Friday, September 26, 2008

Our Purposes and Principles: A Time for Some Changes?

Article II of the Bylaws of our Association is more commonly known to us as our Purposes and Principles. They come to us from the time of merger in 1961 and have had some changes over the years. Last year the UUA Board asked the Commission on Appraisal to review them on our behalf. Not only did they review them, they have revised them and posted the revision for the review of all of us. You can read the current P&P at and you can see the proposed changes at

To make these somewhat easier to view I am including them at the end of this article.

These have not just been tinkered with, they have really been amended significantly. There is hardly any statement we make, as a non-creedal religious body than our Purposes and Principles. They draw many of us to our commitment and for many form the covenant of faith we have with each other. They are not to be taken lightly, which is why I ask you to take a good look at the current and the proposed by-law change. You can then go to and leave your comments to the COA .

I am still in the process of studying these myself but I will leave my comments by the October 16 deadline and I will post them here.

You can also look at for additional information and links.

The bloggers are also into this and you can see the critical, the humorous and the mundane at for Monday, September 15th.

Here is the timeline for the whole process:

  • October 16, 2008 Deadline for congregational and other responses
  • October 23-26, 2008 COA meets to consider responses
  • December 15, 2008 Final draft of our proposal sent to UUA Board
  • June 24-28, 2009 General Assembly. At GA the CoA will hold a hearing, provide a written and verbal report, and host a Mini-assembly. Delegates will vote on preliminary approval (simple majority required).
  • June 23-27, 2010 General Assembly. 2/3 majority vote required for adoption.

As you can see the UUA Board will be asked to review the final draft at its January meeting. I would like to hear your comments on this. You can either leave them here or contact me at


ARTICLE II: Covenant

Section C-2.1 Purposes.

As a voluntary association of free yet interdependent congregations, the Unitarian Universalist Association will support the health and growth of existing congregations and the formation of new congregations. The Association will devote its resources to and exercise its corporate powers for religious, educational, and humanitarian purposes. It will empower the creation of just and diverse congregations that enact Unitarian Universalist Principles in the world.

Section C-2.2 Identity.

The Unitarian Universalist Association is composed of congregations rooted in the heritage of two religious faiths: the Unitarian heritage ever questioning and ever seeking the unity in all things, and the Universalist heritage ever affirming the power of hope and God’s infinite love. Both traditions have been shaped by heretics, choice-makers who in every age have summoned individuals and communities to maintain their beliefs in spite of persecution and to struggle for religious freedom.

Section C-2.3 Sources.

The living tradition we share draws from many sources.

Unitarianism and Universalism are grounded on more than two thousand years of Jewish and Christian teachings, traditions, and experiences. Unitarian Universalism is not contained in any single book or creed. It draws from the teachings of the Abrahamic religions, Earth-centered spirituality, and other world religious traditions. It engages perspectives from humanism, mysticism, theism, skepticism, naturalism, and feminist and liberation theologies. It is informed by the arts and the sciences. It trusts the value of direct experiences of mystery and wonder, and it recognizes the sacred may be found within the ordinary.

Wisdom and beauty may be expressed in many forms: in poetry and prose, in story and song, in metaphor and myth, in drama and dance, in fabric and painting, in scripture and music, in drawing and sculpture, in public ritual and solitary practice, in prophetic speech and courageous deed.

Grateful for the traditions that have strengthened our own, we strive to avoid misappropriation of cultural and religious practices and to seek ways of appreciation that are respectful and welcomed.

Section C-2.4 Principles.

In order that we might work together in harmony to make our communities and our world more likely to protect and nurture all that is positive and hopeful; and in order that members of our congregations might find spiritual challenge to become their best selves as they worship and work together to create the Beloved Community, we, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to honor and uphold:

The inherent worth and dignity of every person

At the core of Unitarian Universalism is recognition of the sanctity of every human being across the lifespan. We are relational creatures, capable of both good and evil. We have experienced enough brokenness, including in ourselves, to seek the power of forgiveness and reconciliation. We are called to make choices that help to heal and transform ourselves and the world, and to move toward solidarity with all beings.

Justice, equity, and compassion in human relations

Grateful for the gift of life and mindful of our own mortality, we seek to respond with generosity and loving action. We are called to live in right relationship with others.

Acceptance of one another and encouragement of spiritual growth

We seek to enter dialogue with one another in mutual love and respect, honoring our varied backgrounds and paths. We are called to stretch and deepen our faith through religious education, creative engagement, and spiritual practice in our congregations and in our lives.

A free and responsible search for truth and meaning

Unitarian Universalism is an evolutionary religion that encourages and supports lifelong spiritual exploration. Unitarian Universalist religious authority lies in the individual, nurtured and tested in congregation and wider community. In a spirit of humility and openness, we are called to seek truth and meaning, wherever found, through experience, reason, intuition, and emotion.

The right of conscience and the use of democratic processes

We seek to ensure that all voices are heard, especially those often left out on the margins. We are called to promote fairness, accountability, honesty, and transparency.

The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all

We seek to create, sustain, and celebrate multigenerational and multicultural communities where oppression cannot thrive and where hope and peace flourish. We are called to counter legacies of injustice and to foster reconciliation.

Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part

Inspired by the beauty and holiness of the Earth, we become more willing to relinquish material desires. We recognize the need for sacrifice as we build a world that is both just and sustainable. We are called to be good stewards, restoring the Earth and protecting all beings.

As free yet interdependent congregations, we enter into this covenant, promising to one another our mutual trust, kindness, and support. Should we break this covenant, we will seek to repair the relationship and recommit to the promises we have made.

Section C-2.5 Inclusion.

We strive to be an association of congregations that welcome persons of every identity while calling them to act in right relationship. We encourage the fullest participation allowed by law, with no person excluded solely on the basis of age or identity.

Structures of power have traditionally created barriers for persons and groups with certain identities, abilities, and histories. Dissatisfied with mere non-discrimination, we commit to structuring congregational and associational life in ways that empower and enhance the efforts and experiences of every participant.

Section C-2.6 Freedom of Belief.

Freedom of belief is central to the Unitarian Universalist heritage. Nothing in these bylaws shall be deemed to infringe upon individual freedom of belief. Although no statement of belief can be required as a creedal test for individual membership in a congregation or congregational affiliation with the Association, congregations are free to establish their own statements of purpose, covenants, and bonds of union.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

UUA Trustee Report for the fall PSWD NetwUUrk

It seems as though General Assembly was just a few weeks ago but the summer has come and all but gone as I write this. Just two weeks ago your PSWD Board of Trustees met for a weekend retreat with our Executive staff. It was very productive. One of the things I was surprised to find out about from other UUA trustees is that many of them do not meet at all with their district board. It had not occurred to me that would be the case. I value the time with the Board, the time with our dedicated staff and the work that is done on behalf of congregations in the Pacific Southwest. It really does make a difference, and making a difference is a question I have been increasingly thinking about in my work as your trustee. “How do we make a difference? “

It’s a great question to ask on almost every issue, large or small, which comes before us. If we cannot see that it makes any difference the challenge becomes one to either re-define the work, the process, the thinking, the implications or maybe even open up the thinking to new possibilities. Sometimes a light comes on and there is an “ah-ha” moment. But sometimes not; sometimes we (I mean me) spend way too much time even when we know we are not going to make a difference. Rarely though are things black and white. We usually do our work and make our decisions without all the information we would like or all the time we would want to think about and discuss even important issues. That’s just how it is though. The trick is to decide when it is either time to make a decision and move on to the next item or decide to invest more time. More often than not we depend on dividing the work up among us so we spend time in small groups that can focus on just a few issues. We end up making our decisions based on the trust we have in our fellow trustees and the information we get from staff. There is a lot trust that has to be given and that’s where things like retreats come into play. Getting to know the people we work with so that we can bring ourselves to trust the judgment of each other is key.

This is why I need to be an active participant with our District Board and the UUA Board. A retreat is precious time that ends up giving each of us the level of confidence and trust we need to get all the work done to make a difference in our District and Association.

We have several major issues in front of us right now at the UUA. In October we will start to do the “Ends” work of Policy Governance. It asks the question: what ends do we want to achieve for the congregations we serve? In some sense this is the same question as “what difference do we want to make”? I don’t expect we will finish that work in October but we will certainly make significant progress and commitment to them.

The next major issue is the change in leadership coming at GA in Salt Lake City next June we will elect a new president of the UUA. There are two candidates for this position, The Rev. Laurel Hallman, minister of the congregation in Dallas, TX and Rev. Peter Morales, minister of the congregation in Golden, CO. They met together at GA in a candidates forum which is online at
Laurel and peter have respective websites at and

For the time being, I am not endorsing either candidate. There is still more I want to know about each of them and how they think they will make a difference. I encourage you to look at the candidates, look at their websites, see who is endorsing them and talk to those people about why they are endorsing their candidate. That’s what I plan on doing. Fortunately, the UUA Board decided to invite both candidates to the Board meetings up to the next GA. One of them will be our new President and it seems like a good idea that they come in with some personal knowledge of the work the Board is doing right now particularly in the area of governance. I look forward to getting to know them both better.

Gini Courter our Moderator, and Dan Brodie, our Financial Advisor are running unopposed right now for their positions. It will be my pleasure to continue to work with them.

The last thing I want to leave you with is something that for me personally makes a huge difference in how I live my life: our purposes and principles. Our by-laws require that we periodically review them and it is that time. The Commission on Appraisal is doing this work now and will be reporting back to GA. Every person and every congregation is invited to participate in this process. An online survey has been set up at

You can go to this site and let the CoA know what you think. I encourage you to do so. It is at the heart of what we are about and comes as close to a creed as a creedless church can come.

As always, I invite your comments on what we are doing, or not doing. Please feel free to contact me at or call me at 714 997-1973. I am open to invitations to visit your congregation.

In faith and trust that we are making a positive difference,

Tom Loughrey
UUA Trustee