Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd. Susie Jackson. Ethel Lee Lance. Depayne Middleton-Doctor. Clementa C. Pinckney. Tywanza Sanders. Daniel Simmons. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton. Myra Thompson.
They are martyrs, these nine slain last week during a Bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, said the Rev. Sarah Stewart, minister of the First Unitarian Church of Worcester, Massachusetts. Today, at the start of the June meeting of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Board of Trustees, Stewart read the name of each martyr. In asking her fellow trustees and all UUs to recommit to racial justice, Stewart also read the Parable of the Sower, from the Gospel of St. Mark, the Bible passage those murdered, all African-American, were studying when they were shot to death on June 17 by a white man. Stewart said that, as Jesus was trying to teach the disciples through the parable, we have a choice to open our hearts to truth and love.
It’s a fitting message as General Assembly 2015 opens tomorrow in Portland, Oregon.
The board, meeting today in Portland, also heard from an expert on the growing number of people who identify as “Spiritual but Not Religious” (SBNR). The Rev. Linda Mercadante, a professor of theology at the Methodist Theological School in Ohio, interviewed hundreds of SBNRs for her book Belief without Borders: Inside the Minds of the Spiritual but not Religious. The explosive growth of this group is “the most dramatic religious, intellectual, and social change since Christendom took root in Europe,” she said. Unitarian Universalism could be a great fit for many SBNRs, she said, because UUs “are not focused just on beliefs, so that’s a strength.” But this group—while resisting dogma—also seeks wise guidance, she said: “You can’t just say you need to make up your own mind; they’ll go somewhere else.”
"Rethinking GA" is a topic that the board will be presenting this week during GA, including at a Friday workshop. UUA Vice Moderator Donna Harrison said the board envisions a “more engaging, fun, and meaningful process” that’s “more inclusive economically and culturally” and is focused on “issues that really matter to our faith and Association.”
The board, which reconvenes tomorrow morning, also reviewed upcoming proposed changes to the bylaws, which will be presented to GA delegates for vote later this week, including campaign finance limits for candidates for UUA president and a proposed change to the Commission on Appraisal, which would make it a committee of the UUA.