In every congregation or Unitarian Universalist community, you will find that nearly everyone knows what the UU Principles are (or where to look for them in the hymnal!) But not everyone knows that these Principles, Purposes, and Sources are part of the bylaws of the Unitarian Universalist Association. Even fewer know that this section of the bylaws, "Article II," is set to be studied and revisions proposed every fifteen years.
The Principles and Purposes have been around as long as Unitarian Universalism has, but they've changed a good bit along the way. From the merger until the late 70s, UUs were asked to affirm "the dignity of man," and the "ideals of brotherhood." In this era, the bylaws used a single pronoun to reference all ministers: "he." These days many of us barely remember a Unitarian Universalism that wasn't replete with ministers of all genders. The UU World that these early Principles describe seems a strange planet indeed.
The beloved UU Principles, Purposes, and Sources we know now, which saw us through the end of the 20th century and into the 21st, were made possible by a changing world in which people who were excluded demanded space for themselves. In doing so, they made a better Unitarian Universalism possible.
As we have grown and changed within our living tradition since then, a few changes to Article II have been proposed. Some were accepted and others not. "Prophetic women and men" became "prophetic people" by vote of the General Assembly. The non-discrimination clause (also part of Article II) was amended to "Inclusion" and holds us newly accountable: "systems of power, privilege, and oppression have traditionally created barriers...", we pledge to "replace such barriers with ever-widening circles of solidarity and mutual respect."
When we grow and change, we must make new commitments and create new language to hold these commitments.
As your Article II Study Commission came together this summer, we began with formulating our own covenant: What are the promises we make to each other? We continued with our dreams: What is the future Unitarian Universalism of our imaginings? We discussed our scope: What is the work we are charged with and what is the work beyond our charge?
And now, as we prepare to enter the next phase of this work, we are getting ready to reach out to the wide and wonderful world of Unitarian Universalists, eager to build our new Article II together.
Our world is, indeed, a different one, even from just a handful of years ago. It would take more words than we have here to enumerate the challenges we face, and that many words again to sing of the beautiful, hard won shifts in our collective understandings.
The task at hand is to work together as Unitarian Universalists to craft an Article II that will enable our communities "to be a relevant and powerful force for spiritual and moral growth, healing, and justice," in the words of the Commission's charge, rooted in our broadest shared theological grounding: Love.
Just as UUs in the 70s and 80s rose up to be a wave of transformation for our faith, grassroots groups of UUs in recent years have begun to address insufficiencies in the current Article II with calls for change. Whether focused on the limitations of the first principle, the need for a better embodiment of a democratic process claimed by the fifth, amendments and clarifications for the seventh, or the truly great need for an eighth principle that holds us theologically accountable to dismantling racism and oppression, it's time for a comprehensive study of what our new world requires.
This is vital, exciting work. YOU are invited to be a part of it. In the coming months, we will be reaching out to congregations, committees, professional organizations, affiliated communities, and individuals with a variety of avenues for every Unitarian Universalist to engage with this work. Even if "Article II" was unfamiliar to you before, we hope that you and your congregations and communities will all pick up a hammer and lend a hand in building this new way. We already have a foundation: Love. Let's build together.
Take Action: Identity of a Community Scavenger Hunt
As the Article II Study Commission reflects on the purposes and principles of the Unitarian Universalist Association, the Commissioners will examine foundational identity documents of our member congregations and communities submitted through this year's annual certification. What kind of statements has your local congregation or covenanted community made about its purpose in the world? Can you find the purpose, mission, ends, vision or aspiration statements of your local congregation or covenanted community? Dose your local congregation or covenanted community have a member covenant, or covenant between itself and other congregation and covenanted community in your area?
When you have found these statements that help define your local congregation or covenanted community, reflect on these questions: Where do these statements live (i.e. on the website, on the wall, in the bylaws, in their own documents)? Are there parts of the identity of your local congregation or covenanted community, that aren't reflected in the Purposes and Principles of our Association? Do you feel what you have found calls you and your faith community "to be a relevant and powerful force for spiritual and moral growth, healing, and justice," in our rapidly world?