#269 | Sarah Metcalf | Amended Version of Current Principles

Submission 269
Sarah Metcalf
Unitarian Society of Northampton & Florence (Northampton, MA) 4816

What is your suggestion or idea?

Section C-2.2. Principles
We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote, among ourselves and in the wider world:

-Reverence for the earth, its natural processes, and all the interdependent life it supports;
-Respect for the humanity and dignity of every person;
-Practices of justice, compassion, cooperation, care, and peace in human relations;
-Generosity in sharing material abundance;
-The right of every person to engage in a free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
-Free speech and tolerance for diverse viewpoints held in good faith and good will;
-Self-governance by open democratic process;
-Humility before human limitations, and awe before abiding mysteries.

The living tradition that we share draws from many sources:
experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all
cultures, that renews the spirit and fills us with a sense of oneness
with the forces that create and uphold life;
-Words and deeds
of visionary people that inspire us to confront injustice and cruelty
with justice, compassion and the transforming power of love;
-Wisdom from the world’s religions that offer examples of ethical and spiritual practice;
teachings that counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the
findings of science and warn us against unexamined assumptions;
teachings of Indigenous earth-centered traditions that center the
sacred circle of life and living in harmony with nature;
-Philosophical writings on social relations and governance that help us imagine how to create the beloved community;
-Art of all kinds that enlarges our spirits through the experience of beauty.

Grateful for the wisdom of our forebears, and mindful of our responsibility to those who will come after us, as free congregations we enter into this covenant, promising to one another our mutual trust and support.

What is the reason for your amendment idea?

Our principles and the sources from which they are drawn are what define us as a denomination. We have no holy book, no received creed. Instead we have a brief, distilled set of principles that serve as our common ground, our guide for personal and group action, and a description of our hopes for humankind. We cherish these principles and take pride in them. They cannot be omitted, and the ““values”” section of the new amendment lacks the clarity and focus we need and the grace in expression we carry in our hearts.

I humbly offer here a slightly amended version of our current principles. I have placed our reverence for the earth and the web of life first, as life does come first. I have added ““natural processes”” (geologic, climatic) as these are essential to life. From this first principle I have gone on to the principles that we uphold in human relations. I have changed ““worth”” to ““humanity”” as more explicit. In this age of wealth disparity I have added generosity as a principle deserving of mention. I have clarified ““good faith and good will”” as the guide for our tolerance of diverse views – we don’t tolerate intolerance, for example. Finally I acknowledge that we also see humility and awe as part of our religion – the part that is not just a rule book for behavior, but an experience of the sacred, if you will. And I have amended the grammar, changing ““which”” to ““that”” as these are all restrictive clauses.

I have also amended the sources to remove privileging of Western religious tradition, to be clear what kinds of ideas from each of these sources we are inspired by, and to add art. I welcome comments on my edits.

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

Yes. For several years I have been in a discussion group with other members of my congregation that has been specifically about our personal understandings of our religion – which have been various, as one might expect of Unitarians! We took a keen interest in the proposed Article 2 Amendment and have strongly agreed that the Principles and Sources are not dispensable. The edits I have made here reflect our conversations on how the Principles and Sources might be improved – in keeping with the concept of a Living Tradition, which does evolve – but in faith with the core ideas that drew us to Unitarianism in the first place.


Thanks, Sarah, for this thoughtful updated version of our Principles and Sources. One tiny suggestion. I think there should be an “and” in between “indigenous” and “earth-centered,” since they are not necessarily the same. I hope there can be a widespread and inclusive process for updating the Principles and Sources in the future, but it seems to me unlikely that this will be an outcome of the current A2 amendment process, especially if there will be as few amendments voted on at GA as some have suggested on this forum. I think your proposal has a lot to offer and would be a great place to start from.