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General Session V, General Assembly 2014

General Assembly 2014 Event 402

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Order of Business


The following final draft script was completed before this event took place; actual words spoken may vary.

Call to Order

The Moderator: I now call to Order the Fifth General Session Session of the Fifty-Third General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association.

Right Relations Team Report

The Moderator: Does the RRT have a report today? Welcome back Mr. Barb Greve.

Mr. Barb Greve: [To be live-captioned.]

Voting to Admit Potential Actions of Immediate Witness to the Agenda

The Moderator: I call on Susan Goekler once again to give us a report on potential Actions of Immediate Witness and an overview of the process for actions of immediate witness.

Susan: Moderator Key, the Commission on Social Witness submits to the delegates for a vote to select three proposed Actions of Immediate Witness to add to the final agenda for a vote on Sunday: [To be live-captioned.]

Presentation of Potential Actions of Immediate Witness

The Moderator: We will now take the first step of the process for adopting Actions of Immediate Witness. Bylaw section 4.16 on page 108 of your program book provides that not more than three Actions of Immediate Witness (AIWs) may be admitted to the agenda for possible final action and that two-thirds of the delegates must support the admission of each one to the agenda. Delegates have had an opportunity to pick up a copy of the proposed Actions of Immediate Witness from the information table located next to the entry doors. If there is any delegate without a copy, please raise your voting card and the tellers will make sure that each delegate receives a copy of each proposed Action of Immediate Witness. Today's CSW Alert includes a summary of each proposed AIW.

The following proposed Actions of Immediate Witness have qualified for possible admission to the final agenda as you heard from Susan.

  1. Proposed AIW #1: Support the Faith Summit on Stopping Deportations
  2. Proposed AIW #2: Support a Fair, Ambitious and Binding 2015 Global Climate Treaty
  3. Proposed AIW #3: Affirming Congregational Commitment to Gun Violence Prevention
  4. Proposed AIW #4: Stop Arresting Victims of Human Trafficking
  5. Proposed AIW #5: Calling for Humanitarian Aid to Victims of Violence in Syria
  6. Proposed AIW #6: UUA Support for “Uganda New Underground Railway” to Safely Extract LGBT People from Persecution in Uganda

Please note the letters A through F on the ballot attached to your delegate card. You are going to check three of those blocks before we are through here this. But don't vote yet!

We have six groups that have decided that there are some issues that the delegates need to consider. It will be up to you this morning, based on the rules found in the bylaws—section 4.16 on page 108—to narrow these six down to three. Tomorrow you will vote on the actual language of those. Today you are voting on are there three topics that you feel are worthy and important enough that you want to spend some time on this morning in mini—assemblies and tomorrow in general session—to see about actually making a statement as a body of delegates.

So here's the process. You get the CSW Alert, and you look at the proposed AIW summaries that are printed there. These are in random order. They're not in any prioritized order. The letters that are there correspond to the letters on your ballot card at the bottom stub. The statements themselves, the full statements, are at the CSW booth. They're not available now because you're not voting on the full statement. You're only voting on the concept or the topic. At the mini—assemblies this morning in rooms 552, 553, and Ballroom E—you'll have an opportunity to look at the full statements and then to make decisions about whether you want to revise the wording on those. You're really voting on the concepts, not on the actual language of the statement.

But don't vote yet. We are going to hear statements from the proponents of each of these. Each one has two minutes to tell you about their issue.

I recognize the delegate at the Pro microphone. Please tell us your name and the congregation you represent.

Speaker: [To be live-captioned.]

The Moderator: Thank you. I recognize the delegate at the Pro microphone.

Speaker: [To be live-captioned.]

The Moderator: Thank you. I recognize the delegate at the Pro microphone.

Speaker: [To be live-captioned.]

The Moderator: Thank you. I recognize the delegate at the Pro microphone.

Speaker: [To be live-captioned.]

The Moderator: Thank you. I recognize the delegate at the Pro microphone.

Speaker: [To be live-captioned.]

The Moderator: Thank you. I recognize the delegate at the Pro microphone.

Speaker: [To be live-captioned.]

The Moderator: Thank you. Having heard from the six proponents of these proposed AIWs have you gotten an overview of the potential AIWs?

So now it is time to vote. Take out a pencil, pen, or crayon, and select up to three that you would like to see move forward. If you do more than three, your ballot will be invalid. If you select one three times, that will be invalid. You can check just one or just two, but no more than three. Then you're going to tear this stub off ever so gently. And this is going to be passed down the isle and the ushers are going to collect them. Any questions?

Introduction: Rev. Miyake of Rissho Kosei-Kai

The Moderator: The collection process can continue quietly as I welcome the Rev. Eric Cherry to the podium. Eric is the Director of the International Office and he gets to go to all of these cool places around the world. Welcome the Rev. Eric Cherry to make some introductions for us.

Rev. Eric Cherry: Unitarians and Universalists have had unique and important relationships with Japanese religious partners since the end of the 19th Century. But, in the 1970s new relationships began to form through the International Association for Religious Freedom. One of those relationships is with Konkokyo—a Japanese Shinto sect—which shares many values with Unitarian Universalism. And, especially, with the Konko Church of Izuo in Osaka, Japan. The founder of that church, Reverend Toshio Miyake, was a close colleague of many UUA leaders in the interfaith struggle for world peace. And, today, the leader of that church, and the current president of the International Association for Religious Freedom is here to share a word with all fo us. Please welcome the Most Reverend Mitsuo Miyake.

Rev. Mitsuo Miyake: Dear Mr. Moderator Jim Key, Dear President Peter Morales, and Dear Members of the UUA gathering to attend this General Assembly held in Providence, Rhode Island. It is such an honour and privilege to be here, as the Chief Minister of the Konko Shinto Church of Izuo who has shared common values with UUA since the 1960s, and as the President of the International Association for Religious Freedom which was formed by Unitarian friends 115 years ago. This opportunity is more than I could have hoped for.

The State of Rhode Island is the smallest state in the USA. But it was here that institutionalized religious freedom was first established in the middle of the 17th century, 130 years before the United States' founding. Even though its numerical size is not so large compared to the mainline Churches, the UUA has outperformed in human society as an organization putting religious freedom and the protection of minority's human rights at the center of its activities. In this sense, to hold the UUA General Assembly here in Providence has a special historical significance.

The late Rev. Toshio Miyake, the founder of our Konko Church of Izuo, carried out the IARF and Religions for Peace activities together with those who had made a significant mark on the history of UUA, such as Dr. Dana McLean Greeley, Dr. Homer Jack, Dr. Malcolm Sutherland, and Dr. Eugene Picket. On several occasions they visited my church in Osaka, from the time I was a little child. I remember well that they had talked passionately with my late grandfather, about world peace and religious freedom.

At that time there was, of course, a Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. Many people shuddered at the horrors of a nuclear war. And the actual "Hot War" was being waged in the Vietnam. But we have completely different challenges facing humanity at this moment. As a person who is in a position to inherit this grand wisdom and tradition accumulated by our predecessors, I feel that we have to address the many different challenge of a new era.

A few years ago there was a sudden social change called "the Jasmine Revolution" in North Africa. It is said that the spread of Social Media such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube led to the collapse of the dictatorship in North Africa which was as steady as a rock over many decades. But unfortunately, this revolution has not reached all dictatorships in the Middle East. And, as a result, some areas including Syria are struggling with serious civil wars now.

On the other hand, in developed countries, it became clear that large amounts of Social Media information and other personal data like location information—transmitted by smartphones that many people use night and day—have been collected by big businesses or government bodies.

Under this social situation, we will hold the 34th World Congress of the IARF from August 24 through 27 at Birmingham University in the United Kingdom. For various issues facing today’s society, I think "Religious Freedom in the Digital Age", the theme of this World Congress, is a great opportunity to address thoughtful people all over the world. I have received a report from the International Secretariat office, "the number of Congress registration from the United States is still not so many compared with participants from Europe and Japan." Since two months remain before the Congress, you still have time to purchase discount air tickets. I, as the President of IARF, do hope that many UUA members will join in this forthcoming World Congress to raise awareness of our friends who are seeking religious freedom.

Thank you very much and looking forward to seeing you again in Birmingham.

Introduction: Coalition of UU International Organizations

Eric Cherry: The Global Unitarian, Universalist, and Unitarian Universalist (U/U) Story has a long history with many peaks and valleys that occurred in many historical eras. Its been terrific to have leaders of U/U communities from around the world with us at GA this year– from places where the Global U/U Story has Roots and Wings. Camera pan of stage guests if possible Representatives from our global partners have good news to share.

Derek McAuley: Building a better world is surely what we are all about and I am pleased to report that British Unitarians and Free Christians were at the forefront of the campaign for same sex marriage which was introduced in March this year in England and Wales. We built a coalition of liberal faith groups that had a real impact in breaking down barriers and promoting a more inclusive and tolerant society.

Lara Fuchs: Liberal Religion is alive, well and growing in Switzerland. Unitarian Universalist congregations in Geneva and Basel are healthy and active. We have been blessed with a steady stream of gifted visiting ministers and traveling UUs whose visits enrich our worship and enhance our developing community. Keep coming, we welcome you.

Gizi Nagy: We come from Unitarian Churches in Transylvania. In Marosvasarhely we established a special program for families with children younger than 14 and young couples is a result of the second International Convocation of Unitarian and Universalist Women in Marosvasarhely, 2012. The meetings until now involved over 200 people.

Vyda Ng: The Canadian Unitarian Council has new priorities to guide their work, including fostering innovation in the growth & development of UU communities. The CUC Board is also undertaking a process to revisit the vision and mission.

Darihun Khriam: (stands)—In the Khasi Hills of North East India we have a special event called Anniversary Day which is the founding day of Unitarianism in the region—the 18th Sept. Recently the government declared this a local holiday called the "Unitarian Founder’s Day". We have special service on this day every year—last year was the 125th anniversary.

Dorcy Erlandson: Three years ago, for the second time in its history, the UU Fellowship of Paris was asked to leave a rental space in a French protestant church because a few members of the church council did not find us appropriately Christian. Luckily, after a long search, we found a protestant neighborhood center that is dedicated to welcoming all and whose leaders agreed to rent us space for our worship services. In addition to having a home, we now have a place where we can participate in local social justice activities.

Justine Magara: In Kenya, the UU Church is developing congregations and outreach efforts. We are also adapting to the problems of climate change, which has caused the food production to decrease. This has made people to shift from maize farming to mixed farming to meet their food and financial needs.

Denisa Fialova: In Prague, the Unitarians overcame the occupation by the Nazis, then by the Communists. After some time of looking around and preparing our grounds, we firmly hold the chalice, share the song of hope and welcome anyone of good will to share the light with the new generations of Unitarians.

Tet Gallardo (for UUCP): The UU Church of the Philippines, founded in 1954, is an association of 27 congregations. With the exception of one congregation in Manila, all are located in the rural parts of Negros, many of whom are led by Christian faith healers, animists. In Metro Manila is the UU Congregation of Bicutan, founded in 2005, a theist congregation of about 70 members, comprised of about 70% youth, located in the shanties of Taguig City.

Eric Cherry: The Global U/U Story may have had its beginnings many centuries ago, but, as you can see, it continues to be written today. Its chapters include worship and theological exploration, organizing, and social action and all the varieties of church work and outreach that we do.

Derek Mitchell: The future of the Global U/U story will also be shaped by our engagement with many interfaith and social justice partners around the world. Switch from slide 12 to Live Video Feed We are so grateful that representatives of three of our global interfaith and social justice partners are with us this year at General Assembly. Including Reverend Mitsuo Miyake who spoke to us a few minutes ago. He is joined by his two daughters.

Also from Tokyo, Japan please welcome Rev. Waichi Hishina, Ms Hiroyo Murayama and Ms. Ikuye Kase, representing our historic interfaith partner Rissho Kosei-kai.

And, from Chandrapur, India, Please welcome Paromita Goswami and Kalyan Nayan, leaders of Shamrik Elgar—the Worker’s Push—a premier social change organization that assists rural workers to organize and demand their rights, and a partner of the UU Holdeen India Program.

Cathy Cordes: The Coalition of UU International Organizations can help you find yourself in the Global U/U Story—and help you shape the story’s future.

Cathy Cordes: The UU International coalition is a low-overhead network of U/U organizations with UUA constituents involved in various kinds of international engagement.

Curmudgeon: Well, I’m sure that’s all well and good. But, I remember a powerful Ware Lecture a few years ago about the global HIV/AIDS epidemic. Was I the only one listening?

Peter Smith: That was a powerful speech! The UU Gobal AIDS Coalition was formed in response and has been working ever since to engage UU's in addressing the devastation caused by AIDS and by supporting the work of Red Ribbon congregations on the ground. Find out about us online.

Curmudgeon: The UU Holdeen India Program? Why haven’t I ever heard of that? Must be something new, right?

Derek Mitchell: This year the Holdeen India Program is celebrating its 30th anniversary. The UUA created this program to translate UU values into support for social justice struggles beyond our borders. Since 1984 The Holdeen Program has supported over 100 organizations in India upholding basic human rights in the face of severe oppression. This is Unitarian Universalism in action.

Curmudgeon: I’m very concerned about the Human Right to Water. And Workers Rights. And Humanitarian crises after natural disasters happen. Don’t you understand that these issues matter?

Brock Leach: We do. And that’s why the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee works with partners around the globe to make sure that every person—regardless of race, religion, gender or sexual identity—has access to the fundamentals of clean, safe, affordable water, healthy food, a fair wage, and essential protection from harm and exploitation. For almost 75 years, UUSC has put UU values into action so that no one is left out and together we can realize the full potential of our humanity.

Curmudgeon: Why don’t we ever do anything at the United Nations?

Bruce Knotts: We’ve been doing a lot at the UN since its beginning, including involvement in the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, leading the faith caucus to establish the International Criminal Court, overcoming UN apathy about sexual orientation and gender identity issues, and providing strong leadership in all aspects of human rights.

Curmudgeon: Why do we need all this international stuff? Aren’t UUs the world over just like folks in the UUA?

Steve Dick: We need to stick together, there are less than half a million of us in the world. Actually Unitarian Universalists, Unitarians and some who don’t even share that name differ greatly in practice, story and culture in the more than 35 countries around the world where we are. The UUA is just one member of the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists, the global network of liberal faith encouraging collaboration between UU national organizations and fostering emerging UU communities in new places. And its conferences and gatherings are open to individual UUs.

Curmudgeon: Didn’t Unitarians establish a world-wide interfaith organization in like, 1900?

Hal French: OH, FREEDOM! The IARF works globally for religious freedom, the key to all other freedoms!

Curmudgeon: What ever happened after that global UU women’s gathering a few years ago in Houston?

Tina Huesing: A new international women's organization, called the Women's International Convocation, was founded after that huge meeting, and it is planning a small gathering in Bolivia in 2015 and another large convocation in California in 2017. IWC also works with international women's projects, including a leadership school in Transylvania and microfinance banks in Uganda.

Curmudgeon: Are there really still churches overseas looking for partners. I thought they all had partners already.

Cathy Cordes: There are Unitarian and UU churches in England, Hungary, Transylvania, India and the Philippines looking for US and Canadian partners right now. Maybe they are waiting for your church!

Curmudgeon: Why doesn’t the UUA help you do any of this great stuff?

Eric Cherry: The UUA is deeply supportive of all these organizations, and the work that we do is often collaborative. Most important of all, we went to help your congregation know how it is a part of the Global U/U Story.

(Curmudgeon turns to audience with big smile on face and gives two thumbs up.)

Eric Cherry: BUT—you don’t have to remember each organization, we’ll remember that for you. All you have to do is visit us all on the web at Faith Without Borders. There you’ll find Invitations, Inspirations, Guides, Tools and Resources for just about any kind of UU international engagement.

Presentation: Distinguished Service Award

The Moderator: Thank you to Eric Cherry and all of our international guests. It is an excellent reminder to all of us of the global reach of this liberal and liberating faith.

I call on the Rev. Susan Ritchie, yet again, this time tell us about the Distinguished Service Award.

Susan: It is my pleasure this morning to welcome you to the presentation of the 2014 Award for Distinguished Service to the Cause of Unitarian Universalism. This award is the highest honor bestowed by this association. It's given annually to a lay or professional leader who, over a period of time, is deemed by the UUA Board of Trustees to have made extraordinary contributions to the strength of our association, and who exemplifies the values of our shared faith.

This year, my fellow trustees Lew Phinney and Rev. Rob Eller-Issacs have served on Distinguished Service Award Committee, and it has been my privilege to chair that group. This year’s award is hereby bestowed upon the Rev. Kenneth McLean.

The Rev. Marlin Lavanhar will offer the citation now.

Rev. Marlin Lavanhar: The 2014 Annual Award For Distinguished Service to the Cause of Unitarian Universalism presented by the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations to the Reverend Doctor Kenneth Torquil MacLean.

Kenneth Torquil MacLean—preacher, teacher, pastor, prophet, husband, father, partner, organizer, advocate and institution-builder—over the course of your extraordinary 54-year career, you have ministered to your colleagues, congregations and the wider community and have been outstanding in your efforts to establish and strengthen the organizations and associations that will sustain Unitarianism and Universalism in American and around the world for generations to come.

A graduate of Brown University and Harvard Divinity School, you were introduced to this faith by your wife, Harriet, who encouraged and supported you to become a minister. Ordained and fellowshipped in 1960, you were called to the Rosalindale and West Roxbury Churches and during your tenure you reunited these two historic churches. In 1964, you were called to the Tennessee Valley Church in Knoxville, where you helped establish the first chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in that state. In 1972, you were called to Cedar Lane Unitarian Church in Bethesda, Maryland, one of our largest churches, and you served for 20 years before becoming their Minister Emeritus. In 1999, you began what grew to become an eleven-year ministry to the Church of the Desert in Rancho Mirage, California, and led them to build a beautiful new church home. You also spent many memorable summers as a visiting preacher for our church in North Hadley, Quebec.

While you are renowned for your long and successful parish ministries, your unfaltering devotion to establish and support institutions that sustain and uphold our faith, nationally and internationally, makes you stand out as one who has fostered our faith for the future. You were the founder and organizer of the Senior Ministers of Large Unitarian Universalist Congregations (SMOLUUC), which to this day serves to support the ministers and ministries of our Association’s largest churches. You have served as the president of the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association (UUMA), and in that role were instrumental in helping establish the Office of Church Staff Finances to help churches and ministers address questions of salary, health care, pensions, and equitable compensation; and also established a foundation grant to supplement the income of retired ministers and their widows who were living on less that $10,000 a year. As UUMA president, you also worked with the Rev. David Weisbard and leaders of the Liberal Religious Educators Association (LREDA) to support the ordination of ministers of religious education.

You served two terms on the Board of Trustees of the Unitarian Universalist Association during which time you established the UUA's Task Force on AIDS. You also served on the board of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, and for five years you worked as the Special Assistant to the President of our Association for International and Interfaith Affairs, under President John Buehrens. In this role you worked tirelessly to strengthen our heritage worldwide and helped organize the founding meeting of the International Council of Unitarian Universalists (ICUU). The ICUU has since played an essential role in connecting, supporting, and training UU communities in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North and South America. On behalf of our Association, you traveled to and lent your support to our churches and partners in the Philippines, India, Japan, New Zealand, Hungary, Romania, Canada, the United Kingdom, and beyond. You have helped our coreligionists, and others, in far-off and sometimes remote places that were battling discrimination or deprivation or dictatorships. In Prague, you worked for many years, even when others were convinced the cause was futile, and you ultimately prevailed to rescue the church of Norbert Capek from people who had seized illegal control of it.

Even as you have worked on a world stage for the betterment of the human condition, you are also well known among your colleagues, as a pastor of pastors. Colleague after colleague, as well as congregant after congregant, tell stories of times you ministered to them as they were bearing burdens too heavy to bear alone. For decades, you have also mentored young ministers that have gone on to serve our faith well—here and in other countries.

Indeed, the reach of your more than half a century of ministry has touched and strengthened our faith to the far corners of the earth. You have given your vision and leadership to fortify the individuals and institutions of Unitarian Universalism. It is, therefore, with deep gratitude, admiration, and pride, in your 88th year and in your home state of Rhode Island, that we confer on you our highest honor: the Award for Distinguished Service to the Cause of Unitarian Universalism. It is our intention that your name be inscribed among those who, from ages past, have stood out as the exemplars of this tradition.

Your ministry has provided a standard for succeeding generations to aspire to as they, and we, seek to sacrifice for and give our lives to the faith of our forbearers, the betterment of the human condition, and the pursuit of freedom and justice for all.

Results of Vote on Actions of Immediate Witness (AIWs)

Moderator: Welcome back Dr. Susan Goekler, Chair of the Commission on Social Witness (CSW).

Susan Goekler: Moderator Key, based on the votes of the delegates, the Commission on Social Witness moves to admit the following three issues to the final agenda for a vote on Sunday:

  1. Proposed AIW #1: Support the Faith Summit on Stopping Deportations (Mini-assembly in Ballroom E)
  1. Proposed AIW #3: Affirming Congregational Commitment to Gun Violence Prevention (Mini-assembly in Room 553)
  1. Proposed AIW #6: UUA Support for “Uganda New Underground Railway” to Safely Extract LGBT People from Persecution in Uganda Mini-assembly in (Room 552)

The Moderator: Thank you Susan. Admitting them to the final agenda for consideration tomorrow, requires a 2/3 vote of the delegates. All those in favor of admitting issue #1, please raise your voting card. All those opposed.

All those in favor of admitting issue #2, please raise your voting card. Thank you. All those opposed.

All those in favor of admitting issue #3, please raise your voting card. Thank you. All those opposed.


The Moderator: Susan, thank you. So now we know which three proposals for Actions of Immediate Witness will be discussed in mini-assemblies after this general session in rooms 552, 553, Ballroom E.


The Moderator: There being no further business to come before us and in accordance with the schedule set forth in your program book, I declare this General Session of the General Assembly shall stand in recess until this afternoon at 2:15 p.m.