Tapestry of Faith: Resistance and Transformation: An Adult Program on Unitarian Universalist Social Justice History

Activity 1: The Empowerment Controversy

Activity time: 20 minutes

Materials for Activity

Preparation for Activity

  • Become familiar with the contents of Handout 1, The Empowerment Controversy and Handout 2, Time Line of the Empowerment Controversy and copy both for all participants.
  • Pre-arrange with two volunteers to read Handout 1, The Empowerment Controversy aloud, alternating paragraphs. Give them the handout in advance.
  • Read the story "The Black Humanist Fellowship." This activity is intended to set a context for the story, which you will share with the group in Activity 2.
  • Optional: Provide the handouts in advance and invite participants to read them before coming to the workshop.
  • Optional: Find out about your congregation's involvement in or response to the 1960s' Black Power movement.

Description of Activity

Distribute the handouts. Have the two volunteers read Handout 1, The Empowerment Controversy aloud, alternating paragraphs. Then, ask participants to read Handout 2, Time Line of the Empowerment Controversy silently to themselves. Because the story is complex, help the group apprehend the facts before responding more deeply. After everyone is clear on what happened, go around the group, inviting each person in turn to respond, in a few words, to the story. Affirm the variety of responses and observations that are voiced.

Facilitate a discussion of the material in the handouts, using these questions:

  • What were the trends and events external to the Unitarian Universalist Association which caused a shift away from an "integrationist" strategy for racial justice? How did this shift affect the UUA as a body?
  • Optional: Did these external events affect your congregation? If so, how? If not, why not? (Share what you have learned about your congregation's history with the Black Power movement.)
  • How did the UUA Board's failure to fully reveal the financial situation of the Association affect the controversy?
  • Do you agree with the actions of BAC during the 1969 General Assembly? Why, or why not? Do you think such dramatic actions ever have a place in a democratic organization? Why, or why not?
  • What impact do you think the Empowerment Controversy continues to have on Unitarian Universalism?