General Session I, General Assembly 2016
General Assembly (GA) 2016 Event 203
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 for details on the specific items to be addressed. General sessions are shorter than previous years in response to delegates’ suggestions. Presenters have been asked to be as brief as possible, 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.
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- Call to Order
- Review and Adopt Rules
- Welcome New Congregations
- Introduction: Right Relations Team
- Introduction: Chaplains
- Introduction: GA Planning Committee
- Introduction: Youth Caucus
- Introduction: Young Adults@GA
- GA Accessibility
- Commission on Social Witness Report (YouTube)
- Commission on Appraisal Report (YouTube)
- Introduction: International Guests
- Black Lives of Unitarian Universalists Report (YouTube)
- Beacon Press Report (YouTube)
- Reverend Dr. William T. Barber, II
The following final draft script was completed before this event took place; actual words spoken may vary.
Welcome and Call to Order
Moderator: Good morning and welcome. I am Jim Key and privileged to serve you as Moderator and Chief Governance Officer.
It is in that role, I now call to order the Fifty-Fifth General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association.
Moderator: Before we begin the work of our association together, I want to acknowledge that many of us are coming into this place with heavy hearts as a result of the mass shooting of our LGBTQ and Latinx siblings in Orlando, just 12 days ago. Last year we were celebrating the Supreme Court decision that recognized marriage equality was legal; now we are all grieving, but perhaps the most traumatized are our LGBTQ siblings.
We know there may be triggering events this week that will require many of you to seek a quiet, safe, and sacred space. Such a sanctuary has been set aside in Room C124-125 here in the convention center. All LGBTQ people are welcome in that Sanctuary space throughout GA. Allies may seek sanctuary in the meditation room, C115
The cruel and hateful speech that seems to be flooding news and social media these days is disturbing to us all. Some public personalities are maligning people of color, people of faith, people who are refugees, people with different abilities, people with non-conforming gender expression, and even people who express a compassionate view of the world. These evil expressions are the opposite of our belief in the inherent worth and dignity of all…no exceptions.
Moreover, too many young black men and women have been killed this year at the hands of police. This week, here in Columbus, yet another young black man was shot and killed by plainclothes police officers. His name was Henry Green. He joins Mike Brown, Sandra Bland, Rekia Boyd, Tamir Rice, and too many others.
How many of our black siblings will have to die this year? How many of our LGBTQ siblings? How many LatinX? How many of our children? It is easy to despair, and it is OK to withdraw from time to time as we reflect on answers. But this liberal and socially progressive faith calls us on. It is the work we are called to do; transform our world with more love, more justice, and more peace.
Dr. King told us that “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
We are the love people and we have a whole lot of loving to do this week.
Within that context, this week we will deal with bylaw amendments, business resolutions, congregational study/action issues, actions of immediate witness that will lead to debate and a vote. These debates by passionate and committed UUs reveal our own humanity and sometimes lead to inflammatory language that does not represent our best selves.
I want to name all of these anxieties that we all bring into this space and ask that you participate faithfully and compassionately as we go about our business this week. Assume the best intentions of our speakers and proponents and opponents of specific business items. Many of us will be challenged at our growing edges.
Breath! Breath with me now and move into your non-anxious presence that will serve us all well.
Moderator: I want to introduce our two seminary presidents: The Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt is President of Starr King School for the Ministry in Oakland CA, and the Rev. Lee Barker is President of Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago.
I’ve asked Rosemary and Lee to reflect on what it means to be in religious community during times of crisis and anxiety.
Rev. McNatt and Rev. Barker: To be live-captioned.
Moderator: Thanks so much for that reflection. Thank you Lee and Rosemary.
Review and Adopt Rules
Moderator: Now we shift to business. We begin our first General Session with a review and adoption of the rules. I hope you have reviewed the agenda for the five General Sessions over the next four days. They are in what we call the Program Book.
The proposed Rules of Procedure can be found on pages 90 through 92.
These rules will govern our consideration of, and voting on, the business items that come before us during our general sessions. The rules are the same as in previous years with one change I think you will like. Note that Rule 6, item d) on page 90 of the Program Book indicates that time taken at the procedural microphone for procedural questions will not count against debate time.
There are a couple of rules that I want you to focus on.
Please note that Rule 5 provides that no amendments to a business resolution, bylaw change, or rule change will be in order unless submitted for consideration at the mini-assembly for that item.
Also, please note that Rule 2 provides that, unless the Association’s bylaws otherwise require, action on all matters will be decided by an uncounted show of voting cards, or by an uncounted standing vote. A vote will be counted only in two instances. If there is doubt about the outcome of a vote, I will call for a count. A count will also be taken if so requested by a delegate and if 99 other delegates join the request.
In either instance, the count will be made by the tellers who are present on the floor of the assembly. They are wearing those great vests.
In addition, Rule 7 provides that separate microphones will be designated as pro and con for discussion of proposed bylaw amendments, rules, resolutions or actions.
The pro microphone is up front on your right (point). The con microphone is up front on your left (point). There is also an amendment microphone, which has been placed at the front far right (point), and a procedural microphone, which has been placed immediately in front of me (point).
Please note that points of personal privilege and points of information must be made from the procedural mike. Only delegates may speak from the microphones, except by express permission of the Moderator.
I strongly urge those of you who are attending General Assembly General Sessions for the first time to read the Rules of Procedure. Particularly look at Rule 6 on page 90 of the Rules, so that you understand the time limits in effect. No person may speak on any motion for more than two minutes and only once. Thirty minutes is the time allowed for discussion of any proposed bylaw amendment, rule change, resolution or action.
All we all good with the rules?
Will the Vice-Moderator make the appropriate motion with respect to the Rules of Procedure?
Denise Rimes: Moved: That the Rules of Procedure of this General Assembly as set forth in full on pages 90 through 92 of the Program Book be adopted by this assembly.
Moderator: Is there a second?
It has been moved and seconded to adopt the Rules of Procedure as set forth on pages 90 through 92 of the Program Book.
Adopting the Rules of Procedure require a 2/3 majority. Are you ready to vote?
There being no [time for further] discussion of the Rules of Procedure, discussion is now closed and a vote is in order. All those in favor of adopting the Rules of Procedure, please do so by raising your green voting card. (Pause for response.) All those opposed. (Pause for response.)
Let's wait for the off-site delegates to vote on these rules.
(A two-thirds vote is required to adopt the Rules of Procedure; any Amendment requires a two-thirds vote. The Moderator announces the result of the vote.)
The Rules of Procedure as set forth on pages 90 through 92 of the Program Book has been adopted.
Welcome New Congregations
Moderator: Now let me introduce the Vice-Moderator of the UUA Board of Trustees, Denise Rimes.
Denise Rimes: Greetings. I am Denise Rimes, the Vice Moderator of the UUA Board. One of the great joys of this association of our chosen faith is welcoming and certifying new congregations. This year, it gives us great pleasure to present to you our Director of Congregational Life, Rev. Scott Tayler, and the Unitarian Universalists of Benton County in Bentonville, Arkansas.
Established in 2009, UUBC is a vibrant spiritual community for Benton County, free of dogma and guided by love, reason and conscience. They are a fellowship seeking knowledge, expressing love, providing service, and building community.
Scott Tayler: Today, we are pleased to have leaders from Bentonville with us. I am Rev. Scott Tayler, your Director of Congregational Life at our UUA. Today we recognize not only that your congregation has official standing, but also that you are now surrounded by a wider web of support, care and mutual covenant. And so, on behalf of our UUA staff and our wider association of congregations, I want to publicly pledge our support to you and honor your decision to be accountable to your fellow congregations. Now you are not alone. Now your journey is not your own. Now we are on a path together. To honor this commitment of mutual support and obligation, I offer your congregation this chalice and this copy of the Cambridge Platform, may they serve as a reminder that our hearts and fates are now entwined.
Denise Rimes: Welcome, friends, and best wishes for a long and rich history, Benton County!
Moderator: Thank you Denise and Scott and a warm welcome to the UUs of Benton, AR.
Introduction: Right Relationship Team
Moderator: Also welcome one of the co-chairs of your 2016 Right Relationship Team, Rev. Lisa Bovee-Kemper. Lisa is the Associate Minister at the UU Congregation of Asheville, NC
Lisa Bovee-Kemper: The right relationship team exists for the five days of General Assembly to help us live into our covenant as Unitarian Universalists. We are here, in our unmistakable orange, to walk with each of you as you navigate living in this diverse community. We are not your "complaint department" or your "suggestion box" but a team of people who will partner with you when you feel an "ouch" from another person, or if you realize you have caused an "ouch" and would like to make amends.
We are a people of many identities: people of color, immigrants, indigenous people, people of differing abilities, trans and gender non-conforming people, gay, lesbian, bisexual and queer people. We are women, we are men, we are all genders. We are young, we are elders, we are boomers and millennials—and don't forget gen X! We are people of much privilege and we are people of some privilege, and we are people of no privilege at all. As individuals and as a group, we are much, much more than could be described in these limited words.
Each of us holds multiple identities, and each identity has different wounds and needs and blind spots. And, at this moment in time, on top of all that, we are a people living in the aftermath. We hold so many ongoing hurts: deaths and violations of brown bodies and queer bodies and female bodies—some of them our own, some of them our loved ones, and some of them faces we only met after their death. At the forefront this week are the mass shooting in Orlando and the sentencing in the Stanford rape case. Living in the aftermath of violence is challenging, heartbreaking, traumatic.
And so in particular this General Assembly, we ask for an extra dose of gentleness and compassion toward one another. Will you all take a deep breath with me? <breathe> This week, remember to stay hydrated and rested. Know that we are all a bit raw, and remember that your fellow attendees may be tender in ways you cannot see. Breathe before you speak. Breathe before you respond. Love one another, even if you do not know one another yet. And if you need help navigating a conflict, if you would like to talk through anything that happens here, find an orange shirt or bandanna—We look forward to meeting you.
Introduction: GA Chaplains
Moderator: It’s important to our UU community here at General Assembly that we offer the presence and support of GA Chaplains.
It’s a pleasure to introduce Lead Chaplain Rev. Jennifer Brooks. Rev. Brooks is the Senior Interim Minister at First UU Church here in Columbus, OH.
Jennifer Brooks: Greetings, Columbus General Assembly.
Here at General Assembly we have many chaplains serving our various constituent groups. But here’s what makes the GA Chaplain Corps unique.
All of our chaplains are fellowshipped UU ministers.
We’re chosen by the GA Planning Committee to be available to everyone 24 hours a day.
Our diversity reflects the beauty of this gathering.
Each day the GA Chaplains offer early morning spiritual practice in the Meditation Room. But even if you aren’t an early riser, the Meditation Room is a great place to give yourself a break for silence, meditation, or prayer during these long days at GA.
And, please, make sure to pace yourselves. There’s so much do; so many old friends to see; so many new friends to meet. But please, notice how you’re feeling, and (if you need to) take a nap.
If you find yourself in need of spiritual support or pastoral care, come see us. We’re here for you. Sometimes events at home catch up with you here; or events here trigger old pain.
If that happens, every day we have drop-in hours in the Chaplain Office. If you need a Chaplain outside office hours, or if our office is just too far away, call the Chaplain phone. It’s monitored 24/7, so even if it rings to voicemail just leave a message and one of us will get back to you right away.
And I mean right away.
As in other years, the GA Chaplains work closely with the Right Relations team—in fact our offices are next door. We know that oftentimes a breach of relationship needs both an institutional and a pastoral response. We work with the Right Relations Team to meet both needs.
Now say hello to your 2016 GA Chaplains:
- Jan Carlsson-Bull
- Alex Holt
- John Crestwell
- Brian Mason
- Theresa Soto
- Karen Tse
All during GA, you’ll find us roaming throughout the Convention Center. You’ll know us by our hats: Look for the bright gold UUA logo.
Even if you don’t need to talk to us, feel free to pull us aside to say hello—or drop by the Chaplains' Office.
We are here to serve this gathering of beloved community.
Moderator: The Chaplain corps is an important part of any GA. Thank you Jennifer.
General Assembly Planning Committee
Moderator: The GAPC is a Committee of the Association authorized by the bylaws, Article 5. It is a committee accountable to the delegates rather than to the Governance structure of the Association, the Board of Trustees.
The Chair of the General Assembly Planning Committee, or GAPC, is the Rev. Chip Roush, and he is the minister of First Unitarian Church of South Bend, IN. Welcome Rev. Roush.
Chip Roush: Thank you, Moderator Key.
I am honored to work with a very talented, very dedicated group of people on the General Assembly Planning Committee—and it should be obvious that, as remarkable as they are, the committee does not actually create our General Assembly. Nor do we create all of the programs and meetings held “in connection therewith”—during the days before or after GA.
Rather, the committee creates the structure within which the speakers, musicians, officers, ushers, vendors, staff personnel, dancers, delegates and thousands of other Unitarian Universalists go about creating transformational experiences for each other.
This week we have gathered to do the business of our Association; we will also mourn and celebrate; we will witness for justice; and we will share an uncountable number of ideas and best practices. Many of us will leave GA feeling that our lives have been changed in profound ways.
Helping to create the space for all that to happen is one of my favorite things.
The work of the Planning Committee can be difficult, challenging, exhausting, and immensely rewarding. We and the rest of our Unitarian Universalist Association are always looking for new leaders—especially talented leaders who help us to more closely resemble the society in which we live. If you think you would like to serve on the Planning Committee, please do look up the Nominating Committee process online—by the August deadline!
Finally, allow me to introduce this year’s General Assembly Planning Committee [slide 1]. It is truly my pleasure to serve with these good people:
- Katherine Allen
- Mary Alm
- Debra Gray Boyd
- Jennifer Gray
- Ila Klion
- Tuli Patel
- Samuel Prince
- and the Director of General Assembly & Conference Services for our UUA, Jan Sneegas.
Moderator: Thanks to the GAPC and all the magic they perform behind the scenes.
Introduction: Youth Caucus Deans
Moderator: Now, I want you to meet the co-deans of the Youth Caucus for this General Assembly.
Andrea: Hello everyone!
Eric: My name is Eric Broner and I am from the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta in Atlanta, Georgia.
Andrea: My name is Andrea Briscoe and I am from Main Line Unitarian Church in Devon, Pennsylvania.
Eric: We are the co-deans of the Youth Caucus here at General Assembly 2016. There are over ___ high school aged youth at GA this year! We could not be happier sharing our faith with you all.
Eric: We would like to formally invite everyone, of all age, to share our space in room _____ of the Convention Center. We’ll be hosting workshops and worships all week that you can find in your program book.
Andrea: –and when we say all ages, we really do mean it. We would love to see every one of you share our space throughout GA, working with us to create inter-generational connections.
Eric: Youth Caucus Staff will be wearing pink bandanas throughout the week. Please come up and talk to us if you have any questions. Or if you just want to talk, we love doing that too.
Andrea: This year we have programs about anti-racism/anti-oppression/multiculturalism, intersectionality, and social justice, as well as some great worships and many community-building opportunities.
Eric: We hope our programs help you reconnect to our Unitarian Universalist values, reach out across generations, and try something new!
Andrea: We are so excited to be in this community and we hope you join us in celebrating our faith. Thank you!
Moderator: Andrea Briscoe and Eric Broner, great job.
Introduction: Young Adult Leaders
Moderator: Now let’s meet the co-facilitators of Young Adults at GA, or YA@GA.
Ayla: Hello Everyone! My name is Ayla Halberstadt from the UU Fellowship of Central Oregon in Bend Oregon.
Cameron: And I’m Cameron Young from Westside UU Church in Fort Worth Texas. We are the Co-Facilitators for Young Adults @ General Assembly or YA@GA for General Assembly 2016.
Ayla: We couldn't be more excited to be this year's co-facilitators! You can identify us and the other YA@GA staff throughout the week by the blue bandanas we will be wearing.
Cameron: While the young adult age range is 18-35, we invite all ages to spend time with YA@GA in C210-211 in the convention center where we will be worshiping together, building community, and hosting workshops like multi-generational panel discussions, to ted style talks all week.
Ayla: We look forward to being in Columbus with you all and look forward to connecting within and beyond our faith this week! Have a wonderful GA!
Moderator: Thank you Ayla and Cameron.
Introduction: GA Accessibility
Moderator: Please welcome Patty Cameron, who is here to tell us about Accessibility Services at this General Assembly. The GA Planning Committee and Patty have done a great job over the years at making GA more and more accessible to more and more people. Let’s hear what Patty has to tell us.
Patty Cameron: Welcome to General Assembly 2016!
My name is Patty Cameron and it’s my pleasure to coordinate Accessibility Services for General Assembly. Our services are available to anyone registered here at General Assembly, and our goal is to provide assistance that allows everyone to participate fully in GA. It is our collective role to practice radical hospitality in order to build a beloved community – a community that includes everyone – those who use mobility equipment, listening devices, interpreters, have chemical sensitivities, assist dogs, or need special seating to accommodate for vision or hearing. It’s our collective role to welcome all!
While you’re here at GA, please pay particular attention as we pass along the halls, navigate the public witness event, and attend workshops together. Move along in the hallways, remembering that scooters don’t have brakes – please don’t stop suddenly to chat because the person behind you using a scooter can’t stop suddenly.
As convention centers go, Columbus offers a few elevators that can’t begin to accommodate all who need one. Please reserve the elevators for people with mobility or health needs.
I invite you to be with one another this week in ways that allow you to practice radical hospitality, stretch your comfort zone, enrich your spirit, open your heart a little (or a lot!), and widen your field as you take in all those around you whether they walk or ride. We are all part of this General Assembly – one beloved community – a bright, wonderful community of people of all abilities. Be with each other in love. Thank you!
Moderator: Thanks Patty.
Commission on Social Witness Report
Moderator: The Commission on Social Witness is another important committee articulated in our bylaws in Article 5, and like the GAPC is accountable to the delegates and outside our Association’s governance structures.
Give it up for the chair of your Commission on Social Witness, Dr. Susan Goekler.
Susan Goekler: Please refer to the UUA GA webpage or the GA APP for the written report of the Commission on Social Witness (PDF). Between the 2015 and 2016 General Assemblies, the CSW reviewed applications for new congregational study action issues (CSAIs). We also solicited comments on the CSAI selected in 2014 on Escalating Inequality (EI), and judged submissions for the Social Witness Sermon Contest that we co-sponsor with the UU Ministers Association.
The other elected and appointed members of the Commission on Social Witness (CSW) are Rev. Caitlin Cotter, Rev. Christina Sillari, Ms. Jyaphia Christos-Rogers, and Mr. Richard Bock. Look for our blue caps if you want help navigating the opportunities at GA to participate in the social witness statement process. The work of the CSW is supported by the UUA through the Annual Program Fund (APF).
Each day, the CSW publishes a new CSW Alert, available on the GA App and in the General Session Hall. The Alert describes upcoming activities related to statements that witness to our collective social justice commitments. Unlike some faith traditions, Unitarian Universalism does not rely on divine inspiration to tell us how to live out our faith. Instead, we rely on the sometimes messy “democratic process.” Delegates thus have a chance to help craft our equivalent of Papal encyclicals through the CSAI process as well as to raise our voices about urgent issues through Actions of Immediate Witness.
Tomorrow, delegates will select one issue for 4 years of study and action; you can find the four issues under consideration on pages 97-100. In October, the UUA Staff will post a study guide on the UUA website to help congregations engage on this selected issue. On your return home, I hope you will involve your congregation on the issue so that in three years, when this body considers a statement of conscience on the issue, you will be informed voters. Statements of Conscience carry the full weight of the denomination and allow several opportunities for congregational input. For issues that come up quickly, delegates may propose, discuss, and vote on Actions of Immediate Witness. AIWs only express the intent of the delegates at this General Assembly. They do not become official policy of the denomination.
For help with AIWs, come to the CSW booth in the exhibit hall. Proposals are due TODAY at 5 p.m. The CSW also offers a space in our exhibit booth where people wishing to collect signatures for their own social justice–related petitions, other than AIWs may do so.
On Saturday afternoon, the CSW, in collaboration with the UUA Board and the GA Planning committee will hold a listening session to gather your ideas for improving the denomination’s processes for collective social justice witnessing and action.
Moderator: Susan, thanks for that and I hope that those of you interested in how we do social justice will come to the Vision for Social Justice Witness workshop tomorrow at 4:45 pm in room C220.
Commission on Appraisal Report
Moderator: The Commission on Appraisal is the third organization to report this morning that is accountable to our delegates under our bylaws and not to governance structure, the Board of Trustees.
I am please to introduce to you the chair of the Commission on Appraisal, the Rev. Nato Hollister, entrepreneurial minister of the Sacred Fire Missional community in Carrboro, North Carolina with sites in Brooklyn and Seattle, and probably coming to a community near you soon.
Nathan Hollister: The Commission continues our work on class and classism, and will complete it in time for GA 2017. There were many challenges following the developments in 2015, when proposed changes to the composition and very existence of the Commission meant understandable turmoil. The Commission, which was reaffirmed at GA 2015, experienced significant transitions, and through them we have reconstituted ourselves into a strong and viable team. We stand on the shoulders of all the Commissions who have come before us, and in particular we see our work on class and classism as a natural outgrowth of the valuable studies of recent Commissions on Appraisal on membership, governance and polity, and theological diversity.
The transitions over the last year and a half included the resignations of some Commissioners and the ends of terms for others. Since GA 2015 we have brought our numbers up from 2 to the current 6, and can report that this size seems both efficient for the work and a good use of resources. At this time we are therefore recommending that no new Commissioners be nominated, and that the issue be put before the General Assembly in 2017.
During our two face to face meetings since GA 2015 and monthly conference calls, we have structured the completion of the current report, which includes a significant rewrite and supplementation of the preliminary report presented at GA 2015.
At our meeting March we had the opportunity to join with Finding Our Way Home, the group of Unitarian Universalist professionals and seminarians who are people of color. We received valuable feedback from its participants, who were generous with their time and insights. This assistance will prove to have an invaluable influence on the Commission’s study. The Commission is pursuing and is engaged in dialogue with voices from all classes to aid us in this work, and we are focusing on how class and classism affect all of us differently in light of the intersecting oppressions of race, gender, sexuality, ability, age, and others.
We look forward to presenting the report on class at GA 2017. It is our fervent hope that this study will help bring our UUA, our faith, and the world closer to the Beloved Community to which we are called.
The commissioners are:
- Rev. Nathan Alan Hollister, Chair, Carrboro, NC
- Peter Kandis, Vice Chair, Hilton Head Island, SC
- Rev. Xolani Kacela, Ph.D., Treasurer, Durham, NC
- Virginia Abraham, Secretary, Port Charlotte, FL
- Kathleen Henry, Project Manager, Truro, MA
- Katie Romano Griffin, Chaplain, Fort Myers, FL
Moderator: Thanks for that report Nato.
The Presidential Search Committee, yet another of the structures established by the delegates and outside of our governance structure—that's them on the screen—was pleased to present their nominees for the office of President of the Unitarian Universalist Association. The committee spent several years listening to you, creating a job description, soliciting names, reviewing applications, interviewing applicants and vetting the possibilities.
After naming two candidates, one withdrew several weeks after announcement. The bylaws for this new procedure precluded any process other than to encourage candidates to run by petition. Two answered the call.
As most of you know, these are candidates for President of our UUA: The Rev. Alison Miller selected by the committee and the Reverands Susan Frederick-Gray and Jeanne Pupke who entered via petition.
I encourage you all to attend the presidential candidate forum which takes place in this hall on Saturday at 1:15pm.
After the election, next year in New Orleans, the search committee will present to the board of trustees and the delegates a report of what they learned with this new process. Until then, they encourage each of us to get to know these candidates, engage the conversation, and enjoy our beautiful and wild and sometimes messy democratic process.
Moderator: Now, I am pleased to introduce the Rev. Eric Cherry, Director of our International Office who will introduce our guests from around the world..
Eric Cherry: We are blessed to be joined by many Unitarian, Universalist and interfaith colleagues from around the world at this year’s General Assembly. The UUA’s Sixth Principle declares that we covenant to affirm and promote the goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all. May the time all of us share together at General Assembly this year contribute to the achievement of that vision. We are so glad to welcome each of you.
From Rissho Kosei-kai, our Buddhist colleagues in Japan, we are honored to welcome Executive Specialist for Interreligious Cooperation, Reverend Masahiro Nemoto, and from RKK’s External Relations Group, Ms. Ikuyo Kase and Ms. Kyoko Hirota.
From Tsubaki Grand Shrine, one of Japan’s most ancient Shinto shrines, and a dear partner of the UUA, Chief Priest Guji Yamamoto and Rev. Ochiai.
From the International Association for Religious Freedom’s Human Rights Resource Centre in Thallampadu, India, Brother Albert Xavier.
From the Religious Society of Czech Unitarians we are honored to welcome President Týna Kolajová Ledererová and the minister of the Prague Unitarian Church, Reverend Petr Samojsky.
From Ahmedabad, India, where he has long been a courageous social justice activist and partner with the UU Holdeen India program, and where he now serves as a Unitarian minister, we are honored to welcome Rev. Mahesh Uphadyaya.
From the Hungarian Unitarian Church, we are honored to welcome a number of guests: Reverend David Gyero, Deputy Bishop, and President of the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists. Rev. Laszlo Major, minister of the Unitarian Church in Datk, the current Balazs Scholar at Starr King School for the Ministry. Also, the minister of the Unitarian Church in Bagyon, Rev. Bela Fekete, along with his wife Poli and son Laszlo.
From the European Unitarian Universalists, representing UU Fellowships and individuals in France, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium and beyond we welcome President Matt Gilsenian and seminarian Lara Fuchs.
From the Unitarian Union of Northeast India we are honored to have the Chairwoman of the Orphanage Management Committee, D. Barishisha Mukhim, with us.
And, finally, we welcome Arman Pedro, a lay-leader and seminarian with the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Philippines.
Thank you to all of our guests from around the world who have joined us this year. Please join our international guests at the following workshops and events during GA. May the time we spend together be a blessing.
Moderator: You have been introduced to a lot of folks this morning. Let’s change things up and sing!
Susan Peck, our gifted GA Music Coordinator, will give us a lyrical lift and lead us in some singing. Susan is the new Director of Music in Albuquerque, NM. Joining her is Hal Walker, music director of the UU Church of Kent, OH and whom I had the great privilege of hearing recently at a district assembly in Kent.
Susan Peck: Good morning! How are you all feeling? Are you ready to sing a song with us? I’m so happy to introduce Hal Walker, music director of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent OH for over 20 years, and one of most talented musicians I know. Hal and his trio, UU and Me, will be giving a concert tonight at [room/place] after the Service of the Living Tradition, so you can hear more of his music this evening.
Hal Walker: This song [short history of song]...
"Love Grows" or "Life Wonderful," Words & music by Hal Walker ©2015
Moderator: That was great. You get an opportunity to enjoy more of Hal’s musicianship tonight with a concert following the Service of the Living Tradition in Union Station Ballroom A.
Be A Friend Promotion
Moderator: Friends of the UUA allows the Unitarian Universalist Association to respond to the needs of all of our congregations, and strengthens our voice for justice and equality in the world. It supports all of the work of the Association. I hope that you will Be a Friend here at GA! And I have an incentive for you to be one this week.
I invite you to enter the Be a Friend drawing for a chance to win a trip to GA 2017 including registration for two adults, New Orleans hotel accommodations for 4 nights and a fabulous New Orleans gift basket in your hotel room! Maybe there will be a few beignets in that basket. Probably not though; you need to go to Café du Monde after midnight and eat them while they are hot. But I digress!
Please consider making a suggested donation of $20 or more along with your entry. We are grateful to the four donor families who pledged $20,000 in matching gifts to help inspire your generosity.
To enter, visit the Stewardship and Development booth outside the exhibit hall or go to uua.org/BeAFriend. Thank you!
Black Lives Matter
Moderator: Please welcome Leslie MacFayden and Lena K. Gardner of the Black Lives of UU organizing collective. They and their team have been very busy since the Black Lives Matter Action of Immediate Witness was overwhelmingly supported last year in Portland. Leslie?
Leslie MacFayden: Good morning General Assembly 2016! My name is Leslie Mac, I founded the Ferguson Response Network and I am a Black UU from Grand Rapids, Michigan. Last July with support from the UUA Office of Multicultural Growth & Witness, a group of Black UUs attended the Movement for Black Lives Convening (M4BL) at Cleveland State University. I personally served that weekend as the Convening Co-Coordinator while another Black Lives of UU Organizer, Elandria Williams, led the onsite Safety Team. Over several meals that weekend Black UUs engaged in a series of conversations, which planted the seeds that would ultimately become Black Lives of UU.
Our work over the last 10 months as a collective has led to our participation here at General Assembly where we hope to engage with many of you directly. Our 4-session Program Track is designed to be both informational and transformational.
We begin with two sessions: “Black Lives Convening & Explicitly Black Spaces,” and “Black Lives in Unitarian Universalist History.” Black UUs who attended the M4BL Convening will talk about their experience in the first and Kenny Wiley focuses on the long history of Black UUs making change in our faith and in the world in the second.
Our final two sessions are workshops that include affinity spaces for Black folks, non-Black people of color, and white allies. “An Introduction to Anti-Blackness” will delve into the ingrained ways that Black people and Blackness are made to seem ‘less than’. The track ends with a double session, “Our On-Going Work”, which will begin in affinity spaces and transition into a combined space geared to enable attendees to leave General Assembly with concrete ways to move forward. We invite everyone to join us for these sessions, as well as our Black Lives-centered closing worship Sunday afternoon. Together we can transform our faith.
Lena Gardner: My name is Lena Katherine Gardner, I work at the Church of the Larger Fellowship, am part of the Black Lives of UU organizing collective and organizer with Black Lives Matter Minneapolis.
Last time there was a Black revolutionary movement, thousands of Black UUs were so hurt by the actions of some, they permanently left our faith. I want us to learn from our past. Those events, the injustice of Black slavery, Indigenous genocide and land theft can move us into despair, and hopelessness. We can let guilt and shame paralyze us, or we can do something different. For every one of us investing in Black-led organizations and leadership is one of the most powerful things we can do to resist white supremacy. We must also be willing to support groups in innovative ways, ways that may be uncomfortable, ways that are different. We must be willing to help people grow in areas they don’t have a lot of experience and trust them to do the work in a new way. Giving money and supporting Black leadership cannot bring back lives lost or continued injustices sustained, but it can be part of our ongoing journey towards justice as UUs.
I believe we can embrace our history and forge a new path toward liberation. When we don’t turn away or diminish our history, we can learn from it. When we listen to the new leaders and make space for new ways of doing things, we can build a new way. Let us journey together into discomfort, let us have courage to take new risks together, let us give as we never have before of our money, our time, and our talents.
Leslie: The Black Lives of UU organizing collective is deeply rooted in Unitarian Universalism. We are here doing this work because we insist on working toward making the First Principle of this faith a reality. To say “we affirm the inherent worth and dignity of every person” is a nice place to start, but we—each and every one of us in this faith—have to work to make that true.
Many of you—through hanging church banners and going to protests and so much more–have deepened your commitment to the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s going to take all of us. If you are white, we need you to take risks—risk disrupting unjust systems, risk pushing your congregation to do more, to risk pointing out white supremacy when you see it, and to risk trusting people and voices that society tells us have less value. For people of color, our challenge is to lead with care, courage and in solidarity with each other.
The less society says we should trust someone’s voice or experience, the more we need to listen to them. Black Lives of UU is here to move from the margins toward the center, and bring our faith’s great promises--the idea that we are all connected, and that each of us has inherent worth—to fruition.
On Saturday morning, right here in this hall, the assembly will take a special collection on behalf of Black Lives of UU. By itself, money won’t end white supremacy—but it can buy us tools to put some real dents in it. We need one another. May we be the Unitarian Universalists who give fiercely, who love deeply, and who, through not just our words and our banners, but also through our deeds and actions, proclaim that Black Lives Matter!
Moderator: Lena and Leslie, thanks so much for your work this year. I can attest to their hard work, and I remind you of the collection that will be taken on Saturday to benefit BLUU.
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. I have been impressed with their financial success over the past few years when other imprints are struggling. It seems to imply there is a market for books from a progressive publisher such as our 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.
Helene Atwan: Thank you Jim. I’m so happy to be here, reporting on your press for the 21st year!
I like to think that Beacon is a place Where Faiths Connect. Certainly we’ve been publishing books by Faith Leaders for over 160 years.
And of course, we are so proud of publishing this vital, essential blueprint for Interfaith work by Rev. William Barber, one of our new century’s most prominent and powerful religious leaders.
I feel not only very proud, but also very grateful to be speaking before him… because I have had the joy of hearing Rev. Barber speak, and believe me, nobody wants to follow him. Don’t worry, I only have 5 minutes!
Before coming out to GA, each of you was invited to explore some resources offered by the UUA and Beacon. One, of course, was THE THIRD RECONSTRUCTION.
Another resource was a section from Eboo Patel’s forthcoming book, Interfaith Leadership: A Primer, which Beacon has made available in advance of publication specifically so we could share it with you all here.
You were invited to follow Eboo Patel’s lead and find your own interfaith story and share it with family, friends, and congregation.
Those of you who haven’t yet found Eboo’s work, there are three wonderful books awaiting you.
And where does Interfaith connection begin? With our children, of course. We need to teach children about the rich diversity of beliefs and traditions that surrounds them in our schools. Faith Ed demonstrates that there is a place, and a pressing need, for teaching *about* religion in our public schools.
Beacon author Deborah Jian Lee began her own initiative: One Book, One Church, a national, inter-church book club that will read Rescuing Jesus with an eye toward developing concrete strategies for practicing radical inclusion and pursuing authentic social justice.
Over the course of summer 2016, communities across the nation will read Rescuing Jesus together, discuss the material online and participate in online events featuring conversations with the author and leading progressive evangelical thinkers and activists. Urban Village Church, a Methodist Church in Chicago began this with Deborah, and there are currently about 700 people signed up.
Doesn’t that sound like something you and your peers want to join?
We publish many books about faith and faith leaders,
We also publish many about the issues that are of deep concern to people of all faiths. Lifting up the voices of activists and thought leaders is what we strive to do, year after year, and this year I’m humbled by speaking, even briefly, before the prophetic and inspiring Rev. William Barber.
Moderator: Helene, thank you for that report. I can report that I have read The Third Reconstruction and it is worth your attention. Maybe I can get my copy signed by Rev. Barber today.
Rev. Dr. William T. Barber, Jr.
Moderator: Rev. Dr. William Barber II, is the architect of the historic Moral Monday Movement in North Carolina.
He is also author of the new Beacon book you have heard us reference. Let me give you the full title: The Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and the Rise of a New Justice Movement.
As you know, North Carolina has been ground zero for voter suppression and more recently in the fight for transgender equality. Actions of legislators in North Carolina have made my state of residence, South Carolina, appear progressive.
Rev. Barber is leading the fight to defend voting rights and helping build a broad movement to stop hate.
He has emerged as a prophetic national justice leader for these times.
In April, Rev. Barber, along with Rev. Dr. James Forbes, launched a national “Moral Revival Tour: Time for a Moral Revolution of Values”. This tour will redefine morality in American politics and challenge leaders of faith and moral courage to be more vocally opposed to harmful policies that disproportionately impact the poor, people who are ill, children, immigrants, communities of color, religious minorities, and the trans community. You can find out about the tour and when it will be coming to your area at ourfuture.org.
I first met Rev. Barber in Selma as we commemorated the 50th anniversary of the march from Selma to Montgomery. I was privileged to share the platform with him and many elders of the Civil Rights Movement at a Mass Meeting at the First Baptist Church of Selma. I marched with him and President Morales and hundreds of UUs last summer in Winston-Salem NC and thousands of others to defend voting rights.
I plan on joining him when the Moral Revival Tour comes to Charleston SC on August 8th. I invite all of you, who may be in the area and want to experience the Lowcountry of South Carolina in August, to come and join us.
It is my very great honor and privilege to welcome the Rev. Barber to speak to our General Assembly!
Thank you for all that you are doing in your work for justice. Be assured that we Unitarian Universalists stand in solidarity with you.
Rev. Barber: To be live-captioned.
Moderator: Thank you Rev. Barber. And a reminder to all that Rev. Barber will be keynoting the Racial Justice track beginning in Union Station, Ballroom B at 10:45 am today.
Moderator: Now its time to call on the Secretary of our Association, Rob Eller-Isaacs, for any announcements.
Rob Eller-Isaacs: This Saturday at 1:15pm in the Plenary Hall we'll be having our first General Assembly UUA Presidential Candidates' Forum, featuring the Reverends Alison Miller, Susan Frederick-Gray, and Jeanne Pupke. GA participants are invited to submit questions in advance of this Forum. The submitted questions will be reviewed by the Election Campaign Practices Committee, which the candidates have determined will select the questions for Saturday’s Forum. Questions should be addressed to all three Presidential candidates and can be submitted electronically at: elections [at] uua [dot] org or by filling out a paper form that is available at the GA Office, Convention Center Room 111, prior to 5pm on Friday. We encourage and welcome your participation in shaping the future of our religious movement.
Moderator: Thanks Rob
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 8:30 a.m. on Friday, June 24, 2016.