#23 | Mona Lee | Name the Seven Principles

I just had an opportunity to listen to a Mar 12, 2023, a YouTube Video (St. John's Unitarian Universalist Church Article II Discussion - YouTube) (around 13 minutes in the video) where Rev. Dennis McCarty said, “if Unitarian Universalists find the Seven Principles useful it is not because they are in the UUA’s bylaws. It is because they speak to people’s hearts.” We all have our own UU conversion story based on our personal discovery of our Seven Principles. We all have our favorite Principle. Unfortunately, Rev. McCarty pivoted and stated that “it is just plain silly to claim that anyone is attacking or scrapping the Seven Principles.”

The reality is that our Seven Principles are under attack. Rev. McCarty continued, “they’ll be with us as long as we love them, as long as we’re fed by them.” Yes, our Seven Principles will be a part of those first moved by them. However, if our Seven Principles are eliminated, a new and future generation of UUs will have no connection to ideas such as “the inherent worth and dignity of every person” or a “free and responsible search for truth and meaning.”

Our Seven Principles is the door that welcomes people to our denomination. Removing our Seven Principles nails shut that welcoming door. Why would anyone waiver from defending our Seven Principles?


Mona, your suggestion is the one that has gained the most attention of any of the many that advocate for retaining the Principles and Sources (the two are really an indissoluble piece). At Thursday’s UUA zoom on the Inspirations portion of the amendment, there was a breakout room for people who want to retain the existing Sources. Not surprisingly, we also wanted to retain the Principles. The moderators at the meeting suggested we all share email addresses so we could go on talking & collaborating – as at the GA there won’t be time to hear a huge number of amendments, it would be good to coalesce around one particular amendment we can all support. For most of us in the group I was in, that amendment would retain the Principles and Sources in the Purposes section of the by-laws, rather than in some less prominent position. I also heard many people say if this did not happen, they would vote the whole rewrite down. I suggest that people who want to collaborate on this should share emails. Is there any reason we can’t do that here?

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Hi, Portia–

Many don’t like posting contact info online for privacy reasons. Have you had success in using private messaging through this board? I haven’t yet, maybe I haven’t looked hard enough? When I click on someone’s name or icon, I don’t see a way to send a private message.

I was at the workshop too, but as you can tell from my suggested amendment (460), my approach is to combine/reconcile the proposed revisions with the existing Article II. (My proposed amendment related only to the Sources, but I know others have worked on other parts in the same way.) Our Inspirations/Sources groups also exchanged email information and are starting up a Google docs group to try to combine our ideas into just a few amendments, hopefully.

If you haven’t succeed in messaging through this group, people on Facebook are also welcome to use the public group created for discussion of Article II and other GA topics, Blue Boat Passengers, to connect. (This is not a UUA-associated group but created and run by UU laypeople.) There are topic and civility etc. rules, but all opinions are welcome (and the admins and mods are of mixed opinions).

Since it’s an open and public group, people don’t have to join to see and post in the group. They could find one another via posts in the group and then message info privately, if there isn’t a way to do that here. I know there are various online groups advocating for saving the principles but the ones I know of seem to engage a lot of other topics as well, so putting together a list of people wanting to focus just on this issue might be helpful.

My priorities are maybe a bit different–(1) Fair process, (2) effects and side effects on UUism generally, and only then (3) end product. I personally want to combine the approaches and think a reconciliation/synthesis process meets my goals described above in the best way, but whether it’s logistically possible in the time we have remains to be seen!


Thanks for the additional info. My understanding is that there are “trust levels” on this site that are earned by algorithms about frequency of posting, range of reading etc, & at higher trust levels people have the privilege of DMing each other. I don’t seem to fall into that category.

People do have a lot of different ideas about how exactly to retain the principles, but how exactly we can work together to find out what our common ground is is a vexing problem.

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One major question remains for me: how is it that the “proposed revision” isn’t an amendment to our current UUA Bylaws, subject to the same restrictions about limiting amendments to a single subsection per delegate?

The proposed revision seeks to amend our current Article II, Section C-2, by deleting our existing Article II, Section C-2 in its entirety, amending C-2.1, C-2.2, C-2.3, C2.4 and adding a new subsection, C-2.5.

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At your suggestion, I watched the entire video of the Article II Study Commission discussion and their reading their proposed revision.

Particularly worth hearing is how "Evolution " as a value became “Transformation”.

I do not doubt that these people worked very hard. Sadly, in my opinion, the product of their efforts diminshed, rather than augmented, our existing Section C-2.

It has been said that, “oh, you’re just used to the Principles and Sources, they’re comfortable. Sure, the proposed revision strikes you as awful the first time you read it!! But you’ll grow to love it!”

But that doesn’t seem to be the case. The more I read it, the more I think about trying to explain what it is to be a UU to a newcomer, the more I know I would be unable to use the words of the proposed revision to do so.

So sad that they didn’t add a new section after the existing principles and sources (modified to add other ideas that inspire us) to discuss UU values, how we act upon our principles!

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I attended the UUA zoom meeting on May 11, and was awed by the honest commitment of the 200+ participants to work through these issues about the Sources/Inspirations. I find myself overwhelmed by the number of possibilities for change and revision.

I want to keep the Principles and bristle at how they were unceremoniously swept aside in the proposed revision of Article II. I am less concerned about the Sources, because the Principles are what I use explain the uniqueness of UUism to the UU-curious, not the Sources. If it came down to it, I would trade away the Sources to keep the Principles. That said, I find the proposed Inspirations to be without discernible content.

As a result of attending the Listening session I am on the email groups from two breakout sessions that are working on creating a joint amendment, but at this point I feel more like a spectator than a participant because I need time to process all this. There are two more Article II Listening sessions to come, one on Values&Covenant, and one on Purpose/Inclusion/Freedom of Belief. The Values&Covenant will be essential to participate in for those of us hoping to keep the Principles more or less intact.

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Julie, it was my understanding that if one wished to “keep the Principles” intact or more or less intact, the way to do that is an overall “No” vote. I guess the “no” vote would be for keeping the Principles intact. Out of curiosity, what do you mean by “more or less intact”?

There are some proposed amendments (e.g., #177) that keep the 7 principles while also keeping other parts of the proposed revision. So, one can vote yes on the revision if there are also approved amendments that do that. However, now that I think of it, I’m not sure if the proposed revision gets a yes/no vote prior to discussion on amendments - a conundrum.

By “more or less” I was thinking if there was a way to have the principles be the definitions for the new one-word “values”, then although buried a bit, they would still be in the fabric of our covenant, and could satisfy the UUs who long for a more updated encounter with the principles.

This entire process of breaking down Article II is fascinating. There are so many pieces that warrant dissection - for example, I am leery of the overuse of the word Love, and long for a definition of it that has meaning. Teresa Amabile, for example, in a comment in #166 suggested “Unconditional compassion and respect for all in the human family, including ourselves.” It’s got to include “respect.”

There are so many thoughtful and resonating suggestions in these hundreds and hundreds of comments that it is impossible to track them all. I am in awe of this deeply meaningful dialogue.

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I would interpret this amendment to mean that they would like to only change C-2-2 (Values & Covenant), and that the other sections, C-2-1, C-2-3 thru C-2-5 can be accepted as-is in the proposed draft.

That is, if this (and only this) amendment passed, C-2-2 would be reverted to the principles but all other sections would retain the new language, including the new C-2-3 (inspirations).

My understanding is that delegates should be able to vote for or against any amendment, even if those amendments seem to conflict. Voting “no” to all amendments would effectively be a vote for the draft as-is. Someone who is of the “7-principles-or-bust” category might want to vote “no” to any amendments in, thinking that will produce an amended draft which is least likely to pass, but they might also want to vote in favor of other more compromising amendments which together can replace much of the original language if a total reversion can’t get the 3/4 supermajority vote necessary.

Hopefully there can be some kind of ranked voting system…

I’m @eburch (Eric Burch, Rockville MD) and the author of submission #29. Charles DuMond recommended we consolidate our similar ideas to one thread. During the May 18th Zoom call, the breakout room I was in discussed my idea for adding the current seven Principles verbatim as Section C-2.1-and-a-half (then renumbering the sections). I will propose that as an amendment. There was discussion about adding an 8th Principle or reworking the current principles but that will not be the scope of my amendment. My amendment can serve as a base for additional changes; we can do this a step at a time until we get through the pre-GA discussion, mini-assemblies, then final plenary vote. If we want to collect some of the other discussions into the submission #29 thread that is OK, just keep in mind my submission is a simple first step.

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I would vote for this (and am a delegate). I think inserting the 7 principles as is into A2 is a GREAT idea. It would maintain the Principles as a core official statement of UU, then to be augmented with the Values/Inspirations.

Thx for this amendment!

Bek Wheeler (UU Fellowship of the Peninsula, Newport News, VA)

Mona Lee: I too want to insert the 7 Principles into the Revised text ( # 30). Question: How do we combine all of the proposals to do the same thing into 1 effort with strong backing? My email is kennethbutton@aol.com. What is yours? There are some people who support my proposal which is very straight forward in inserting the 7 principles (without the “sources”) after the “values” section. It is as follows: "I move the approval of an amendment to the Proposed Revision of Article II to insert after line 43 the text of the current 7 Principles of the existing “Section C-2.1 Principles, " excluding the “sources” test. The text of the insertion is as follows: “Section C-2.3. Principles” We, …” (list of the 7 principles. Please let me know how we can cooperate. Thank you.

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Disturbing and highly undemocratic (by which I mean that all should have that ability, not just the AI-selected elite).

Just curious - does anyone know how many trust levels there are?

I have submitted an amendment to the proposal to add the existing seven Principles back into Article II. This is to facilitate the transition to adopting the Values and Covenant by a large number of UUs who have indicated they would not support the new Article II without the current Principles. If the new Article II is adopted, once the UU movement integrates the new Article II into our hearts the old Principles can be further transformed, or removed. Discussion about my amendment can be found at https://discuss.uua.org/t/29-eric-burch-add-the-seven-principles

If you are a delegate who supports such an amendment, please consider adding your name to the document to promote the amendment. Your name will indicate additional support to re-add the Principles and help convince the appropriate parties to add this amendment to be considered by the mini-assembly on Article II. The document is located at docs.google.com-document/d/1pxexh5noCpqh9N4YJTC3lZtRRre3j_W_FDZm0OxoWRo/edit?usp=sharing

Thank you for your consideration.

Surely, out of context, that makes great sense. “Worth” all by itself can indeed be construed as financial, monetary. BUT note, in the 1985 principles it refers to “inherent worth and dignity.”

I know that this will seem technical, but when you have a construction A and B, that conveys that A and B are the same KINDS of things.

Apples and oranges are both fruit
Green eggs and ham are both a breakfast thing
Supple and limber are both traits of good health

Goats and donkeys are both farm animals, etc.

So A and B are examples of the same KIND of thing.

By contrast,
Goats and sky scrapers are DIFFERENT things
Apples and dogs are DIFFERENT things

In our UU history, we talk about ‘inherent worth and dignity”. These are the same sorts of things. Merit and dignity would seem similar. But $$ and dignity are NOT the same sorts of things.

So, “Inherent worth and dignity” both anchor in goodness.

The interpretation of slavery and monetary valuation is NOT what we are talking about. Only what emerges if you divorce language from its context.

Hence, “inherent worth and dignity” speaks of just that —- the INHERENT worth and dignity.
@KLusignan, @Janet, @UUFPMichael, @manningmiller

Hi, a last comment to any authors/proponents of any amendments that did not pass or were not heard. I understand that this site will be locked on Tuesday. Our lay-led public Facebook group, Blue Boat Passengers, created for discussing Article II and GA, will remain open for commenting a couple weeks longer (and still be visible for viewing as a public record afterwards). Those who wish to comment there may do so. Please be sure to review the rules and the announcement about the planned suspension of the group before commenting. Thank you.
Blue Boat Passengers: Info & Constructive Discussion re Article II, etc. | Announcement: This group will soon be suspended | Facebook

Anyone who wishes to use the Blue Boat Passengers group for finding each other and coordinating to do the 15-congregation amendment process may do so while the group remains open (must follow group rules).

Here are some comments about the 15-congregation amendment process, from Donald Wilson, who used to be on the GA Planning Committee:

"“Unlike how the amendment process was run for this GA (ie at the discretion of the moderators and board), the process you’ve mentioned is bylaw and subject to little to no interpretation. I wouldn’t wait however. You need to get the petition from the UUA Board Secretary in the next couple weeks, and you have to have it turned Into the Board before February 1st.”

“If one congregation has a thought, send an email to 50 others and say “we are discussing X. What do you think?”
That is also the kind of thing that we have District and Regional assemblies for, both in person and virtual.
That is also the type of thing your religious professionals should be talking about at their regular meetings with their colleagues like minister Association chapter meetings.
It is the responsibility of your board president and other trustees to be deeply aware of the affairs of your closest congregations.
You discover by being in relationship and talking to one another.
You coordinate by email and phone call, same as we have for the last quarter century.”

“You don’t even have to have a congregational vote. You just have to get their board to sign off.” ETA: You must check this–rules vary by congregation. Also, look for the UU Governance Lab group on Facebook to connect with Donald Wilson directly.

Also, a comment from another member who was participating on Discuss:
“Some of us are connecting on Slack, mainly to remain in contact with others interested in specific amendments or the amendment process in general at GA 2024.”