Plenary V First Half, General Assembly 2012
General Assembly 2012 Event 510
Reports from UU World
- GA Repudiates Doctrine of Discovery
- GA Finalizes Several Bylaw Amendments Without Debate
- Courter: Justice GA Has Transformed Future GAs
- Financial Advisor Brody: Justice in UUA Finances
- Call to Order
- Chalice Lighting
- GA Volunteer and Staff Recognition: Rev. Dr. Walt Wieder
Introduction: Taking Justice GA to Our Congregations
- Unitarian Universalist Women's Federation: Rev. Marti Keller
- Unitarian Universalist Service Committee: Rev. Dr. William F. Schulz
- Staff of the Unitarian Universalist Association: Kay Montgomery and Harlan Limpert: Taking Justice GA Home
- Report of the UUA Financial Advisor: Dan Brody
- Debate and Vote on Proposed Amendments to Bylaw Section C-10.9. Pension System: Second Year Vote (Passed)
- Debate and Vote on Proposed Amendments to Bylaw Article XV: Second Year Vote (Passed)
- Debate and Vote on Proposed Amendment to Bylaw Sections C-3.1, C-3.3, and C-3.6, Member Congregations: Second Year Vote (Passed)
Transcript of First Half
Call to Order
GINI COURTER: I now call to order the fifth and final plenary session of the 51st General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association.
GINI COURTER: Is that the best we can do today?
GINI COURTER: Thank you because I'd like you to give a warm welcome to the Reverend, Dr. Peter Morales and the Reverend, Dr. William Schulz who are here to light our chalice this morning. Please give them a GA welcome.
REVEREND DR. PETER MORALES: The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee was created in May, 1940 by the board of the American Unitarian Association. But eight years later, the board voted to make the Service Committee independent from the association. Ever since then, with a few exceptions, the two organizations have walked separate if parallel paths.
REVEREND DR. WILLIAM SCHULZ: What a waste of opportunity that has been.
REVEREND DR. WILLIAM SCHULZ: For more than 30 years, I have hoped that the UUA and UUSC could work together more collaboratively. Our religious movement is simply too small to keep our two major vehicles for social justice wandering around in their two separate worlds.
REVEREND DR. PETER MORALES: So Bill and I, with the help of a lot of other good people, decided to do something about it. Today we are officially launching a major joint venture of the UUA and the UUSC.
REVEREND DR. WILLIAM SCHULZ: We call it the Unitarian Universalist College of Social Justice. And it will be the primary vehicle through which Unitarian Universalists can put their faith in action through service learning opportunities around the world.
REVEREND DR. PETER MORALES: We want every individual Unitarian Universalist in every congregation that wants to build an eco-village in Haiti, plant crops in Central America, teach computer science in Africa, or English in Southeast Asia to have the opportunity to do so under the umbrella of the College of Social Justice.
REVEREND DR. WILLIAM SCHULZ: We want every Unitarian Universalist young person who wants to feel more at home in our faith, every seminarian who wants to gain a better understanding of the developing world of how two billion people on this planet live to have an opportunity to do so within the context of a Unitarian Universalist pedagogy and spirituality.
REVEREND DR. PETER MORALES: We are already bringing more than 100 people a year with us on service learning trips around the world. And within the next five years, that number will grow to 1,000.
REVEREND DR. WILLIAM SCHULZ: Many people are making this exciting new joint venture possible. But we want to introduce to you just three of them. First, I want you to help me give an and enormous thanks to our lead donors to the College of Social Justice, Brad and Julie Bradburd, who have made a $1 million.
REVEREND DR. WILLIAM SCHULZ: $1 million.
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
REVEREND DR. PETER MORALES: [LAUGHS] Yes, thanks indeed, yes.
REVEREND DR. WILLIAM SCHULZ: Indeed.
REVEREND DR. PETER MORALES: And second, we want to introduce to you the new director of the College of Social Justice, the first joint staff appointment of the UUA and the UUSC, one of our most respected ministers, the reverberant Kathleen McTigue. Most recently of our congregation in Hamden, Connecticut.
KATHLEEN MCTIGUE: I am so honored to join the leadership of the College of Social Justice, one of the truly most exciting programs I have seen in my entire 25 years of parish ministry in our fold, which is what drew me to join in its shaping. I was drawn, first of all, by the synergy that will arise now that these two institutions of ours have joined in so large and sustained a joint project. Linking resources, people, programs, and creativity under the umbrella of the CSJ will free us to imagine and enact our justice work on a whole new level.
Second, I was drawn to this initiative because college programs will lift up contemplative practices and theological reflection as an essential part of our justice work.
KATHLEEN MCTIGUE: This Spiritual grounding sustains us as we respond to the suffering of our world. And it reminds us that we are called not just to change the world, but also to change ourselves, to grow in understanding and in spiritual maturity.
And third, I am excited about the College of Social Justice because it will offer new avenues into our faith for those who do not yet know us and compelling ways to connect our youth to the meaning and wider purpose of this faith into which they were born.
KATHLEEN MCTIGUE: This afternoon as our justice GA draws to a close, we light this chalice to signal a new era in Unitarian Universalist cooperation and to launch the Unitarian Universalist College of Social Justice, a new vision, a new way forward, a new blessing for us all. May it be so.
GINI COURTER: As the board continues to work on policy governance and move things around, sometimes that results in changes in the agenda. And I decided that it was most appropriate this year for the volunteers who work for your General Assembly to be thanked by the chair of the General Assembly Planning Committee. And he graciously agreed. But gosh darn, I want to thank them. So I want to thank the whole planning committee because this has been an amazing, amazing General Assembly. And if you agree with me, would you rise in body or spirit to thank your General Assembly Planning Committee and welcome their chair, the Reverend, Dr. Walt Wieder.
GA Volunteer and Staff Recognition
REVEREND DR. WALT WIEDER: This is going to be briefer than it deserves. We should be here all night. Justice GA is nearly over. The need for justice is not. It is our duty to take the learnings of this GA back to our congregations and into the world outside our walls. The General Assembly of Unitarian Universalist congregations is always the creation of many people. Justice GA in Phoenix took that cooperative effort to new levels. We do not intend to go back.
REVEREND DR. WALT WIEDER: I would begin by introducing the members of your General Assembly planning committee. They have moved gracefully between issues of vision and the mundane, between the global and the practical. Co-vice chairs Tim Murphy and Bart Frost.
REVEREND DR. WALT WIEDER: Secretary, Cathy Charles, Debra Boyd, Greg Boyd, Ila Klion, Chip Roush, Nan White, Jacqui Williams, and the representative on our committee, liaison from the board, Jackie Shonti. Arizona Immigration ministries provided on the ground existing relationships, creating the occasion for learning, service, and witness. Susan Frederick-Gray and Sandy Weir—Sandy?
REVEREND DR. WALT WIEDER: —worked tirelessly with our partners, the staff, the Planning Committee, local police, and others to bring us together with communities in Phoenix and afflicted by harsh immigration efforts.
The accountability group chaired by Leslie Takahashi-Morris provided insights and suggestions from communities within Unitarian Universalism too often marginalized and left out. James Hobart, Wendy von Zirpolo. Laura Wells-Gilmore, Ian Jeffrey, [? Mitra Rahaman, ?] Tomoko Takano, Linda Wright, Suzanne Fast, Sun Principe, Jose Balastera, Patricia Himenez, Allyson Hamm, Clyde Grubb, Sean Parker, Paul Langston-Daley, Sarah Surface, Michael Han, and— let me say the name one more time— the convener of that group, Leslie Takahashi-Morris who changed our lives.
REVEREND DR. WALT WIEDER: The right relationship team, co-chairs Tomoko Takano and Melissa Carvill Ziemer along with garnered Takahashi-Morris supporting has supported all of us during this week, calling us to our best selves, working even now, as a matter of fact, rather than up here. Our partners from Endelon, and Puente, and from the committee for the defense of the barrios, Mi Familia Vota, Somos America, and BorderLinks have shared their perspectives and their passion for justice with us all.
REVEREND DR. WALT WIEDER: No GA would happen without the work of the district volunteer coordinator. Carolyn Suanders pulled together a team you see standing before you, volunteers from this district and around the country. As chair of the General Assembly Planning Committee, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the support of the Board of Trustees, moderator, and president of the UUA. Their concern has been unflagging. No, they deserve a round of applause. They truly do.
REVEREND DR. WALT WIEDER: I would also like to acknowledge past General Assembly Planning Committee members who have given the example of their selfless concern for the well-being of both General Assembly and our movement. We are part of an ongoing tradition. None of this would actually happen if it were not for the support, guidance, and work of staff. Jan Sneegas, Director of General Assembly and conference services.
REVEREND DR. WALT WIEDER: Don Plante, Stacy Dixon, and Steven Ransom. I take comfort in the realization that this is neither the beginning— it began long ago— nor the end. We will take what we have learned here into the future. It is merely an arbitrary point on a shared journey. Thank you all for joining us in this attempt to create a world where all people can expect to be treated with dignity and generosity. And thank all of you.
GINI COURTER: Please welcome the youth observer to your UUA Board of Trustee, Abhimanyu Janamanchi, for an announcement.
ABIMANYU JANAMANCHI: So, my term has come to an end for this year. And with that, I now introduce to you with great honor your new youth observer to the Board of Trustees, Katherine Allen.
KATHERINE ALLEN: Hello everyone. I'm very happy to be serving the Unitarian Universalist Association. And I hope I can get some great work done in the next year. Thank you all so much.
Introduction: Taking Justice GA to our Congregations
GINI COURTER: Welcome aboard. Thank you. And now please welcome back the President of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, the Reverend, Doctor William F. Schulz, for his annual report.
REVEREND DR. WILLIAM SCHULZ: Madam moderator, President Morales, ladies and gentlemen, I don't know about you, but I do not like head cheese. You know what head cheese is, don't you? The delicatessen meat consisting of pig's tongue, pig's snout, pig's hair, pig's feet, all suspiciously encased in aspic.
I like almost all food. Indeed what Cardinal John Patrick Foley's mother said of him might well be said of me. Cardinal Foley grew up in Connecticut. But he was, for many years, the chief spokesperson for the Vatican and a connoisseur of Italian food. And when he returned to the United States after several years in Rome, his mother took one look at him and said, John, there are 20 pounds of you that were not ordained.
REVEREND DR. WILLIAM SCHULZ: So, I like all food. But I find head cheese disgusting, abnormal, unnatural. And here are a few other things I find unnatural. Poor bulldogs are unnatural. The poor things have been bred so irresponsibly that they can't walk or breathe. Martinis with too much vermouth in them are unnatural. The best news of 2012, by the way, is that dry Martinis have been found to have equal health benefits to red wine. Thank you, Jesus.
And Sean Hannity is unnatural. No, no. I take that back. I've been on Sean Hannity's show. I know Sean Hannity. And, Sean, you're not unnatural. You're a natural horse's ass.
But then, there is one more thing that is unnatural, loving our neighbors as ourselves. In fact, many biologists would say that loving our neighbor as much as we love ourselves and our own families is evolutionarily suicidal, a sure fire way to destroy our own gene pool. The only way our selfish genes can survive is by putting our own interests first. And yet somehow we know that that's not good enough, that ignoring the needs of other people leads straight to war, recession, ecological disaster. Somehow this large brain of ours has figured out that our own interests are intimately linked with those of others.
But acting on that knowledge just won't come naturally. It's not natural. With all the other distractions in our lives, with all our worries about our own health, our kids' happiness, our own bills to pay, it doesn't come naturally or easily to care whether Rita in Gosi, one of the beneficiaries of the Hope in Crop projects that UUSC supports in Kenya, has enough sweet potato vines, cassava cuttings, and a beehive so that she can feed her family and sell her honey. Rita is in Kenya for God's sake. That's more than 7,000 miles away. It doesn't come naturally.
It doesn't come naturally to think about Leroy and Andral in Haiti, who lost their families homes in Port Au Prince in the earthquake two and a half years ago and are now struggling to build a new life in an eco-village in the central plateau four hours away. It takes a lot of energy. It takes a lot of energy to focus on a poultry worker in Arkansas who does a hard day's work and then is refused her pay by the poultry companies they know that she is undocumented and unlikely to go to the authorities.
It takes effort, effort to remember the young American teenager in Chicago who lives in fear every day of her undocumented mother being deported. Indeed, what we have been doing in Phoenix this week does not come naturally. And keeping up this level of energy, of caring, of engagement with other people's needs when we go home would be the most unnatural thing of all.
So instead of just feeling guilty about it, what do we human beings do to counteract our basic natures? We create institutions to embody our best selves, to beckon us, beg us, taunt us, and tease us into acting unnaturally. Into loving our neighbors, whether they be in the house next door or a village 5,000 miles away. And for Unitarian Universalists, UUSC is that institution that embodies our best selves not one week a year, but every day in 22 countries around the globe as well as here at home.
REVEREND DR. WILLIAM SCHULZ: So because you can't think of Rita in Gosi every day, UUSC does it for you. You can't help Leroy and Andral every day. But UUSC can on your behalf. You can't just drop everything in your lives to fight those poultry companies or help that teenager. But UUSC does.
UUSC has been fighting for immigrant rights since it was founded in 1940 and began rescuing victims of the Nazis. And UUSC has fought for economic justice and against racism every day since then. Who is fighting every day with the help of its partner, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, to stop law enforcement around this country from terrorizing immigrants? UUSC is. Who is teaming up with the Restaurant Opportunities Center United to expose the poverty-level wages and racial discrimination against workers in the restaurant industry? UUSC is. Who is supporting its partner, STITCH, to train women banana workers in Honduras to confront sexual harassment and win elective office in their male-dominated unions. UUSC is.
I've just returned from Myanmar, what most of us call Burma. Suddenly the world's attention is on Burma and the possibility of a democratic society emerging out of one of the world's most repressive states. But who has been working in Burma since 2009 to help empower local people and usher in democracy? UUSC has.
In all these ways and dozens more, UUSC is your vehicle for doing what comes unnaturally. We eat no head cheese. We breed no bull dogs. We drink only dry Martinis. And we sure don't like Sean Hannity. But we do do the most unnatural thing of all, provide the means for every one of us to be our best selves every day of the year. Only about one out of every five Unitarian Universalists is a member of UUSC. Since it only cost $40 to join, I don't know why every one of us isn't. What a simple way to expiate your guilt about being a human being.
REVEREND DR. WILLIAM SCHULZ: And what a perfect way to keep the spirit of this assembly alive long after we've left Phoenix. So help us help Rita in Gosi. Help us change Leroy and Andral's lives. Help us say no to ravenous poultry companies. Help us say yes to empowering women. Help us to bring democracy to Burma. Help us to take Unitarian Universalist values to the barrios and back alleys, farms and factories, villages and vine fields. Not just this week, but every week. Not just here, but everywhere. Not just now, but as long as our values flourish, as long as our faith lasts, as long as good people keep doing unnatural things. Joint us. Help us. And viva UUSC.
GINI COURTER: Please welcome Kay Montgomery, executive vice president and the Reverend Harlan Limpert, vice president of ministries and congregational support of your Unitarian Universalist Association staff. Kay and Harlan.
REVEREND HARLAN LIMPERT: Good afternoon everyone. And thanks for hanging in there. The question for all of us now is this. How do we take the jus, jus, the ju—
KAY MONTGOMERY: Thanks for hanging in there.
REVEREND HARLAN LIMPERT: [LAUGHS]. Kay said, thanks for hanging in there. How do we take the Justice General Assembly home? The act of coming here has been a declaration of our living our Unitarian Universalist faith that is inherently justice-making and justice-building. We all stand on the side of love. We all stand for justice. But the way that we manifest itself in the world is in our own ways. Our goal here in these next few minutes is to give you travel guides for your journey home.
A new movement is taking hold. People are organizing online through standing on the side of love. They are connecting on the ground with state networks, congregations, and community-based organizations to be the best allies possible with our immigrant communities. Not only are we creating strong networks for justice, we are building new relationships. We are really building the beloved community.
First, if you've not yet been involved in the restoring trust campaign, we ask that you please find out more. The UUA is part of a broad coalition of migrant rights organizations and faith communities that have launched a national campaign to restore trust to our communities by breaking immigration and customs enforcement's hold.
It's called ICE. ICE holds, also known as immigration detainers, are the linchpin of the secures communities program which uses local police and jails to funnel thousands of people into deportation, what we've heard so much about. An ICE hold is a request from ICE to local law enforcement agencies to hold an individual in their custody for 48 hours longer than they otherwise would in order to facilitate a transfer to ICE.
It's important for everyone to understand that immigration detainer requests are not mandatory. And localities are not legally required to comply with them. If cities and states decide not to detain and transfer people to ICE by refusing to submit to ICE hold requests, then the secure communities infrastructure collapses.
REVEREND HARLAN LIMPERT: The strategy of the restoring trust campaign is to strengthen, amplify, and coordinate local campaigns across the country that urge local officials and politicians to adopt ordinances that limit ICE hold requests in the counties that submit to. If you want to learn more about this campaign, visit UUA.org/imigration or email love [at] UUA [dot] org. Isn't that the greatest email address in the world? love [at] UUA [dot] org.
In addition to getting involved with restoring trust, mark your calendar for July 25, 2012 at 8PM. Standing on the Side of Love will be holding an online training about breaking the isolation of immigration detention and starting a visitation program in your community. More than 34,000 people are detained in the U.S. every day. And nearly 400,000 are passed through the system every year. Through this webinar training, people will learn why and how to start a visitation program with information from other successful visitation programs that have resulted in hundreds of visits to detained immigrants and asylum-seeking women in the past year. You can visit StandingOnTheSideOfLove.org to sign up.
KAY MONTGOMERY: There are travel guides and resources that suggest action steps for you as you return home. The travel guides and resources from our website and from Beacon Press spring directly from our principles and values. So for example, if you're looking for a way to begin the conversation about immigration justice work in your congregation, invite people to join you in reading Beacon's The Death of Josseline, by Margaret Regan. Organize a discussion group using the common read guide developed by the resource development office. To help people in your community learn more, offer the succession curriculum immigration as a moral issue in response to the association's focus on immigration as a study action issue.
Or organize a single session or series for adults, young adults, and or youth using United States immigration theological reflection and discussion (PDF, 35 pages). Invite people to read Beacon Press books about immigration. They provide big-picture information about the history, economics, politics, and human effects of the United States immigration policy and enforcement. Or put them on your own reading list. David bacon's book, Illegal People, How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants, and Aviva Chomsky's They Take Our Jobs and 20 other myths about immigration are excellent and enormously readable.
Additionally, you'll find resources, stories, and models for immigration justice work on the UUA blog, Cooking Together, recipes for immigration justice work. Readers subscribe to that blog and send us your stories and your comments for possible publication. During Justice General Assembly, we've discovered that immigration justice issues on the surface are incredibly simple. But we've also been uncovering how far-reaching and complex those issues are just below the surface.
REVEREND HARLAN LIMPERT: One of the partner organizations that has been helping UUs to understand immigration justice on these multiple levels, through service learning experiences at the US-Mexico border is BorderLinks. We've all heard about BorderLinks by now. Through delegations jointly organized by the UUA and the UUSC, by UUA districts, by Valley UU Church, and many others, more than 100 UUs have traveled to Tucson, Arizona and Nogales, Sonora in the past year with the goal of growing and understanding and commitment to immigration justice through eye-to-eye and soul-to-soul experiential learning.
Among the experiences BorderLinks has organized for our UU delegations are meeting with young adults from Scholarship Arizona who are ready and want to go to college but can't because of the immigration laws. Obama's recent announcements helps. But it does not solve this issue. Walking through the Sonoran Desert with the Green Valley Samaritans who seek to assist migrants in that harsh, harsh landscape. Lending a hand at the Kino Border Initiative where migrants who have just recently been deported to Nogales can find a nourishing lunch at this ecumenical ministry. And engaging in conversations, lessons, tears, and laughter with people affected by UU immigration policy in innumerable ways.
As you return home inspired by the experiences at justice GA, consider including BorderLinks in your congregation's planning for ongoing immigration justice work. UUA, UUSC four-day delegations are already planned for October, 2012 and May, 2013. And additional delegations can be scheduled. For more information, contact BorderLinks directly or the International office of the UUA or the new UU College of Social Justice.
Although we experienced General Assembly together, listening, learning, reflecting, witnessing, and growing in our commitment to justice, each person here has also experienced it separately and differently. While each of the congregations and communities to which we return is committed to Unitarian Universalism values and to working for justice, each has a unique approach to it. This week we've talked about the doctrine of discovery. You can organize discussion groups using the online guide. The guide, suitable for adults, young adults, and youth, is supplemented by a video presentation.
To engage parents and families both at home and through your religious education or faith development programming, collect and share copies of the Family Pages insert in the center of the summer, 2012 issue of UU World. The issue offers stories suitable for sharing in multi-generational worship as well as activities for reflections in families. The curriculum, with Justice and Compassion (PDF, 63 pages), offers four sessions for children's programs and culminates in a family night where children share what they've learned.
If you are inspired by the energy and the commitment of our youth and young adults, there are 450 of them here at this General Assembly.
REVEREND HARLAN LIMPERT: Youth rock. Organize a group to discuss Beacon's Act of Faith, by Eboo Patel, this year's UU Common Read. The book and the discussion guide is also an excellent introduction to interfaith justice work for youth and adults of all ages and all life stages.
You might follow up the discussion of Acts of Faith with an eight-session tapestry of faith curriculum called A Chorus of Faiths, which is based on the work of Patel's interfaith youth core. Although the curriculum is written for high schoolers, it is also appropriate for adults and cross-generational groups.
KAY MONTGOMERY: If your faith community is called to work on racial justice issues, organize a group to study Building the World We Dream About to learn and build alliances across racial and ethnic lines within your congregation and your community. We are pleased to announce that a young adult adaptation of Building the World (Word, 255 pages) (PDF) has just been published online as part of Tapestry of Faith and highlights the voices and perspectives of young adults.
And there are numerous other resources available from the UUA bookstore and Beacon Press. Anita Hill's book— she was here with you this week— Reimagining Equality, stories of gender, race and finding home, published by Beacon last fall and will soon be in paperback. Martin Luther King's classic, All Labor Has Dignity, explores the intersections of racial and economic oppression and has links to powerful audio of Dr. King.
Bill Fletcher's, They're Bankrupting Us and 20 other myths about unions, is helpful if your congregation is concerned with local and state labor issues.
Our goal this morning, Harlan's and mine, has been to give you travel guides for your journey home, travel guides prepared by our beloved UUA staff. Many of you participated in the regional "Take Home Gatherings"& earlier today and reflected on how to apply your learnings in your local communities.
These past few days haven't been the beginning nor will they be the end of our mission for justice. This is, however, a defining moment. For whenever people unite in common spirit with faith in something better, faith and love, faith in community, faith in compassion, faith in solidarity, whenever we lift up our voices in unison, something beautiful happens almost inevitably, something profound, and expansive, and with love and power to transform the world and ourselves. Thank you.
GINI COURTER: Who just learned about a new resource that you're going to use back in your congregation?
Report of the UUA Financial Advisor
GINI COURTER: Thank you. Remember that you can watch this plenary again online if you want to, to go through that wonderful list of congregational resources that are available for us. I'd like to introduce your financial advisor, Mr. Dan Brody, to give his annual report to this assembly. Please welcome him.
DAN BRODY: Thank you, Jenny. Good afternoon. This week I complete my seventh year of service in the volunteer position of UUA financial advisor.
DAN BRODY: This isn't a traditional General Assembly. So I won't be giving a traditional report about the association's financial condition. I will start by saying that the UUA's finances are in very good shape, thanks in large part to the continuing high level of contributions by congregations to the annual program fund. That's worth a hand.
DAN BRODY: Your contributions got the association through the great recession without the need for devastating cuts in staff or programs. Times have been tough for the UUA, and for congregations, and individuals as well of course. But they're getting better. For details about the association's finances, please consult my written report on UUA.org (PDF, 10 pages).
With that done, what's left to talk about? Does the financial advisor play any role in advancing justice in the association in the wider world? Perhaps surprisingly, the answer has been yes.
I first saw this picture on a SaveDarfur.org billboard in 2007. The text reads, "When Fidelity was told their investments support genocide in Darfur, this was their response. Quote, "Fidelity portfolio managers make their investment decisions based on business and financial considerations," unquote. The ad then asked, what's your response? Our response was a strong one.
Two years earlier, the 2005 General Assembly had passed a resolution urging UUs to take action to end the genocide in Darfur. In 2007, UUA president, Bill Sinkford, asked the UUA pension committee to consider whether we should continue to use Fidelity to provide record keeping services to our pension plan. The committee conducted an exhaustive study of the pros and cons of moving our business from Fidelity to TIAA-CREF, a nonprofit financial management firm.
We studied which firm could provide better service to participants and which one was more compatible with our mission. Mission compatibility included not just Fidelity's Darfur related investments, but also a broad range of environmental, social, and governance issues. It was striking that TIAA-CREF had voted to support the UUA on 17 of the 18 shareholder resolutions that the association filed in 2008 and 2009 on issues ranging from environmental sustainability to gender identity nondiscrimination. During the same time period, Fidelity voted with the UUA less than one third of the time.
The pension committee, which included several current and retired participants in our retirement plan, voted unanimously to move to TIAA-CREF. I'm proud that the association took this step to align our practices with our values.
DAN BRODY: Just last month, the Darfur issue prompted action by another UUA committee on which I serve. I serve on a lot of committees. Our investment committee voted to terminate one of the UU common endowment fund managers largely because of the manager's investments in companies doing business with the government of Sudan.
The UU common endowment fund has consistently performed in the top 20% of all funds of its size while making good progress towards aligning our investments with our values. If your congregation is not a participant in the UUCEF, you're probably getting a lower return while putting a greater percent of your assets in morally risky investments. It's time for you to join our common fund.
DAN BRODY: Another area where the association has made great progress towards living out our values is health insurance for ministers and congregational staff. After five and a half successful years, the UUA health plan now serves more than 1,500 employees, retirees, and dependents in more than 300 congregations. Many of these people previously had no health insurance or inadequate coverage. I'm particularly proud that the plan includes such innovative features as a benefit for hearing aids.
I believe that congregations have a moral responsibility to provide health insurance to their ministers and staff. Employees without employer-provided health insurance are often unable to find health insurance at any price and certainly not at an affordable price. About 95% of eligible employees of congregations now have coverage either through the UUA plan or through another plan. Our goal is to have 100% of eligible employees covered. If your congregation has any eligible employees without health insurance, will you work to help us reach this goal?
DAN BRODY: The UUA board has revamped our governance policies over the past few years. What does this have to do with justice? Quite a lot actually. One of the principles of policy governance is that the board must state the values that guide our work towards achieving our ends. Among the policies we've created are ones that require all UUA employees be paid a living wage, that prevent discrimination in the awarding of pensions and other benefits, and that protect whistleblowers from retaliation. I'm proud to have played a part in all of these efforts to advance the cause of justice. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to serve our association.
GINI COURTER: Thank you, Dan, very much. We were actually down on the floor a minute ago wondering how it is Kelly Walker does it, that you're still standing, actually, after how hard we have been working you to lead us in song.
Song: "Praise Song"
GINI COURTER: So let's show some love to Kelly Walker as she comes up to lead us in song again.
KELLY WALKER: Thank you. I am a little tired. Notice the jeans.
The song we're going to sing next,"Tengo Sed de Ti," is a song from the Taize community in France. This is an ecumenical monastery where they've developed a tradition of sung prayer ever since World War II, where young people from all over the world and from different faith traditions come on retreat. They sing simple songs and chants in different languages and sometimes a bunch of different languages all at once.
We'll sing it in Spanish. It comes from our new Spanish hymnal, "Los Voces del Camino." It's number 24. The words in English mean, I thirst for you oh fountain of love. You're love is freedom. We're going to do it several times through, so we can take some time to let the music quiet us and fill us in the way we need. The first and third lines are the same. I'll sing it through first so you can hear how it goes. And then either listen, or sing with me, harmonize. We'll just layer it in and let the music do what it needs to do for you.
[MUSIC - TENGO SED DE TI]
GINI COURTER: Thank you, Kelly. We are now all mellow and ready to consider and act upon proposed amendments—
Debate and Vote on Proposed Amendments to Bylaw Section C-10.9. Pension System-Second Year Vote
GINI COURTER: —to UUA bylaw section C-10.9. It's really hard to even say that sentence into this space.
GINI COURTER: But they're good amendments. These amendments eliminate the category of Associate Ministerial Fellowship and the text of amendments from a particular piece of the bylaws. And the text of the amendments may be found at page 103 of the final agenda. So I'm going to ask the first vice moderator of the UUA Board of Trustees to make the appropriate motion. And there you are. Hello.
VICE MODERATOR: bylaw sections 4.8 and C-10.9 be amended as found at page 103 of the final agenda.
GINI COURTER: Thank you. And I'm going to recognize the financial advisor, Dan Brody, who you just saw a moment ago, to give the position of your UUA Board of Trustees. Dan.
DAN BRODY: A change in the rules of the Ministerial Fellowship Committee, remove the category of Associate Ministerial Fellowship. Section C.10.9 of the bylaws refers to the pension system for quote, "ministers in full fellowship with the association," unquote. The word full is now obsolete. And GA delegates, last year, gave preliminary approval to this bylaw amendment to remove the obsolete word. The board supports final approval of its removal.
GINI COURTER: You seem not to wish to talk about this. Fine. Find your voting cards. There was a good discussion of this at the mini assembly. So I think if people had questions or concerns, they brought them there. That's what it looks like to me. Are you ready? All those in favor, raise your voting cards please. Thank you. All those opposed? I think maybe not a one. This motion clearly carries. Thank you.
Debate and Vote on Proposed Amendments to Bylaw Article XV-Second Year Vote
GINI COURTER: Our next item of business today is to consider and vote on the proposed amendment to bylaw Article 15, which changes the procedures for amending the principles and purposes. The text is found on 104 through 106 of the final agenda. Will the first vice moderator of the UUA board please make the appropriate motion.
VICE MODERATOR: Moved that the proposed amendment to bylaw article 15, found at pages 104 to 106 of the final agenda be adopted by this assembly.
GINI COURTER: Fine, thank you. And I recognize trustee, Lou Finney, of the mountain desert district to give the position of your UUA board. Lou.
LOU FINNEY: Thanks Jenny. The 2009 General Assembly considered revisions to article two, our principles, purposes, and sources. We had some procedural frustration and ultimately turned down the proposed changes to article two. That frustration yielded two responsive resolutions. One, ask the board to resolve the procedural frustration. And the second, to continue the work on article two.
The amendment to article 15 before you today clarifies the processes involved in amending article two, allowing for amendments to a proposed text during the initial consideration. Assuming that we approve the changes to article 15 today, next year with new procedures in place for considering changes to article two, we will once again begin the multi-year process of considering changes to article two.
LOU FINNEY: So the board is recommending that we approve by a two thirds majority the changes to article 15. There's an additional responsive resolution that concerns changes to article two. The resolution calls on the board to propose a change to the focus of the bylaw section C-2.3 from nondiscrimination to inclusion. That requested change will also be taken up using the new procedures at GA next year.
GINI COURTER: Thank you.
GINI COURTER: All right. All those in favor of the proposed amendment to bylaw article 15, please raise your voting cards. Thank you. All those opposed. Thank you. The motion clearly carries.
Debate and Vote on Proposed Amendments to Bylaw Sections C-3.1, C-3.3 and C-3.6, Member Congregations-Second Year Vote
GINI COURTER: Sure. I didn't even look at you guys. I was right, wasn't I? Good. Whenever there's a vote, we all look in case it's close.
We will now take up consideration of the proposed amendments to bylaw sections C 3.1, C 3.3, and C 3.6, found at page 103 of the final agenda to broaden the definition of the word congregation. We are an association of congregations. So changing the definition of a congregation is not a trivial change. The definition of congregation is a C bylaw. And these are sections of the bylaws that were so designated at the time of the consolidation of the Unitarians and Universalists.
This is, as the others have been, a 2-step process. Last year a majority vote was required. And the second year a two thirds vote will be required. I recognize first. Would the first vice moderator please make the appropriate motion.
VICE MODERATOR: Moved that the business resolution found on page 103 of the final agenda be adopted by this assembly.
GINI COURTER: And I recognize the Reverend Dr. Susan Ritchie, your trustee from the Ohio, Meadville district, to give the position of your UUA board.
REVEREND DR. SUSAN RITCHIE: Historically, we could assume that congregations must be physical brick and mortar institutions rooted in a singular geography. The Church of the Larger Fellowship has been the exception that proves the rule. But so many have been telling us they want other ways to gather.
Youth, young adults, people with accessibility concerns, people who work on Sunday mornings, people who have been sometimes discriminated against inside of our traditional congregations say they want other ways to be Unitarian Universalists. And yet in our current way of doing business only persons with memberships in physical congregations located in physical places can be Unitarian Universalists. And so we exclude some of those who want to be Unitarian Universalists the most.
Your board believes that it serves the cause of justice to expand the definition of congregation. These bylaw proposals would remove the requirement that the congregation be a physical location. It would propel us, at least, into the late 20th century by insisting that we can gather as intentional religious people with people who we do not share an immediate geography with.
This language would also remove the language of churches and fellowships which is unwelcoming to people who come from non-Christian traditions. We propose instead we use the language of congregations. Help your board to build pathways to membership for all who truly desire to be Unitarian Universalists.
GINI COURTER: Looking good.
GINI COURTER: You worry me.
GINI COURTER: Ready? All of those in favor of this amendment, please raise your voting cards.
GINI COURTER: Thank you. All those opposed. Thank you. This motion clearly carries.
GINI COURTER: We are now running an hour and five minutes ahead of schedule.
GINI COURTER: Now that's a blessing. But it's a problem. And the problem is that we have reason to believe some folks would be coming back for the vote on the doctrine of discovery based on when it was on the agenda. And if none of us are here, that's probably not the best news of the day. [LAUGHTER]
GINI COURTER: Or maybe it is. It's hard to know.
GINI COURTER: So I think what I'm going to suggest is that we do just a brief break, so people can get up and stretch, and use restrooms, and come back for the bottom half of the agenda. Does that sound good? So we're going to put 15 minutes on the clock. And we'll come back in 15 minutes. Thank you.
Watch and read the second half of Plenary V.