Article II: Covenant

   

   

Recommendation for revisions in Article II of the UUA Bylaws

 


by George Desnoyers

 

 

 

Introduction

 

On Saturday, June 27, 2009, the General Assembly voted on a motion to place the Commission on Appraisal’s recommended new Article II (modified slightly by the Board of Trustees) on the agenda of the 2010 General Assembly for adoption.  The motion was defeated by 13 votes, 573 “Yes” votes to 586 “No” votes.  If the proposed new Article II had been placed on the agenda of the 2010 General Assembly (to convene in Minneapolis), a two-thirds vote would have been required for adoption.

 

On Sunday, June 28, the General Assembly passed the following Responsive Resolution on Article II by a vote of two-thirds (or greater):

 

Responsive Resolution on Article II


The 2009 General Assembly of the UUA strongly urges the UUA Board of Trustees to facilitate a continuation and further deepening of the discussion of the Principles and
Purposes begun by the review conducted by the UUA Commission on Appraisal, and that such discussion should continue throughout all levels of the Association, at least until such time as further revisions to Article II may be presented to a General Assembly.

 

In addition, a report of the 2009 general Assembly’s Fifth Plenary Session on the UUA website (http://www.uua.org/events/generalassembly/2009/ga2009/144232.shtml) includes the following comment after reporting the defeat of the motion:

 

The assembled delegates asked that the General Assembly Board reconsider the bylaws that prevented any amendments to proposed changes. The Board agreed to do so. In addition, a group of delegates started to form to work to bring proposed changes to Article II to the General Assembly two years from now, after congregational discussion. Two years is the earliest opportunity the bylaws currently allow for this type of change to be reconsidered. [Boldface for emphasis mine]

 

It is in the spirit of the above Responsive Resolution, and with the knowledge of existing interest in considering a change in Article II at the 2011 General Assembly, that I offer the following recommendation for a new Article II.  Below, I present my recommendation both with and without rationale.

 

I invite comments on my suggestions, and also suggestions of others.  My email address is cagean@berkshire.rr.com.

 

 

 

 

Proposal with rationale

Proposal without rationale

 

 

 

 

Article II: Covenant

 

Recommended Article II - WITH rationale

 

Recommendation of George Desnoyers

 

 

    

Black print = Recommendations for Article II

Green print = Rationale for recommendations

   

 


Article II: Covenant

 

[The UUA’s Commission on Appraisal (COA) made a good decision in choosing the name “Covenant” for Article II.]

 

Section C-2.1 – Purposes  [The UUA’s Commission on Appraisal (COA) did a good job here.  It makes good sense to have the Purposes as the first section of Article II.  The following paragraph is the COA’s language.]

 

This association of free yet interdependent congregations devotes its resources to and exercises its corporate powers for religious, educational, and humanitarian purposes. It supports the creation, vitality, and growth of congregations that aspire to live out the Unitarian Universalist Principles. Through public witness and advocacy, it advances the Principles in the world.

 

Section C-2.2 – Principles  [For at least two reasons, the COA’s recommendation to have the Sources given before the Principles should not be followed.  First, the Principles are far more important than the Sources.  Second, the Principles were just mentioned twice in the COA’s recommended Section C-2.1; many readers would naturally expect them to follow immediately.]

We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, commit ourselves to honor and uphold:  [This removes the COA’s recommended words, “Grateful for the gift of life,” and also its recommended words, “to embody together the transforming power of love.”  Those deleted words are not necessary; this section should be kept as simple and as easy to memorize as possible.  It’s the act of committing to honor and uphold the Principles that is important.

 

However, the COA’s recommendation of “honor and uphold” to replace the current Article II’s “affirm and promote” is a good one for the reason the Commission gave.  Finally, I recommend the bullets to the seven Principles be kept, at least in most official printings.  They were missing in the COA’s recommended Article II.] 

 

 

[The COA’s recommended improvements in the language of the third, fifth, and seventh Principles were good for the reasons the Commission gave.

 

The COA’s recommended section on Principles concluded with a sixty-two word paragraph which I have placed at the end of my recommendation here as a new “Section C-2.6 – Repair of Relationships”.  It is best to keep the whole Principles section short and easy to memorize, and “Repair of Relationships” merits a section of its own.]

 

Section C-2.3 – Sources  [As I mentioned above, the Sources should come after the Principles, as they do here, and not before the Principles.  The Principles are more important.]

 

Unitarian Universalism has been and continues to be a living tradition open to change and growth.  [I believe the Commission was right in its recommendation to have the Sources be a separate section rather than included in the "Principles" section as is presently the case.  The purpose of the short opening paragraph above is to establish at the outset that Unitarian Universalism is an organic faith tradition rather than a static entity.

 

Before going on to the next paragraph, here is an important paragraph from the Commission's report:

 

Sources. By far the most scrutiny by respondents went to the Sources. Clearly the Sources deserved a section of their own. Perhaps the most strongly expressed wish was that Article II would give Unitarianism and Universalism their due as sources of present-day Unitarian Universalism. This prompted considerable conversation as to whether the bylaw is intended to address the sources of Unitarian Universalism or the sources of contemporary individual Unitarian Universalists’ spiritual and religious life. Respondents saw this both ways often enough to persuade us to accommodate both views.

 

I think the Commission was right to accommodate the wish of many to “give Unitarianism and Universalism their due as sources of present-day Unitarian Universalism.”  In the paragraph recommended below, Unitarianism and Universalism are "given their due" as sources.  Embedded in the paragraph are sources formerly found in the bulleted list, but without the "which" clauses - removed for the reason the Commission gave.

 

The removal of the bullets for Sources was opposed by some delegates in Salt Lake City.  However, I support the recommendation of the Commission to not use bullets in this section.  In my opinion, the only place bullets should be used is for the seven Principles.  It is the Principles that are most important in telling who and what we are, and who and what we are is more important than how we got this way.]

 

Unitarian Universalism developed out of two optimistic traditions within Christianity: Unitarianism which emphasized the oneness of god, and Universalism which emphasized the oneness of all humankind in experiencing god’s love.  While influence of those two sources remains, Unitarian Universalism has opened itself up to ideas from other religions, humanism, and Earth-centered traditions.  It has also been affected by the words and deeds of prophetic individuals.  While Unitarian Universalism is not a Christian denomination, some Unitarian Universalists identify themselves as Christians or as followers of Christ.

 

Section C-2.4 – Inclusion  [It is hard to decide whether “Inclusion” or “Freedom of Belief” should come next.  I have followed the recommendation of the Commission on Appraisal to place the Inclusion section next.]

 

Systems of power, privilege, and oppression have traditionally created barriers for persons and groups with particular identities, ages, abilities, and histories.  We pledge to do all we can 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.

 

[This is the language of the Commission on Appraisal.  At an earlier time I recommended adding a list of specific groups by use of the words, "regardless of race, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, sexual preference, age, disability, and civilian/military/veteran status."  I have removed the list from my recommendation because most delegates at the 2009 General Assembly preferred to have an "Inclusion" section which did not include such a list.  On Sunday, June 28, the delegates passed the following Responsive Resolution by a two-thirds (or greater) vote:

 

In response to the changes to Article II reported by the Commission on Appraisal and subsequent discussion of those recommendations at this General Assembly, the delegates request that the UUA Board of Trustees place a motion to substitute the recommended language of Section C-2.4 “Inclusion” for the current bylaw C-2.3 “Non-discrimination” on a General Assembly agenda as soon as possible.

 

Because the delegates at the GA passed the above motion endorsing the precise language on "Inclusion" which was recommended by the Commission on Appraisal, I also now prefer the Commission's language.]

 

Section C-2.5 - Freedom of Belief  [In this section I have accepted the language of the Commission on Appraisal.  My only changes were: (1) to replace the COA’s semi-colon after the word “membership” with a period, (2) to change from a lower-case “n” to an upper-case “N” in the word “Nor”, and (3) to replace the COA’s recommendation of “such a test” in the last sentence to “any creedal test”.]

 

Freedom of belief is central to the Unitarian Universalist heritage.  Congregations may establish statements of purpose, covenants, and bonds of union so long as they do not require a statement of belief as a creedal test for membership.  Nor may the Association employ any creedal test for congregational affiliation.

 

Section C-2.6 – Repair of Relationships  [The Commission on Appraisal recommended that this matter be taken up in a sixty-two word paragraph following the listing of the seven Principles.  I believe: (1) that the Principles section should be kept short and easy to memorize, (2) that this subject merits a section of its own, and (3) that a section on “Repair of Relationships” provides an especially good way to conclude a covenant.

 

In the following paragraph, I have followed fairly closely the recommendations of the COA.  But there are two departures.  First, where the Commission had “Capable of both good and evil,” I have used “Capable of making both good and bad choices”.  Second, in the last sentence, where the Commission had “we will begin again in love, repair the relationship, and recommit to the promises we have made,” I have “we will act in love and respect to repair the relationship and recommit to the promises we have made.”]

 

As free yet interdependent congregations, we enter into this covenant, pledging to one another our mutual trust and support.  Capable of making both good and bad choices, at times we are in need of forgiveness and reconciliation.  When we fall short of living up to this covenant, we will act with love and respect to repair the relationship and recommit to the promises we have made.

 

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Article II: Covenant

   

[Recommendation given here WITHOUT rationale]

 

 

Section C-2.1 – Purposes

 

This association of free yet interdependent congregations devotes its resources to and exercises its corporate powers for religious, educational, and humanitarian purposes. It supports the creation, vitality, and growth of congregations that aspire to live out the Unitarian Universalist Principles. Through public witness and advocacy, it advances the Principles in the world.

 

Section C-2.2 – Principles

 

We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, commit ourselves to honor and uphold:

 

 

Section C-2.3 – Sources

 

Unitarian Universalism has been and continues to be a living tradition open to change and growth.

 

Unitarian Universalism developed out of two optimistic traditions within Christianity: Unitarianism which emphasized the oneness of god, and Universalism which emphasized the oneness of all humankind in experiencing god’s love.  While influence of those two sources remains, Unitarian Universalism has opened itself up to ideas from other religions, humanism, and Earth-centered traditions.  It has also been affected by the words and deeds of prophetic individuals.  While Unitarian Universalism is not a Christian denomination, some Unitarian Universalists identify themselves as Christians or as followers of Christ.

 

Section C-2.4 – 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 do all we can 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-2.5 - Freedom of Belief

 

Freedom of belief is central to the Unitarian Universalist heritage.  Congregations may establish statements of purpose, covenants, and bonds of union so long as they do not require a statement of belief as a creedal test for membership.  Nor may the Association employ any creedal test for congregational affiliation.

 

Section C-2.6 – Repair of Relationships 

 

As free yet interdependent congregations, we enter into this covenant, pledging to one another our mutual trust and support.  Capable of making both good and bad choices, at times we are in need of forgiveness and reconciliation.  When we fall short of living up to this covenant, we will act with love and respect to repair the relationship and recommit to the promises we have made.

 

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