Fifteen congregants joined Rev. Julie and Dave Cicero, DLRE, on May 11 to hear the latest on proposed changes to the UUA’s bylaws’ Article II, which contains the Principles and Sources. If approved at General Assembly in June, the restatement of seven (or more, if certain amendments to the proposal are accepted) covenanted values and commitments will be made official.

To inform UUCW’s GA delegates of congregation members’ thoughts on this subject, an advisory vote will be held at the upcoming Annual Meeting. For those looking for more background, I share the following resources to help you understand the rationale for the proposed changes, the history of their development, and their implications for the denomination.

In short, the UUA’s bylaws require its Board of Trustees to periodically review, specifically, the language in the section where the association’s statements of Principles, Purpose, Inclusion, and Freedom of Belief reside. This was last begun in 2018-19, and a Study Commission was appointed to conduct that work. That group hosted numerous focus groups and discussion/feedback sessions about the current language and perceived needs for changes. They compiled suggestions and invited feedback from congregations throughout the association – multiple times – before submitting a recommendation to the Board in January of 2023.

The Board then submitted to that year’s General Assembly, for a preliminary vote, their proposal. It received well over the 50% “yes” votes … to continue the process of discussing the changes among congregations and providing more feedback to the Commission. The proposal, as amended – and with a few others that have survived the path to this point – is now on the agenda for final approval at GA ‘25.

My viewpoint?: I support the changes.

The 8th Principle came about because of an inability of the original seven to motivate UUs to actively do anti-racist work. It was worded in a way that stated a shared value (that UUs could agree to “promote and affirm”) but followed it with a concrete action. This, in itself, has brought about controversy as congregations considered adopting it or not. (“Is UUism truly a faith of ‘deeds, not creeds’?” “What are the shortcomings of purely “aspirational” statements of Principles?”) The proposal being considered takes the original sentiments, held dear by so many, and rephrases them using the same format as the 8th Principle. It challenges UUs to act on behalf of their values.

Many (not the least of whom are RE teachers, who have used curricula based on them for decades now) hold the 7 Principles so close to their hearts. But the changes proposed are not radical. There are no completely new ideas there. Some old phrasing remains; others have been reframed in a way that does challenge – positively, in my mind – the reasons and ways in which congregations will choose to continue being. But I am confident that fresh ways of communicating, teaching, and applying the stated values will emerge….eventually becoming the new “near-and-dear”.

Dave Cicero, UUCW Dir. of Lifespan Religious Education (May, 2024)

RESOURCES:

About Article II – it’s history and current language

Article II Study Commission – how we’ve gotten to this point, with links to the report submitted in 2023 and to commentary about the progress made

Final Proposed Revision to Article II (2024) – text, graphic and description, letters from Commission and Board of Trustees

Exploring the Proposed Changes – video provided by the Church of the Larger Fellowship, and used during recent UUCW workshop about Article II