Revision as a Faithful Practice

By Erica Baron, Meck Groot, Joe Sullivan

A red eraser next to a yellow cup on its side with color pencils and a green sharpener

In 2020 General Assembly delegates voted to begin a review of Article II of the UUA Bylaws. Article II is the covenant between and among UU congregations. It currently contains our seven Principles and six Sources. It also has language about inclusion and freedom of belief. The review has been the project of the Article II Study Commission. They have proposed a draft of new language (PDF) for Article II which makes some big changes. A version of this proposal will be coming to General Assembly in June 2023.

You may be inspired by this draft, or concerned, or undecided. However you feel, we think it’s important that we Unitarian Universalists make it a point to revisit our core tenets on a regular basis. We have collectively committed to consider changing even this central part of our faith in the light of new understanding and awareness of cultural shifts.

The American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church of America joined to become the Unitarian Universalist Association in 1961. The current Study Commission’s work is at least the third time we have considered revisions to Article II since then.

The first major review was led by UU women. It began in the late 1970s and continued until 1984. That year, the General Assembly adopted the current covenant, including the seven Principles. In 1984, the new language included five of the six Sources. The sixth — earth-centered traditions — was added in 1995.

The Bylaws actually call for Article II to be reviewed every 15 years. In 2007, the UUA Board noticed that we had passed the 15-year mark and asked a commission to study Article II. That commission brought proposed changes to the 2009 General Assembly. Delegates narrowly voted the changes down.

Sometimes our review process makes big changes. Other times, it makes only small changes or none at all. Even so, the practice of regular review of our core tenets has shaped the culture of our faith tradition. The Principles and Sources from 1984 and 1995 have shaped identity and practice for generations of UUs.

Your New England Region Team sees several practices of Spiritual Leadership in this commitment to regular review. First, this is part of Tending to Tradition. To keep our faith alive and relevant we UUs have to make changes sometimes. When we do, we are asking how we continue the spirit of Unitarian Universalism. We are also asking what we need to let go of or take up in a new context.

The NER Team also sees the practice of Faithful Risking. Responding to a changing world means taking a risk. UUs can take the risk to adapt. Or we can take the risk of staying the same. If we adapt, we may risk losing something we have valued. If we stay the same, we risk losing purpose or relevance. Either way we are risking. So, what is the faithful risk? The NER team would argue that the faithful risk is adapting in ways that keep us moving toward our mission. The faithful risk is one that applies our values in newly relevant ways.

This is a time of cultural transition. This is one reason that the Article II work is timely now. The NER team is also thinking about what this work might inspire within congregations. We wonder:

  • Is your congregation able to reimagine your core values or core pieces of identity on a regular basis? What practices do you have to do this work? How willing and able is the congregation to empower a small diverse group of people to guide such a process?
  • What practices do we see in the work of the Article II Study Commission that makes this kind of review more possible? How might Practices of Spiritual Leadership help us faithfully engage in this type of work?
  • What would it take to make a similar process of regular review possible and meaningful in your congregation?

We invite you to reflect on these questions. In January, we will be hosting a Zoom gathering of the Spiritual Leadership for Culture Change Community of Practice (SL4CC) and the new Liberating Governance Community of Practice to discuss these and similar questions. (Follow either link for more details.) We would love to have you join us! You may also share your thoughts with us at any time.

About the Authors

Erica Baron

Rev. Erica Baron joined the New England region staff in 2019, focusing on helping congregations live into their missions and develop their gifts for spiritual leadership. Before joining the Congregational Life staff, she served as parish minister for the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the...

Meck Groot

Meck Groot’s lifework has largely been at the intersection of faith and social justice. She has delivered her gifts in administration, teaching, consulting and facilitation as a UUA employee on district and regional staff in New England. Her passion has been to inspire and support vital,...

Joe Sullivan

Joe works with churches of all sizes on a range of congregational life matters with a special interest in helping congregational boards be more faith-filled, mission-focused, and accountable in their practices. Joe joined the UUA staff in 2012 as District Executive for the former Northern New...


For more information contact .