#190 | Steve Myles | Suggest a "Do Over"

Submission 190
Steve Myles
UU Congregation of Fairfax (Oakton, VA) 8122

What is your suggestion or idea?

The entire proposal needs to be deleted for lack of adequate participation among congregations and awareness by congregants.
Congregants were not even included as stakeholders,

That the question ““why are we only just hearing about this?”” was included in your frequently asked questions webpage is a clear indication of the lack of participation and awareness of the process. Could it be that that too many congregations were distracted from the important work of the Study Commission by the CoVid Pandemic?

There is no shared documentation of the percent of congregations who returned feedback from the surveys sent out in Spring 2021

There is no shared documentation of the analysis of the responses by demographic group.
There is no documentation or justification for the replacement of all seven principles with six new values. The COIC’s report Widening the Circle of Concern makes no mention of the need to replace the principles, rather it cites the principles as support for their many recommendations.

There is no documentation of how the six values were chosen.

A proposal that has the profound significance of altering the fundamental bases on which our religion is built requires far more in person discussion and much wider participation.

What is the reason for your amendment idea?

There has been insufficient participation by UU Congregants at the grassroots level to justify a change of this magnitude. The proposal was made apparent less than 3 months before the deadline for submission to the Board which happened to be just before the Holidays, giving insufficient time for it to be announced and discussed by congregations.

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

Yes. I suggested giving the Article II Study Commission a ““do over”” at a congregational discussion.


If one of the purposes of this exercise is to strengthen us and encourage growth there should have been a marketing study to see how our target market understands this proposal. Our current Principles draw new members. We should keep them.


My congregation (MVUU in Tucson, AZ) hasn’t heard any info about the proposed revision of Article II, still less had any discussion about it. Nothing in newsletter, nothing in services. As a congregation, we certainly don’t have time, at this point, to generate an intelligent response to the proposal.


I have been following your thoughts on this subject through the “Save the Seven Principles” list serve and have found your logic sound on the lack of congregational input in the process. I do not understand how a small unrepresentative group of persons on the Article II Study Commission can propose to the General Assembly such a substantial change to our faith without a process of discernment, We had no representation west of the Mississippi which may be a lack of understanding of regional differences,


I agree: a “do over” if anything, but not a full revision of the Article 2! Not in this way and not at this time.


I too agree that this process to change the moral and spiritual foundation of the UU denomination was inadequate. I am deeply concerned that such a radical change could potentially alter relationships of long term members to the UU denomination and perhaps the congregational level as well.


Your leadership hasn’t been paying attention. There have been hearings at the GA, online forums, many invitations to participate. Our congregation held an information and discussion months ago. What should the Commission do to get participation that it hasn’t already done?

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What should be shocking to everyone in a liberal, supposedly pro-democracy, bottom-up church, the commission did not list congregations and national laity as stakeholders. It did not consider congregations and laity as necessary to the process. All national UU communications to congregations have been one-sided pro-revision propaganda. This points to so many congregations and laity being uninformed and misinformed as not a bug in the process but the intent.

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What the comission should do is develop a online poll, braking down the key changes and ensure wide distribution. Find out if a significant majority of UU’s

  1. think we should replace the principles with values
  2. if so, which values would be considered central to our faith
  3. agree with summarizing the sources rather than identifying them
  4. believe we should convent with each other for each principle
  5. are comfortable with incorporating accountablity
  6. support the changes to the UUA’s purpose and accept the stance that it doesn’t change the polity
  7. find the graphic engaging
  8. believe there are any specific aspects to the current article II that must be retained.

Then alternate versions should be circulated taking the results into account so we can compare different approaches and think through what would best reflect Unitarian Universalism. At the same time the uua website and the UU world should provide space for critical views, rather than a monolithic message promoting this proposal. Finally, it’s important to weigh the potential damage or alienation that could result if this is passed while a significant minority remains opposed. It’s worth taking more time to work toward broad acceptance of such a dramatic revision.

Finally, It’s difficult to make anything written by a committee be clear and engaging, so the Commission needs a writer who can lucidly write prose that is both memorable and inspiring.

Who’s fault it is that many (most) congregations are unprepared to make this decision is irrelevant. If we are not ready we are not ready. This change has a potentially huge impact on all of us, and is not something to be shoved through under any circumstance.

But the truth is, people were given a chance to get ready. It says in their report the groups of people they spoke with and the number of times they reached out. They had LOTS of open forums and opportunities for people to plug in and even rewrote things after people gave them feedback. Did you read the 26 page document they released with their methods? A2 Report

I watched an entire video on the Save the 7 Principles website that tries to break down why people shouldn’t have accountability, and that really sounds like the heart of every argument. But he makes a point to say- no one was paying attention to the national association, people didn’t care. I would agree that the Principles are what get some people through the door; but the way members act is what keeps people in the churches. Something about the way people are treated in congregations seems to make staying not worth it- no matter how poetic our principles are.

I left my last church after being there for 10 years, because it became clear that people many people didn’t know what the principles were and when asked to live by them, they didn’t actually want to. They wanted to ostracize people and be mean to the board regardless of what the principles actually say. You’ll see that one group of the stakeholders the commission interviewed were people who left the church due to harm.

Knowing UUs, no process will ever be worth using that updates tradition. It’s hard to change.

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Hello Antoinette. I have read the Article II Study Report to the Board. Seems like you are offering a hardy “Tough luck” to those who hadn’t heard about this till now, or who heard something about it, but didn’t do anything until now. My first knowledge of the Article II project was a few months ago when the new graphic and some of the verbiage was presented in a Sunday service. I was not pleased with the new version, but had little idea what to do about it. I’ve had conversations with some of my peers at our congregation and nobody was any more familiar with the proposed changes than I was. Yesterday and today have been my first opportunity to voice my opinion in a forum where I might possibly have an impact.

As to accountability, if one is going to voluntarily agree to some sort of regime where others will be holding one accountable, then one better be sure that the terms of that accountability are fully understood. In the proposed Article II that clarity is not present. Furthermore, I have never once heard another UU say anything about wanting more accountability except in regard to the accountability of the UUA and/or of the local congregation staff or BOD. I believe I understand your concern, as you see accountability as a solution to the lack of change that has been your experience. But who and how is that accountability going to be put into play? And isn’t it likely that these accountability efforts will serve to drive away some current members due to the inherent authoritarian and penalistic aspects of accountability “processes”? How can we possibly avoid the “accountability process” (as yet undefined) becoming the new problem?

One more comment: In my opinion, lots of people are attracted to UUism because they want to be surrounded by good people with altruistic ideas and to work for a better world, but to also be free from the yoke of authority ('cause there is plenty of that available elsewhere). With accountability comes that yoke, so as I say, we all need to understand exactly what we are getting into, and my own personal poll (very small sample size!) says we don’t have a clue. I say we are not ready.

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No, not tough luck at all. I don’t mean to argue with your experiences. Maybe just a broader prospective by adding my experiences to the mix.

With accountability comes that yoke, so as I say, we all need to understand exactly what we are getting into, and my own personal poll (very small sample size!) says we don’t have a clue. I say we are not ready.

I’m sorry that the harm you experience seems to say that being accountable to each other is a terrible idea. And my experience says that without accountability, we are destined to harm each other. I believe that regime is a very strong word, but i understand wanting to be a part of every single process. I find that UUs are overwhelmingly against authority of any kind, so I’m not sure how we decide what is good or bad authority. Maybe there isn’t any good authority- although most might disagree when they image the safety of their children.

Anyway, I think if you see from the abolitionist teachings throughout the association, you’ll see that “punitive” measures aren’t a part of the current process. People make covenants together, say what they need from a process and how they will be together, then are held accountable to the process they signed on to. It’s a straightforward process that happens all over the association. I really wish we spent more time supporting congregations with this and conflict, because regarless of what new language comes out (of it it completely stays the same) that is what people really need support around.

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This whole process has been so fascinating to me. I just happened to be at my very first GA (after 20 years as a UU) when this was brought forward so I have been following along from the beginning. We all love having our congregational polity so much, it seems like surprisingly few people pay much attention to the ‘national’ issues unless it’s some kind of scandal. I sure didn’t have this much awareness until recently.

I would think it would be very useful, and I hope to implement at my church, having at least one person tasked with being something like a liaison to the UUA - to follow their media, keep up with what’s being discussed at UUA Board meetings, go to GA, report back etc. It really surprises me that this ‘I didn’t know about it’ comment keeps coming up, but it was true in my home congregation too for the first two years even though I’ve been posting to our newsletters about it from the beginning. Some people just tune out when theology or national UUA issues come up. Thankfully our minister started preaching about it last summer, so I think it’s sunk in somewhat.

In terms of what the changes actually are, the people who don’t like it are speaking up but I have talked to several in my congregation who don’t really care all that much (and are therefore not participating in these discussions). The Bylaws are for the UUA Board and we do have congregational polity … and individual belief … so I feel like folks can keep what they know at the local level whether it’s new language or old language. There will be folks who like the new language better, too.

Our primary heresy (from the vantage point of many other religions) is that all people are equal … however you describe it in words, that is not changing. Lots of other religions create divisions where some are esteemed and others are condemned, and UUs don’t. Just maybe keep that 30,000 foot view in sight a bit while we all dive into detailed wordsmithing about how exactly to describe equality in current ways that are aimed more intentionally at the liberation of those who remain oppressed.


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