#179 | Ruth Gibson | "Covenant" instead of "Accountable"

Submission 179
Ruth Gibson
The Community Church of Chapel Hill UU (Chapel Hill, NC) 6626

What is your suggestion or idea?

As Unitarian Universalists, we covenant, congregation-to-congregation and through our association, to support and assist one another in our ministries. We draw from our heritages of freedom, reason, hope, and courage, building on the foundation of love. Love is the power that holds us together and is at the center of our shared values. We are accountable to one another for doing the work of living our shared values through the spiritual discipline of Love.

I really like and appreciate this section, particularly the ways in which Love is lifted up as the power that binds us. It reminds me of the Unitarian and Universalist covenants “Love is the spirit of this church” Vila Blake) “Love is the doctrine of this church” (Williams) which are so similar to each other, each expressing values of truth, and service. I pause to wonder, though, in what way are we held accountable for living our shared values? Perhaps there should be more clarity here. Or it might say something like “We covenant together to provide mutual support in the work of living our shared values through the spiritual discipline of Love.”

What is the reason for your amendment idea?

If I am to be held accountable, don’t I need to know how much of what I am expected to do, by when, and also to whom I am required to report? Some of the people in my church discussion group felt quite offended by this section–it seemed to them to be saying " If you don’t do a good enough job of living UU values than you don’t belong." Others felt we are unlikely to start policing one another’s spiritual discipline, but that the notion of being held accountable is meaningless if there are no evaluation procedures and no consequences.

Have you discussed this idea with your congregation or other UUs?

See above–I have talked about the Universalist and Unitarian heritages of Love as the spirit/doctrine of our church" in the class and the discussion group at my church. Listening to the discussion at my church is what got me thinking about the accountability issue.


Thank you for posting this. I agree with you totally. I’m also concerned that no criteria for accountability are mentioned here. This could be abused at someone’s whim to suppress other people in the community.


In 2017, President Morales was held accountable for what he said at a gathering of UU leaders of color. He was mobbed online, and eventually he resigned, as did those who defended him. The Commission on Institutional Change was charged with running a truth & reconciliation process on this debacle, but they declined. Maybe our national leaders think that online shame mobs are a good way of establishing accountability. Unless we everyday UUs get a better understanding of what accountability means to our national leaders, we might be forgiven for being suspicious. Plenty of us in my congregation are suspicious.

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I too am concerned that this sccountbility language could infringe on our right to follow our individual conscience. Maybe “Love connects us to each other, and it keeps us accountable to our values.” See #245 so that we aren’t accountable to the UUA, but to our own conscience. I believe it is important that we respect others’ paths to live our values even if we disagree on how to get there.