#27 | Steve Myles | Congregations Did Not Participate

Submission 27
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. That the question ““why are we only just hearing bout 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 2021, nor is there any 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. Principles are broad statements that encompass many different values. That is what makes them attractive to more people. Holding values like honesty, compassion, integrity, and courage, can support principles like ““the inherent worth and dignity of all persons”” or the ““free and responsible search for truth and meaning.”” Limiting the definition of UU to six values, severely narrows our appeal as a religion. And requiring three times as many words to describe those values makes it even harder to understand what we stand for. 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?

Any changes to the covenant among UU Congregations require knowledge and agreement by all member congregations. Article II is part of that covenant. For various reasons, the participation by congregations in the Article II Study appears to be insufficient and congregants within the congregations were clearly unaware until late October that the Principles were going to be replaced with six values. This is not the way to make such a profound change in a covenantal religion as ours. This proposal is far too important for all UUs to be put before GA at this time.

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

Very few in my congregation had any idea that the principles were going to be replaced until early November 2022. Friends from other UU congregations called the changes ““under the radar””.


Surely the Study Commission could allay your concerns by sharing a list of all the congregations and UU organizations (“critical stakeholders”) from whom they originally solicited input


Interestingly, the Study Commission does have a list of critical stakeholders that they are tasked with reaching out to, but congregants are not on the list.

I think this explains why congregants in general, and certainly at my church, had no idea this was even happening until the Article II document was written and for all practical purposes, ready to be voted on.


I agree: don’t revise! Not in this way and not at this time. I heard in the meetings that they got many thousands of responses to the committee’s drafts, but so far, everyone I have talked to didn’t really know this whole re-write of UU was occurring!


It is not clear from their remark about getting “thousands of responses” to what those responses were referring. My guess is the majority of responses came after the October 2022 First Draft Proposal which essentially had none of the words of the principles in it.


As it states on the Article II Timeline:
“At General Assembly 2021, the Commissioners introduced the Article II study process in a General Session, and engaged attendees in focus groups.”
“Final approval of the Article II proposal requires a two-thirds (2/3) vote of the 2024 General Assembly to adopted the revision as the new Article II of the UUA bylaws. If either 2023 or 2024 General Assembly votes fails, the process ends and a similar proposal cannot be considered for two years.”

I wonder if you consider this sufficient time to engage congregants/congregations in the process and, if not, how you would envision a more sufficient timeline/procedure?

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The Commission had a list of stakeholders, and at the top of the list was “Congregational leaders, lay* and professional*”. The asterisks indicate that these are “critical” stakeholders. The leaders in my congregation were not solicited for their input. Neither was the UU Humanists, even though we are also listed as critical stakeholders: “Philosophical and Theological Groups* (e.g., UU Humanists, UU Christians, etc.)”. It looks as though the Commission did not follow the instructions they were given.


This is sad to hear. I did wonder who the Committee had talked to and was beginning to think that whatever feedback they got might have come from inside their own echo chamber.


Kathy C prairie UU, Madison

I agree 100%. This whole process of revision and replacement of the purpose and Principles, before an open, comprehensive discussion and opportunity for response by all congregations is simply wrong.


The Commission was charged to “seek to engage the active participation of UUs across all demographics, identities, and theological philosophical beliefs.” Focus groups at GA are no substitute for communication and discussion in congregations where people know each other and are willing to speak openly. The Commission supposedly sent out surveys for this purpose during spring 2021, but too many congregations and ministers were too worried about the pandemic to schedule discussion meetings. The commission never kept track of what congregations responded. So in answer to your question, no, we have not spent sufficient time and for something this important it should not matter how long it takes. There are companies that specialize in developing surveys and analyzing the responses, breaking them down demographically. I would have engaged a company like that and would have encouraged congregations to fill out the surveys and send them in and I would followup with those who don’t respond to encourage them to do so. That, to my understanding was never done by this Commission.


Interesting. Thank you, Steve, for explaining. I suspect then that, at the very least, if the proposal pass then someone (perhaps you) will propose during GA to lengthen the process to give congregations more time. Alternately, the proposal for revision may even fail to gain sufficient support at GA if enough people feel as you.

I agree. The bylaws need to be updated to require Congregational Polls to repeal Article II.

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I and many of my fellow members feel that this revision process has been seriously flawed and poses a rick to UU.


No, I don’t think one year is time enough to bring the voice of congregations into the process formally because current bylaws do not provide for congregational polls, like are required for Statements of Conscience to be considered by GA delegates. A process must be devised first. IMO, this matter should be referred to the ongoing Bylaws Committee to propose an amendment process for repealing Article II.

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This comment brings up some similar points to #186.

In my congregation, my hometown congregation, and even the attendees at last week’s Zoom meeting, I’ve seen a common theme that people are just hearing about this now. Clearly, there is some awareness that the communication on this was poor. It would be a shame to have to wait 2+ years just because people didn’t feel they had a chance to participate. Even if it takes a year of feedback, we still end up ahead.

Perhaps the commission is behind schedule from where they or the UUA would like to be, but unfair pass that urgency onto us. My recent master’s thesis needed several dozen drafts back-and-forth with my advisor and advisory committee, and frankly, the covenant of our faith is far more important than my thesis.

We need a more iterative process – between amendments being improved and being incorporated – and perhaps a voting system which allows more flexibility than just “for” or “against”, especially considering the extent of the changes being considered.

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I think they should start over. I didn’t hear about this until late last year. I was extremely surprised they did a complete rewrite. It was uncalled for. I’ve grown to like what we have now over the last 20 some years. It was on my refrigerator, and it made me think.

I hope it gets voted down so we can have a pause and a do-over.

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Thank you for your thoughts. After reading your remark and the subsequent comments by @peckalec and @jbpough , it made me wonder if someone has or will simply make a proposal to postpone the vote for a year or two so that people have more time to process it before formulating specific proposals for change.

Postponing it might give congregations and their members the ability to go through enough visions and revisions to feel like they know where they stand on (a) totally transforming the existing Article II and 7 Principles, and (b) if so, what they would like to transform them into.

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Thank you, Anthony, for your support. I will read the comments by peckalec and jbpough. You are right, we shouldn’t succumb to our culture’s Sense of Urgency and vote without the authority from eligible voters informing GA delegates via a Congregational Poll. The process is undemocratic otherwise. IMO, The bylaws need to be amended to include a sentence requiring this authority. For instance, following the sentence at bylaws line 1650 (Such a study shall involve member congregations), an inserted sentence should read something to the effect, A four-fifths vote by member congregations is required to repeal Article II.

I’ve been told that the bylaws do not allow the question to be postponed; unfortunately, it’s an up or down vote. Since there is no documentation of the extent of member congregation involvement in the study as required by the bylaws, perhaps a procedural amendment to require a bylaws change will buy the needed time for discernment. Without a Congregational poll, we delegates do not have the consent of the governed and the outcome would be illegitimate from a 5th principle perspective.


Interesting, Kathleen. I don’t know enough about the bylaws and GA voting procedure to know but perhaps a proposal to amend the bylaws as you suggest could, if passed, de facto postpone the Article II revision process. Maybe someone else on this thread has some insight?

I wish I knew more about the bylaws and the procedures for changing them, and the procedures for how the GA functions. I’m a first time delegate and feel squeezed by the urgent progress of the revised Article II. The study report indicates the Commission feels it did throw out a broad net to capture the input of a representation of all UUs. Sadly though, the list of 15 stakeholder groups on page 10 of the report omits congregational members. It lists “unchurched UUs who identify as UUs” (how did they find them?), and “former UUs who have left the faith (those who were harmed)”, but not the regular churchgoers who live and support the 7 (or 8) principles.

If there was any way to delay the vote a year, and now that we are shaken up and paying attention, let the conversation be more inclusive of practicing UUs, I would be delighted. But it seems the process is cemented, and we are on track to keep and tweak the proposal, or to just say no to it, which in itself feels destructive.

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