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How to Pass a Congregational Resolution

  1. Identify the goal of the resolution. The first step is developing a clear intention and “pitch,” including:
    • What precisely is the resolution on, i.e. is it a broad statement of concern or about a specific piece of legislation?
    • What goal does it serve, such as influencing the position of elected officials, building coalitions, etc.
    • How will it be used, e.g. with the media, as part of a national campaign.
  2. Depending on the end goal, decide whether or not a resolution is the best way to get there. For Freedom to Marry campaigns, for example, there may be a few goals, including getting Members of Congress (or local elected officials) to oppose the Federal Marriage Amendment, and/or shaping public opinion in the community. A concern is that passing a congregational resolution can sometimes be so time-consuming that there's isn't much time and energy left for the "real" work (such as organizing lobbying visits).
    Consult with individuals from communities most affected by the issue both in and outside the congregation such as such as people of color, GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender), low-income folks, youth and others. By doing so, accountability is created and relationships are built and strengthened.
  3. Talk to the minister, social action chair, congregational president, and board members to:
    • Find out the procedures by which the congregation considers a resolution.
    Many congregations have by-laws for adopting congregation-wide positions so check these first. If a process needs to be developed, other congregations’ practices may be helpful. (See examples below).
  • Gain ministerial and congregational leadership support that is needed for any congregation-wide effort to succeed.
  • Draft the resolution. First and foremost the resolution should be grounded in Unitarian Universalism. Research General Assembly Statements of Conscience and resolutions, UU history, and writings.
    To create trust and reflect a diversity of opinion a few people should draft the resolution. Members and others with expertise should be consulted. Leadership from communities affected by the issue, such as people of color, GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender), low-income folks, youth and others should be sought.
  • Line up support. Share plans to introduce the resolution with members who will support it and ask for their input in how to build consensus to pass it.
  • Urge open discussion on the issue. Schedule time for internal education. Consider showing a video or inviting an outside speaker. Allow small group time for processing of feelings and sharing of stories.
  • Introduce the resolution. Be sure that everyone involved in the decision has a copy of the resolution. Be available to answer questions or to provide background information.
  • Be sure to alert the media and lawmakers once the resolution passes. Send a press release to the local press and make follow-up phone calls. Send a copy of the ratified resolution to coalition partners.
    Passing a short resolution along with a fundraising drive to publish it in a local paper might help to shape public opinion. A resolution may receive media attention if it is tied to the launch of an action campaign. In general the media are drawn to “verbs” rather than “words.” Such a campaign could even become a growth opportunity for the congregation.