Critical feedback can be hard to give, and really uncomfortable to hear. But given and received in the spirit of love, critical feedback can be a tremendous gift.

TOMOKO TAKANO: Which brings us to our last reminder, forgive, but don't forget. When you say or do something that pains another, please forgive yourself, be gentle with yourself. Remembering that it isn't impossible to be 100% antioppressive 100% of the time. We all have room to grow, so please give yourself the permission to use feedback as an opportunity for growth.

SPEAKER 3: I made a mistake. It hurt that I hurt somebody else. It was uncomfortable to hear hard truth, but I have to forgive myself to make room to integrate the learning.

TOMOKO TAKANO: Forgive yourself for your missteps, but don't forget them. Use them as an opportunity to learn more about yourself and other people. Use your mistakes as a chance to grow more fully into right relationship.

MELISSA CARVILL-ZIEMER: TIMER We're not in any way implying that this is easy work, it isn't. It takes courage and strength to tell someone that they have hurt us. It takes courage and strength to receive critical feedback as a gift. It takes courage and strength to forgive ourselves and each other, and begin again and love.

None of this is easy, and that is why we are here. We can't fix it for you, but we can keep you company and offer you support as you explore the next steps you are called to take to be in right relationship. Thank you.



GINI COURTER: In our preparation to be in beloved community, or best community working toward beloved community continues, I'd like you to welcome the accessibilities coordinator for General Assembly who has served in this volunteer role year after year. Patty Cameron, come talk to the delegates for me.

PATTY CAMERON: Thank you, Gini. My name is Patty Cameron, and I coordinate the accessibility services here at General Assembly. I've been asked to speak with you about how we can navigate together through General Assembly. We each possess unique skills, traits and abilities. Some are apparent, and some are not.

Among us are people who happen to get around by walking, others use a scooter or a wheelchair, and others may have chemical sensitivities, or vision or hearing needs. But together here at General Assembly we are part of one faith community. GA is an opportunity to share kindness, show gratitude, radical hospitality, and live out our principle of affirming the worth and dignity of every person.

When we move from one activity to another for workshops, we need to look around us and be sure that we scan all around us, up and down. Because if I'm using a wheelchair or a scooter, I am likely below your line of vision. But to be sure, I am not invisible.

You'll notice in each workshop and in this Plenary Hall, there are chairs removed from the floor plan so that someone using a wheelchair or a scooter can sit beside you so that they are part of this community. Please do not move chairs, put briefcases in those spaces, or rearrange the furniture here in Plenary Hall or in the workshops.

There are members of our beloved community here at GA who are sensitive to smells, including yours and mine fragrant shampoos or perfumes. Speakers and worship leaders have been already asked to do this, so in order to create a fully accessible environment, we ask that everyone refrain from wearing perfumes.

Accessibility services provide seat covers for people with hearing and vision impairments so they can position themselves ideally to access the screens and captioning to meet their needs. Seat covers are available for friends and family members attending GA with someone using a scooter or wheelchair. These seat covers remain on the seat to reserve space for any and all activities.

You'll also see seat covers at the Public Witness events as well. They designate seating for people needing access to the event. Again, please do not remove these seat covers.

In the Convention Center there are four elevators, two opposite Hall C and two across the foot bridge. Four doesn't seem a lot for this many people, so we ask if you can navigate stairs or the escalators, that's for your use. The elevators can accommodate only a scooter or two at a time, and we invite those with health concerns to use the elevators as well.

Entering and exiting rooms can be a congested time when we're all scrambling to get to our next destination. Please allow people using scooters and wheelchairs to exit ahead of you, remembering to look around you at all times. Scooters are equipped with horns, but they certainly are not loud, so we must rely on expanding our field of vision.

While the hallways are wide, please, if you stop to talk to friends and visit, be mindful of all of those around you. Please do not clog up the top of the escalators or in front of the elevators. Don't stop short, leave room for scooter maneuvering. These vehicles cannot stop on a dime, and they need space to turn.

Be present in this community of wonderful people. We enjoy a wonderful relationship with the convention center staff, and if you see something amiss, heavy doors to floor or workshop areas, please tell us and we can get that resolved. Again, practice kindness and assist with holding a door when you can.

Here at General Assembly we are part of one faith family. And if we are considerate of each other as we worship, bear witness and learn this week, we can enjoy each other's company. We'll leave even more fulfilled than we ever expected. Thank you.


GINI COURTER: I now call upon the Secretary of the Association, Tom Lochry, to provide us with some announcements and important information. You're going to see him every day, so give it up for Tom.

TOM LOCKRY: Well, thank you. And welcome to my district, the Pacific Southwest. We're happy to have you here. A few brief announcements.

I've been asked by the folks in lost and found about found items. If you have reported a valuable item—and they've had several of them so far that's lost. If you find it, if you've reached in the bottom of your bag and you found that camera or that cell phone or whatever it happened to be, let the office know so that they don't continue to try and locate that item. So if you find it, let them know that it's no longer lost. It's down, incidentally, on this floor about halfway down the hallway on the right hand side, the GA office.

We also got a request from the ushers, you recognize them in their striped vests. When you enter the hall, if you're carrying a large bundle of papers, books, bags, whatever and they can't see your badge, it's difficult for them to make sure that they're doing their job properly. So make sure that when you enter the hall, your badge is visible.

And finally, the celebration with our Arizona partners that was scheduled for Friday evening has been canceled to accommodate our partners' schedule. Correct? This event was the one that was scheduled in Civic Space Park.

And finally, I made a terrible mistake this morning. I got up, dressed, came over here, and I forgot to wish my wife happy anniversary—43 years. She's over there. Thanks. I apologize.



GINI COURTER: Isn't love grand? Happy anniversary, Nancy and Tom. There'd be no further business to come before us. And in accordance with the schedule set forth in your program book, I declare that the Plenary Session portion of the morning shall stand in recess until Friday, June 22, at 8:30 AM.

Hasta entonces de estar en paz.