A Statement of Conscience entitled “Moral Values for a Pluralistic Society” was approved Saturday morning by delegates to the UUA’s General Assembly in Portland, Oregon.
“As Unitarian Universalists,” the statement says, “we must affirm the moral influence of liberal religion in society.” It issues a call to action for individuals, congregations, and the UUA.
Because drafting Statements of Conscience involves multiple years of congregational study and action, the statements are regarded as formal positions of the Association that can ground its advocacy and lobbying. This statement is the result of a two-year process after delegates to the 2005 General Assembly chose the topic as a Study/Action Issue. The process included consideration in the congregations and a workshop at last year’s GA that was conducted by the Commission on Social Witness, the UUA body that oversees the resolution process.
During the debate, in the morning plenary session, no delegates opposed the idea of a statement on moral values but several spoke against the proposed statement’s wording as not compelling enough. Proponents acknowledged its shortcomings but urged passage so that the Statement could serve as grounding for positions during the U.S. presidential campaign that is just getting started.
The debate took several unexpected turns when delegates raised questions about whether the statement could be referred back to the Commission for more work and another vote next year. Moderator Gini Courter conferred repeatedly with the General Assembly parliamentarian and the UUA legal counsel, and the confusion was greeted by light-hearted banter and laughter. The result was two votes on motions to refer, the second at the end of a debate that resulted in an array of amendments. UUA Secretary Paul Rickter estimated that vote at 50/50, but it failed because such a motion requires a two-thirds majority. The final vote on the amended Statement, Rickter said, was about 75/25.
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Tom Stites was the editor of UU World from 1997 to 2006 and retired as its publisher in 2007. He is a member of the First Religious Society of Newburyport, Massachusetts.