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Commission offers second draft of new UUA Principles

After receiving more than 1,700 comments on proposed changes to the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Principles and Purposes, Commission presents revised draft to Board of Trustees.
By Christopher L. Walton
1.12.09

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The Board of Trustees of the Unitarian Universalist Association will decide at its January meeting whether to invite the General Assembly to amend the UUA’s Principles and Purposes. The proposed amendment retains the Seven Principles adopted by the UUA in 1985, but introduces significant changes in the structure and scope of Article II of the Association’s Bylaws, in which the Principles appear.

Written by the Commission on Appraisal after a two-year review, the proposed amendment to Article II is the second draft issued by the Commission. A first draft, released for public comment in September 2008, generated 1,700 responses. The second draft is 401 words shorter than the first but retains its basic structure. (See link to “Second draft of new UUA Principles and Purposes” in sidebar.)

Since 1961, Article II has been called “Principles and Purposes”; the Commission proposes renaming it “Covenant.” Covenantal language is most explicit in the final paragraph of Section C-2.3 (“Principles”): “Capable of both good and evil, at times we are in need of forgiveness and reconciliation. When we fall short of living up to this covenant, we will begin again in love, repair the relationship, and recommit to the promises we have made.”

In two places, the new text describes the UUA as an association of “free yet interdependent congregations,” whereas the current text speaks only of “free congregations.” The new text retains a Freedom of Belief clause that forbids the use of any creedal test for membership. It also replaces a section on “non-discrimination” with a more general statement of “inclusion” that commits the Association to creating “ever-widening circles of solidarity and mutual respect.”

All Seven Principles adopted by the UUA in 1985 remain in the new text, but slight changes have been made to three of them. The Third Principle (“acceptance of one another”) and Fifth Principle (“the right of conscience”) are no longer set in the context of congregational life but are applied more generally. The Seventh Principle rephrases “respect for the interdependent web” as “reverence for the interdependent web.”

The Six Sources in the current Principles and Purposes, however, have been rewritten as a three-paragraph statement about UU theological pluralism that ends by vowing “to avoid misuse of cultural and religious practices.”

If the Board of Trustees, which meets in Boston January 14–19, places the Commission’s amendment on the General Assembly agenda, two consecutive General Assemblies would need to approve the revised text before it would take effect. The amendment would require a simple majority vote in 2009 and a two-thirds majority vote in 2010.

See sidebar for links to related resources, including the report from the Commission on Appraisal that includes the revised text and a memo on the Commission’s process and intentions.

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