In the proposed revision of Article II, at the end of Section C-2.4, add a new, separate paragraph, as follows:
“No covenants or pledges expressed in Article II of these bylaws may, by themselves, be used as the basis for the Association or its member organizations to take punitive action against a congregation, organization, or person.”
What is the reason for your amendment idea?
To be most effective, a covenant or agreement to which people are held accountable should have a specified scope, be achievable, and have criteria that are sufficiently detailed so as to be clear. (As examples: A legal contract will specify the requirements of each party in great detail. But even in everyday life, an oral agreement to provide a ride will be specific as to who will pick up whom, at what time, and where.) The covenants expressed in the proposed Article 2 are good as aspirational statements, but do not have these characteristics needed for holding people accountable.
Have you discussed this idea with your congregation or other UUs?
I shared a draft of my amendment to the other delegates in my church; one responded with approval, and I have not heard from the other two. I shared a draft with another congregation member, who responded with approval. I shared a draft with a member of another congregation, who responded with approval. I have been invited to present my draft amendment in a panel discussion at another church, and will be participating in that in April."
All UUs should be able to agree that destructive behaviors which endangers others warrant suspension and termination of members and that a congregation embracing fascism could not be in covenant with the UUA. The UUA has recommended guidelines for addressing destructive behavior that provide model procedures for suspending or terminating a member that can be incorporated in Congregational bylaws.
Our beloved UU community has become deeply polarized over recent disciplinary actions involving Ministers at the national level and members at the local level that have led some to resign or question their membership. Critics of the A2SC recommendations fear that Congregations could be expelled from the UUA and, at the local level, that Boards and Ministers could terminate individual memberships of those who openly question their leadership as a result of a new phrase added to Section C 2.4 Inclusion:
“. . . . We strive to be an association of congregations that truly welcome all persons who share our values.”
Without taking sides in the highly contested disputes over prior disciplinary actions, the proposed amendment seeks to reassure those willing to vote in favor of other A2SC proposals only if the Bylaws guarantee that discipline will not be imposed for questioning the merits of an evolving UU theology. The proposed amendment will also reinforce and make indisputably clear the proposed new language in Section C 2.5 that Congregations may have covenants: so long as they do not require that members adhere to a particular creed.
In my mind, I had gone back and forth between putting it under C-2.5, “Freedom of belief,” or under C-2.4, “Inclusion.” I decided that it didn’t belong under “Freedom of Belief,” because a person could be deemed to be “out of covenant” for reasons other than belief. Therefore, I put it under “Inclusion,” so that the prohibition of punitive action was not limited to just punitive action against belief. The amendment content can be viewed as fitting under “Inclusion” because punitive actions sometimes (often?) involve removing a person from membership or from a certain status, which is removing them from inclusion in that membership or status.
This amendment recognizes that the proposed Article II covenants do not have the qualities (scope, achievability, and detail) needed to evaluate whether they have been achieved, and thus the amendment prohibits punitive action based upon the covenants.
50 Section C-2.4. Inclusion.
56 participation, especially those with historically marginalized identities.
[ADD THIS SENTENCE:]No covenants or pledges expressed in Article II of these bylaws may, by themselves, be used as the basis for the Association or its member organizations to take punitive action against a congregation, organization, or person.
As a first-time delegate and someone who is not well versed on organizational actions, I humbly submit that this amendment sounds like it’s moving us beyond covenant and into contractual legal terms. It lands on me as defensive and fear-based.
I love the inclusion of the word Accountability. If we need to add definition to the word, let’s do that, but let’s do it in terms of community and spiritual engagement.
Accountability, in our Unitarian Universalist congregations, is the heartfelt dedication to acknowledging our actions and their impacts with compassion and understanding. It’s an embrace of trust, open communication, and collective growth, fostering an atmosphere of unity, caring responsibility, and a deepening of our communal bonds.
I like your definition a lot. But I think that without a definition, it is a difficult word for me. To slightly edit your words “it lands on me as offensive and fear-based.”
I know someone else provided wording that provided a definition and was briefer. I’ll go see if I can find it…
Here’s one I found under #405
“Love is the beating heart of our communities. It shows up in the ways we make our values real in the world, caring when we miss the mark, and lovingly helping each other notice so we can do better.”
And another I found under #25:
“Love is the power that holds us together and helps us live our shared values”?
It’s interesting to me that we can have all sorts of considerations about how words “feel” to different people - like the word “worth” or “faith.” But sometimes we (myself included) use the word “fear-based” to imply that surely the concern would go away if the person could just get over their fear - and then we could just use the word we wanted to use?
I don’t know, I’m just starting to think about this.
It just occurred to me, although I’m not really serious about the suggestion: we could have “Accountability” as a Value, and define it clearly.
by-laws are a legal document, so it is not inappropriate that it should read that way. There is lots of room for other statements, graphics, infographics, etc., but we are talking about the legal by-laws the define our association. It does not define our denomination, our theology, etc., but Section II describes, legally, our Principles and Purposes. IDK what, if any, limitations that imposes.
I agree that it is good to define terms used, and appreciate the suggestion as well as your definition.
Note re amendments that weren’t prioritized or presented: This forum is closing for comment tomorrow, but our lay-led public Facebook group, Blue Boat Passengers, will remain open for another few weeks for commenting (and still be viewable after that).
People who want to find others to coordinate about the 15-congregation amendment process may use the group to do so while it is open. There’s now a specific post for this in the group (“A post for those wishing to do the 15-congregation amendment process to coordinate”). Please read both the rules and the pinned post before posting or commenting there.