This article was updated 5/27/21.
Thousands of Unitarian Universalists are preparing to gather online June 23–27, 2021, for the Unitarian Universalist Association’s second all-virtual General Assembly. This year, attendees can look forward to a full slate of interactive programming, invigorating worship, and opportunities to connect, including the recently announced Ware Lecture featuring Stacey Abrams and Desmond Meade.
General Assembly is also the annual opportunity for delegates to engage in the governance and business of the Association and to help shape its mission and priorities. The GA business agenda is still being finalized, but that business will include an election of trustees and other UUA committee members, as well as votes on social justice statements and changes to the UUA presidential elections process. This article will be updated as the agenda is finalized.
Delegates will elect nine people to volunteer leadership positions, although only one race is being contested. Two candidates are running for Board of Trustees Position #8: the Rev. Sam Trumbore, who was nominated by the UUA Nominating Committee, and Jay Kiskel, who is running by petition.
UUA Trustee Barbara de Leeuw offered the following statement on behalf of the Board: “The UUA Board of Trustees endorses the UUA Nominating Committee’s three candidates for the Board, the Rev. Elizabeth Mount, JeKaren Oloya, and the Rev. Sam Trumbore. The Board is committed to implementing the antiracist, antioppressive, and multicultural recommendations in the Commission on Institutional Change report (Widening the Circle of Concern) and believes the committee-nominated candidates will best support the Association’s journey toward diversity, inclusivity, and equity.” [Updated 5/27/21: The board formally endorsed the Nominating Committee slate on May 17.]
Updated 5/27/21: Delegates will also vote at GA on six proposed UUA bylaw amendments, largely related to UUA elections and increasing flexibility.
Proposed Amendment 1 [PDF], requested by the Commission on Social Witness, would allow Actions of Immediate Witness to be submitted via the UUA website and through UUA communications, rather than in-person at GA so as to not require attendance at the opening session of General Assembly.
Proposed Amendment 5 would allow delegates and trustees to register for, speak at, and vote at GA without necessarily needing to pay a registration fee. This would allow the UUA to change the registration structure for GA delegates and business sessions as it considers different approaches to GA in future years. Should it pass, the board will adopt a rule defining how registration terms for GA and delegate participation will be set.
Proposed Amendment 6, requested by the Religious Education Credentialing Committee, would create more flexibility in the terms and levels of religious education credentialing by removing references to the current levels of credentialing.
Three of the proposed amendments relate to UUA elections.
Proposed Amendment 2 [PDF] would adjust deadlines and modernize language to shorten election campaigns for UUA Moderator and President and better reflect the realities of campaigning.
Proposed Amendment 3 [PDF] would update language to allow the Presidential Search Committee to nominate a single candidate for UUA president rather than multiple candidates. Additional candidates would still be able to run by petition. Rather than requiring competition between candidates which can be costly and unnecessarily divisive, this gives the Presidential Search Committee more flexibility based on the pool of candidates.
And Proposed Amendment 4 would allow a newly elected UUA president to take office as many as 45 days after their election, rather than immediately following the election. This time might be used to allow the president-elect to rest after a campaign, move their household, say goodbye to their congregation or employer, or make initial decisions about their administration at the UUA. Should this amendment pass, the Board of Trustees will adopt a rule defining how the Board will set the start date in collaboration with the President-elect.
This year the GA Business Rules of Procedure have been redrafted using a “plain language” approach. This honors the UUA’s commitment to accessibility, making it much easier for delegates to understand how discussion and voting works for the GA business agenda. The rules will be approved at the board’s June 4 meeting.
“Once registered, delegates will find a participation guide that will familiarize them with the online GA participation portal,” explains Director of Information Technology Services Larry Stritof. “It explains the experience they can expect and prepares them to interact with the various delegate tools.”
Update 5/27/21: To help participants prepare for GA, the Board of Trustees is offering two webinars—“ What to Expect at GA 2021” (Thursday, June 10) and “In-Depth Look at the Rules of Procedure” (Saturday, June 12). Advance registration is required for the 75-minute webinars, but they will also be recorded and posted on UUA.org for on-demand viewing. In addition, the board is hosting a Zoom Open House where participants can ask questions and chat about GA 2021, progress on the Article II Study Commission, congregational engagement with Widening the Circle of Concern, and other issues. The next UUA Board Open House will be Tuesday, June 8.
General Assembly registration is $200 per person, with both financial support and a payment plan available. Registrants will receive access to the 2021 GA Participation Portal, including live and on-demand video content; a virtual exhibit hall; interactive chat rooms; pastoral care and tech support; and a new GA mobile app. Register today to see weekly email updates on programming, business, and events happening at GA. Visit UUA.org/ga for more.
Text change 5/27/21: A phrase in a direct quote was updated at the speaker's request to remove ableist language.