Commission on Institutional Change
The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Commission on Institutional Change is charged with long-term cultural and institutional change that redeems the essential promise and ideals of Unitarian Universalism. Appointed by the UUA Board of Trustees in 2017 for a period of two years, the Commission will analyze structural racism and white supremacy within the UUA.
Read the complete summary (PDF) of the Commission, including the full charge and member bios. To contact the Commission, email commission [at] uua [dot] org.
Call for Personal Testimony
The Commission on Institutional Change requests personal accounts and stories about how racism has affected individuals and groups within Unitarian Universalism at the personal, institutional, or systemic levels. It is seeking to document incidents that occurred between individual Unitarian Universalists, within a congregational or Associational setting, or as a result of white-centeredness embedded within the greater Unitarian Universalist culture. (Read the full call and submit your story.)
- Keep up-to-date on the Commission's activity with The Institutional Change Blog.
- Rev. Leslie Takahashi, chair: Lead Minister at the Mt. Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church in Walnut Creek, CA, and Affiliated Faculty with Meadville Lombard Theological School
- Caitlin Breedlove: Vice President for Movement Leadership at Auburn Seminary; former Campaign Director of the UUA Standing on the Side of Love Campaign, former Co-Director of Southerners on New Ground
- Mary Byron: Member of the UUA Audit Committee; former executive with Goldman Sachs
- DeReau Farrar: Director of Music at the First Unitarian Church of Portland, OR, member of the Unitarian Universalist Musicians Network
- Rev. Natalie Fenimore: Minister for Lifespan Religious Education at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock in Manhasset, NY; former president of the Liberal Religious Educators Association
- Dr. Elias Ortega-Aponte: Associate Professor of Sociology and Religious Ethics at Drew University, and member of the UUA Religious Educator Credentialing Committee
Additionally, Rev. Sofia Betancourt, former UUA Interim Co-President for Institutional Change, will help support the Commission as it gets started during the first few months.
Purpose and Goals
The Commission on Institutional Change held its first in-person meeting on August 21 and 22, 2017. After two days of deliberation and consideration of the charge presented it by the Board of Trustees of the Unitarian Universalist Association, the Commission completed a statement of its work, its guiding principles and its approach to its work. Over the two years the Commission will report back to the Board and General Assembly its learning, recommendations, and guidance for ongoing work. The Commission will:
- Ground its work in theological reflection and seek the articulation of a liberating Unitarian Universalism which is anti-oppressive, multicultural and accountable to the richness of our diverse heritage.
- Oversee an audit of racism within the Unitarian Universalist Association practices and policies to set priorities and make recommendations for anti-oppressive strategies (including hiring and personnel practices and governance structures) and that will advance our progress towards building the Beloved Community and hold the Association accountable.
- Collect stories of those who have been the target of harm or aggression because of racism within existing UUA culture and to identify the aspects of that culture which must be dismantled to transform us into a faith for our times.
- Examine and document critical events and practices at all levels of the Association, congregations and related ministries which spotlight areas for redress and restorative justice and illuminate the expectations placed on religious professionals of color in the transformation of our faith.
- Identify promising practices for recruitment, retention and formation of religious leadership which spans the spectrum of race, class and age and which reflects an ecclesiology of an inclusive faith.
Principles to Guide Our Work
We also spent time discerning guiding principles with which to address our work to end systemic racial oppression in our Association, informed by the experience we bring to our work as Commissioners. These will be evolving, however we begin with these premises:
- Unitarian Universalists and the practice of Unitarian Universalism need to call us to live into the fullness of the theology we inherit and proclaim.
- Transformation is needed at all levels of our Association of Congregations to abandon dysfunctional cultural expressions of our theology and polity.
- The covenants which bind us together both within our own faith and to our partners in the world are frayed and broken by the domination of white supremacy culture among us.
- To keep Unitarian Universalism alive, we must privilege the voices which have been silenced or drowned out and dismantle elitist and exclusionary white privilege which inhibits connection and creativity.
- In this effort, we should be guided by the bright spots of creativity and learning where multicultural and multigenerational new expressions of our faith are found.
Statement of How We Will Work
We have agreed on the following approach to our work. Former tri-president Rev. Sofia Bentancourt in charging the Commission instructed us as Commission member to work in a way which will be sustainable and so the Commission issued these statements about HOW they will work.
- We are a volunteer commission with primary duties outside this work.
- We intend to do and model this work in a way that is sustainable for us.
- We will be issuing regular communications and we ask you to pay attention.
- We will be seeking stories and accounts to inform our work, please monitor our web page and our website and other social media.
- In communicating with us, we ask that you use our group email which is commission [at] uua [dot] org.