President's Column for September 2023
I was drawn to Unitarian Universalism because it values freedom of thought, an attribute sadly missing from my childhood religion. I started attending UUSE in 1999, have served on several committees, and am now president of the Policy Board. My early career was as a clinical social worker, later as corporate lawyer. Now in retirement I volunteer as a lawyer at CT Legal Services assisting low-income elders. As an avid musician, I play flute and cello in several community groups. I am married to David Webbe. We have three children, and a dog and a cat.
President's Column for September 2023
Note: Thank you to Peggy Webbe, UUSE President, for her column space this month for Jean Knapp’s reflection on GA2023 and Article II (A2) and UUA’s process. Look for additional Article II/UUA information elsewhere in this newsletter and participate in respectful dialogue on UUSE’s new Article II dialogue page available for members and friends to comment, question and share their thoughts. As indicated, Peggy Webbe shared this space with one of UUSE’s delegates to the UUA meeting; however, the comments and reflections should not be construed to be those of Peggy Webbe, UUSE President.
Website link: https://www.uuse.org/post/article-ii-discussion-area
Jean Knapp’s reflections on the UUA General Assembly (GA) June 2023
I have been a member of UUSE for 38 years and this was my first-time attending GA. I was a virtual and business-only delegate to GA, attending on Zoom. As a nonpaying participant, I was not able to attend/view sessions other than business meetings, so I did not get to experience new topics or the camaraderie of other meetings. My views below are based on what I attended, which were mini-sessions and GA meetings 1-5.
I appreciated the opportunity to be a delegate for UUSE and enjoyed the experience. The organization of GA as a whole was impressive. The delegate site was helpful. The moderators and timekeepers were on-track. There were a few glitches with the changing agendas, start times, and numbers on amendments, etc., which made it somewhat confusing for the delegates.
Article II (A2) Principles and Purposes
“Article II of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Bylaws, Principles and Purposes, is the foundation for all of the work of our UUA and its member congregations. It is the covenant to which all of our congregations and covenanted communities pledge themselves when they become members of our UUA.”
I was anticipating a robust exchange regarding A2 and amendments, however this did not occur. Many delegates were surprised that UUA had pre-determined which amendments would be considered, boiling down around 500 amendments to only 15 to be seriously considered. The discussion on A2 during sessions was also quite limited. Each amendment was given 9 minutes for discussion, with 90 seconds per speaker (after intro), which allowed only ~5-6 people to share on each amendment. Additionally, the A2 Commission had priority to speak first on the amendment, rather than the delegates. This did not appear to be fully democratic to me. My overall impression during these meetings was that UUA and leadership remarks were at times condescending, speaking as though A2 was a done deal, and implying folks with a different viewpoint were uninformed, stuck in the past, and possibly ignorant. That type of discourse was not what I expected.
UUA Leadership kept saying to please vote YES to “continue the conversation” which certainly sounds reasonable on the surface but was actually mis-leading. Cheryl Walker said that voting NO would “cut off discussion.” However, after the vote, we learned that to bring an amendment next year will be much more difficult and it will need the sponsorship of 15 UU Congregations. It seems unlikely that there will be many, if any, amendments proposed for GA 2024.
Although most discourse was respectful, there were a few times when it appeared that rather than addressing the issue, the UUA Leadership resorted to attacking the person(s). This contributed to the undemocratic vibes during GA.
1. One of those times was during the President candidate’s Q&A session. Reverend Mathew Johnson, Rockville, IL, of the UUA Election Campaign Practices Committee, was saying there were a lot of questions/comments about why we had only a single candidate for UUA President. Reverand Mathew stated that those comments were both “racist and sexist.” I believe objecting to a single candidate is certainly valid and wonder what the response would have been if folks were objecting to a single candidate that was, for example, a white male, rather than a woman of color.
2. Another time, out-going UUA President, Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray stated “how dare you,” regarding people who opposed Article II.
3. And another speaker stated that if you were not in favor of Article II, then you were “stuck in the past” and “not forward thinking,” or you were “cutting off the conversation.” Some felt there was ageism implied with these comments.
Possibly, most average UUs do not give that much attention to the UUA initiatives. Partly because in the more recent past, most of UUA’s actions or initiatives had little impact on congregational activities. Many UU congregants feel they were not adequately informed regarding proposed Article II changes, particularly that the Principles and Sources will be eliminated if the currently proposed A2 passes the vote at next year’s GA.
Note: if this Article II proposal were to be voted down at GA 2024, it could then be reintroduced after two years, and congregations would have more awareness and more time to consider any changes.
A couple of comments are listed below that were shared online relating to GA and the proposed A2:
“…and after hearing Frederick-Gray's final address, I know now that I am a drag on real UU as it tries to become a loving, accountable community. I'm pulling it backwards, against progress. She asked, ‘How dare you...?’ And she got A LOT of applause for this energized vitriol.”
“Most of us are troubled by the wholesale rejection of the liberal definition of our faith, and its redefinition as an identitarian anti-racist (using a racist definition) political activist collective with the sole mission of ‘changing the world through liberating Love’.”
Please look for additional information elsewhere in this newsletter, and at:
Article II / UUA – September 2023
As promised, the Denominational Affairs Committee is continuing to communicate around Article II to facilitate UUSE’s exploration of what the proposed changes may ultimately mean for our congregation.
Article II—Principles and Purposes—Continuing the Conversation
UUA Description: “Article II of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Bylaws, Principles and Purposes, is the foundation for all of the work of our UUA and its member congregations. It is the covenant to which all of our congregations and covenanted communities pledge themselves when they become members of our UUA.”
There are many differing points of view about Article II and UUA’s processes. As you consider your own thoughts, you may want to reflect on the Unofficial A2 Proposed Bylaws Revision DRAFT as amended 06.2003, comments that are posted, as well as Rev. Josh's July 23, 2023 Sermon on GA and Article II.
Provide Your Input Online on the UUSE Website
UUSE has created a discussion area on the website where UUSE members and friends can post their comments or questions and engage in respectful dialogue regarding Article II, UUA Process, or thoughts on where collectively UUSE might wish to go from here.
Save These Dates: October 1 and October 29
Two Sunday meetings have been scheduled after the 11 AM Sunday service to hold discussions in person.
Below Is A Recap of a few links from recent Eblasts
This link is to the Proposed Bylaws Revision of Article II as Amended at the UUA General Assembly, June 21–25, 2023, and is a look at what is changing.
This link is to a video that raises concerns with the proposed changes and process.
This link is to the UUA Original Charge to the study commission for Article II
Please direct questions to Carrie Kocher or Jean Knapp, or simply enter them on the UUSE Website Article II dialogue area (see link above). Thank you.
UUSE Denominational Affairs Committee
Carrie Kocher, Jean Knapp, Malcolm Barlow, Carol Lacoss, Desiree Holian-Borgnis, Patricia Wildes