It’s taken years of hard work, care, and focused effort by dedicated volunteers on the Article II Study Commission to draft a proposal for a new Article II of the Unitarian Universalist Association bylaws, which state the faith’s Principles, Purposes, and Sources.
Co-chairs Rev. Cheryl M. Walker and Rob Spirko say they are proud of the work of the Article II Study Commission. Encouraged by the overwhelming support the proposal received last June, they’re hoping it passes with even greater support at General Assembly 2024 (a two-thirds vote is required to pass).
Over the past several months, they and the other three commissioners have worked to incorporate amendments that passed during GA 2023, and to do a “plain language” review to clarify language without changing any meaning. They met with proposers of some of the amendments to discuss how to tweak language, and they had a legal review of their draft.
In November, the commission presented its Final Proposed Revision to Article II to the UUA Board of Trustees which incorporated those amendments. “So that part of it is out of our hands now,” Walker says.
Though the commissioners have completed their charge, they're not quite done. They continue to talk with UUs who have questions about the proposal and to encourage congregations to engage in the process.
“We are hearing so many congregations are engaging the question we posed in this, which is: ‘What does it mean to be a Unitarian Universalist?’ That conversation is happening in ways that I’ve never, ever seen us engage before,” Walker says.
Indeed, she notes, “The number one thing we’ve been doing in this whole process is talking to people. It’s not like we just sat in a room, the six of us—now the five of us—and said, ‘Okay, we’re just going to write this.’ No, we got lots of feedback all along the way, we’re still getting feedback, and we love that part.”
Even though the process is now technically in the hands of the board, “we are happy to be out there explaining it to congregations because I believe in it,” Spirko adds. “I really, honestly think that this [Article II] is going to be better going forward.”
Amendments, Due by February 1, Each Need Fifteen Certified Congregations to Endorse
The Board is now receiving amendments to the version submitted by the Commission, and it has created an online process to make it easier to propose and endorse amendments. Any proposed amendment needs fifteen certified congregations to formally endorse it, and this process ends on February 1, 2024 (any extension is precluded by UUA bylaws).
Any proposed amendment needs fifteen certified congregations to formally endorse it, and this process ends on February 1, 2024.
Amendments with the requisite fifteen-congregation support will be on the agenda at GA 2024.
UUA Co-Moderator Charles Du Mond encourages congregations to be “parsimonious” during the amendment process, “meaning endorsing as few as possible and only those that are really needed,” he says.
Ideally, there would be fewer than a dozen amendments, he says, and he asks those proposing amendments to contact him first to ensure they meet the requirements to be submitted.
Du Mond emphasizes that Article II “is not about individual statements of faith” but rather “about how congregations are in relationship to each other.”
As the process continues through GA 2024, “We are hoping to have honest and meaningful discussion about who we are, and not a whole lot of 2,000-person wordsmithing,” says Rev. Meg Riley, UUA Co-Moderator.
As for the efforts of the commission, “We are thrilled and appreciative of the work they’ve done,” Du Mond says. “It’s brilliant, we love them for it, and that’s why we encourage people, before you jump in with your red pen, to just be with it, absorb it, let it flow through you and see how it feels.”
The Board’s hope is that every single UU congregation will participate in the process and the final vote at GA 2024, Riley stresses, and she says the board is “aware there are sites with inaccurate information” about how the Article II process has occurred.
“Thousands of people were involved in creating this draft,” Riley says. Though the board has heard of misinformation that the process was top-down, she says that to the contrary, “it’s been a very inclusive process and the electronic process [for amendments] has made it even more inclusive."
Article II Conversations Continue: A Space to Engage with Unitarian Universalism
In the 1980s, when the last major changes were made to Article II, “not everybody immediately printed it out and slapped it on their wall and said, ‘Yay, Big Seven!’” Spirko says, referring to the Seven Principles. “A whole generation got to look at them, and figure them out, and use them in worship and RE.”
He continues, “I hope there’s a new generation that has that same opportunity to really make Unitarian Universalism their own, that we’ve opened a new space for people to engage, for longstanding members to re-engage, and for new people to engage and come in and feel like there’s room for them to contribute in a way that they may not have felt quite before.”
Walker says she’s gotten feedback from people who tell her that after reading the proposal, they realize it’s not that different from the current Article II. “It looks radically different, but it isn’t a radical change,” she says.
What are the commissioners’ hopes from here?
“That it passes!” says Walker. “After that, I hope it has an impact on [UUs] going forward, on how we know ourselves, how we articulate ourselves to the world.”
Says Spirko, “My hope is this gives us what we need to meet this moment.” While the Seven Principles of the current Article II “will still be there, people can still see them, maybe this new vision can help bring new people in” to the faith.
Walker adds, “I have one more hope: that in twenty years some other group does this again. We are not writing a creed, we are not etching in stone, we are writing in pencil, and we hope that in twenty to thirty years, as the world has changed again and there are things we need to say that we did not say this time, that somebody changes it again—so that we are a Living Tradition, not one that is stagnant. If we are not changing, we are not living.”