General Session III, General Assembly 2017

General Assembly 2017 Event 303

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Unedited Live Captioning (TXT)

Program Description

A team of board-appointed moderators preside over the general sessions in which the business of the Association is conducted.


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

Call to Order

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

Opening Words

Moderator: Bailey Saddlemire, a Youth Observer on our Board, will offer opening words this morning.

Bailey Saddlemire: (live caption)

Right Relationship Team Report

Moderator: Does the Right Relationship Team have anything to report?

Presidents’ Report

Moderator: Our co-presidents have been hard at work since their appointments. We are extraordinarily grateful for all they have achieved and the path they are crafting for our next president I give you our co-presidents.

Bill: In a normal year, the President’s and Staff Report is an opportunity to celebrate achievements, hold up examples of how we are living our faith in the world and invite thanks for the dedicated work of the UUA staff.

We do want to begin by giving a shout out to the staff. They are there every day to support your congregations and our ministry as we proclaim our message of hope and love. From the senior managers and program professionals to the administrators, the experts in Finance and Information Technology; from the leaders in Stewardship and Development who invite our generosity, to the staff that lovingly maintain our facilities…we owe them all a debt of gratitude.

Even in this difficult year, the staff has been moving ahead, strengthening important partnerships like that with the UUSC. You will be hearing more tomorrow about the College of Social Justice and the important new Love Resists campaign.

The staff has also been moving forward to support the diversity in our ministries, deepening and broadening the educational and worship resources we make available, strengthening our communication networks…much has, in fact, been accomplished. The staff has welcomed all three Interim Presidents and I want to thank them personally for welcoming me back. In fact, the password on the computer I was given in Boston is “welcome back.”

You can read details in the staff report, and I know that you are all competent readers, but lets give them a hand. They have served so well through such a difficult year. Will the staff please stand, as you are willing and able, and receive the thanks of this GA?

We, your three Interim Co-Presidents are completing our brief weeks of service, the shortest “interim” in the history of the UUA. There has been scant time for normal interim work…there is no playbook for a Presidential transition like this one in any event… but we have observed and listened with intention. We thought it would be helpful, first, to report back to you what we have observed and what we have learned.

Next, we were given a specific charge. We want to share with you how we heard that charge, how we interpret it and how we have tried to address it.

And finally, we want to share some conclusions that have become clear to us and name some questions we need to pass on as we search for that path that is calling us to hope.

Sofia: So first, what have we learned?

We found a religious community in a state of shock. The charges of racism in hiring shocked our community. Many white UU’s asked how this could be? But most UU POC were not surprised, only surprised that it had been called out. And that difference in reaction was itself a shock and challenge to our community that we want to call Beloved.

The resignation of a UUA President was unprecedented. The resignations that followed made many ask what was really going on. Just how far had our practice veered from our principles?

We have not attempted to find one “Truth” about these events. We have heard many versions of the truth in our short tenure. But we are certain about the shock.

Our presence has felt less like interim ministry, in fact, and more like after-pastor work…post traumatic…but we are truly not yet after the trauma…the trauma is not yet past, we are still in its midst.

We found a staff that was dispirited and anxious about the future. Anxiety is not unusual in a Presidential election year…but the anxiety was so much deeper this year.

Leon: The staff of color felt particularly vulnerable…hopeful because unspoken truths were being spoken…but vulnerable.

We found our national volunteer leaders stunned and struggling to keep up with changes and decisions, some changes they had initiated (like the financial commitment to support Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism) but some out of their control. They are now dealing with the unexpected grief and loss at the sudden death of Moderator, Jim Key.

We found that the boundaries between staff and Board and the clarity necessary for good governance had blurred beyond good practice and needed to be re-established.

We found a community of congregations willing to open a serious conversation about race and culture…open it once again for some…open that conversation for the first time for many.

We found a national institution that was in shock and in grief, that was angry, that was anxious, an institution that was vulnerable and fearful… an institution serving a community that itself was shocked…but a community that was willing to be hopeful…one more time.

Bill: As we were moving into our interim roles, our congregations were being asked to engage their own culture of white supremacy. The invitation was extended by Aisha Hauser, Christina Rivera and Kenny Wiley, three religious educators. It came up from within our community not from its national leaders. And over 700 of our 1000 congregations answered that call. How many of your congregations took part? Raise your hands. Look around.

Just as we received national visibility we did not want as a result of the charges of racism in our hiring and the resignations that followed, we discovered that much of the religious world was watching this attempt to see our culture and structures of power with enough clarity to imagine changing them.

Many were watching the Association’s financial commitment to the Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism and hoping, however, tentatively, that Unitarian Universalism might be charting a path they would soon need to follow.

We found a faith community living in grief and in anxiety while at the same time living into hope.

Sofia: When we accepted this interim leadership, we were given a specific and extensive charge by the Board of Trustees, calling for the creation of a Commission on Institutional change, with specific deliverables. And the Board also passed a motion calling for an independent “Racism Audit,” for new hiring procedures with new goals set, with an invitation to our congregations and related organizations to join with us in this spiritual work.

The charge runs to 2 pages. The Racism Audit motion to another two…in 12 point type…single spaced.

From our first day, we invited Sarah Lammert, herself serving in the interim role of Chief Operating Officer, and Moderator Jim Key to join us in a leadership team we called the Quintet. After Jim resigned, Vice Moderator Denise Rimes joined us.

We knew that shared leadership was necessary, even as we each pursued our individual pieces of the work. The collaboration deepened of our work and provided us with collegial support. It also allowed us to name and begin to restore the boundaries which had become so blurred.

Leon: The first item in our charge was to “ensure and direct pastoral and professional support to the UUA staff members of color … as well as professionals of color serving in the larger association.

We have talked with and listened to religious professionals and laypersons of color in face-to-face encounters, conference calls, visits to congregations and zoom meetings. The staff of color were already being convened regularly by Taquiena Boston and we have been welcomed into those gatherings.

We have listened and heard an almost universally felt level of hurt, anger, sadness, disappointment and loss of trust. These are familiar feelings for many POCI. Having leaders who are trusted hear those feelings has been appreciated. We have done much listening, but that is not enough. Changes in our practice are needed. It is the possibility that this faith might finally begin to create a culture without white supremacy at its base…that is where we heard the hope from these good Unitarian Universalists leaders of color.

Truth telling is not a single event, not a one time thing. Truth is a process and, in many ways, the central quality of the Beloved Community is to be a place where the hearing of all of our stories and the valuing of all of our truths is standard, expected, necessary.

It is crucial that we make a commitment to such an on-going process of truth-telling as we move toward reshaping our faith community.

The Commission on Institutional Change is charged with the creation of a Truth and Reconciliation Process around the recent events that led to our appointment. That is most certainly needed. But we hope the Commission will help us build Truth and Reconciliation into the DNA of this faith.

Bill: Interim supervision of the UUA’s Leadership Council was called for in our charge and has been provided. Our presence has been welcomed, we are told, and the resignations have not continued.

Only time and leadership decisions of a new president will determine whether that stability continues.

We were also charged to restore both confidence and vision among our congregations and among donors. This was perhaps the most unrealistic element of a charge for an 11 week interim.

Our approach has been to offer regular, weekly updates to the UU community at large, reporting on our work in specific areas. We have, frankly, relied on our personal credibility to inspire confidence. A rigorous analysis of the operation of white supremacy culture might well call this spiritual domestic work for us as person of color leaders. We have tried to make tolerable this use of our persons and our reputations by our refusal to be anything other than honest about what we found.

We have met several times with the UUA President’s Council, written to many of our donors and met with individuals to answer questions and provide some assurance.

Working with Mary Katherine Morn and leaders in our Stewardship and Development group, we have begun plans to support the Board’s financial commitment to BLUU and expand the Association’s support for racial justice work. All of our congregations will be invited this November to conduct worship centered on racial justice, to join in an effort called “The Promise and the Practice of Our Faith,” and to take a special collection in support of the transformation of our culture. We hope that you will urge your congregations to join this effort.

Sofia: The second element of our charge sounds the fundamental challenge of this time, to: “Call upon Unitarian Universalism to redeem its history by planning for and taking steps toward living into an anti-racist, multi-cultural future.” This portion of the work speaks specifically to the need for review and revision of recruitment and hiring practices of religious professionals of color in addition to the creation of an assessment process and strategy for dismantling the culture of white supremacy within Unitarian Universalism. Clearly this portion of the charge is that of sowing seeds for a much longer piece of work that will anchor us firmly in our primary values as we move ever closer to building the beloved community.

To that end, the board charged us to “Create and submit for Board approval, a process by which to analyze structural racism within the UUA. That process will include an external audit of the operation of white privilege and the structure of power within UUism as well as power structures and power-mapping within UUism.” The board assisted us directly with this task by passing a Racism Audit Motion that outlines specific needs for assessment within the UUA staff and board appointed committees, as well as a desire for collaborative efforts across our wider UUA.

All of this leads to the establishment of the Commission on Institutional Change, a small and nimble group of UUs who will take up the work of long term cultural change, backed by the commitments of both your UUA board of trustees and national staff.

We approached the construction of the commission by first gathering together a group of respected leaders of color in our movement for a two day meeting in Atlanta. We worked together to interpret the charge of the Commission, to draw on our history to gain tools for this current moment of opportunity, and identify key priorities for the work. We also held meetings with a wide variety of stakeholders and constituency groups, really listening to your hopes for this moment of profound opportunity. From that input and wisdom we appointed a five-member commission that will work collaboratively with an outside organization to bring badly needed analysis, visioning, and theological depth to the work of institutional change. That Commission may work for 18 months or more.

In our conversations about this important aspect of our charge we learned that there is an immediate need for a truth and reconciliation process centered on the events that precipitated our latest conversation around the impact of white supremacy on Unitarian Universalism. There is also a clear desire for the Commission’s work to be broad and far-reaching. This work is relational and theological, and must unflinchingly question cultural habits and norms that hamper us in our yearning to build the Beloved Community. In collaboration with our Acting COO, the Rev. Sarah Lammert, and based on our recommendations, your board of trustees has appointed Rev. Natalie Fenimore, Caitlin Breedlove, Mary Byron, Rev. Leslie Takahashi (chair), Dr. Elias Ortega Aponte, and DeReau Farrar to serve on the Commission for Institutional Change. I will serve as a transitional support member for just a few months as the commission’s work gets underway.

This is work that requires every one of us and I hope that if you, your congregation, your affiliate organization, or other UU connection are invited to join in this dialogue and engage the work of the commission that you will answer with your most faithful and generous YES! Together we will live into the love and justice that already exists at the heart of our movement. It matters that we pause and thank those whose decades of dedicated work to dismantle systemic racism and oppression in our movement brought us to this renewed moment of possibility. For your tirelessness, your stick-to-it-ness, and your faithfulness, we give thanks. We also want to thank and acknowledge Jesse King, who worked with us as a consultant over this interim period, for his strength of insight and vision, as well the generous contribution of his time. We would not have gotten this far without his efforts.

Bill: The Board also charged us, specifically, to “determine the necessary measures to make concrete progress toward expanding the number of professional people of color, including but not limited to ministers and other religious professionals employed within UUism. This includes particular and measurable emphasis on senior staff positions including the Executive and First Management level of the UUA.”

Our first act as Co-Presidents was to put in place a modified hiring freeze. Beacon Press was excepted as they have been very intentional in their hiring and already exceed any standards we anticipated setting. Frankly, Beacon Press became one of our resources for both ideas and inspiration. And we added Jessica York and Carey Macdonald, both POCI, to the staff Leadership Council.

We also moved forward with new “interim” hiring procedures that set ambitious goals for leadership by persons of color on the UUA staff. From less than 20% POCI overall, 30% is the new goal. And from less than 15% at the Executive and First Management level, we established a goal of 40%. The priority is centering the voice and presence of POCI at the decision-making level.

These goals, with their focus on POCI, have pushed the limits of what procedures are legally permissible.

It should be noted that with the three Co-Presidents and the addition of Jessica and Carey, we virtually achieved that 40% goal on day one of our the Executive and first Management level. But not at the critical second management and professional level…where the hiring controversy originated. And not permanently. When the three Co-Presidents step down, only three of the twelve members of the LC will be POCI, just 25%.

But new procedures and ambitious/appropriate goals are in place.

Many of the specific elements called for in the Racism Audit motion will be taken up by the Commission for Institutional Change. There is one truth, however, that we want to make clear. This work will fail if it is not embraced by our congregations and related organizations. The UUA, its President, Board and staff have no control over either. But the UUA can and we must issue an urgent invitation for all of us to join in this reflection and this reshaping of our culture.

Finally, there are some conclusions we have reached and some questions we would pass on as we complete our short service.

Sofia: First, and most important, it is crystal clear to the three of us that the inspection of our culture and how it impacts persons of color… how it impacts all of us…is urgent. It is overdue. The risks of failing to engage these issues are enormous for this faith. Change must come if our faith is to thrive.

Leon: Second, our history reveals a pattern that could not be clearer. We have repeatedly engaged issues of race, begun investing resources both financial and spiritual, only to turn away, withdraw those resources and that attention…without addressing the fundamental cultural issues. We have stopped short of real change every time. This time, our prayer truly needs to be for persistence.

Bill: Third, because we have started so often and had some success, we know some things about how to engage. There are resources in our own history on which we can draw…persons we can call on, models we can use, wisdom that can make this attempt easier and more productive. Not easy, but easier.

Sofia: Fourth, there is trust that must be restored and trust is built over time. Trust is built out of experience, not based on promises alone. This process will not be quick and is likely not to be efficient. But we know that the value of efficiency is actually an element in the culture of white supremacy. Efficiency is a value in a culture of scarcity. Efficiency is a value in an economic culture. Efficiency is not a virtue in matters of faith. We need to move to a culture grounded in spirit in which we live out of generosity and into abundance.

Leon: Fifth, POCI carry extra water in a multicultural community engaged in transformation. They (we) therefore need extra space and additional support. And when POC staff are called on, outside of their job responsibilities, to provide resources and wisdom, they need additional compensation as well.

Bill: Much of what we have to pass on, as you’ve heard, is cautionary.

But the final message we would pass on is a message of hope. There is a reason that people of color have become Unitarian Universalist…from the very beginnings of this faith and still today. There is a fundamental hope in our values and our aspirations that speaks to persons across the boundaries of race and culture and language and economic circumstance and ability. It is the empowerment in our Unitarian legacy and the love of our Universalist promise that draws people to us and that keeps us here.

It is our culture and not our theology that has been our biggest obstacle.

And because that is true, our final message is a message of hope. We can change our culture if we have the will to do it.

Leon: Many communities are watching Unitarian Universalism again as we engage this work. They are watching because they are looking for hope. They want us to succeed because they know that our struggles will soon be their struggles.

Both for us and for those around us, this time is not fundamentally about our problems but about our promise. It is fundamentally about hope.

The final element of our charge is to “ensure a smooth transition to a new president.”

We have worked hard to keep the candidates informed of our work. We have shared our concerns with all three of them in regular meetings.

But here in New Orleans leadership will pass to one of them.

Sofia: What model of leadership will emerge? A few elements of our own leadership may be worthy of note: first woman in our presidency, first lay person in our presidency, first out queer person in our presidency, first person with ability limitations in our presidency, first co-equal team leadership in our presidency.

Perhaps we have helped to open up the image of what leadership can look like in our faith. Perhaps, no certainly, that would be a good thing.

Bill: We have worked diligently and, we believe, responded to our charge in all the ways we could. We would be less than honest if we pretended that our tasks have not weighed heavily on our shoulders and our spirits at times. But it has been a privilege to serve, and a privilege to serve together. We end our service with gratitude. We have heard and felt the willingness of this community to engage, to not let this time of opportunity slip away. We find ourselves convinced that we can move through this period together. We end our service in hope.

Thank you.

Beacon Press Report

Moderator: Beacon Press has long been the UU’s voice to the wider world. I’m happy to see that the Press continues to do good work and to flourish. Here to tell you about the Press’s work this year is Helene Atwan, who has been Director of Beacon since 1995.

Helene Atwan: Thank you, it’s wonderful to be back here to report to you on the work of your press.

Now More Than Ever: We’ve really learned the meaning of this expression since last November. The bad news is that progressive people across the nation need help, resources, understanding, and spiritual support. The good news is, we’ve got books for them!

There is virtually no front in this resistance campaign where we don’t have books and experts, where we haven’t had a voice, and this isn’t just measured in book sales, but in how many times are books are reviewed, how many times our authors speak to audiences live, on TV, radio, in print media and all over social media.

We’ve done two full page print ads in The Nation, one in Harpers and millions of online impressions worth of ads with both: we are reminding progressive thinkers that books are a vital resource in these troubled times, not just our books (but, hey, especially Beacon books).

We’re promoting our backlist as resources for resistance on FB, Twitter, and half a dozen other media platforms; the campaign includes advertising online & in print. And people are responding! Our backlist sales were up almost 35% since the election.

And the hits just keep on coming….

Our most popular Blog of the month, Speaking truth to Trump, included Beacon authors Anita Hill, Rev. Barber, Aviva Chomsky, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Christopher Emdin, Eboo Patel, and many others.

Our associate publisher, Tom Hallock, did a powerful post on the special role of publishers in these troubled times, which was picked up and reposted widely

Oh, we had a post by Meryl Streep on public education. I encourage all of you to sign up for our Beacon Press UU Newsletter by texting BEACON to 66866. 66866. please do read BEACON BROADSIDE!

So of course our authors are defending immigrants.

And resisting Islamophobia.

And defending the rights of Indigenous Peoples and all those who Stand with Them.

And, more than ever since the appointment of Betsy DeVos, resisting the privatization of our public schools, and the corporatization of public education. We’re working overtime on these urgent issues, with these three new books coming out in the next nine months.

Ah, Reverend Resistance!! I’m sure I don’t need to say a lot about Rev. Barber to this crowd…

He’s been all over the traditional and social media since the election. Keep an eye out for his next book, Revive Us Again, which will be out in Spring 2018. The book is a series of sermons and speeches that lays out his groundbreaking vision for organizing across racial, economic, and religious lines, paired with essays from leading activists in his Moral Mondays movement who write about implementing his ideas in an age of division.

Would it surprise you to hear that even more readers are turning to Viktor Frankl’s classic then ever? So we’ve published an edition specifically for young adults, and it’s already receiving a spectacular welcome. One of our great strengths as a publisher is the ability to respond to the social and political climate in three ways: to lift books out of our extensive catalogue of titles published over a century and a half, and re-promote them; and sometimes we reissue them in new formats or with new introductions, as we did here with this entirely new edition of Frankl, and as we did with the classic Alice Childress book Like one of the Family, with a new introduction by Roxane Gay; or we sign new books that speak to the moment and get them out as quickly as possible, as we’re doing with a new book by Frances Moore Lappe (known to many of you as the author of Diet for a Small Planet) and Adam Eichen , called Daring Democracy—look for it in just 3 more months.

And, of course, sometimes we’re just prescient. For those of you who haven’t been around as long as I have (both at the UUA or on the planet), we published a landmark book about Trans people in 1996—right after I arrived at Beacon, called Transgender Warriors, by the wonderful Leslie Feinberg. And now, two new books to carry on that proud tradition. Jill Soloway, known to many of you as the creator of Transparent, the TV series, called At the Broken Places “profoundly vulnerable and brave…a necessary and beautiful book.” Now, more than ever, we need books like this.

The Alt-Right, Stand Your Ground….. two of dozens of phrases we need to resist.

I’m proud of our community of authors and how they show up, side with them, speak up, and *resist* We’ve heard so many moving stories about the impact our books can have, but since I’m quickly running out of time, I’ll just mention one very briefly: a young Latina told Aviva Chomsky that she hadn’t had the courage to tell her boyfriend her immigration status, much less how that impacted her, so she gave him Avi’s book, Undocumented, instead. She was standing in line to have Avi sign it for him and to thank her for making her case to the one she loved most.

Beacon has had a great year, our 15th year of surpluses in a row. But these are the stats that should mean the most—how our books and authors reach people, here and abroad.

We couldn’t have done it without the support of the UUA, without our long-time and new friends at the UU Veatch Program at Shelter Rock, without help and guidance from the UU Funding Panel, without an outstanding staff of remarkable and dedicated individuals, a staff that has grown stronger as it has grown more diverse. And, of course, without the support evidenced here—thanks to all of you in the UU community. We’re all so proud to be in this time of resistance, and rejoicing, with you.

Introduction: International Guests

Moderator: We welcome UU leaders from around the world to General Assembly each year, and extend our gratitude to them. Many have travelled a long distance to share their experience, their wisdom, and their faithful solidarity during challenging times.

Eric Cherry: Thank you. We say these leaders are “guests” as a reminder to American Unitarian Universalists that hospitality is our privilege and responsibility when people journey here. In fact our “guests” are leaders of our global faith: your leaders. As we welcome them, please note the commitment they bring to our faith every day. And, we hope you will be inspired to explore how your local UU community can find itself within the global UU story and engage supportively.

Reverend Tet Gallardo represents the 28 congregations of the UU Church of the Philippines. She also serves in its Constitutional Commission currently transitioning a new constitution. Toribio Quimada started with 7 churches in the Philippines in 1955. He was killed in 1987 for his social justice work. Philippine UU churches have a majority of people of color using at least 4 languages. Reverend Tet serves as the Minister at the Bicutan Congregation where 70% are children and young adults governed by a Council of Deacons with two 20-year-olds. She also serves in the Consulting Team of the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists. She was this year’s Balazs Scholar at Starr King School for the Ministry.

Reverend Darihun Khriam is minister of the Unitarian Union N.E. India and its Finance Secretary. Darihun was ordained in August 2002 after 10 months training at the UUA. She is the first female minister among the Khasi people. Leadership in the Unitarian Union is generally lay led has only a few ministers and Assistant ministers. Darihun serves 8 churches and travels a lot! The shared and co-operative ministry with lay-leaders is a blessing for the growth of the churches. Darihun travels to her churches with her husband and the three children who are now 12, 9, and 6. The UUNEI is moving forwards its motto “To Nangroi” meaning keep on progressing.

Reverend Dávid Gyerő is the Deputy Bishop of the Hungarian Unitarian Church. In the 1990s, Dávid was as a leader of the Unitarian youth movement. After graduating from the Theological School, he served at the Headquarters of the Transylvanian Unitarian Church as the councillor for church administration. Since 2009, he serves as a parish minister in the Unitarian church of Kolozs.

Dávid's first involvement with global Unitarianism was within the IARF. Later, he assisted the international partnerships of the Transylvanian Unitarian congregations through the UUPCC. In 2000-2001, he lived in Boston and worked for the UUA International Office. In 2009, he was elected the secretary of the ICUU. Since 2014, he serves as the president of the ICUU.

Inga Brandes - from Germany - was born and raised in a Unitarian family. Her first contact with the global U/U family was as early as 1990, when she acted as a volunteer for the IARF congress in Hamburg - Germany. She has served the Unitarian Movement for more than twenty years in various positions and is currently co-president of Unitarians –Religious Society of Free Faith. The German Unitarians descended from Free Protestant Congregations and are a deliberately lay-led Unitarian movement. The community's religious and spiritual foundations and aims are developed by a permanent working group of elected members called the Spiritual Council. Since 2014 Inga serves as a member-at-large in the Executive Committee of the ICUU.

Vyda Ng is Executive Director of the Canadian Unitarian Council, and has been a Unitarian for 25 years. Her work and community experience has been within the not-for-profit sector working mainly with vulnerable populations and violence prevention, and for the last 5 years, as ED of the CUC.

The CUC is the national association of Canadian UU congregations, which has recently experienced some big changes – the survival of a political audit by Canada Revenue Agency, a change in charitable purposes, and most recently in May, the first Annual General Meeting that was accessible electronically to all congregations for voting and participation. Perhaps the most celebrated change is the new vision – “As Canadian Unitarian Universalists, we envision a world where our interdependence calls us to love and justice.”

Jorge Espinel is the director the Latino ministry (ministerio Latino) of the Church of the Larger Fellowship, which serves our Latinx and Spanish speaking community. This ministry provides resources and opportunities for latinx people to connect to each other and explore our faith. This ministry is also supported by the International office of the UUA and the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists.

Jorge Espinel: Yo soy el director del ministerio latino de la iglesia de la gran comunidad, que sirve a la comunidad latina e hispanoparlante. Este ministerio provee recursos y oportunidades para que los miembros de esta comunidad se puedan conectar con otros en la exploración de nuestra fe. Este ministerio recibe apoyo de la oficina internacional del UUA y del Consejo Internacional de Unitarios Universalistas.

Eric Cherry: Rev. Lara Fuchs is a Canadian and Swiss life-long UU, serving since 2013 on the Executive Committee of the ICUU. She has, just last month, received a MDiv from Meadville Lombard, been ordained by the Unitarian Church in Westport Connecticut, and was welcomed into Preliminary Fellowship by the UUA. Lara will now return to her home in Switzerland, where in 2010 she founded a UU fellowship in Basel, to chart a new path of international community ministry.

Eric Cherry: Visit us online to find doorways into the Global U/U Story, including ways to join the global UU celebration of the 450th anniversary of the Edict of Torda and the upcoming Meeting and conference of the International Council of UUs in India in February 2018.

Welcome into the Global U/U Story. And, please welcome global U/U leaders around the world at GA this year.

Thank you.


Special Visit from Mtangulizi Sanyika

​Dr. Sanyika, a member of Black Lives of UU's new 360 Council of elders with Paula Cole Jones, Revs. Mel Hoover and Susan Newman Moore, addressed the assembly.

Beloved Conversations

Moderator: Beloved Conversations is an experiential curriculum that provides a space to re-form/fuse the brokenness of racism into new patterns of though and behavior ushering in social and spiritual healing. New ways of being are learned through the actions of conversation and probing dialogue. The program was created by Dr. Mark Hicks, and he's here with us today with a panel of Beloved Conversation leaders to tell us more.

Mark Hicks: Good morning, I’m Mark Hicks, director of the Fahs Collaborative Laboratory for Innovation in Faith Formation. The Fahs Collaborative is part of the educational offerings at our UU Seminary in Chicago, Meadville Lombard Theological School. The namesake for this UU non-profit is Sophia Lyon Fahs. If you’re not aware of her legacy, she was what I’d call a “redwood” in religious educator, a spirited entrepreneur who challenged the status quo about how we teach our people to integrate faith into our daily lives. She famously said, “Life becomes religious when we make it so.”

The Fahs Collaborative develops a wide array of programs designed to do exactly that. From teaching UUs how to integrate spiritual depth in social justice work, to preparing our congregations how to engage with multi-faith partners, The Fahs Collaborative brings an educator’s mind to some of the thorny and complex problems we face, not only in our congregations, but in our society.

Beloved Conversations was commissioned when one of our largest congregations asked for help in learning how racism and white supremacy block our capacity to be fully human and humane with people from different racial and cultural backgrounds, on the interpersonal, institutional, and systemic levels. From that single commission, Beloved Conversations has now expanded to over 90 UU, Jewish, and Quaker communities.

We are here today to share a few stories about what we’ve learned. And here to take us into that conversation is the Rev. Ashley Horan, the Learning Coordinator for Beloved Conversations.

Ashley Horan: In this moment, as UUs across the country are confronting the legacy of white supremacy that is intertwined in the very helixes of our faith’s DNA, we are aware that transforming our congregations is long-haul work. To sustain ourselves, and to be truly effective catalysts for transformation, we need deep wellsprings of resilience, as well as concrete skills for organizing and partnership. We need strong relationships within and beyond our congregations. We need to acknowledge that faith formation and spiritual support sometimes look different for people of color and white people, and we must minister competently and prophetically to all those who call our faith home.

This morning, a panel of leaders who have all been using Beloved Conversations as a tool for the journey will share reflections on their experiences. I want to welcome Rhonda Brown, a national Beloved Conversations Retreat Leader who has also led multiple rounds of the program in her home congregation, East Shore UU Church in Kirtland, WA; Rev. Leslie Takahashi, who has been a Retreat Leader for the Bay Area cluster of congregations, as well as in her own congregation, Mt. Diablo UU Church in Walnut Creek, CA; and Robin Pugh, Vice President of LREDA and Director of Lifespan Religious Education at the UU Church at Washington Crossing, Titusville, NJ, which just completed its first round of Beloved Conversations this spring.

First, can you each reflect on any changes or transformations that have occurred in your congregation as a result of your participation in Beloved Conversations?

Leslie Takahashi: Beloved Conversations gives people a new way of perceiving--like a seventh sense. Once hearts are open, people who complete the program report that they see things they had never seen before. Discrimination in the grocery store. Aggressions on public transportation. Dynamics within their own families as more and more have a mixed racial palette. We have just completed out fourth round, offering it each January to June for four years, and having about 10 percent of the congregation who have completed it. Last month we had our first alumni gathering and talked about how Beloveds could continue to change congregational culture as our new strategic plan includes an aspiration to be exuberantly multicultural. Beloved Conversations has given new tools to leaders already seasoned in multicultural dialogue, and has also travelled with some on their first journey into this conversation. About three weeks into every session people start grabbing me before service to tell me what they see now that they didn’t see before. And once woke people tend to stay woke.

Rhonda Brown: We started our first BC Workshop in the fall of 2013 . The first thing that Beloved Conversations did was to create a firm foundation to deepen the discussion and commitment to racial justice at East Shore. Beloved Conversations also gave attendees the opportunity to join together and take action to combat racial injustice. In 2015 a small group of Beloved Conversations attendees decided to organize a public witness group to support Black Lives Matter. The group meets every Sunday at a busy intersection near the church and display signs of support. That’s when the real racial justice discussion began. As people became challenged or curious about the Black Lives Matter Movement, Beloved Conversations attendees started a monthly dialogue for our congregation called “Conversations About Race,” which has created a forum for deep and honest discussions about racial issues. Our last discussion was held the week before the White Supremacy Teach In and was attended by over 50 members of our congregation. Beloved Conversations has been a catalyst which has helped East Shore to learn, grow, and engage in our community in a much more powerful way.

Robin Pugh: Our congregation’s racial justice work had been dormant for a decade, but we called a new minister in summer 2015—the summer of Ferguson. 25% of our congregation began Beloved Conversations a week after the election, and wrapped up the program right before the White Supremacy Teach In. Our congregation has changed tremendously over the last three years, but Beloved Conversations gave us the container we needed to do this work well.

Our participants were 30-80 years old, and, though everyone didn’t end up in the same place, everyone undoubtedly moved further along the continuum of understanding privilege, race, and white supremacy. Allies and advocates were created. Members of Color were re-energized. Relationships were fostered. Investment in what the church can do in the world and how we can be brave for and with one another has been felt in every corner of the congregation – this is true about conversations about race but so much more.

One of our facilitators of color said, “White people are beginning to see what has always been visible to congregants of color. Early on in the program, there was a lot of defensiveness when people of color would name things about how white privilege plays out in church. A mere few months, I notice the open dialogues; the willingness to challenge long held assumptions and be true allies. I love that my small group has chosen to continue to meet because of the positive transformation, genuine conversations, and a commitment to racial justice work. “

Ashley Horan: Reflecting back on your Beloved Conversations experiences, what resources--spiritual, infrastructural, programmatic--do you and your congregation need to sustain yourselves for the long-haul work of dismantling white supremacy?

Leslie Takahashi: One reason I am an advocate for Beloved Conversations is that it teaches white folks that they can learn about oppression without using their fellow congregants of color as their only teachers. You can watch a movie or read a book or watch a TED talk or go to an art exhibit, and through that, the stories of experiences different than yours can jump out and enter into dialogue. This is important, because people of color in our faith so often end up being the teachers—being the accountability mechanisms—doing the “spiritual domestic work,” as Rev. Dr. Rosemary Bray-McNatt puts it. Our UUs of color need their own conversations—about how we have internalized the messages of the dominant culture and how they have damaged our own senses of power and agency our own sense of whether our leadership. We need rescue and healing from the funhouse mirror distortion which is leadership as a person of color in this Association, and we need places where we can talk authentically about the pain of our lives and our families’ lives without someone saying. “Wow, your life is a mess.” Oppression has a long half-life, and trauma is transmitted generation to generation. For us to live into our wholeness we need spaces of deep healing; brave spaces, where pain can be heard and held.

Rhonda Brown: As a lay leader one of the most important resources I work with is our minister. The deep work of tackling racism requires a level of introspection that can be daunting at times. I am fortunate to have great support from our minister who makes herself available to provide pastoral support for workshop attendees and facilitators. For the long-haul work of dismantling white supremacy, we need to find ways to give voice to the experiences of People of Color in the wider UU community which can help white UU’s gain a better understanding of what changes are needed. In addition, I would love to see an expansion of the Beloved Conversation network of attendees and facilitators to connect, share best practices and build additional modules.

Robin Pugh: Our congregation finished Beloved Conversations just over a month ago, but we’re focused and excited about what’s next. We’ve created a People of Color circle that meets once a month for spiritual deepening and connection that can be, but doesn’t have to be, about this work. Maintaining this space, and creating other forms of support for our members of color, will continue to be vital to our work and the health of all in our community.

Going forward, we hope for something that will attract draw people who are resistant or afraid into racial justice work. We’re also yearning for a next step curriculum that keeps those who are committed (but weary) engaged and resilient within a community they sometimes would rather not work so hard in.

Lastly, we have learned a lot about what we want to change to address white supremacy within our congregational system (which can feel overwhelming); but we don’t have many or any resources on how it could look. We’d love to be mentored by another UU community that has made successful cultural changes to model ourselves after.

Mark Hicks: Thank you Rhonda [Slide #6], Leslie, Robin, and Ashley for sharing your inspiring insights.

We all know that racism is as old as history itself. We also know that dismantling racism at all levels in our lives requires both skills and deep spiritual resources. Beloved Conversations is one important tool in our toolbox for combating white supremacy. Ushers are passing out a handy educational resource to support your congregational efforts. Stop by BOOTH # 723 and sign up for an Information Session or to schedule Beloved Conversations in your community.

Thank you.

Commission on Appraisal Report

Moderator: In 2014, the Commission on Appraisal chose “class” as its 3 year study topic. Their goal was to examine how class affects our movement, with emphasis on intersectionality, inclusion, congregational culture, and how different class roles can aid our work for justice and liberation. The Commission engaged many people from a variety of groups within the UUA. To tell you more, I would like to introduce Rev. Xolani Kacela, chair of the commission.

Xolani Kacela: The Commission on Appraisal is an independent study group of the UUA whose members are elected at General Assembly. Our task is to investigate an important issue facing the Association, reflect upon our research and findings, then report back to you, our constituency. Today, we are here to share a synopsis of our most recent report titled: Class Action.

We’ve concluded that class affects the ministries of the UUA at every level – from the vision of who we believe we are called to be and how to live out our principles and values, to our senior leadership as an institution, to our member congregations, and to individual members and friends who make up our congregations. Class has many intersections from socio-economic status to gender and sexual orientation to age ethnicity and vocation. The intersections are infinite.

Unitarian Universalism is one of the most affluent faiths in the U.S., and many within and beyond our faith believe that all UUs are well-to-do, or at least, middle-class. This can’t be further from the truth. Our Association is made of people from all classes. We believe that our class differences should be treasure from which to build our ministries and the beloved community.

We’d like to present one example of the hidden treasure that dwells amongst so that you can better envision our possibilities. Enjoy the video.


Transcript of video

Jane: I grew up in Philadelphia in a very, very privileged household. From a very monied family.

Bruce: I grew up in New England in a very wealthy town where my father was the janitor in the school I went to. I’m one of the people who live on the other side of the tracks.

Jane: And I grew up in a very wealthy neighborhood and was probably wealthier than 95% of the community. Childhood was really rather difficult. My mother was a major alcoholic and there was a lot of craziness in my family and I escaped that through nature and through the dogs. We share that. We walk our dogs together all the time.

Bruce: Although there wasn’t alcoholism in my family, but, the 8 of us kids lived on one floor, 6 brothers slept in one bedroom together. The energy was either hollering and screaming, or laughing and fooling around. So I would just need some peace. I’d go outside. I needed to escape and I’d climb up on the garage roof or I’d go out to the woods.

So eventually, our lives brought us here to Provincetown. I came to Provincetown because I was told I was going to be dead in two months from AIDS. And then, since I didn’t drop dead in two months, I lived right across the street from the AIDS support group, they asked me one day to volunteer for them.

Jane: I think the reason I went to nursing school was because I grew up taking care of my mom and I came up here to get away from being my mother’s daughter.

Bruce: The power of the epidemic-- it was so overwhelming: 10% of the population was sick and/or dying. That made those of who worked in the field bond really tightly.

Jane: That was a really, really hard time. It was just devastating. Those of us who were caregivers would get together to support each other. We really got to see each others’ vulnerabilities and strengths and there was a bond that formulated between us.

Bruce: I think it also matured us very quickly. Everyone deals with death and dying but when you deal with death every two weeks, for years. It changes you.

[A mutual friend said to me] “You know Jane is wealthy as God” or something like that and I said no, I didn’t know that. I had no idea. Because being a well-educated white male and living a life that could fly under the flag of white privilege, there was no evidence of difference between us initially.

Jane: It was a long time before I realized how poor you really are. [laughter]

Bruce: That I’m dirt poor! [laughter]

Jane: I’ve often said that it’s harder to come out as rich person than as a lesbian.

Bruce: I had to process a lot of my own class prejudice in order to not allow it to damage our friendship and that takes work. It doesn’t actually happen all by itself. In our culture, class bias exists in both directions. Coming from my direction I knew I had bias who had wealth.

Jane: It’s absolutely true that wealth is power. Because I was born into this family I get to be more powerful than others. It’s a truth.

Bruce: From the perspective of being poor, that you live under the quiet belief that no one who comes from wealth could never understand what your life is like and vice versa.

Jane: You were saying something about the food you grew up with and you asked me what my mother cooked and I said, my mother didn’t cook we had a household staff and dinner was served by a butler. That’s a big difference. But it took years into our relationship until we were comfortable enough where I could say something like that and we could laugh.

Bruce: You have constructed a life where most of your time is spent either in nature and living with Jen, your wife, or, doing things for the community. We both seemed to have

chosen that’s how we are going to formulate our adult identity separate from our childhoods.

Jane: It’s interesting the composition of our Board here at the Meeting House—because in most organizations the Board is comprised of people who are considered major donors and that just doesn’t exist in Provincetown. At the Meeting House we are both on the board, we are a not a group that is formed around how much we will give financially. This congregation and this town are really very different [than that]. It’s more talent based.

It’s been a journey. I feel every day fortunate. I love you like a sibling and there isn’t anything you don’t know about me and vice versa.

Bruce: No, it’s true.

Jane: We know each other very, very well.

Bruce: One of the other pieces in our friendship and our love for each other is your generosity that you have been able to give to me.

Jane: It’s a relationship of mutuality. So many times that you have come and helped me. You’ve helped me through major illness, you helped me through a break-up and I’ve been with my wife for 25 years. We know each other.

Bruce: Actually Jen, your wife, refers to me sometimes as your husband [laughter].

Jane: Yes, yes.

Xolani: That was only one example of how we can be together as a people of faith, relating to each other person to person. We invite you to explore with us our report at the Commission’s session to be held on Thursday, 6/22, at 5:00 pm. During our session, we’ll discuss our individual class journeys, invite you to share your own, and explore ways that we can create beloved community wherever UUs find themselves.

Also, you can find the published report at the GA Bookstore. Please buy a copy for yourself and take some back to your home congregations with you.

Thank you very much.

Unitarian Universalist Women’s Federation Report

Moderator: Founded in 1963 through consolidation of Unitarian and Universalist women’s organizations, the UU Women’s Federation has evolved in an education, advocacy, and funding organization with a vital mission: To advance justice for women and girls and promote their spiritual growth. UUWF is one of two associate member organizations of the UUA (along with UUSC). Please welcome UUWF President, Justice Waidner Smith.

Justice Waidner Smith: Good Morning. The UUWF “affirms the inherent value of every woman, defined inclusively as one who identifies as a woman, trans* woman, or genderqueer woman.”

  • We affirm the importance of women's voices in our religious movement;
  • We pledge action against the religious roots of sexism;
  • We pledge to support the diversity of religious feminisms;
  • We work to raise consciousness of the linked nature of oppressions;
  • We seek justice for all women in the struggle to transform institutions of oppression;

Now, more than ever, this mission is imperative. We have not conquered sexism in our society or our denomination, and our work reflects our resistance to injustice, as well as the celebrations as we collectively take big and small moves forward.

Our board of directors is comprised of passionate volunteers committed to gender justice and intersectionality. At this GA, we are welcoming our newest board member Marissa Gutierrez-Vicario.

Currently living in Brooklyn, Marissa is the founder of Art and Resistance Through Education, or ARTE, a nonprofit that engages young people to organize for human rights via art. Marissa has been involved in UU justice work since she was 15. We are excited to have her joining our team.

This is a big year for women in Unitarian Universalism. 40 years ago, at General Assembly, the Women & Religion Resolution was passed, which called on the UUA “to examine the religious roots of sexism and to address justice for women.” As we mark this anniversary, we acknowledge the great progress that has been made, and re-commit ourselves to continued work.

In honor of this anniversary, I’m excited to announce that the UUWF and UU Women And Religion are exploring uniting in a more formal relationship to strengthen our mutual quest toward gender equity as we head into our next 40 years serving UUism.

Also in honor of this anniversary, we created a new sermon award on “Justice for Women and Girls,” which we awarded to Erin J. Walter [Slide #6] for her sermon “From Eve to Hillary.”

Yesterday, we sponsored a program in which Ms. Walter shared her sermon, exploring the silencing of women’s voices—from Eve to Hillary, to us. She was joined by two respondents, Rev. Theresa Ines Soto and Chris Crass, who engaged the audience in a lively conversation about actions each of us can take to heal from sexism and misogyny, and create justice for women and girls.

We also are proud to have recently awarded a Marjorie Bowens-Wheatley Scholarship designed to provide direct financial support to aspirants or candidates to the UU ministry, or candidates in the UUA’s religious education or music leadership programs, who identify as women of color, Latina, or Hispanic.

Our awardee, Aisha Ansano, shared how her multi-racial, multi-national, and, multi-ethnic identity has helped her to see herself as both a bridge builder and a leader within Unitarian Universalism. We are so pleased to support Aisha on her path to ministry!

In response to concerns raised about exclusion in hiring at the UUA, the UUWF issued a statement that articulates our commitment to being an active part of the work to address racism with UUism. In it, we state:

“…all white Unitarian Universalists must know that we have benefited from first the outright subjugation of people of color, and now the less obvious (but no less painful) pushing away, passing over because ‘you’ don’t ‘fit’ with the team. Therefore, as the UUWF is committed to justice for women and girls and is an organization that recognizes that white supremacy and patriarchy are deeply intertwined, we support the call to deepen our understanding and hold up a mirror to ourselves and our institutions. We further commit to being an active part of the solution as Unitarian Universalism continues the journey of becoming a fully inclusive and equitable faith community. This is a moral imperative.”

In additional advocacy specifically in response to a call for faith organizations to respond to the GOP health care bill that would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, we crafted a response statement. This legislation, which would harm millions of Americans, would be especially disastrous for women, endangering not only basic health care services, but especially access to reproductive health care.

Our statement read, “As Unitarian Universalists committed to gender equity, we believe in justice, dignity, and compassion for all, and that universal access to affordable and comprehensive healthcare is a moral imperative.”

We are very pleased to have three incredibly talented women running to serve as what would be the first female President of the UUA. Another way we sought to support our mission was to ensure gender justice was part of the presidential campaign. As in past elections, the UUWF interviewed the candidates for UUA President.

To read the individual responses to our questions about gender equity and justice, both within the UUA and society, please visit our website.

The UUWF also was very proud to be an early partner organization for the Women’s March in Washington DC.

On January 21, UUs all over the country and world marched for women. Please give us a shout if you were among those that marched on that historic day. We pledged support and financial resources to this march because we believe in their mission—that women’s rights are human rights; human rights are women’s rights. Women have intersecting identities and are impacted by a multitude of social justice issues, therefore no woman is free until all people are free.

We also have signed the Women’s March Pledge of Liberation, calling for:

  • the end to sexual violence, state violence and police violence,
  • securing reproductive rights, LGBTQA rights, worker’s rights, disability rights, and immigrant rights,
  • Working for environmental and economic justice, and ending war.

In addition to the march, we have continued our commitment to active partnerships with groups working on the full range of gender issues. Partner organizations include: Sistersong, the National Employment Law Project, Families USA, Planned Parenthood, ACLU and many others.

We have co-signed numerous petitions and letters, and been part of advocacy ads. We regularly post these actions and report to our members through social media, including the blog authored by our affiliated minister [Slide #16], Rev. Marti Keller, who brings more than 30 years experience in public witness and advocacy to our gender rights and justice work.

Another partnership of which we are proud is between Standing on the Side of Love (SSL) and the UUWF when we partnered to provide support for Black Lives Matter leaders who also are women-identified caregivers. SSL staff were a part of strategy conversations with leaders of BLM who raised how family care costs are creating a burden for women to stay in the movement. UUWF provided $10,000 to fund 10 women with $1000 each to help offset dependent care.

These are just a few of the numerous recent highlights of our work. The UUWF seeks to amplify the voices of women in the Unitarian Universalist movement and the voices of UU women in our country. We are committed to engaging UUs in the work for gender justice. For more information, please like us on Facebook and Twitter and see our website. We invite you to join us in our quest of gender justice. Thank you!

Presentation: Angus H. MacLean Award for Excellence in Religious Education

Moderator: Welcome Jessica York, Faith Development Director and Interim Director of Ministries and Faith Development, for the presentation of the Angus H. MacLean Award for Excellence in Religious Education.

Jessica York: Oh, wise ones.

You may be surprised to hear that there are those who think religious education is only for children and youth. As if they do not realize that we are on a lifelong journey, full of joys and sorrows, moments of clarity, times of doubt, in the midst of friendship and, at times, alone and afraid. We need our faith to see us through those times. We need to keep learning and relearning how to hold ourselves up to our highest values and how to hold our fellow companions in forgiveness and love. The Reverend Pat Hoertdoerfer—a wise one herself—understands this. She witnessed the religious and spiritual unfolding of her own life and she made a commitment to companion us on ours, wherever she found us: in congregations, districts, at the Unitarian Universalist Association, at camps and conference centers, and in academic institutions.

Her religious education career started with ten years of service as the Director of Religious Education, at May Memorial Unitarian Society, Syracuse, New York. It includes serving as the National Director of Ethical Education at the American Ethical Union in New York City before coming back to a congregation as the Minister of Religious Education at River Road Unitarian Church in Bethesda, Maryland.

Pat’s talents were recognized and for 16 years she served on the nation level, first as the Children, Family and Intergenerational Programs Director in the curriculum office at the Unitarian Universalist Association and then on the district staffs for New Hampshire/Vermont and Northern New England.

She brought her passions with her and these resulted in resources that enrich us still today.

Her interfaith experience was invaluable in creating Neighboring Faiths, with Christine F. Reed, one of the most used and memorable programs of RE programs for decades. Her interfaith work towards a more peaceful world resulted in the five volume curriculum series, In Our Hands.

Her recognition of our need to address the safety of our young people in our congregations resulted in her editing, along with Fredric Muir, Safe Congregations Handbook: Nurturing Healthy Boundaries in Our Faith Communities, a copy of which quite possibly resides in every congregation’s library, every religious educator’s office.

We think that comprehensive sexuality education keeps people safer. Pat helped developed the K/1 and grades 4/6 Our Whole lives and wrote the Parent Guide to Our Whole Lives, a companion to the program for families that helps them be prepared to take advantage of teachable moments in their child’s sexual health development and supports parents and caregivers as the primary sexuality educators.

Pat believes that a basic principle of religion is that religion is relationship. She authored a chapter on this topic in Essex Conversations: Visions for Lifespan Religious Education. Her passion for the ethical aspect of religion came to a deeper learning and fuller, personal faith development as Pat participated in the UUA’s process to develop a Unitarian Universalist Ethic of Right Relations and our understanding of the Unitarian Universalist principles of restorative justice.

Pat has a passion for multigenerational learning and ministry. She created a series of pamphlets for families to use at home, Let’s Talk About, that including guiding questions to hold family discussions on topics such as money, marriage, divorce and interfaith families.

And her understanding that we are not only life-long learners, but that we need a ministry that addresses the specific needs of our elders, has ultimately lead her to where the journey takes her today, an age-ing to sage-ing ministry. This ministry is not just needed by elders; it is an important ministry to change our society’s culture towards ageing. Pat’s current ministry, as a certified Sage-ing Leader, incorporates many of the passions she has embraced for her entire ministry: learning from many spiritual/wisdom traditions, multigenerational learning, and the importance of ethical relations.

Because Pat journeyed beside us, youth programming was strengthened, congregations became safer and multigenerational ministries extended to include a focus on ministry with and to elders. Her reach goes far beyond just the Unitarian Universalist world.

The Angus H. MacLean Award was established in 1972 by the St. Lawrence University Theological School Alumni Association and the Religious Education Department of the UUA. It is awarded to someone who has contributed to the quality of religious education at the local level, raised the quality of religious education at the Association level, been innovative in the use of religious education resources, brought dignity to the profession of religious education, and influenced religious education beyond our Association.

O wise ones, no one would argue that this year’s recipient’s life journey has not exceled at all of these qualifications. The Angus H. MacLean Award for Excellence in Religious Education 2017 is awarded to the Reverend Pat Hoertdoerfer.

Pat Hoertdoerfer: (live caption)

Annual Program Fund Report

—: The UUA Bylaws state: “A congregation becomes a member upon acceptance by the Board of Trustees of the Association of its written application for membership in which it subscribes to the principles of and pledges to support the Association.” Our principles and purposes close with this promise: “As free congregations we enter into…covenant, promising to one another our mutual trust and support.” The Annual Program Fund (GIFT in the Southern Region) is the vehicle for the support we provide to one another. It is the expression of the covenant among us. I’d like to welcome a dear colleague to the stage: the Rev. Mary Katherine Morn, Director of Stewardship and Development.

Mary Katherine Morn: 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 stand here at this General Assembly keenly aware that we are all asking difficult questions, publicly and privately, about whether we can truly take on the centering of white culture in our faith. And we know, these questions raise other questions about the mutual trust and support required for us to live our principles—to respond to this crisis and opportunity faithfully and effectively.

So many have been frustrated or seen and experienced trust broken. At this General Assembly, we strive to begin again in love. With new voices and new leadership at every level of our Association, this time of transitions calls each of us to stay engaged through the brokenness and pain. This work of cultural transformation is hard, in different ways for different people, and yet it is the most vital work we have to do.

Our association, our faith, depends on us facing the tough questions as fearlessly as possible, with honesty, authenticity, and a willingness to risk.

It will take all of us to address the questions being asked and to make the fundamental changes that will make it possible for us to be the beloved community that truly honors and serves all souls.

We are here this morning to thank you for the trust and support you have offered each other and all of us through your participation in the Annual Program Fund and GIFT in the Southern Region. We want to share a little about what you have made possible through your gifts.

I’m happy to introduce two of our APF Team, Vail Weller, Director of Congregational Giving and Elizabeth Terry, Congregational Giving Specialist.

Elizabeth: I am Elizabeth Ann Terry,

Vail: And I am Rev. Vail Weller, and I am the Congregational Giving Director for our Unitarian Universalist Association.

APF contributions are the tangible expression of our covenant with one another, congregation to congregation to Association. We want you to know the difference you make, through your regular and sustained support of the Annual Program Fund and your region/district giving. Here are a few highlights!

Elizabeth: Maybe a few of you attended the National Women’s March? In Durango, Colorado, they named their local version the “Standing on the Side of Love” march. How many of you have worn a Standing on the Side of Love shirt or pin or stole when you showed up for justice? The UUA is Standing on the Side of Love. Your giving makes it possible. Let’s hear you: “We make it possible!”

Vail: Who here believes that lifespan religious education is important for your congregation? Tapestry of Faith is an online resource curated for congregations of all sizes and shapes. The UUA is Tapestry of Faith. Your giving makes it possible. Let’s hear you: [slide #7] “We make it possible!”

Elizabeth: Did you call a new Minister this year, or is an Interim, contract or developmental Minister working with you? In Dayton, Ohio, after their minister Rev. Greg Martin died suddenly this year, the Region set up ministry to serve the congregation, and an Interim is set to start soon. The UUA is our Regional Staff, and our Transitions Office. Your giving makes it possible.

“We make it possible!”

Vail: The UUA staff joined 705 congregations (and counting!) in participating in the UUWhiteSupremacyTeachIn, learning together about the institutionalized racism and white supremacy culture that’s at play within each of our congregations and in the UUA at large. Your giving makes it possible. “We make it possible!”

Elizabeth: Do you have sex? I mean, do you consider sexuality important enough to be a subject of religious exploration? The UUA is OWL, with programs for every stage in the lifespan, serving 6 year olds to 90 year olds. “We make it possible.”

Vail: Do you know a military chaplain? Have members of your congregation serving in the military felt proud that our own Rev. Sarah Lammert is the Chair of the National Conference on Ministry to the Armed Forces? The UUA is support for UU Military Chaplains, reaching all looking for our open-minded faith where they serve. “We make it possible.”

Elizabeth: In January, the UU Fellowship of Northern Nevada in Reno became the first church in the state to provide physical sanctuary to an undocumented immigrant, whose name is David Chaves Macias. The UUA is the Declaration of Conscience (“Love Resists”) in partnership with the UUSC, and is the offering of tools for sanctuary and solidarity. “We make it possible!”

Vail: Your financial support through APF and GIFT and regional and district contributions powers the entire UUA. How many of your congregations contributed to the Annual Program Fund and your district or region? Raise your hands please! KEEP THOSE HANDS UP HIGH.

Elizabeth: Look around you: These are the people, representing the congregations that make all that is the UUA possible. Would you join us in thanking them?

Vail: Thank you for your congregation’s ongoing support of the Annual Program Fund, known as GIFT in the Southern Region. These contributions are our UUA’s primary source of funding to support our congregations, amplify our moral voice in the world, and protect our history and our future as a religious movement. APF contributions are the tangible expression of our covenant with one another.

Elizabeth: Please see us at the booth while you’re here at General Assembly, or reach out to us once you are home. We are here to help your congregation understand the Annual Program Fund (and GIFT), and would love to help empower your congregation to fulfill the amount requested. Thank you.

Mary Katherine Morn: Trust and support. It does not go without saying. We are at a tender and critical time for our faith. Your faith needs you. You make it happen. Anything we imagine, any transformation that is possible, is only possible because of you. Because you hold your leaders accountable. And because you do the weekly labors of love that make congregational life. Even as you read about the foundation shaking changes happening in UUA leadership, you show up—on Sunday morning or any time the work of our faith is needed. Your faith needs you.

Thank you for your care, your love for Unitarian Universalism, and for your support.

Legacy Society Memoriam

Moderator: I am honored to introduce the Rev. May Katherine Morn, our Director of Stewardship and Development.

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 our faith with all their hearts and whose hopes for the future now rest with us, may we renew our own commitment to this faith we share, a faith that connects us to generations gone and generations to come.

Our Moderator, Jim Key, died on June 2nd. Jim served us since his election at the 2013 General Assembly. Jim told us, in his first report to the General Assembly, how Unitarian Universalism saved his life.

“In the middle of my chemotherapy, a person who had been an early organizer of our congregation asked if I would serve as president. I was stunned. I asked her if she thought it could wait a year. She said of course, but I'll be back. Indeed, she did come back the following year, held a mirror under my nose, noted that I fogged that mirror, and asked me to serve.

So a year and a half after the diagnosis, I became the second president of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Beaufort and served in that role for five years. Friends, hear this clearly. Unitarian Universalism saved my life. I owe this faith something, and so I serve as best as my talents allow.”

Jim wasn’t saying that our faith gave him a reprieve from death—he was saying that Unitarian Universalism saved him for meaning and purpose and love. And he spent all of his days living his meaning and purpose and love. And we are better for his service.

He is deeply missed.

You are invited to join together for a Celebration of the life on Jim Key tomorrow, Saturday, at 12:30pm in Room R-02 of the Convention Center. This service will also be livestreamed.

Along with Jim, we celebrate the many lives, friendships, and memories that have been lifted up here today and we honor those who died with our own commitment to nurture and grow Unitarian Universalism and build the Beloved Community in our faith and in our world.


Consider Bylaw Amendment Article II, Section C-2.1.1. Principles, Line 12, Changing Person to Being

(live caption)


Moderator: Now its time to call on the Secretary of our Association, Rob Eller-Isaacs, for any announcements.

Rob Eller-Isaacs: (live caption)

Moderator: Thanks Rob.

Process Observation

Moderator: Natalie and John, can you share what you have seen today?

Natalie Jeffers and John Sarrouf: (live caption)

Closing Reading

Moderator: Chris Rivera, Financial Secretary of the Board, will offer our closing reading.

Chris Rivera: (live caption)


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 8:45 a.m. on Saturday, June 24, 2017.

The Commission on Institutional Change: Rev. Natalie Fenimore, Caitlin Breedlove, Mary Byron, Rev. Leslie Takahashi (chair), Dr. Elias Ortega Aponte, DeReau Farrar

Commission on Institutional Change

During their report, the three Interim Co-Presidents introduced the members of the new Commission on Institutional Change: Rev. Natalie Fenimore, Caitlin Breedlove, Mary Byron, Rev. Leslie Takahashi (chair), Dr. Elias Ortega Aponte, DeReau Farrar.

​Dr. Mtangulizi Sanyika, a member of Black Lives of UU's new 360 Council of elders, addressed the assembly.

2017 GA Photo Album