Commission on Social Witness Report, General Assembly 2018

Audio note: moving your audio balance control to the left will remove the echo on speakers; moving back to the right will let you hear more of the room, which is nice during singing.

UUA General Assembly Off-site Participation: Kansas City, Missouri | 2018

Part of General Assembly 2018 Event 203: General Session II

The following final draft script was completed before this event took place; actual words spoken may vary. Unedited live captions of General Session II (TXT) were created during the event, and contain some errors. Captioning is not available for some copyrighted material.

Elandria Williams: Presenting the report of the Commission on Social Witness is Susan Goekler.

Susan Goekler: [Slide #1] You get the privilege of receiving this report because the Commission on Social Witness reports directly to you the General Assembly, not to the UUA Board.

[Slide #2] You elect the majority of the Commission members, who you can identify by the blue baseball caps we wear when on duty. We are here to help you navigate the opportunities at GA to contribute to social witness statements.

[Slide #3] We have two key responsibilities—to facilitate the process for developing UUA position statements on social justice issues. There are two types of position statements—Statements of Conscience and Actions of Immediate Witness. Delegates consider one Statement of Conscience every odd numbered year (i.e. not 2018)—the issue is one selected three years prior as a congregational study action issue CSAI. This year you will have a chance to select a new CSAI.

Because issues sometimes arise that call for a more immediate response, another type of position statement is an Action of Immediate Witness. Because these issues are proposed and acted on during 1 General Assembly, there is no opportunity for congregation study and input.

Thus AIWs only carry the weight of the delegates present at one GA.

Our second key responsibility is to encourage congregational engagement on common UUA social justice issues.

[Slide #4] So, our report on what we did this year.

Between the 2017 and 2018 General Assemblies of the UUA, the Commission on Social Witness (CSW) reviewed comments we received from congregations on our current CSAI—the Corruption of Democracy, which the 2016 General Assembly selected. We also invited proposals for new CSAIs and received three proposals. Because two were almost identical, we asked the proposers to combine them and they did. Then, at the request of one of the proposers, we facilitated meetings of the proposers of the remaining two to see if they could find common ground and thus submit only one CSAI for consideration. We all hoped that in the spirit of right relations and collaboration, we could avoid pitting one issue against another, and thus forcing delegates to select only one issue even though all proposed CSAIs are worthy of study and action. We got close, but did not succeed, so you have two to choose from. To learn more about each please come to the CSAI mini-assembly this afternoon at 4:30.

[Slide #5] One way we fulfill our second key responsibility of encouraging congregations to engage with selected CSAIs is by working with the UU Ministers Association to sponsor a Social Justice sermon contest. The winning sermon will be presented at (date and time).

Recognizing that the prescriptive nature of the CSWrelevant sections of UUA bylaws hinders innovation, we worked with the UUA Board to suggest changes to the bylaws. These changes do not change any processes, they just remove from the bylaws the details, which are still included in the CSW’s proposers’ guides for both CSAIs and AIWs. The only significant change is that the bylaws would not require gathering signatures at GA for Actions of Immediate Witness, allowing the CSW to consider modifications of that process.

[Slide #6] Facilitation of the CSAI process also requires getting input from congregations—the UUA’s members.

As part of the annual congregational poll, congregations can vote on whether to include proposed CSAIs on the final GA agenda. This year, slightly more than half the certified congregations did vote and the vast majority voted to include both proposed CSAIs for consideration.

[Slide #7] Now, you have a role to play also. If you are a delegate, you will vote to select one of the proposed CSAIs. Here are opportunities to be informed. After you return to your congregation, we hope that you will inform them about the selected Study Action Issues. A study guide is available for the Corruption of Democracy. A study guide for issue you select here will be available on the UUA website by November.

[Slide #8] To meet our bylaw requirements, the CSW will conduct a mini-assembly on the two proposed CSAIs. We are also hosting a workshop with activists engaged in fighting Corruption in Our Democracy and facilitating a worship service featuring the winning sermon.

[Slide #9] Action of Immediate Witness proposals are due at the CSW booth by 5 today—if there is an issue you feel called to suggest that the UUA have a position about, come to the booth and find out how to engage in the process. By 5 tomorrow, proposers will need to collect 150 signatures—so if you are a delegate, you might get asked to sign that you believe this is an issue worthy of consideration. Then on Saturday and Sunday there will be votes and mini-assemblies. The daily CSW Alerts will describe the proposals.

[Slide #10] The CSW is offering a third opportunity for witnessing this year. We will offer room at the CSW booth in the Exhibit Hall (#610) for people wishing to collect signatures for social justice –related petitions.

[Slide #11] We would love to learn how your congregation has used any adopted statements. Please stop by our booth or send an email to share what your congregation has done. Then we can share that with others.

Questions? Look for the blue hats.