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

General Session IV, General Assembly 2015

Captions were created during the live event, and contain some errors. Captioning is not available for some copyrighted material.

General Assembly 2015 Event 403

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.

  • Call to Order (not in video)
  • Right Relations Report (not in video)
  • Debate and Vote on Actions of Immediate Witness (theSaturday CSW Alert (PDF) includes proposed AIWs) (video begins during this segment)
  • General Assembly (GA) Talk: Community Ministry (13:30)
  • Journey Towards Wholeness Transformation Committee Report (25:00)
  • Debate and Vote on Proposed Bylaw Amendments to Change the Commission on Appraisal from an Elected Committee to a Board Appointed Committee (35:30)
  • Special Collection to Support Scholarship Fund for Future GA Delegates (1:32:00)
  • Singing (1:35:00)
  • Presentation: Distinguished Service Award (1:40:00)
  • GA Talk: Lessons from Selma 2015 (1:55:00)
  • Annual Program Fund Report (2:11:30)
  • Presentation: Legacy Society (2:23:30)
  • GA Talk: Young Adults at General Assembly (YA@GA) (2:28:30)
  • Debate and Vote on Proposed Bylaw Amendments to Change the Finance Leadership Roles on the Board of Trustees (2:38:00)
  • Debate and Vote on Presidential Election Campaign Financing Rules (2:51:00)
  • Financial Advisor’s Report (3:00:30)
  • Motion to Admit Actions of Immediate Witness to Final Agenda (3:13:30)
  • Beacon Press Report (3:15:30)
  • Announcements (3:26:30)
  • Recess (3:29:00)

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 Fourth General Session of the Fifty-Fourth General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association.

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 Actions of Immediate Witness

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 Goekler: 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:

Moderator: We will now take the first step of the process for adopting Actions of Immediate Witness. Bylaw section 4.16 on page 123 of your program book provides that not more than three Actions of Immediate Witness 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.

  • Proposed AIW A: Support the Black Lives Matter Movement This AIW encourages member congregations and all Unitarian Universalists to work towards making police and prison abolition a tangible presence in America. This AIW recognizes that the fight for civil rights and equality is as real today as it was decades ago, and urges member congregations to take initiative and work towards a definite end to the harsh racial prejudices many people are exposed to, including with local and national organizations fighting for racial justice.
  • Proposed AIW B: Act for a Livable Climate Climate is our defining ethical, justice, and survival issue. Climate Change magnifies all the Social Justice issues we support. Looming climate crises of food, safe drinking water, heat-related deaths, migrations, disease, and insecurity threaten mass suffering for the vulnerable and future generations. Climate change is the gravest threat facing our world today (Morales, Schultz). An international agreement is critical for reduced climate risk and better future outcomes. UU principles compel us to Mobilize, Lead, and Press government for Action that will conclude with a strong, compassionate global climate agreement this December. UUs are at a courage choice point.
  • Proposed AIW C: Supporting a Framework for Nuclear Deal with Iran UUs have long sought a peaceful world, including non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, as called for in our Sixth Principle. International negotiators have developed a framework that can ensure Iran can only have a peaceful nuclear program through rigorous inspections and verification, but these negotiations need our support as our US Administration efforts are under attack from Conservative Senate war hawks.
  • Proposed AIW D: Calling for an End to LGBTQIA+ Conversion Therapy Fueled by all seven UU principles, UUs have long been at the forefront of the struggle for LGBTQIA+ equality-most recently including the movement to end conversion therapy, a set of dangerous and discredited practices that claim to change sexual orientation or gender identity. UU ministers and lay leaders have been instrumental in the efforts to end conversion therapy, especially for the youth most frequently targeted by this industry, but a strong statement from the UUA General Assembly would carry unprecedented weight and send a message to all young people of faith that they were born perfect.
  • Proposed AIW E: End Immigrant Child and Family Detention Now Thousands of children and their mothers, escaping violence in their Central American home countries, are being permanently psychologically damaged and imprisoned in detention centers in the US, even though many have qualified for release or asylum. These practices are inconsistent with our Unitarian Universalist values. There are many other ways the government can ensure that immigrants show up at their hearings, including community-based approaches that connect them with needed services and US relatives (when applicable). We call on President Obama, Congress, and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency to close the family detention centers and immediately release those detained.
  • Proposed AIW F: Solidarity with Lummi Nation Lummi Nation is resisting proposals to establish the largest coal terminal in North America on their sacred lands. Massive quantities of coal would be sent from the interior US via open railroad cars to be stored onsite for export to Asia. Immense carbon footprints and socio-environmental hazards characterize every step of this process. We’re especially concerned that the lands/waters involved are Lummi burial grounds that go back 3,500 years, violating treaty rights. This AIW, and our 2015 Social Witness, asks that congregations stand with Lummi Nation by putting pressure on decision makers to deny permits for the Gateway Pacific Terminal.

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 123—to narrow these six down to three. Tomorrow you will vote on the actual language of those. Today you are voting on whether there are 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. A is etc

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 afternoon in rooms D133/134, D137/138, and D139/140—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.

[Speaker statements]

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 pen or pencil, 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. Are we OK with this?

OK, these will be collected and counted and we will advise the results later.

General Assembly (GA) Talk: Community Ministry

Moderator: Now welcome the Rev. Don Southworth and the Rev. Dr. Michelle Walsh to talk to us about community ministry.

Michelle Walsh: Hello! My name is Michelle Walsh and I’m the Membership Director and President-Elect of the Unitarian Universalist Society for Community Ministries. The UUSCM is a professional membership organization for both lay people and clergy who consider the work that they do to be community ministry—that is, ministry that brings our faith out into the larger world in many different ways.

Don Southworth: I’m Don Southworth, the Executive Director of the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association. We are the professional association for over 1800 Unitarian Universalist ministers and seminarians from around the world. Our mission is to nurture excellence in ministry through continuing education, collegiality, and collaboration. Over 20% of our active ministers now identify as community ministers and that number is growing every year.

Michelle Walsh: Community ministers have long been at the forefront of building new, creative, and entrepreneurial ways for our faith to be witnessed to our larger world. Whether as lay people or as clergy, we minister beyond the walls of our congregations and bring our Unitarian Universalist values to our work. We are the missional path of our faith tradition, first recognized in the work of a 19th century Unitarian minister named Joseph Tuckerman. Tuckerman’s ministry to the poor of Boston was called ministry-at-large and continues today through the UU Urban Ministry. But the contemporary faces of community ministry encompass more than social justice activists. We also are spiritual directors, coaches, chaplains, teachers and academics, pastoral psychotherapists, creative artists and musicians, entrepreneurial dreamers, and even your UUA and UUMA staff—such as Peter Morales and Don Southworth are community ministers!

We are lay and ordained people ministering together to heal and transform our world. Listen to just some of the words of our 1988 community ministry proclamation: “We, as people living in a world that is both dying and seeking to be reborn, who are shaken to our very roots by the massiveness and depth of planetary and human suffering, are empowered by a driving passion to bear witness to that suffering, participate in its transformation and affirm the inherent glory of life. Therefore we do covenant together: TO RESPOND…TO ENGAGE…TO CELEBRATE…[and] TO CHALLENGE... Thus empowered, we join hands with the community of faith in acknowledging the larger ministry which addresses our common vision.”

This is the vision, reality, and promise of community ministry for our faith!

Don Southworth: The Global Ends of the UUA aspire to increase the number of UU congregations and other covenanted communities and increase the number of inspired ordained and religious leaders equipped to start them. While community ministry isn’t new—Jesus was a community minister after all—the numbers and varieties of community ministries and community ministers have never been seen before. The changes in the religious landscape and in the spiritual expressions and needs for people inside and outside our congregation walls provide opportunities and challenges for both those who follow a call to ministry and for the faith they have chosen to serve.

The opportunities are as endless as our imaginations and as diverse as the communities and yearnings of a hurting world. Our community ministers are starting new organizations and ministries, which bring our Unitarian Universalist faith to people who are not likely to step into a congregation and to those who have been in our congregations for years. We are ministering to young people who find their spiritual nourishment through art and social justice witness instead of hymns and sermons; to old people in retirement homes and care centers; to all people through spiritual direction, chaplaincy and non-profit, community organizations with Unitarian Universalist values and ethics. While liberal religion may not be growing, the impulse and commitment for people to love and serve the world through Unitarian Universalist community ministry is growing.

And that growth brings challenges to how we support and nurture those ministries. How and where can we find the funding to support entrepreneurial ministers who are creating new ways to share our values outside congregation walls? How can congregations find new ways to embrace community ministers and invite them as full partners in serving a wider number of people than a congregation can do alone? What can we do as a faith tradition to break down the walls between those who show up in our congregations and those “spiritual but not religious” who need community but will never step inside a church to find it? And how can we ensure that serving a community instead of a parish does not always mean a cut in pay and respect?

Michelle Walsh: To meet these opportunities and challenges, I see two actions as crucial. First, our 1988 Proclamation called upon our association to recognize and support lay community ministries in addition to clergy-led community ministries. In 1991, clergy-led community ministry was formally recognized as a path of ministry with the Ministerial Fellowship Committee. Where we need to move forward structurally is in ways to credential or commission our lay community ministers. While the UUSCM is developing best practices for commissioning lay community ministers through congregations, we also should look at regional structures for doing so. We witness more broadly to the world when we both are grounded in our congregations and also are connected to the interdependent web of congregations in our regions.

The second action I see as crucial is to develop a Unitarian Universalist public theology of community ministry, one that breaks down our artificial divides of parish and community and deepens into what James Luther Adams called the prophet hood and priesthood of all believers. Ours is not a clerical tradition in which only the ordained are engaged in the task of ministry. No, as the late Gordon McKeeman has said, “ministry is all that we do together.” Understanding this in a heart-felt way entails the commitment of national and regional UUA resources to unlock the real power and potential of our faith. It is to bring our passion for healing and transforming the world, our passion for standing on the side of love and justice, to more and more people through building larger organic coalitions beyond the walls of our congregations. It is to embrace a sense of humble equality in witnessing to the spark of ministry in each human being.

Don Southworth: I want to invite each of you to imagine a world where there aren’t’t 150,000 Unitarian Universalists in this country but three or four times as many. There are many ways to get there but I guarantee you that one of the ways will be more people doing more ministry in the community and the world. I want you to go home from Portland and find out how you and your congregation can better support community ministry in your parish, your neighborhood, your city and the larger Unitarian Universalist world. Who’s doing community ministry and how can you help them? Maybe you can offer to be an internship site for a community minister in formation; maybe you can affiliate with a community minister in your area—or even far away from where you live and worship—and offer institutional support and inspiration to someone who needs you to help create the beloved community. Community ministers need the same things that parish ministers need—our commitment, our passion, our financial support—to make the world we dream come into being. The world of religion and the world of ministry is rapidly evolving. How will you make sure that Unitarian Universalism ministry is everything and everywhere it can be to help heal and save our changing and—too often—hurting world?

Moderator: Thank you Don and Michelle.

Journey Towards Wholeness Transformation Committee Report

Moderator: Our next report is from the Journey Toward Wholeness Transformation Team. Delegates at the 1997 General Assembly asked that a group be formed to monitor and assess our progress on the journey toward becoming the anti-racist, anti-oppressive organization we profess to seek. The Journey Toward Wholeness Transformation Committee was formed out of that request. Welcome the Rev. Jonipher Kwong and the Rev. Wendy von Courter.

Throughout the years, the JTWTC has reported on that progress in a number of manners. A snapshot of districts doing, or not doing anti-racism work. An in-depth analysis of our ministerial credentialing system. An assessment and recommendations of how we recruit, support & retain our volunteer leaders. This year we offer something a bit different. Something we hope will provide a tool for each of us to use back in our congregational, regional and collegial settings.


Two years ago, delegates passed a new resolution called: Deepen Our Commitment to An Anti-Oppressive, Multicultural Unitarian Universalist Association. It called upon the UUA President to establish a vision and steps necessary to deepen that commitment. It called for the UUA Board to identify existing and new practices that would lead to greater diversity and inclusion on committees. And it called upon the JTWTC to assess the financial and staff resources currently devoted to this work, including those supporting organizations that empower marginalized populations and an analysis of these expenditures relative to other allocations.

Since that time we have been in conversation with the administration seeking more information and our own discernment on how to best meet this charge. We understand the information we seek to be necessarily quantitative and qualitative. Data gathering is in process yet revealed challenges in how to measure this important work. Our administration shared with us a shift from dedicating specific programs, staff and departments to this goal to an ethos model in which everyone is responsible for the goal, for the transformation, for progress and success. As a committee seeking to monitor and assess the journey, we affirm the commitment to an organization-wide ethos dedicated to strengthening, and rebuilding if need be, the fundamental values of our faith to be more just and that this requires continued, sustained involvement. That said, it presents a challenge to fulfilling the charge of the responsive resolution to quantify financial resources dedicated to the specific task and comparing those resources to the larger budgetary landscape. The JTWTC is committed to following through on our task as requested in the resolution and are dedicating the bulk of our fall 2015 meeting to this task.

Moderator: Thank you Wendy and Jonipher for that report.

Debate and Vote on Proposed Bylaw Amendments to Change the Commission on Appraisal from an Elected Committee to a Board Appointed Committee

Moderator: Our next item of business today is to consider and vote on the proposed Amendment to make the Commission on Appraisal a committee of the Board of Trustees: Bylaws 4.11, 4.14, 5.1, 7.1, and 15.2. These are found on pages 98 thru 100 of the Final Agenda in your program book. The mini-assembly concerning this amendment was held Thursday.

Will the Vice-Moderator make the appropriate motion?

Donna Harrison: Moved: That the proposed Amendment to make the Commission on Appraisal a committee of the Board of Trustees as noted in bylaws 4.11, 4.14, 5.1, 7.1, and 15.2 and found on pages 98 thru 100 of the Final Agenda be adopted by this Assembly.

Moderator: I call upon Sarah Stewart to give the position of the Board of Trustees.

Sarah Stewart: (live caption)

Moderator: We have up to 30 minutes of debate for this bylaw amendment. As before we will take the pro positions from the microphone on your right, the con positions from the microphone on your left and the procedural microphone is in front of me.

(30 minutes of debate, 20 before amendments, 10 before calling the question.)

Special Collection to Support Scholarship Fund for Future GA Delegates

Moderator: Every year, the board authorizes one collection during our General Sessions. This year, we are asking you to share your treasure… as you are able… to fund a scholarship program that offers financial support to traditionally under-represented constituencies as delegates that would otherwise not be asked or able to attend by their congregations. I spoke of this need in my Moderator’s Report on Thursday morning.

We would expect to increase the number of delegates by ten percent over our current ad hoc approach. Additionally, we would engage the Stewardship and Development staff to ensure the special collection is appropriately monitored to ensure donors’ intentions are honored. If the pilot project meets the objectives, then we would make these scholarship funds part of the governance budget in future years.

The program imagines that congregations who participate would seek to select youth, young adult, people of color, and other historically marginalized people to represent those congregations at GA 2016. The registration fee would be born by the pilot program, and the congregation would be expected to underwrite some of the travel expenses in conjunction with other funding sources that might be available in districts and regions. There would be pre-GA web meetings to prepare these delegates for their responsibilities, orient them to the process, and support them during GA. There would be post-GA web meetings and surveys to assess the success of the program in targeting a different demographic to the delegate body and congregations who have not sent delegates in recent years.

Thank you as you consider this.


Presentation: Distinguished Service Award

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

Susan Ritchie: It's my pleasure this afternoon to welcome you to the presentation of the 2015 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, over a considerable period of time, strengthened the institutions of our Unitarian Universalist denomination and/or clarified our message in an extraordinary way, while exemplifying what Unitarian Universalism stands for. My fellow trustees Lew Phinney and Rev. Rob Eller-Isaacs served as the Board's Committee to lead the selection process this year. And it's been my privilege to chair that group. This year, on behalf of a grateful association, we make our award to the Rev. Clark Olsen. Rev. Mark Ward will offer the citation now.

Mark Ward: Clark Olsen—Preacher, prophet, activist, innovator, team builder, strategic thinker, loving husband, dedicated father, excellent friend—your 56 years of Unitarian Universalist ministry have been a blessing to our faith. In a career of many phases from parish minister to organization consultant, from the board room to the classroom to the streets of Selma, Alabama, you demonstrated the transforming power of showing up and bringing your full self to the work before us and so showing the way to a higher calling that awaits us all.

As the second son of a dynamic Unitarian minister, Arthur Olsen, you were never quite sure that you were cut out for the “family business,” though you received early inspiration for justice work from parents who actively fought McCarthyism and sought to integrate department stores in Toledo, Ohio.

Graduating from Oberlin College and arriving at Harvard Divinity School on a grant for reluctant prospects for ministry, however, you found your way. Service at the congregation in Westborough, Massachusetts while still in seminary led to your ordination in 1959 and first settlement there.

But while accepting this calling, your sense of adventure and commitment to justice also led to extensive travel, including visits to Eastern Bloc nations and the Soviet Union, where later you met a Russian woman, Ludmilla, who would be your first wife. With her, you had your first child, Marika. You would even go on to organize student trips to those countries in the 1960s and to Unitarian sites in Transylvania and Hungary.

This sense of adventure also led you to your next settlement in 1962 at an emergent fellowship in Berkeley, California. There you grew the congregation and developed innovative ways of doing worship that you developed into a process for other fellowship-model congregations.

Then, like a thunderbolt out of the blue, came Selma. Shocked by the images of Bloody Sunday, you were gifted with plane tickets from members of the Berkeley fellowship that made it possible for you to follow your heart there. It was the chance meeting at Brown Chapel with two colleagues whom you had known from your efforts to set up student visits abroad—Orloff Miller and James Reeb—that changed your life.

We have heard you tell the story of that night—the dinner at Walker’s Cafe, the attack by racist hoodlums on the street, the terrifying trip with Jim to a hospital in Birmingham, holding his hand as he drifted into unconsciousness—before vast assemblies, on New York Times and Al-Jazerra videos, in elementary school classrooms and on Living Legacy tours.

And each time, we’ve seen your eyes water and your throat catch, as ours do, too. We know the tears embarrass you, and yet we love you for them for they remind us that our hearts are often broken in this work, not once, but over and over again. And yet, we stay with it. And you did. When the time came that civil rights groups began offering tours of the South with veterans of the movement, you happily signed on to assure that the lessons learned in that struggle are remembered. And you have kept up with that, even into the current year.

Meanwhile, your own life moved on. In 1968, your ministry carried you to Morristown, New Jersey, where you divorced Ludmilla and met and married your second wife, Anna. Again, the congregation grew under your leadership for 10 good years, but when a congregation member suggested you had promise in the field of organizational culture change, you decided to try it out and found a new calling outside of congregational ministry.

In that role you have coached people in more than 30 organizations, including Fortune 500 companies. The UUA tapped this expertise by appointing you to the position of Vice President for Planning and Programs from 1986 to 1988, where you helped develop tools for congregational planning and visioning. In time, you returned to the corporate world of training and strategic planning, but remained generous about sharing your skills with your colleagues and our larger movement. The UUA Board of Trustees and the Board of the UU Minister’s Association are among those who have benefited from your expertise.

You and Anna transplanted to Asheville, North Carolina, her home town, where you adopted your son, Todd, but it would be inaccurate to say you retired there. You continued consultations, but also came to chair a county task force on “Common Values & a Sense of Community,” and served with other civic groups, as well as on the board and strategic planning with the church there.

In this 50th anniversary year of the events in Selma, we have been proud to see you lifted up as an exemplar of our faith, one who followed the call to justice, who showed up, and despite injury and intimidation remained a generous and compassionate leader in the cause of freedom and justice. It is, then, with great admiration, gratitude, and joy that we confer on you our highest honor, the Award for Distinguished Service to the Cause of Unitarian Universalism.

Rev. Clark Olsen: I am grateful for this award. Thank you to the UUA Board. Thank you all. Thank you, Mark Ward, my minister for the last ten years.

And thank you to so many unnamed persons who have contributed so much to my life, who have allowed me into their lives, have given time and energy to support me in my life. Many of you are in this assembly, including my wife of 27 years, Anna, my daughter Marika, and my brother Lee.

My point is: this award is not for one person. From Mark you know some important details. But I know in my heart of multitudes who have touched me.

In my long-ago application to the Ministerial Fellowship Committee I wrote some words that have informed my years: the ministry affords a “privileged position” from which to touch others. We all live our lives at the intersection of mystery and values, and to explore that intersection, reaching into the riches of human experiences, offers deeply satisfying opportunity for insight and growth — for myself and those with whom I engage. I immensely enjoyed my years as a parish minister 1957-78, in Westboro, Berkeley and Morristown NJ.

And, there is Selma. I’m deeply grateful to the family of James Reeb for their abiding love and kindness.

In 1978 I decided to fulfill a long-time promise to myself: to experiment professionally with something other than the parish ministry. Within a month, the president of All Souls Church in NYC, a layman in the business world, offered assuring words to me. He said, “Both corporations and churches are in the business of making money and making meaning. Corporations are good at making money, but lousy at making meaning. Churches are good at making meaning, but lousy at money.” I knew at that moment, that I wasn’t leaving the ministry; I was simply shifting location not vocation.

I also assumed at that time, that if I stayed doing consulting work, I wouldn’t have much to do with my home base: UU congregations. That proved to be grossly in error. To my surprise, I was asked to serve our congregations in many ways. I loved it all.

In so many ways my life experiences have reinforced this “mystery-values” connection. I feel awed and grateful that, made as we are from the stardust of Creation, inherent in all of us is the desire to love others and to embrace efforts to bring more justice into this world.

I thank you again for this honor.

GA Talk: Lessons from Selma 2015

Moderator: On the night of Bloody Sunday back in 1965, Martin Luther King Jr. sent a message asking clergy or many denominations including Unitarian Universalists to come and march the following Tuesday. The UUA Board was meeting when the telegram arrived. A motion was made to recess the meeting and to reconvene it two days later on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. After the motion passed Dana Greeley turned to Executive Vice President Ray Hopkins and said, “call Webb.” Ted Webb, the Mass Bay District Executive was among the best-connected ministers in the Association. He called his friends who called their friends and over and over the same thing was said, “I’m going will you go with me?”

The Rev. Rob Eller-Isaacs and the Rev. Dr. Hope Johnson pick up what followed 50 years later.

Rob Eller-Isaacs: This time no telegram came. Fifty years after that moment of vivid solidarity with the echo of the freedom songs still ringing in our ears with the clarity of purpose etched deep into our hearts. We returned to Selma to honor those who went before; to enlist their spirit, strength and story as we face today’s challenges.

Fifty years into this journey toward wholeness, Unitarian Universalists come together in small, high holy circles to look into our divided hearts as we move beyond white privilege, moving from integration to empowerment, from solidarity to separatism, and back. And now, though brokenhearted, we wake up again with compassion. You helped make the conference happen Hope. How did this start for you?

Hope Johnson: I had a dream…. At a debrief at the tail end of another successful Pilgrimage, we spoke about the then upcoming Commemoration of the Voting Rights Act symbolized by the crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge. As a founder of the Living Legacy Project, I knew that I had to go to Selma to bear witness in the commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.

We all dreamed of showing up in support of the people of Selma. Before we knew it, we pulled the Selma Planning Team together, created the “Marching in the Arc of Justice” Conference, and headed for Birmingham, Montgomery and Selma.

I have to admit that I couldn’t believe the overwhelmingly positive response that we received from all over the continent and indeed, the world, from Unitarian Universalists, and friends—another reminder that everyone showed up in Selma.

Rob Eller-Isaacs: Well done! I know that this was the culmination of years of effort and I don’t imagine it was easy. What was a pivotal moment for you, Hope?

Hope Johnson: It was at the City of St. Jude that I felt the presence of the Ancestors. This site is known as Campsite 4. It is the only place on the route from Selma to Montgomery, AL that welcomed and housed those who marched for the right to vote after crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama.

This was another reminder that EVERYONE was there—Black, White, Christian, Jew, Gay, Straight, everyone showed up in Selma, including we Unitarian Universalists. Rev. Tom Owen-Towle, Unitarian Universalist Minister and Veteran of the Movement described his work on the crew that prepared to receive the guests when they arrived. We broke bread together. Shared stories. It was when we joined hearts and hands singing “We Shall Overcome,” that I knew that we were all on sacred ground.

Rob, do you think the pilgrimage to Selma has, or will strengthen Unitarian Universalism?

Rob Eller-Isaacs: We’ve seized the opportunity to clarify who we mean when we say, “we.” The years of soulwork, deep self-reflection combined with lasting partnerships with communities of color, inconclusive as they are, have earned us a place at the table. At the church I love and serve in Saint Paul, Minnesota we knew that we wanted to go. An experienced activist in the congregation not only said, “why not,” he also asked, “why only members of Unity Church?” Humbled and amazed, we became the designated convener of Saint Paul’s Selma Anniversary delegation and provided an experience that would reinvigorate our local commitment to racial equity and justice.

Our 68-person delegation arrived with different and differing expectations. 25 church members, two police, some officers, 6 men recently released from prison and mentors, Foundation presidents and corporate executives, three generations of NAACP elders and five core leaders from Twin Cities Black Lives Matter. Rev. Danny Givens Jr. and four congregants from Above Every Name, a Christian universalist church nested close to the heart of our congregation. Moments of triumph and transformation were interspersed with times of disappointment and misunderstanding. It wasn’t easy, but it was real.

I answered a call to like commitment and boldness, a call to continue convene the creative, covenantal conversations that are the source and practice of our faith.

What are your most powerful memories of that time of re-consecration?

Hope Johnson: Three Martyrs of the Movement, Jimmie Lee Jackson, Viola Liuzzo and the Rev. James Reeb were lifted up in a poignant ceremony. Tears of pride streamed down my face, as representatives from each family came up to receive an honor for the unwanted sacrifices that that their loved ones had made. They thanked us. They greeted each other. They affirmed that the struggle continues. My heart broke with joy and pride. What a moment!

I was reminded, once again, that that though flawed, Unitarian Universalism has an ongoing commitment to racial justice and voting rights. Who knew that the UUA had sent a check to Jackson’s mother each year since his death? A quiet gesture, without fanfare… This was not the usual “pat-ourselves-in-the-back we marched in Selma move.” Truth be told, Selma is the only place I’ve ever visited where when asked, “What group are you with?” and I answer, “the Unitarian Universalists,” the response is often “Thanks for coming back.” It happened again in March while I was at the Mass Meeting at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Selma.

We stumble, falter, often fall, and hurt ourselves—and each other—as we seek to dismantle racism. Yet, we pick ourselves up and continue as we promised we would. We embrace the new Black Lives Matter Movement by answering that urgent call to racial justice. Selma strengthened our resolve to move forward when we answered Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s call to “come on down to Selma.” Why? Because it was, the right thing to do.

Moderator Key closed his call to Selma with words from the great James Baldwin:

Rob & Hope: “If we, and by we I mean the relatively conscious ones who must, like lovers, change the consciousness of others do not fail in our duty now; we may just end the racial nightmare, realize our country, and change the history of the world.”

Moderator: I want to share a video that captures some of what you have heard about the experience in Selma.


Annual Program Fund Report

Moderator: Please welcome Rev. Mary Katherine Morn, Director of Stewardship and Development for our UUA.

Mary Katherine Morn: We hope you are enjoying General Assembly! This experience is made possible by your congregation’s support for our Annual Program Fund [slide #1]. I’m Mary Katherine Morn, UUA’s Director of Stewardship and Development.

APF is the primary source of funding for the Unitarian Universalist Association. Each year, every congregation is asked to give to support our larger faith. Congregations who give the full amount requested are known as “Honor Congregations.”

I invite you to turn in your chair or your scooter and take in all of these Unitarian Universalists who are here in this hall. These people, as members of congregations who fund our movement, have made this General Assembly, and so much more, possible for you.

[Vail Weller]

Why do we give? Simply put, APF amplifies Unitarian Universalism. I’m Vail Weller, and I am UUA’s Director of Congregational Giving.

We give so that all of our congregations are positioned to transform their communities, so that our religious leaders can innovate and inspire, and so that our congregations and other emerging ministries can give a firm foundation of Unitarian Universalist values to children and youth. Your generosity amplifies all of our voices, bringing more love and more justice to the world so in need of our healing message. We give in support of congregations other than our own, because we understand that a strengthened Unitarian Universalism serves us all. We give because doing so is a concrete expression of our interconnectedness. Our principles and purposes close with this promise: “As free congregations we enter into…covenant, promising to one another our mutual trust and support.”

We have invited three Unitarian Universalists to share stories about what your generosity to APF actual does for all of us [slide #2].

Doug Pasto-Crosby: My name is Doug Pasto-Crosby, and I am a member of the First UU Church of Nashville, Tennessee. When I first became a UU, I didn’t really think much about the denomination as a whole. Later, I was disappointed with the UUA’s response to my church’s episode of ministerial misconduct.

Two things have happened to change my attitude. The first was going to India and meeting our Unitarian siblings, at a gathering of over 5,000 Unitarians. It was awesome experiencing myself as part of a global faith in this way.

Secondly, the UUA is making huge strides toward correcting the imbalance in our policies on ministerial misconduct. For example, last fall, the UUA held a conference on “After Pastors.” (“After Pastors” is the name given to ministers who serve a congregation after a minister who engaged in misconduct.) As one of the representatives from my church attending, I could share how we have not only survived ministerial misconduct but also thrived as a result of dealing with the issue directly. I was proud that our work has helped others as well. And I was grateful for the ways the UUA is striving to respond more justly and compassionately to ministerial misconduct.

These two experiences were a gift to me. I now know I am a part of a denomination that can learn from its mistakes and work to correct them. I am a part of a denomination that is active worldwide in support of our shared principles. I am a part of a denomination that I am proud of, an Association that I want to work for, and support.

APF amplifies connections among us globally, and amplifies healthy ministry and healthy congregations.

Elissa McDavid: My name is Elissa McDavid. In 7th grade I took Our Whole Lives at my church, Saltwater Unitarian Universalist church, in Auburn, Washington. I am now a college student entering into my junior year.

I strongly believe that OWL is the greatest thing our faith has given to me. I get to say to people, “I took Sex Ed in church, and guess what? It was amazing!” In these first couple of years in college, I felt that I was on a different level than my peers, because of my OWL experience in middle school. I was not only armed with knowledge, but I also knew how to have discussions about these topics. Yes, OWL is comprehensive sex education, but it also is much more than that.

OWL empowers not only young people but people at all stages of their lives. There are age appropriate curricula for kindergarteners to older adults. After all: sexuality and gender are not just a set part our lives, they are evolving, changing aspects of our lives. We are not static creatures, we are dynamic.

Looking back on my OWL experience, I think it is an example of what faith is and what our faith can do. When people ask me about Unitarian Universalism, I always use OWL as example of what we are. I think OWL is Unitarian Universalism at its best.

APF amplifies healthy sexuality education, something I am so proud of us for doing.

David Carl Olson: I am David Carl Olson, Senior Minister at the First Unitarian Church of Baltimore. I am here to say thank you to you, my fellow Unitarian Universalists, for supporting our church and our city during the painful days since the murder of Freddie Gray in May. This tragedy made visible to all the injustice that so many people of color continue to experience. My church appreciated your messages of love and received financial support from you as well, which allows us to continue to organize. We have seen your vigils—with you, wearing your yellow shirts and acting in solidarity with us, in Baltimore…and with Ferguson…with Oakland…with Tulsa. We have so much work yet to do.

The frustration of the young people in Baltimore is the frustration of a people who have known police harassment their entire lives. We have so much work yet to do. But Baltimore came together. We occupied our space, with courage, pride and joy.

Gathering and marching peacefully and purposefully with the people of our community, with members of the church that I serve, we were accompanied by Terasa Cooley from our UUA headquarters, Leon Dunkley from our congregation in Silver Spring, MD, and Kenny Wiley sharing our story through the UU World—this was love for Baltimore made manifest by our Association.

Thank you so much. Yes, we have so much more work to do. Yet together, we are stronger.

APF amplifies justice, in my community, Baltimore, and in your community.

Mary Katherine: You see, APF amplifies [slide #3] the best of Unitarian Universalism. APF amplifies love, joy, justice, leadership, values, ministry, action, connection, support…and so much more. You make all of this possible through your support for APF.

When we give, we are fulfilling a promise. The other people in this general session and throughout our entire Association are counting on the fact that we will. Unitarian Universalism deserves our whole-hearted support, as do the Unitarian Universalists around the globe who are enriched by our faith.

We want to say thank you for your generous ongoing support!

Vail: I’m guessing you want to say thank you to your fellow UUs who are supporting your congregation, as well. Please join us in this litany [slide #4] of gratitude.

Will this side of the room join me reading the words in bold type?

And will this other side of the room join Mary Katherine in reading the words in italic type?

Let us speak to one another about our gratitude.

[Words on screen]

We celebrate the bonds that connect us

across geography and congregation

and across each particular expression of our faith [slide #5].

We give thanks for small gifts and large gifts—for every gift

given from congregations

committed to the covenant we share. [slide #6]

With every gift, our Association is strengthened

and we are able to amplify joy, ministry, justice, and love.

Thank you.

Thank you. [slide #7]

Your commitment amplifies Unitarian Universalism.

Your commitment amplifies Unitarian Universalism.

ALL: We are better together. Amen. [slide #8]

Presentation: Legacy Society Memoriam

Remarks by the Rev. Mary Katherine Morn:

This is our time to honor some of the generous Unitarian Universalists who have died this year. Their gifts of time, talent, and treasure have profoundly transformed their congregations and our Unitarian Universalist community. Their dedication to love and justice will continue to enrich the lives they touched. As we remember these friends who loved this faith with all their hearts and whose hopes for our future now rest with us, let us each renew our own commitment to this faith we share, a faith that links us to generations gone and generations to come.

*In Memoriam slide show presentation*

May we honor these lives, friendships, and memories as we work together to nurture and grow Unitarian Universalism across our Association, and our world, knowing that “what they dreamed be ours to do.”

Moderator: Thanks Mary Katherine.

GA Talk: Young Adults at General Assembly (YA@GA)

Moderator: Please welcome Daniel Kanter for another YA@GA talk.

Daniel Kanter: One of the challenges we put to our members and friends at First Church in Dallas is to do three things—

1. to become more compassionate in all ways possible—to massage the spirit and confront the heart to know the suffering of others and the love of others with grace.

2. To be more of service—to see life as a tool to make others lives better and challenge ourselves to be in the service of higher causes in life.

3. And finally to be more generous, or as we say to become generous spirits—

We ask these questions of everyone who walks through the doors or goes through our path from visitor to leader…

Generosity is what I want to talk to you about today.

One way is to ask ourselves what models we have…we asked this question in Dallas to the members of our church:

Who is the most generous spirit in your life and why?

here are some of the responses we received back: (slides should roll one after the other or I can forward them with a remote—

(Slide 1) My mom, she has always given so much support to her family and community and worked hard to teach her children and grandchildren that giving back is what brings you true happiness.

(slide 2) My friend Pat, who seemingly endlessly extends a sincere hand of friendship and loved me when I felt I didn’t deserve it.

(Slide 3) My second grade teacher who caught that I am dyslexic and went out of her way to give my parents guidance and supplies to help me learn to read. I am now six months from completing my PhD in breast cancer chemotherapy. I wouldn’t be where I am today without her.

(Slide 4) My dad, because even when I do something to disappoint him he always looks past it because he knows who I really am.

(slide 5) My grandmother, who gave me permission by role modeling the expression of genuine undisguised delight in living and loving everyday.

(slide 6) My boss, she intensely listens to every person she meets.

(slide 7) My son who is 4 ½ who tells me everyday, ‘I love the whole world!’

(slide 8) My brother who shares my bunk bed!

I would ask you to consider that question today and spend some time with it. Who are you learning from or have learned from when it comes to generosity? What generous spirits walk beside you in your life?

An interesting thing happened after I got 100s of responses…one church member came to me and said, ‘I don’t know any generous spirits’

I started to wonder what we had done…

Or is this more common in our faith…

We know that UUs are on the small part of the pyramid in proportional giving…I estimate we average somewhere between .1 % of income and 2%

We may not be building a faith on generosity

Maybe our faith somehow is afraid of the vulnerability that comes with generosity or doesn’t have a robust sense of surrender or a theology that we surrender too.

Maybe we are creating a faith that leads with a militant suspicion rather than grace and forgiveness—two forms of generosity.

I know a lot of generous spirits in our faith…I don’t want that to be true.

Because I believe generous spirits change the world…

  1. Increase grace and understanding
  2. Increase interdependence—Dallas to des Moines…we need to see ourselves as responsible for each other
  3. Open doors rather than close them…

We can do that…starts with following models…

I want to tell you a story I heard recently about a man named, Julio Diaz. Diaz comes home everyday on the subway in the Bronx. One day he comes up the stairs and a young kid points a knife at him, and says give me your wallet. Diaz says, ‘ok here is my wallet’ But then he does something surprising. Julio Diaz calls the kid back, and says, ‘wait its cold out take my coat also.’ The kid is stunned and takes the coat Diaz says, ‘you look hungry, why don’t I take you to eat.’ Kid says ok and they go to a diner where Diaz eats every evening. When they get there everyone greets Diaz and the kid says, ‘You know everyone here. Even the guy in the kitchen comes out and says hi, do you own this place?’ Diaz says, ‘no, I’m just nice to people, didn’t anyone teach you that?’

Diaz asks the kid what he wants to do with his life. The kid has no answers. They discuss possibilities and Diaz tries to give the kid some hope. At the end of the meal Diaz says, “you know I would love to take you to dinner…

but you have my wallet.”

He gets the wallet back and the coat and at the door Diaz says to the kid, “Hey one more thing,

….can I have your knife?” The kid hands over the knife.

I don’t know if Julio Diaz is a UU but I wish more UUs were like him. I know we have it in us.

We need to build a movement on generosity—yes giving to church and giving to the UUA…and yes…reaching out to the margins of our societies…but even more important…holding each other with esteem, building systems of grace and forgiveness, and we can build a faith if we start with becoming generous spirits…we become more compassionate…and more of service…that is our faith…thank you.

Debate and Vote on Proposed Bylaw Amendments to Change the Finance Leadership Roles on the Board of Trustees

Moderator: Our next item of business today is to consider and vote on the proposed changes to Finance Leadership on the Board of Trustees: Bylaw 7.1, 7.5, 7.14, and 10.2. These are found on pages 101 thru 102 of the Final Agenda. The mini-assembly concerning this amendment was held Thursday.

Will the Vice-Moderator make the appropriate motion?

Donna Harrison: Moved: That the proposed Amendment to change the financial leadership on the Board of Trustees, and found at pages 101 and 102 of the Final Agenda, be adopted by this Assembly.

Moderator: I call upon Susan Weaver to give the position of the Board of Trustees.

Susan Weaver: (live caption)

Moderator: We have up to 30 minutes of debate for this bylaw amendment. As before we will take the pro positions from the microphone on your right, the con positions from the microphone on your left and the procedural microphone is in front of me.

(30 minutes of debate, 20 before amendments, 10 before calling the question.)

Debate and Vote on Presidential Election Campaign Financing Rules

Moderator: Our next item of business today is to consider and vote on the proposed amendments on UUA Presidential election campaign finances. These are found on page 111 of the Final Agenda. The mini-assembly concerning these amendments were held Friday.

Will the Vice-Moderator make the appropriate motion?

Donna Harrison: Moved: That the proposed amendments regarding UUA Presidential election campaign finances and found on page 111 of the Final Agenda, be adopted by this Assembly.

Moderator: I call upon the Rev. Dr. Susan Ritchie to give the position of the Board of Trustees.

Susan Ritchie: (live caption)

Moderator: We have up to 30 minutes of debate for this bylaw amendment. As before we will take the pro positions from the microphone on your right, the con positions from the microphone on your left and the procedural microphone is in front of me.

(30 minutes of debate, 20 before amendments, 10 before calling the question.)

Financial Advisor’s Report

Moderator: Welcome to the podium our Financial Advisor, Larry Ladd. I bet there’s a history lesson in his report.

Larry Ladd: It is my pleasure to speak to you today

I will be covering five topics this morning.

First, let me describe the role of the Financial Advisor, a position created by the General Assembly in 1969.

For me, the role is best summed up by this advice I received from a long time senior minister in our Association, back in 1996 when I first ran for the position.

In fulfilling the role, the Financial Advisor serves on a few committees. [I won’t mention the committees; I’ll just ask for the next slide after the small amount of laughter subsides.]

This slide gives you a picture of the full range of assets “under management or oversight” by the Board. It’s over half a billion dollars. Don’t worry that you can’t read all of these quickly enough, because they are listed in my written report that is available to you. [Again, I won’t mention them; I’ll just quickly ask for the next slide].

Now let me mention briefly some of my activities on your behalf in the last year.

Our financial results include only good news. Our endowment performance, with a strong socially responsible ethos, remains very strong.

I am of the opinion that mission-driven not-for-profit organizations should have essentially perpetual capital campaigns, i.e. that fund raising should be an ongoing high priority, because the need is there but, more importantly, because donors need an opportunity to give their assets for a larger purpose than themselves.

Any mission-based organization should grow, and especially one with a message as compelling as ours. But for us, the performance is mixed. We are experiencing average declines, but the average hides growth in many of our congregations. All of these trends are leading, and should lead, to intensive conversations about the models of religious communities that will serve our mission in the years ahead. For people of my generation, it means doing more “shutting up and listening”.

Ladies and gentleman, this is the first chart I prepared as your Financial Advisor back in 1997, and it may be the first modern example of “performance metrics” used in the UUA. While the numbers in the 1960s are exaggerated (the “fair share” wasn’t used yet so there was no incentive to make the figures accurate), the story is basically: we grew in the 1960s, declined in the 1970s, in the early 1980s began to grow very slowly each year until five years ago, when we began to decline very slowly.

But as I mentioned a few slides back, the overall decline masks the growth that is occurring. Slightly less than half of our congregations have grown in the last ten years, 30 by over 100% and 59 by over 50%. 28 of our 41 large congregations have grown in the last ten years. And we are seeing growth in three of our five regions.

And our congregational revenue and budgets keep growing, whatever happens with membership. So there remains reason for some optimism.

Lastly, let me talk about generosity. And very concretely about APF, congregational giving to support our larger mission.

Let me conclude with some words by the most accessible of our theologians of the 20th century, James Luther Adams.

It is my pleasure to speak to you today.

Motion to Admit Actions of Immediate Witness to Final Agenda

Moderator: I can on Dr. Susan Goekler to report on the results of the votes on which Actions of Immediate Witness will be placed on tomorrow’s agenda.

Susan Goekler: (live caption)

The General Assembly will vote Sunday on:

  • Proposed AIW A: Support the Black Lives Matter Movement
  • Proposed AIW B: Act for a Livable Climate Climate
  • Proposed AIW E: End Immigrant Child and Family Detention Now

Beacon Press Report

Moderator: Beacon Press has been publishing since 1854 and is an integral part of our Association. As Chief Governance Officer, I am keenly aware of the Board of Trustees' responsibility for fiduciary oversight of our Association and that includes our very own Beacon Press.

Helene Atwan was appointed director of Beacon Press by the board of trustees in October of 1995. Please join me in welcoming Helene Atwan, the Director of our Beacon Press.

Helen Atwan: Thank you, it’s an honor, and a pleasure, to be reporting to you about your publishing house this year.

[Slide One (1)]

It’s most appropriate that we’re gathered here in Portland to talk about Sharing the Vision and the Story, because that could be the tag line for the press.

[Slide Two (2)]

One piece of news this year, we signed up the charismatic and visionary William Barber, founder of the Moral Monday movement, who some of you met in Selma, and I think this line from his new book says a great deal: “Long before people went to the polls, our struggle was to reshape the stories that tell us who we are.”

We’re going to amplify Reverend Barber’s message when we publish his book next January!

No Slide

We are with him in trying to reshape the stories about who we are. Our books strive to tell stories that will open and change minds; stories about racial, sexual and gender, economic, and climate justice; stories often told from the vantage point of those whose voices aren’t heard.

In 2015, we’re growing!

[Slide Three (3)]

I’m here for the 13th year in a row to tell you that Beacon Press is doing very well financially; we’ve had our 13th consecutive year of surpluses. We have substantial cash reserves.

We’re putting that money to work to increase our reach,

[Slide Four (4)]

Hiring new editors based out of New York City and Chicago, allowing us to grow when most publishers are shrinking.

[No Slide]

So what have we done to share the Vision of Unitarian Universalism this year, to tell the story we want Americans and the world to hear? Since I have 12 minutes, and not 12 hours, I’m going to limit myself to telling you two stories, but if you’ll go to our web site or our blog, sign up for our UU Newsletter, or browse our books at the UUA Bookstore booth here in the exhibit hall, you’ll see many more examples, examples of our impressive work in the field of Climate Justice, and LGBTQ concerns, and women’s rights, and economic justice, and public health, and…I’d better stop here.

[Slide Five (5)]

We published books that were purchased by 550,000 people in the course of the year. Another 55,000 Beacon books were added to the permanent collections of libraries. And 125,000 of our books were assigned to college students. Another 50,000 sold internationally, in 62 other countries. The books are the first part of the story. Then we work to *amplify* the stories they tell ….

[Slide Six (6)]

In the field of racial justice, we published books by two influential thought leaders, Lani Guinier and Cornel West.

[Slide Seven (7)]

Lani’s book, which argues that we need to change the very definition of merit, to seriously embrace diversity as an essential positive for our society, was read, discussed, and debated all across the traditional media, including in two different articles in The New York Times, and two in The Boston Globe.

[Slide Eight (8)]

Cornel West argues in his two books that we need black prophetic voices, and that we need to reclaim Dr. King’s legacy as a radical activist for social, not just racial, justice. The books were timely, to say the least, and discussed in 22 interviews on TV and national radio broadcast.

[Slide Nine (9)]

Beacon authors in this past year have done over 400 interviews for print or broadcast, what we call “traditional” media and what some of you may call old fashioned.

[Slide Ten (10)]

But let’s face it, when David Letterman praises a Beacon Press author to the skies, we’ll take it!

[Slide Eleven (11)]

And though he wasn’t always interviewed by stars like Letterman, he always made a big impression. Many of his appearances, like this one with me at the Miami Book Fair, were two-fers, a large live audience also airing live for the C-SPAN audience (and repeated a couple of times for night owls). It was a thrill to sit next to Cornel and hear him on fire for justice.

[No Slide]

Cornel did 41 events in 23 cities, attended by at least 8,000 people this year. He signed at least 2,000 books at these events. When he appeared at the UU First Parish Church in Cambridge, the balcony was overflowing. He had to stay past 11 pm to sign all the books—but stay he did! And I promise he will stay to sign after his Ware Lecture tomorrow night!

[Slide Twelve (12)]

Cornel West was very much part of the protest movement that swept the nation this year, as were at least a dozen other Beacon Press authors.

In fact, Beacon authors spoke in person at over 530 events in 43 states, and in 12 other countries, this year. Most of them avoided arrest.

[No Slide]

So, the traditional media and author appearances are two more important ways we Share the Vision.

But Beacon is also very active in the new media, on line and in the blogosphere….

[Slide Thirteen (13)]

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s astonishing retelling of American history from the perspective of the Indigenous Peoples of the continent was one important example. The New York Times ignored the book; David Letterman wasn’t interested….. seriously, for most mainstream, traditional media, this book was simply too challenging, too radical, too explosive. But not for us, or our colleagues at the UUA, and not for you all. So we turned to the social media.

[Slide Fourteen (14)]

We decided to support Roxanne’s efforts to convince the Federal Government to rename Columbus Day Indigenous People’s Day. This was not just a gesture; it was long overdue recognition both of the terrors the settlers imposed on the indigenous people of this continent, and the bravery and endurance of those people.

[No Slide]

We immediately found strong allies on line, with indigenous communities, and in the UU community and especially in the UUA’s communications representatives. We encouraged Roxanne to write an open letter to President Obama, made a video, and posted to social media. But the UUA com. reps came up with an important idea—turn the letter into a petition. We did that. The results:

[Slide Fifteen (15)]

The book trailer has nearly 4k views on YouTube alone, many more across social media. -Videos of Roxanne have nearly 14k views on YouTube; again, more across other platforms

The petition had *8,681*signatures, the blog post had 5,435 *shares*, 61,589 impressions on Twitter, and was shown on Democracy Now! and referenced in The Washington Post. That was, as they say in digital speak, a lot of eyeballs.

[No Slide]

And here’s the final chapter of the story: this 300 plus page book, which sells in hardcover for $27.95, has close to 20,000 copies currently in print. Early indicators are that the paperback will be a huge success.

Because we’ve been such a prophetic voice for liberal religious values for so many decades, our older books continue to find new audiences, and to take on new meaning:

[Slide Sixteen (16)]

Two of our books on water continue to be adopted by UU communities, including the UUSC, a strong supporter of our work.

And speaking of adoptions, in addition to the 125,000 Beacon books that were used by college students, some of our books were selected last year as campus-wide or freshman-year reading,

[Slide Seventeen (17)]

4,500 students on the campus of Western Washington University, for example, read and discussed DO IT ANYWAY, our book about youth activism; 3,900 at the Loyola campus in Chicago shared Eboo Patel’s memoir ACTS OF FAITH, and the on-line course, Education for Ministry, adopted 9,100 copies of our classic book JESUS AND THE DISINHERITED for their students.

[No Slide]

And we had 27,000 views of our Teacher’s Guides for using Beacon books such as Martin Luther King Jr.’s A Time to Break Silence, Michael Patrick Macdonald’s All Souls and Octavia Butler’s Kindred in high school and even middle schools. We’re preparing new editions of several of our classic books tailored to the school market.

I asked some UUA President’s Council members last fall what they were concerned about. Many, of course, mentioned police violence; someone raised the issue of sexual violence; several cited our deep concern, as a religious community, about climate justice; one mentioned disability rights ….

[Slide Eighteen (18)]

I was able not only to recommend books from our past and present, but also to tell them about books we have coming. Whatever is of deep concern to UUs, we are working to share the vision, to tell the stories, and—we sincerely hope, to change the narrative.

[Slide Nineteen (19)]

Thanks to all of our supporters, beginning with you—Thanks to your support for APF, we are amplifying Unitarian Universalist values! And thanks, too, to the UU Veatch Program at Shelter Rock, and the UU Funding Program invaluable partners in amplifying our message. And thanks for listening!

Moderator: Thank you Helene.


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 11:00 a.m. tomorrow morning.

Anna Olsen, Marika Olsen, the Rev. Clark Olsen, and Lee Olsen

Distinguished Service Award Recipient the Rev. Clark Olsen (third from left) with his wife Anna, daughter Marika, and brother Lee.

UU World: liberal religion and life
Logo for General Assembly 2015 in Portland Oregon.

The theme of General Assembly 2015 in Portland, OR, wasBuilding a New Way.

GA Talk - YA@GA - Young Adults @ GA with Rev. Daniel Kanter

GA Talk - Lessons from Selma 2015

GA Talk - Community Ministry