Delegates raise their voting cards during a plenary debate at the 2012 General Assembly. (© 2012 Nancy Pierce)
Delegates to the 2012 General Assembly almost unanimously approved several amendments to the Unitarian Universalist Association's bylaws without debate at Sunday's plenary. All three amendments required approval by two consecutive General Assemblies and had been endorsed by the 2011 General Assembly.
The first amendment removed “associate ministers,” an obsolete category of ministry, from the bylaws, following changes adopted by the Ministerial Fellowship Committee.
The second amendment changed the process by which the General Assembly can modify the UUA’s Principles and Purposes (Article II). The modified process would allow the General Assembly to amend proposed changes to Article II under particular conditions. The last time a General Assembly considered a proposal to change Article II, in 2009, delegates had wanted to adopt part but not all of the proposal submitted by the Commission on Appraisal, but could not modify the commission’s text under guidelines in Article XV.
Finally, delegates approved a small wording change that the Rev. Dr. Susan Ritchie, the UUA trustee who introduced the amendment, said have major implications. The amendment changes references to “churches and fellowships” in the bylaws to the more general term “congregations,” and cuts “local” from references to “local congregations.” Removing “local,” Ritchie explained, would open the door to forms of religious affiliation not necessarily tied to physical meeting places in particular places.
“We can gather as intentional religious community with people we do not share a particular geography with,” Ritchie said. “The board believes it serves the cause of justice to expand the definition of congregations.”
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Christopher L. Walton is editor of UU World. He holds degrees from Harvard Divinity School and the University of Utah and is a member of the Church of the Larger Fellowship.