On October 23-26, 2003, the Commission on Appraisal met jointly with Collegium, an organization of Unitarian Universalist (UU) scholars, at a Franciscan retreat facility near San Jose, CA. In addition to continuing our own work leading to our next report to the General Assembly, we took advantage of the opportunity to meet with Starr King School for the Ministry President Rebecca Parker, several Starr King students, and a number of Collegium attendees on issues relevant to our current study.
At the 2003 General Assembly in Boston, the Commission was very active:
During Professional Days the ministerial members of the Commission held a workshop with attendees and distributed a survey to ministers. We conducted focus groups with members of the UU Christian Fellowship, the Unitarian Universalist (UU) Buddhist Fellowship, UUs for Jewish Awareness, the Covenant of UU Pagans, the Process Theology Network, HUUmanists, Young Religious UUs, and the Continental Young Adult UU Network. We participated in an accountability hearing sponsored DRUMM. We gave our annual report during the Saturday afternoon plenary session. This presentation discussed our current study as well as what we have learned, and done, since the events of the 2002 General Assembly. You can read the text that was printed in the official GA Annual Reports book here. We led two workshop sessions on the topic of "Where is the Unity in Our Theological Diversity?" These sessions were attended by over 300 people. Opening comments were presented by Commissioner Mark Hamilton—you can read them here. We welcomed three new members to the Commission (the Rev. Tom Owen-Towle, Manish Mishra, and the Rev. Orlanda Brugnola) and bid farewell to our three departing members (Charles Redd, the Rev. Roberta Finkelstein, and Janis Elliot).
The Commission was in the Chicago, IL area on April 3-6, 2003. We met with a group of students and faculty from Meadville-Lombard Theological School on Friday morning and held individual meetings with Rev. Dr. Thandeka, M/L professor of theology, and Ken Oliff, editor of the Journal of Liberal Religion. A very well attended hearing focusing on the current study topic was held at the Unitarian Church of Evanston as part of the Central Midwest District Meeting.
In January of 2003 the Commission met in Portland, Oregon. A focus group was conducted at First UU of Portland with a group of local young adults. A hearing was held at the Atkinson Memorial Church in Oregon City. It was well attended by members of several Portland-Vancouver area congregations. The Commission continued to plan the data gathering for its current study.
The Commission met at Glastonbury Abbey in Hingham, Mass. on October 22-27, 2002. A substantial portion of the meeting was dedicated to working with Rosemary McNatt and Charlie Ortman to examine the events of the 2002 General Assembly and reconsider the processes used by the Commission—please see below for background. A very well attended and successful public hearing was held at First Parish Old Ship Church on Saturday morning.
The Commission held a workshop on the theological fragmentation study topic during the 2002 General Assembly in Quebec City, Canada. Over 200 people attended, and the discussion was lively. During the plenary sessions, a report on the Commission and its work was delivered by its chair Dr. Janis Elliot. The Commission has issued an apology to the delegates of the General Assembly for the format of its annual report, which some who were present found objectionable.
In April 2002 the Commission met at Community Church of New York in Manhattan. The opening worship service was presented by Rev. Roberta Finkelstein. The Commission further refined the issues relevant to the study and began the planning of the methodology to be used. A Saturday morning hearing was held to provide an opportunity for UUs in the New York City area to respond to the study topic. A meeting was also held with Kay Aler-Maida concerning the UUA's efforts to become a more anti-racist and multicultural organization.
At its January 2002 meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, the Commission selected as its next topic the issue of the theological fragmentation of the Unitarian Universalist movement in North America. This decision was based on review of several suggested topics, information provided by many UUA staff and departments, and material collected at open hearings. The Commission will spend the next several years in detailed and thoughtful study of the question, "Where is the unity in our diversity?" The next Commission report is expected to be presented to the 2005 General Assembly.