In business sessions marked by broad consensus for aggressively challenging the criminalization of migrants, people of color, and indigenous people, the General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association voted in Kansas City, Missouri, to make dismantling white supremacy its priority for congregational study and action.
Delegates picked “Undoing Intersectional White Supremacy” as a multiyear Congregational Study/Action Issue, in a lopsided vote against a similarly named proposal, “Dismantling Intersectional Oppression,” which added “animal wellbeing” as a focus. The counted vote was 1,101 to 108.
Delegates endorsed three Actions of Immediate Witness, which all emphasize the urgency of supporting people of color and indigenous people. The first calls for congregational action to draw attention to predatory medical fees charged to incarcerated people, who are disproportionately people of color; the UUA’s Church of the Larger Fellowship developed the resolution in partnership with its 870 incarcerated members.
A second resolution pledges solidarity with indigenous “water protectors,” who have been fighting the placement of liquid natural gas pipelines near Native American lands and who face federal charges for disrupting construction of the pipelines.
The third resolution demands immediate action to improve U.S. treatment of asylum seekers and migrant families to keep families together. Among other demands, the resolution advocates the abolition of Immigration Customs Enforcement“and the implementation of a system that understands the causes the migration, provides a non-carceral solution while asylum seekers await a decision on their case, and has a fundamental commitment to keeping families together.”
All three were adopted speedily by overwhelming margins and without amendments.
The resolution on U.S. treatment of migrants also urges Unitarian Universalists to participate in the June 30 mass mobilization “ Families Belong Together” and to support Mijente’s #AbolishICE Day of Action near San Diego on July 2.
Delegates at the June 20–24 General Assembly also approved a group of bylaw changes to bring the UUA’s governing document up to date with current understandings of gender diversity. A proposal introduced last year to change Unitarian Universalism’s “Second Source” from “words and deeds of prophetic women and men” to “words and deeds of prophetic people” passed easily, although some delegates expressed sorrow at the loss of an explicit affirmation of women while affirming people who may not identify as male or female.
A second proposal—to change all gendered pronouns in the bylaws to the gender-inclusive they/them/their—prompted the only close vote of the General Assembly. Forty-five percent of the delegates voted for an amendment to the proposal that would have replaced any pronoun with the specific role it referred to (“the president” instead of “he or she” or “they,” for example). Delegates then voted resoundingly in favor of using only the singular third-person “they/them/their” in the UUA bylaws.
Religious educators successfully lobbied for an amendment they had long wanted: delegate status for religious educators serving congregations. The vote proceeded without opposition after statements of support from the Liberal Religious Educators Association (LREDA) and the Youth Caucus. The change expands the pool of potential delegates who are religious educators by approximately 300 people, from Credentialed Religious Educators–Masters Level who are serving congregations to active members of LREDA who are serving congregations.
The assembly also approved adding two Youth Trustees to the eleven at-large trustees on the UUA Board of Trustees. The youth trustees will replace the non-voting Youth Observers to the board.
Three amendments passed as a package without discussion. The three amendments explicitly allow the role of moderator to be filled by more than one person; modify committee terms; and restrict the number of congregations from any one region that can file a petition to call a Special General Assembly.
Delegates rejected an amendment brought by the Joseph Priestley District in the Central East Region that would have required “means by which congregations may communicate directly with the Board concerning the governance of the Association.” Although 55 percent of delegates voted for the proposal, it needed two-thirds to pass. Co-Moderator Mr. Barb Greve, who invited congregational leaders and UUs generally to reach out to the board, said the board will still seek to improve “linkage opportunities” with congregations.
The most complex bylaw change, introduced by the Commission on Social Witness and the Board of Trustees, simplifies the bylaws that govern the General Assembly’s social witness resolutions process. No one stood in opposition to the changes, and it passed almost unanimously. The newly approved process shortens the Congregational Study/Action Issue process, removes the requirement for miniassemblies for Actions of Immediate Witness, which the General Assembly may “affirm” rather than “adopt” with a two-thirds vote.
Attendance was low this year, with 2,814 registered attendees, including 134 youth. The only GA since 2000 with fewer participants was in 2005, with 2,361 registrants. However, 522 congregations from all fifty states, D.C., Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Mexico were represented by 1,570 delegates, including 199 off-site delegates.
Additional coverage of GA is available and will continue to be published at uuworld.org.
Correction 6/26/18: An earlier version of this story misstated the date of Mijente’s #AbolishICE Day of Action.
Updated 6/28/18: Links have been added to the final texts of the resolutions, which were published on UUA.org on June 27.