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About Article II: The Principles and Purposes of the UUA

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Unitarian Universalist Association: Bylaws and Rules

Article II Principles and Purposes

Section C-2.1. Principles.

We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote

  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  • Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  • Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
  • A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  • The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
  • The goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all;
  • Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we 21 are a part.

The living tradition which we share draws from many sources:

  • Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
  • Words and deeds of prophetic people which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion and the transforming power of love;
  • Wisdom from the world's religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
  • Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God's love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;
  • Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit;
  • Spiritual teachings of Earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.

Grateful for the religious pluralism which enriches and ennobles our faith, we are inspired to deepen our understanding and expand our vision. As free congregations we enter into this covenant, promising to one another our mutual trust and support.

Section C-2.2. Purposes.

The Unitarian Universalist Association shall devote its resources to and exercise its corporate powers for religious, educational and humanitarian purposes. The primary purpose of the Association is to serve the needs of its member congregations, organize new congregations, extend and strengthen Unitarian Universalist institutions and implement its principles.

Section C-2.3. Inclusion.

Systems of power, privilege, and oppression have traditionally created barriers for persons and groups with particular identities, ages, abilities, and histories. We pledge to replace such barriers with ever-widening circles of solidarity and mutual respect. We strive to be an association of congregations that truly welcome all persons and commit to structuring congregational and associational life in ways that empower and enhance everyone’s participation.

Section C-2.4. Freedom of Belief.

Nothing herein shall be deemed to infringe upon the individual freedom of belief which is inherent in the Universalist and Unitarian heritages or to conflict with any statement of purpose, covenant, or bond of union used by any congregation unless such is used as a creedal test.


Article II History

Article II is one of the “C” Bylaws, dating to the merger of the American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Association in 1961. Much of the “C” Bylaws reflects compromises that were made in order to achieve merger. Different pieces of the “C” Bylaws were important enough to one side or the other that these were made harder to amend than non-“C” Bylaws. The first major rewrite of the Principles and Purposes post-merger were adopted in 1984. Some slight changes were made after that, but the language is largely unchanged. (See http://archive.uuworld.org/ideas/articles/3643.shtml and https://www.uua.org/leadership/learning-center/governance/polity/47006.shtml).

The Principles guide our actions and priorities, encouraging us to “affirm and promote” core values, while our Sources provide the context and grounding for those Purpose and Principles. This Article states our purpose, our very reason for existing. Section 2.3 commits us to being inclusive, and to replacing barriers that have kept some people and groups from full participation in our faith. Article II ends by ensuring freedom of conscience, and prohibiting creedal tests.

For some religious institutions, the equivalent of Article II would be regarded as a permanent statement of belief. Ours, however, is a Living Tradition. We commit ourselves to regularly revisiting our Principles and Purposes to ensure that we are relevant, that as we grow in understanding, our Principles and Purposes grow, too. Since “new occasions teach new duties”, we must continuously examine our Principles and Purposes to see what is missing, what is no longer important, and whether the language communicates our core values to the current times.

Since then, General Assembly committed the UUA to working toward being an Anti-Racist, Anti-Oppression, and Multicultural Association. Recent events have caused UUs to explore more deeply institutional and cultural oppressions that exist in our Association and its member congregations and covenanted communities.

We are now well into the second quarter of the 21st Century. Our Association has grown in its understanding of systemic oppressions, such as racism, ableism, and heteronormative beliefs. However, many people feel the language of Article II does not reflect these learnings. The Board believes we need an Article II which leads us into the future.