General Session III, General Assembly 2015
General Assembly 2015 Event 304
Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Moderator Jim Key presides over the general sessions in which the business of the Association is conducted. Please refer to the Agenda (PDF, 30 pages) for details on specific items addressed. Presenters have been asked to demonstrate how their work relates to our Global Ends also known as our Shared Vision, and to raise important questions for delegates to consider going forward.
Approximate start times noted in parentheses.
- Celebration: SCOTUS Decsion for Marriage Equality
- Call to Order
- Preliminary Credentials Report (19:30)
- Right Relations Report (21:00)
- Debate and Vote on Statement of Conscience: Reproductive Justice (25:30)
- Collaborative Campaign Report (1:56:30)
- Unitarian Universalist (UU) Service Committee Report (2:03:30)
- UU College of Justice Report (2:19:00)
- General Assembly (GA) Talk: Commit2Respond (2:28:00)
- Introduction: UU International Programs (2:36:00)
- GA Talk: Young Adults at General Assembly (YA@GA) (2:52:00)
- Commission on Appraisal Report (3:03:30)
- Announcements (3:11:30)
- Recess (3:13:00)
The following final draft script was completed before this event took place; actual words spoken may vary.
Call to Order
Moderator: I now call to order the Third General Session of the Fifty-Fourth General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association.
How many of you are participating in the APF Scavenger Hunt? I’ve already gotten 10 points and I am working with a handicap owing to time constraints. If you’re not in the game yet, it’s not too late, visit the Stewardship and Development booth for more information about playing the game and learning about how the Annual Program Fund amplifies Unitarian Universalism!
And we all want amplification yes!
Preliminary Credentials Report
Moderator: Welcome back the Secretary of our Association, Susan Ritchie, for the preliminary credentials report.
Susan Ritchie: (live caption)
Right Relations Report
Moderator: Does the Right Relationship Team have anything to report? Welcome back Mr. Barb Greve.
Mr. Barb Greve: (live caption)
Debate and Vote on Statement of Conscience
Moderator: Our next item of business is to consider and vote on the proposed Statement of Conscience, "Reproductive Justice." The text is found on pages 95-97 of your program book, the final agenda.
Let me call on Susan Goekler, the chair of the Commission on Social Witness (CSW) to make the appropriate motion.
Susan Goekler: On behalf of the Commission on Social Witness, I move acceptance of the proposed Statement of Conscience entitled "Reproductive Justice" as distributed in the CSW Alert.
Moderator: Thank you Susan. Pro statements will be taken from the Pro microphone, which is stage left, to your right. Con statements from the Con microphone, stage right, to your left.
Procedural microphone is where we go for matters of procedure, right here with the hard working Denise Rimes. And amendments, when they are in order, will be taken from the Amendment microphone, way to my left, to your right, over there.
Does somebody want to speak in favor of the proposed Statement of Conscience?
Collaborative Campaign Report
After the singing, the six principles will take the stage and begin without introduction.
“Wake Now Our Vision”
Meg Riley: I am Meg Riley, Senior Minister of Church of the Larger Fellowship
Don Southworth: I am Don Southworth, Executive Director of the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association
Rosemary Bray McNatt: I am Rosemary Bray McNatt, President of Starr King School for the Ministry.
Lee Barker: I am Lee Barker, President of Meadville Lombard Theological School
Bill Schulz: I am Bill Schulz, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee.
Peter Morales: I am Peter Morales, President of the Unitarian Universalist Association.
MR: Collaboration opens doors to new possibilities.
DS: Collaboration inspires innovation.
RM: Collaboration makes for lively conversation.
LB: Collaboration brings out the best we have to offer.
BS: Collaboration is key to a bright future.
PM: We are collaborating on behalf of the future of Unitarian Universalism.
PM: We are here today to share a vision with you. For many years our institutions have pursued our individual missions with only occasional efforts to work together and coordinate our programs. Sometimes we have even acted as if we were in competition with one another, especially for financial support from our donors and congregations. This has not been healthy for our movement or a smart way to raise money. For the past two years our six institutions have been engaged in creative conversation with one another about our vision for the future of Unitarian Universalism and how to fund it. We have also been coordinating our approaches to major donors. [Slide 3] We call this undertaking Wake Now Our Vision: The Unitarian Universalist Collaborative Campaign and we are excited to announce to you today that over the next few years we will be jointly approaching all Unitarian Universalists and congregations and asking them to help us bring Unitarian Universalism into the 21st century.
MR: We believe that Unitarian Universalism needs our institutional cooperation to make the shifts in our faith that will carry our movement into the future. At a time when people have less and less confidence in the power of institutions to make a difference, our six organizations have made a commitment to the success of our shared faith. We will be working together to plan a fundraising campaign that will include both cash and planned gifts to support congregations and our national Unitarian Universalist institutions.
[Slide 4 and Slide 5 and Slide 6]
BS: We have been inspired in this effort by the fact that there are already numerous collaborative programming efforts underway. One joint effort is the College of Social Justice, a collaboration between the UUA and the UUSC, which brings service learning opportunities to all UUs, including youth, young adults, seminarians, and lay leaders. . These service learning trips and trainings have helped UUs deepen and sustain the work of justice in their congregations and around the world since 2012.
RBM: Another ongoing project shared by the Church of the Larger Fellowship, Meadville Lombard, Starr King and the UU Minister’s Association offers opportunities for seminarians and religious professionals to learn about and practice digital ministries. These efforts are led by CLF’s Quest for Meaning website and social media outreach.
DS: The UUMA and the UUA have partnered to create the entrepreneurial ministry program—training religious professionals for effective ministry in a rapidly changing landscape.
[Slide 8 and Slide 9]
PM: The most recent commitment shared by all six organizations and several other important UU groups is Commit2Respond. Commit2Respond mobilizes UUs across the country to act for climate justice. And this points to the importance of inviting other, smaller organizations to join us in this campaign.
LB: In order to achieve our goal of attaining a vibrant and far-reaching Unitarian Universalism, we have also invited The Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock into this conversation and their Board has appointed a task force that will explore how they will play a role in our plans. As they continue their discernment, the task force is committed to working with us directly over the coming months. Shelter Rock has rich history of creative leadership and forward-thinking generosity and we are especially grateful to that congregation. We welcome Nancy Baldwin from the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock to the stage with us today.
MR: We would like to say a brief word of thanks to the Rev. Makanah Morris, Minister Emerita, UU Church of Cheyenne, Wyoming, former member of the UUA staff and supporter of all of our organizations. She has spent countless hours in the last year facilitating our work together. Her support has proven invaluable.
PM: You will hear much more about Wake Now Our Vision: The Unitarian Universalist Collaborative Campaign in the months ahead. In the meantime, please know that our collective vision is bold; our collective passion, abundant. We look forward to working with all of our congregations, and all UUs on this collaborative effort, so that the future of our faith can be assured for generations to come.
UU Service Committee Report
Moderator: Thanks to the leaders of the six UU organizations for their commitment to collaboration in all things and specifically to the Wake Now My Vision Campaign. I am excited by the possibilities.
Now please give a warm welcome to an old friend of the UUA. Well not old as in long in the tooth, but long-time friend. Please welcome the Rev. Dr. Bill Schulz, President of the UU Service Committee.
Bill Schultz: [Begin slide #1]
Tolstoy said, “Old age is the most unexpected of all the things that happen to a person.” This year UUSC turns 75. Now I know that 75 is no longer considered old age; that it’s, what, the new 19? As a friend of mine who recently turned 75 told me, “I’ve never been busier in my life. I don’t know how I had time to work.” But then he added, “Of course I never did work very hard and one reason I’m so busy now is that I have so many doctor’s appointments.” Nonetheless 75 is a venerable age and this year UUSC turns 75. And as a gift to all of you in honor of our birthday, I’m not going talk as long as I usually do when I give this report. Instead, I’m going to show you a movie.
[Begin Video: file “75th FINAL HD1080p.mov”]
If that doesn’t make you proud, nothing will. For 75 years this modest little organization has been spreading your values and our Unitarian Universalist name to the farthest reaches of the globe. And what is so exciting is that at 75 we truly are in our prime. We’re about to launch a whole new set of ground-breaking initiatives.
[Slide #2] To use mobile technology to provide an early warning system to stop genocide in Myanmar;
[Slide #3] to bring together LGBTQI leaders from all corners of Africa to plan a continent-wide strategy to stop violence against that population;
[Slide #4] to expose the fact that Congress pays nothing for its water use while families on public assistance can pay up to 38% of their monthly incomes for water alone.
[Slide #5] We’re in the refugee camps in Turkey providing trauma resilience training for Syrian refugees.
[Slide #6] We’re in the detention centers in Texas providing legal assistance to undocumented women and children.
[Slide #7] And we’ve just launched a new program called Justice-Building through which we will help individuals and congregations develop the skills they need to be truly effective agents of social change. Go to uusc.org/justicebuilding for more information.
[Slide #8] I read recently that the latest craze in France is coloring books for adults designed to reduce existential angst and increase relaxation. The fashion house Hermes will sell you a twelve-page coloring book, including the outline of a fish sporting a Turkish fez, for $160! I have a better idea…and I’ll bet you know what it is!
[Slide #9] Our congregation in Shelter Rock, NY, will match every contribution of $125 or more dollar for dollar though they won’t send you a fish with a fez. Or join at the suggested rate of $40.
[Slide #10] Of all the unexpected things that happen to a person, the only more unexpected thing than old age is how good it feels to be generous. That’s the way to combat existential angst.
Thank you for helping us to help you to help others.
Moderator: Bill, thank you.
UU College of Justice Report
Moderator: That the UUSC and the UUA are working collaboratively together is evidenced by the jointly sponsored College of Social Justice, directed by the Rev. Kathleen McTigue. Give it up for Kathleen.
Kathleen McTigue: Your UU College of Social Justice is now three years old — past the toddler stage! As you may remember, we were officially launched at Justice GA in Phoenix, as a joint program of both the UUA and UUSC. [SLIDE #1] The College is the most ambitious thing these two largest institutions of our faith have undertaken together. As we have lived into our purpose and vision, we have also built a stronger bridge between the UUA and UUSC, helping them discover new connections and synergy that make both our faith and our justice witness more powerful.
At our founding, the College of Social Justice was handed a really big idea, with four important pieces linked together: [SLIDE #2] Create programs that give people a first-hand experience of some core injustices in our world. Frame that experience [SLIDE #3] with some really deep learning. Make sure the programs are [SLIDE #4] grounded in our faith tradition. And help people translate [SLIDE #5] the experience into action back home.
Learning through direct experience is the bedrock of our programs. This is the kind of learning we don’t get through books or movies or lectures. [SLIDE #6] It comes through an immersion in some part of our world we haven’t touched before. It can crack us open to new insight and realization, which come not just through our busy minds, but through our hearts and souls and bodies as well. [SLIDE #7]
These experiences are ones of boundary crossing. They lift us up and out of our familiar circles and our comfort zones. They put us into alliance with people whose lives may be very different from our own, who are often on the front lines of justice struggles. [SLIDE #8]
These first-hand encounters teach us not only about dimensions of our reality we may not have known. They teach us also about ourselves: about privilege, and how we’ve been shaped by it; about our own hearts, and how deeply we can feel the wrongness of systemic injustice; and about our capacity and courage for action. They teach us that some of the most important action we can take will not be as activists or organizers but as allies: people newly able to see where others are pushing with all their might against the walls that block them, who are making room for us to come push alongside them.
Our short-term immersion journeys [SLIDE #9] are pilgrimages of witness and solidarity. They’re meant to help us learn this kind of boundary crossing. Our journeys this year have been to India, Haiti and Mexico, and within our own country, to Bellingham, Washington with the Lummi Nation, and Brooklyn, New York, for Hurricane Sandy recovery.
We have other programs, beyond these short journeys. I’m hoping many of you have heard about our trainings for high school youth, Called Activate! [SLIDE #10] Youth learn the theories of social change; they have a first hand experience of those theories at work; and — not incidentally—[SLIDE #11] they also get to have an absolute blast together. We offer a one-day Activate! just before GA, and then the full program in Boston, New Orleans and Tucson.
Here’s what one mother wrote last year: “The New Orleans program literally changed my son’s life. He returned home with deep connections to UU youth throughout the country, and an intensified commitment to social justice issues that is beginning to shape his thoughts about college and the future.”
That is exactly what we hope for from Activate!
Our third program area has been the creation of summer-long internships for young adults, college age or older. [SLIDE #12] These offer the chance for an immersion work experience with a justice organization, within the U.S. or abroad. These young people are right at the edge of their adult lives, making decisions about vocation and calling. They get the chance to imagine themselves in social change work as their career.
[SLIDE #13] We’ve placed four of our interns in India this year, with UUA partner organizations; and the rest with social change groups within the U.S. This summer will bring us to a total of 37 internship placements.
One of last year’s interns gave us this testimony: “This internship has dramatically altered my views for my future and I am so thankful for the lessons it has taught me. I will continue to be involved and fight for people’s basic human rights. I also feel recommitted to Unitarian Universalism.”
We are very excited to report that this spring, we began a program of placing volunteers with justice organizations who need their specific skills. . [SLIDE #14] We began with UUSC partner RAICES in Texas, which offers legal help to refugees fleeing violence in Central America. This spring, RAICES issued an urgent plea for help, expecting a new surge of children and families crossing the border. They needed Spanish speakers, and people with legal training. In the space of three weeks, UUCSJ recruited over 25 volunteers to meet this need! To our amazement, 3/4 of them were young adults — many of them native Spanish speakers.
And this summer and fall we are piloting two very different kinds of justice trainings. [SLIDE #15] One of them, called GROW Climate Justice, will equip and support young adults for the long and challenging work of climate justice. The other, in direct partnership with the Food Chain Workers’ Alliance, [SLIDE #16] will bring workers and allies together in a training to support a campaign for fair food purchasing in Chicago, Cincinnati and beyond. (You can learn more about this one when Jose Oliva, one of the Directors of the Alliance, speaks at our workshop this afternoon).
All of our programs are supported by deep learning before, during and after the experience. All of them are grounded in worship, reflection and contemplative practice. And all of them point us toward powerful, sustained action at home: our local home, our national home, and our fragile, precious, interconnected global home.
[SLIDE #17] That’s just what the UU College of Social Justice was designed to do. We are so lucky to be able to run with this big idea—we hope you’ll join us on the journey!
Moderator: Thanks Kathleen.
GA Talk: Commit2Respond
Moderator: The Rev. Dr. Terasa Cooley and Jennifer Ordstrom are with us for an important GA Talk on Environmental Justice.
Terasa Cooley: My name is Terasa Cooley, and I'm the Program & Strategy Officer for the UUA. Together with Brock Leach of the UUSC, I helped launch Commit2Respond.
Jennifer Nordstrom: My name is Jennifer Nordstrom, and I’m a member of the UU Young Adults for Climate Justice, UU Environmental Justice Collaboratory, and I helped organize Commit2Respond. I am currently serving as the Interim Minister of Third Unitarian Church in Chicago, Illinois.
Terasa: Commit2Respond represents a dramatically new kind of collaboration among Unitarian Universalists. Nine UU organizations are sponsors and active designers of our process. More than 200 organizations and faith groups are endorsers and more than 3200 people are members! From the beginning we felt called to emphasize the need for this to be collaborative and collective action, to conduct our work from a theological and spiritual center, and to ground it as justice work, emphasizing the impact of climate change on vulnerable peoples and communities.
Jennifer: Commit2Respond is asking us to make bigger commitments than changing our light bulbs or even bicycling to work. It is asking us how we can join a movement to prevent climate catastrophe and build resilient and resistant communities for climate justice. And it is asking us to do this together.
As religious people, we are called to be ethical leaders. With our religious voice, we have the credibility to call people to moral action. In our worship, we build the strength to return again and again to those ethics when the work gets difficult. In our communities, we build the resilience to return to the work when we are exhausted or despairing. We are also called to be followers. Front-line affected communities have lessons to teach us about how we can be in solidarity with them in working for climate justice. Our role is also to listen, learn, and follow—a role all of us will have a chance to engage in fully on Saturday during our public witness event in partnership with front-line First Nations and American Indian nations.
Terasa: When we embarked on this work we thought we were calling others to action. But from the internal perspective of the UUA, it has also caused us to examine all our practices and dramatically increase our commitment to climate justice. For example, we worked diligently in our building design process to achieve Platinum LEED Status in our new headquarters, the highest level of environmental sustainability. This GA is committed to being a zero waste event. Our staff is planning a partnership project with a community-based urban sanctuary. We are active partners with the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility whose purpose is to hold corporations accountable to communities impacted by climate change and other injustices. And still more is needed. Commit2Respond calls us to a deeper level of accountability.
Jennifer: Creating this kind of environment requires encouragement, accountability, and forgiveness. In our UU culture, we often struggle to find the balance among these. Sometimes we lean so hard into accountability that it leaves no room for forgiveness. Sometimes we lean so far into encouragement that it leaves no room for accountability. We need to learn how to make mistakes well, and develop a practice of loving accountability, which requires spiritual growth and concrete ski relationships with front-line communities affected by climate change.
Our difficulty with talking honestly about money and its relationship to our values has impeded our work towards climate justice. When the General Assembly voted overwhelming to divest from fossil fuels last year, we voted to align our money and our values. When the UUA sold the donated interest in mineral rights last fall, the UU Young Adults for Climate Justice, among others, expressed grave concern that this was profiting directly from taking fossil fuels from the ground. We remain concerned that as an institution, we participated in taking fossil fuels from the ground. We are asking for more transparency and dialogue about this issue, and about how the UUA makes such decisions.
Terasa: I will admit that when the issue of the sale of our interest in these mineral rights became such a flashpoint of concern, we in the Administration were caught off guard. How could our commitment to climate justice be questioned? While we feel assured in this case that this sale did not result in more drilling, we now realize we need to analyze all such decisions more thoroughly through the lens of our climate justice commitments and be much more transparent about them.
Jennifer: This issue raises even bigger questions about how we balance financial needs with our stated values. We must consider whether as a movement we put our money where our mouth is: do we financially support the UUA’s work on climate justice? Do we adequately support our own congregations’ justice work? What are the consequences of our financial decisions and to what justice work do they obligate us? Imagine how powerful we might be if our justice work was fully funded and our money was fully aligned with our values.
Terasa: We learn as we go, and we invite you to engage in your own value assessment in your congregation or community.
There are many chances for you to learn about Commit2Respond and our collective, interconnected environmental justice work together. Please note the advertisement in your program book listing these opportunities during GA. You’ll have a chance both to learn and to contribute to the conversation. It is incredibly exciting to see the response to this initiative and we hope you will continue to engage with this extraordinary collaboration.
Our work with Commit2Respond and other initiatives like it is only possible through the generous gifts of our congregations and friends. Together we amplify Unitarian Universalism and our impact on the wider world.
Moderator: Thank you Therasa and Jennifer.
Introduction: UU International Programs
Moderator: While our international siblings are coming to the stage, let me say how encouraged I am with the energy in our U and U and UU communities around the world.
Welcome our international guests; they have a story to share.
Nicole McConvery: So what is this global U/U story I keep hearing about?
Allison Hess: I think its something from like 400 [slide 2] years ago that they teach in seminary.
Nicole McConvery: Yeah, its probably something old, and probably something that other people are taking care of.
Anne Francois: Isn’t it about new U/U churches in East Africa [slide 3]?
Allison Hess: Maybe? Or, what what about in the Philippines? I know, I’ll just ask this random guy. So, are you part of the Global U/U story?
Arman Pedro: I sure am [slide 4]. I’m the lay leader of a UU congregation in a small village called ‘Doldol’ [slide 5] in the Philippines, and I’m just beginning seminary at Meadville Lombard this year. Our part of the global U/U story goes back to the 1950s when Rev. Toribio Quimada [slide 6] became a Universalist and started preaching universal salvation. Or others would say our chapter goes back to Unitarian connections in the Philippines in the first decades of the 20th century. Either way, I am a part [slide 7] of the Global U/U Story, and bring my leadership to its future.
Lara Fuchs: Me too! Being a member [slide 8] of the Executive committee of the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists allows me be part of the rich, diverse and evolving UU presence in many corners of our world. The new congregation in Basel [slide 9] Switzerland that I helped to start is healthy and growing. Aside from being involved with the English-speaking UU’s across Europe [slide 10], my work with German-speaking Unitarian and free religious groups is helping to build bridges and create a network of communities. In my upcoming Congregational and Leadership studies years as a seminarian, I will be working with UU fellowships in Amsterdam, Geneva and Basel.
Allison Hess: That’s nowhere near as old as I thought this story was.
Roux Malan: Well, it does go back further than that [slide 11]. I’m a part of the Global U/U story, and I serve as the minister of the Unitarian Church in Cape Town, South Africa. Our church was established in 1868. Those who opposed its founding thought it would fizzle out quickly. In three [slide 12] years though we will celebrate our 150th anniversary. So yes we have been and still are a part of the global Unitarian story and we intend to make a contribution to that story in the future. As Unitarians in Africa we’re committed to being part of the conversation [slide 13] on the development of an African Renaissance: a conversation that engages and embraces both African and Euro-American wisdom to face the many challenges of our continent and the world [slide 14]. In this way we hope to develop our own voice and make a unique contribution to the global Unitarian story.
David Gyero: Actually, the Global U/U Story is both [slide 15] old and new… As the Vice-Bishop of the Hungarian Unitarian Church I know very well the beginnings of our faith from the Unitarian Homelands in Transylvania [slide 16].
And, If the global UU community includes all the Unitarian and Unitarian Universalist groups in the world, then the International Council [slide 17] of Unitarians and Universalists is the embodiment of the global UU community. The ICUU is unique in being a fully- global international U-U organization. It is not just one group reaching [slide 18] out to a few others. It is the cooperation and collaboration of all UU groups in the world as peers, as partners [slide 19] of equal worth, for the health and sustainability of Unitarianism and Unitarian Universalism worldwide. It is this mission—the mutual sustaining of our global faith—that makes us unique.
The ICUU knows [slide 20] that UUs around the world are culturally and religiously different, and that we must be able to work with our differences, because the world needs all of us, in each place where we exist. This year the ICUU is 20 years old. In honor of this anniversary [slide 21] and of this work, this year the Hungarian Unitarian Church is helping every one of our congregations know and understand how [slide 22] we are part of the ICUU. I hope you will do the same—so that all American UUs understand and support [slide 23] the mission of the ICUU—the health, vitality and sustainability of our shared faith, around the world.
Gary Smith: And the UU Partner [slide 24] Church Council is one BIG part of the global UU story too, linking 150 congregations in North America, with terrific congregations [slide 25] in Romania, Hungary, northeast India, the Philippines, and other places where loving hands and hearts reach [slide 26] out to us, person to person, congregation to congregation. There are hearts [slide 27] and hands waiting for your partnership too!
Zsofia Sztranyiczki: The International Women’s [slide 28] Convocation has a partnership chapter in the Global U/U Story, too. Our organizational roots are in the historic first International U*U Women’s Convocation in Houston in 2009, with 600 women [slide 29] from North and South America, Asia, and Europe sharing stories of their lives and hopes, weaving them into a global story of interaction, learning, and partnership. We are taking the global UU story into the future as we explore [slide 30] ways for women around the world to collaborate virtually and gather face-to-face—in Bolivia this fall, and in Monterey Bay, California in February 2017 for our Third International Convocation. We hope to see you there!
Jorge Espinel: I am with you in the the Global U/U Story, and especially in the partnership work in South America [slide 31]. It is time that the latino community in the USA and the world became a stronger voice in Unitarian Universalism. I am part of a great group of people working to make that happen.
Nicole McConvery: Wow, this story is longer than I thought.
Anne Francois: And it sounds like it’s still being written.
Bruce Knotts: We’re still writing the story at the United Nations [slide 32] in NY—or more precisely we’re bending the arc of the global U/U story towards peace and justice there. Your values of respect for the inherent worth and dignity of everyone everywhere and the importance [slide 33] of valuing all life and natural resources as necessary for the continuation of all existence on this planet need to be at the table at the UN, and that’s the chapter we’re still writing.
Allison Hess (to Anne Francois): Do we really have a UU office at the UN?
Derek Mitchell: You sure do! And, believe it or not, you have one in New Delhi [slide 34], India too! For over thirty years, one of the Global UU Story's most inspiring chapters has been the work of the Holdeen [slide 35] India Program. The Holdeen Program has invested in hundreds of initiatives for equality, justice, and empowerment in India that have transformed [slide 36] millions of lives. Our partners are among India's leading voices for a more just and equitable future for all, especially women and other marginalized groups. By standing in solidarity [slide 37] with India's most impoverished people, the Holdeen program is a powerful and profoundly effective way that Unitarian Universalists cross borders for justice.
Shreya Bhattacharya: My name is Shreya Bhattacharya and I’m a new [live video of Shreya speaking] part of the Global U/U Story. I’m excited to serve the UU Holdeen India Program as an on-the-ground consultant, working in solidarity with our partner organizations, and acting as a bridge for Unitarian Universalism in India.
Dennis Reynolds: And while we don’t have an office in a different part of the world, The UU Global AIDS [slide 38] Coalition is part of the global U/U story too. We are UU’s united to journey with those impacted by HIV/AIDS. We travel as advocates and educators. We look for partnership. We move with compassion [slide 39] and respect in a multi-cultural world. And, we are especially proud to support the work of our Red Ribbon congregations [slide 40] who partner with communities in Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa on AIDS prevention and treatment, care for orphans, education and sustainable income generation.
Vyda Ng: The member congregations and communities of the Canadian Unitarian Council are also part of the Global U/U story: organizing and partnering globally, through new and historic congregations and communities nationally and internationally [slide 41]!
Nicole McConvery (to Anne Francois): Isn’t it kind of strange that everyone up here feels like they’re a part of the Global U/U story?
Anne Francois (to Nicole McConvery): I don’t know. Maybe everyone is a part of this story [slide 42], even if they don’t know it. Kind of like being UU to begin with. What do you think (to Patricia Jones)?
Patricia Jones: I think you’re right. At the UU Service [slide 43] Committee we think we’ve been representing all of Unitarian Universalism for the 75 years that we’ve been confronting injustice and struggling for human rights work all over the world [slide 44].
Betsy Darr: Yes, you’re right. You’re actually creating a part of my story, while you lead us forward on the path of the global U/U story. Thank you. That means a great deal to me.
The International Association for Religious Freedom [slide 45] appears very early in the global UU story. It was founded by Unitarians in 1900. With Unitarians now just one important strand in a thick braid, we have member groups in Europe, the Middle East, South Asia, East Asia, and Africa, as well as North America. The IARF supports efforts at the UN and on the ground for the human right to freedom of religion and conscience. Member groups create programs in India, Israel, Pakistan, Kenya, and elsewhere, to educate about this right and to advance peace among religions. And, the IARF is an important part of caring for cherished [slide 46] interfaith relationships in our story.
Tetsuya Higuchi—As a long-time member of IARF, and a close partner of the UUA, Rissho [switch to live video feed of Tetsuya speaking] Kosei-kai feels like its also a part of the global U/U story, through partnership and solidarity. I’m excited to be with you, and really look forward to being at Meadville Lombard in July with a broader interfaith community of leaders.
Nicole McConvery (to Eric Cherry): Did you know about any of this?
Eric Cherry: (Shrugs)—In a sense. Oh, of course! And, really, there’s so much more to this global U/U story. Why don’t you come to our workshop about it later today [slide 47]? Thanks to everyone at GA for being a part of the global U/U story, thank you for your support for APF, which helps us amplify our global U/U story. And, would you all please give one more welcome to our honored guests from around the world who are with us this year at General Assembly. Thank you.
Moderator: I bet many of you are surprised at the depth and breadth of Unitarian Universalism in the world today. I frequently get text messages and Facebook posts from people around the world inquiring about our saving faith.
GA Talk: YA@GA
Moderator: And now second YA@GA talk. Welcome Kenny Wiley and Amanda Witherspoon.
Kenny Wiley: My name is Kenny Wiley. I am a UU World Senior Editor and a director of faith formation at Prairie UU Church near Denver, Colorado.
Amanda Weatherspoon: Hello, my name is Amanda Weatherspoon, I’m entering into my 3rd and final year at Starr King School for the Ministry with a focus on Liberation Theology, Womanist Theology and Africana Studies.
While my direct involvement in the Black Lives Matter leg of the overall Black Liberation Movement began on Nov 24, 2014 in Oakland CA, I wanted to give a brief overview of how “Black Lives Matter” came to be.
There is a misconception that #BLM sprang directly from the Mike Brown murder and all of the proceeding events in Ferguson MI last summer. However, the hash tag was inspired and emerged from the 2013 murder of Treyvon Martin, the acquittal of his attacker and all the events that followed. This hash tag was co created by Alicia Garza and Patrisse Cullors, two queer women of color, and has since been adopted by many other activist organizations and has over twenty chapters in the US, Canada and Ghana.
Kenny Wiley: When Mike Brown was killed in August, I was horrified. Trayvon Martin’s murder and the subsequent not guilty verdict frightened me, but this was different. They let him lay in the street for four and a half hours.
I felt called to act. I didn’t know how. Transfixed, I went to Twitter. I watched online as the Ferguson streets filled, as the crowd grew angrier, as attempts to mollify people went unheard. As night fell in St. Louis, I sat at my Denver, CO dinner table and wondered what to do. I searched for a solidarity action in Denver. Found one in New York. Philly. Nothing. I eventually went to sleep as Ferguson’s unrest continued; thinking surely someone in Denver would plan something. I woke up Sunday morning and searched again.
Nothing, still. I got to church and searched again. Nothing.
I paused and laughed at myself. I knew what this meant.
I took a deep breath, and though I was not an organizer, I began to type a twitter post. Nine months and dozens of actions, meetings, and witnesses later, here I am.
Amanda Weatherspoon: Much of what the mainstream media coverage is fueled by when it comes to #BLM is the suspicious death of an individual and the protests, uprisings and/or riots that occur as a result. This coverage sparks important national conversations on race and police brutality and in our own personal lives and circles, we find ourselves forming our own theories and ethic around what it means to assert one’s rights, the appropriate way to do so and the necessity of such events. That is another conversation for another day. My thoughts on the appropriateness and respectability of public uprisings is derived from the words of the great Audre Lord: “The Master’s tools cannot dismantle the master’s house”, and for now, that’s all I will say about that.
Another sentiment that is typically expressed is one of confusion. Questions such as “what does this all accomplish?’ “What is the point of these kinds of antics?” and “what happens next?” are indicative of the lack of coverage that the movement gets between times of national protest.
People have called for leadership and accountability within this movement, not realizing that there already is, it’s just that there is not one face, one leader that we are rallying around. We are all speaking for ourselves—collectively and as individuals. There is a misconception that the only times this movement is active is in response to a murder that has gained national (and often sensationalized) attention, in short, there is a belief that the actions of the movement are merely reactionary.
Once again, I will not go into the necessity of the ability to react swiftly during times of emergency. I will, however, share that labeling something as “reactionary” carries with it unspoken characteristics of over emotionality, unreasonableness, irrationality and therefore is deemed somehow not as legitimate as the Civil Rights Era of the Black Liberation Movement, per se.
What isn’t being covered is 1) all the work that was already well in existence prior to #BLM and 2) all the work that has emerged directly from it. All over the country and in many parts of the world, direct action groups have formed in response to #BLM. Many collectives have been formed directly from actions and ideas inspired by the movement. Also, many groups already in existence have shaped their actions around #BLM philosophies and principles and have committed themselves to this struggle. Groups work year round on various political, scholarly, social and religious actions in the realm of Black Lives Matter—this movement does not only take place on the streets.
So the question I have for us today is: Where does BLM happen for us? Not us as individuals with separate lives, but us as Unitarian Universalists? We are very proud of our role in the Abolition/Emancipation Era and the Civil Rights Era, but I ask you, what is our role now? Where will we be placed in history within this Era of the Movement? Black Lives Matter is as radical a statement as our first principle, “the inherent worth and dignity of every person”. If we cannot say, in solidarity, that BLACK LIVES MATTER, we cannot stand by our first principle. Either every life has inherent worth and dignity, or it doesn’t. Either Black Lives Matter to us as a faith group, or they don’t. This is an absolute statement; there is no middle ground.
Kenny Wiley: As I moved along these last several months since getting involved, I discovered I needed a Unitarian Universalist Black Lives Matter theology.
Like the Declaration of Independence and the preamble of the Constitution, the first principle of Unitarian Universalism—we affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person—stands as an unrealized promise. It is a map of the work done centuries and decades ago, and a map of the work yet to do.
Black Lives Matter today in our faith is a continuation of a long legacy of those willing to live out the idea that every person truly has inherent worth and dignity.
Lydia Maria Child and William Lloyd Garrison fought to end slavery, challenging other Unitarians to do more. Frances Harper and Fannie Williams, 19th century black Unitarian women, challenged sexism and racism with power and intensity. Lucy Stone. A. Powell Davies. James Reeb. Viola Liuzzo.
To fight for black lives now is to battle for salvation on this Earth. It is to fight for life, for love, for justice. It is to demand more out of the first principle, and a more perfect faith.
Many of us are here because this faith and the people in it affirmed: you may not be perfect, but your life matters just the same.
Right now we as Unitarian Universalists are being called to act. We are being called by our ancestors–those who demanded that we help end slavery, that we fight for suffrage, that we join the struggle to end Jim Crow, that we listen to Black Power.
Guided by that principle—that enduring, unfulfilled promise of the belief in the inherent worth and dignity of every person–ours is a faith that has said, or worked to say to those who have been marginalized:
You are a woman, and your life matters just the same.
You are bisexual or gay or lesbian, and your life matters just the same.
You are transgender, and your life matters just the same.
You have a disability, and your life matters just the same.
You struggle with depression, and your life matters just the same.
Right now we are being called—by our ancestors, by our principles, by young black activists across the country—to promote and affirm:
You are young and black, and your life matters just the same.
You stole something, and your life matters just the same.
I have been taught to fear you, and your life matters just the same.
Our ancestors, principles, and fellow humans are calling on us to promote and affirm, with deeds and words: Black lives matter just the same.
Moderator: Thank you Amanda and Kenny for challenging us to respond to Black Lives Matter. I recommend you read Kenny’s article in the UU World on the arrest of our own Raziq Brown, co-chair of our Right Relations Team: Nights can be tough.
Commission on Appraisal Report
Moderator: Please welcome the Rev. Nana Kratochvil and John Hawkins of the Commission on Appraisal.
We are reporting sooner than we normally would, and in less detail. This is a good thing.
In recent years, the Commission on Appraisal studied and reported on a four year cycle: choosing a topic, reading and deliberating, conducting interviews and hearings, interacting with a broad range of Unitarian Universalists and others, and finally writing and rewriting a report to bring our thoughts and recommendations to our Association. This was a good thing.
This time around, a few months after choosing to study the effects of class in our Association, we encountered some fairly significant disruptions. First we learned that the UUA Board of Trustees was considering Bylaws amendments that would eliminate the Commission, and we engaged with the Board to create an alternative proposal that would result in a smaller Commission, more deeply engaged with the Board and other leadership, reporting yearly, and working with a somewhat different charge. This was a challenging thing to experience; but we believe the proposed bylaws changes deserve your support. We urge you to follow the joint recommendation of the Board and the Commission on Appraisal by passing the proposed amendment.
We also downsized the Commission to six members over the course of this second year, to make better use of limited resources and to move to a more effective size for the work we do.
The future COA’s immediate task should be to articulate the task of serving as a qualitative audit committee for our Association and determining how that task should be performed. This would be a good thing.
Finally, with our attention back to our study topic, and facing a transition to a new Commission that would need to take some time to find a new way to work, we affirmed our commitment to examining the topic of class and agreed to deliver a preliminary report to this year’s General Assembly. This is a good thing.
Please look for our preliminary report on the Commission on Appraisal’s website.
Our Association is class bound, a product of class pressures in our larger society, shaped by and embedded in those pressures as well as our history. We cannot afford to remain so.
The challenges of class in our congregations, in our Association, and in society at large demand a strong institutional response and lasting engagement from us. Working class people, poor people, middle class people, and class privileged people all need to be part of this effort.
This work is needed for the sake of future generations, not just our own children but also everyone’s children.
We need to embrace our whole identity, to be Universalists, and not merely Unitarians.
Our rising generations face greater income inequality, globalization, rising terror, climatic disaster, changing modes of work with greater insecurity, systematic oppression, the privatization of the public welfare, and increasing power of capital in a rigged game. All of these things are enabled through class structures.
Continuing the work of studying the impact of class on our congregations and association, and the work of envisioning an impact we might have on the world around us is of vital importance. The work needs to be done in deep engagement with people of color and other historically marginalized communities. The inability to do so in this preliminary study has not been a good thing.
We are a faith with many theologies. We believe that one we all share is the conviction that we are called to create Beloved Community here, now, on this Earth and not in some distant heaven. And this is a very good thing.
We hope that this preliminary report is a beginning at applying this conviction to the realm of class and classism, and we hope that we can inspire others to take up this important work. We call on the Board of Trustees to ensure that our preliminary study of class is carried forward and completed, either by the new COA or by some other body. This would be a very good thing.
The current members of the Commission on Appraisal are Erica Baron, Megan Dowdell, John Hawkins, Nathan Hollister, Xolani Kacela, and Nana’ Kratochvil, chair. Members who resigned during our work on this project are Lucy Bunch, John Cullinan, Lynn Garner, and Myriam Renaud. Erica and I are leaving after a full term of six years. Megan, who may be setting a record, was appointed to fill a vacancy, then elected to a full term. Her service is of eight years! It may be a record. Nathan and Xolani have asked to continue their service on the new commission.
We all want to thank those Unitarian Universalists who attended our workshops, shared their stories, and helped us begin this project. They include staff members, volunteer leaders, ministers, and laypeople. The work of keeping Unitarian Universalism a vibrant, growing faith takes all of us. Thank you for electing us. Thank you for the work you do. Thank you to all the Commission on Appraisal members who have served us since the first iteration in 1939. May their spirit be carried forward. This would be, indeed, a VERY good thing.
Moderator: Thanks to Nana and John for their report. This is a testimony to the positive outcomes of collaboration.
Moderator: Now its time to call on the Secretary of our Association, Susan Ritchie, for any announcements.
Susan Ritchie: (live caption)
Moderator: Thanks Susan.
Moderator: There being no further business to come before us and in accordance with the schedule set forth in your program book, I declare that this General Session of the General Assembly shall stand in recess until 8:15 a.m. tomorrow morning, starting immediately following morning devotional at 8:00 a.m.