Delegates have just adopted changes to the UUA bylaws that significantly modify the Statement of Conscience process. The new process will require the participation of at least 25 percent of the UUA's member congregations in introducing study/action issues into the process that generates Statements of Conscience. Opponents and supporters of the changes both observed that far less than 25 percent of congregations have participated in the process in recent years: Oppenents said that the changes would effectively kill off many resolutions; supporters said that the changes would help guarantee that resolutions more truly reflect the values and commitments of the denomination.
The bylaw amendments also slowed down the study/action process. The current process involves a two-year cycle of congregational review, with new issues introduced each year. (This year, for example, delegates are voting on the global warming statement of conscience at the end of two years of congregational review. Congregations are one year into the “moral values in a pluralistic society” study/action process. And delegates have adopted the “peacemaking” study/action for the next two years.) The new process extends the study/review period to four years and allows the introduction a new study/action issue every other year.
The amendments were supported by the Commission on Social Witness (the elected commission that shepherds the resolutions process), the UUA Board of Trustees (24 to 1), the UUA advocacy and witness staff, and the Youth Caucus and Young Adult Caucuses. The youth and young adult vote was tied in part to a provision of the new process that allows YRUU (the denominational youth organization) and C*UUYAN (the denominational young adult movement for 18- to 35-year-olds) to sponsor study/action issues.
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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.