#29 | Eric Burch | Add the Seven Principles

Submission 29
Eric Burch
Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Rockville (Rockville, MD) 4115

What is your suggestion or idea?

Add a section between the proposed sections C-2.1 and C-2.2, titled ““Principles”” and add the words of the current Bylaws Section C-2.1 from ““We, the member congregations”” through ““of which we are a part.”” Renumber the sections appropriately.

What is the reason for your amendment idea?

By not including the word ““principles”” anywhere in the proposed text, the A2SC hints they are aware that the current Principles are held in high regard by many (most?) UUs. UUs do have many symbols and words that are not codified in the UUA Bylaws (e.g. the chalice, ““Spirit of Life””, ““loving the hell out of the world””) so at first dropping the Principles from the proposed Article II wasn’t that concerning to me, especially with the January draft which added echoes of the Principles. But now I see that those 103 words are really key–I can quote them right off the top of my head, as I would guess many others. Also moving these words from the start of Article II will start to de-emphasize the legalistic corporate prominence of the words; the concepts remain tattooed on our hearts.

In 15 (37?) years another Study Commission will take up Article II again. The UU movement may have adopted the six Values (and their amendments) as the keystone holding us together and removing the
Principles from the Bylaws will not be as disruptive. Our literature should transform to memorialize the Principles in less legalistic ways.

I do like how the Principles are echoed in the Values and Covenant. I’m proposing that we add 105 words to the current 601 of the January draft of the proposed Article II; the current Article II has 469 words. The proposed Values and Covenant section is 321 words. I do prefer less wordiness, but today the Principles are core to many UUs and including them verbatim will help in our continuing transformation.

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

Yes. Rockville has an Article II committee and we have engaged the congregation in this change. I propose this amendment because some discussions have brought to light how many people really feel the Principles are key to our UU identity. They can appreciate the Values, but dropping the Principles seems a bit too drastic at this time. I do feel that without this amendment some influential members in my congregation would not accept the proposed Article II.


This is my submission, introduced on behalf of several members of my congregation. Not a surprise that another submitted suggestion (156) is quite similar; I note the title “Historical Principles”, the current Bylaws Article I does include some history. Though there are also principles from 1961 which have dated poorly and are best left an artifact of history.

There should be a consolidation of similar suggestions – 29 and 156 should be combined Jerald Ross @eburch

Dear Mona Lee (#23), Eric Burch (#29), Kenneth Button (#30), Ronald Schaeffer (#42), Diane Conrad (#132), Jerald Ross (#156), and Virginia Nixon (#183):

Your suggestions are all very similar. You all appear to want to add the 7 principles back into Article II. You are encouraged to work together, combine your suggestions into one proposed amendment, and decide who will be the delegate to sponsor it.


I agree the principles must be retained. I think your comment that you can quote them off the top of your head is so telling. Most of us can. These principles are the core of our denomination. If people want to go on and say things about values, that’s fine, although I don’t know why we would need to put that into the by-laws – by-laws are a legal document to explicate the purpose of a non-profit organization, and they don’t need to include a lot of explication that’s mainly of internal interest. One of my fellow congregants has suggested that the values would be better placed in a mission statement, and I agree with that.

I agree that the Principles should be re-inserted into the Covenant and Values section, and I:m not opposed to their being defined as “historical.” My only added concern is that for me, and many others I have spoken with in my congregation, the Principles and Sources complement one another beautifully, and I would hate to see the Principles added without the accompaniment of the Sources. The Sources are the only reference to “direct experience of transcending mystery and wonder,” which is so central to the faith of many UUs. I also think it describes what many newcomers are seeking. Neither the Principles nor the Sources are perfect, however, and I would like to see them updated through a future process that engages as many of us as possible.

1 Like

I agree with Corky, below, that the sources as well as the principles themselves define us as a denomination. It’s important that they are ecumenical and include both mystical experience and respect for science. It’s also important that we acknowledge our principles are not original with us, but are drawn from our thoughtful reading and consideration of human wisdom in the light of history. They are not “gut feelings” – which we have learned, in this age of expert propaganda and instantaneous reaction, are not by themselves a reliable guide to morally responsible action.

I am aware of other suggestions that also gibe with this one. Merridy McDaniel (#483) has proposed keeping the Principles and the Sources in the Purposes. I have offered a slight twist on the suggestion, in that I have edited the Principles and Sources to include some ideas people in my congregation have been discussing. Mine is #269. At yesterday’s zoom I found there were many people who want the Principles & Sources retained.

Are you working with a group to prepare a formal amendment to insert the current seven principles into the draft Article 2? If yes, I would like to join that group. I would also consider adding a modified/simplified 8th Principle. Thanks.

Nancy Henley
Eno River UU Fellowship

My proposal is #177.

@henleyn I was in the Zoom call tonight, where a group talked about that. My amendment will be to add only the existing 7 Principles from the UUA Bylaws, in a new section. This could be removed cleanly in the future when the new Values and Covenants are more socialized in the UUA movement (be it 7 or 77 years from now). I do like the proposed Article II, which includes sentiment of the 8th Principle. Adding the unincorporated-at-the-denomination-level Principle avoids one additional debate for my amendment. The purpose of this amendment is to make the entire Article II update acceptable to many in our congregations, who are not aware of the three years of work (and thousands of inputs) which have gone into this. I will propose to add just the existing 7, and if another amendment-to-the-amendment is proposed this can be discussed before GA or at the mini-assembly in Pittsburgh.

In response to other places this is appearing: @kennethbutton @member1990 @BekWheeler @JayK My plan is to submit a simple amendment, and during the mini-assembly (online and in-person) we advocate for the simple inclusion of the exiting principles, and then from there we discuss any changes to the simple inclusion of the existing principles. The other parts of the Article II changes can be discussed elsewhere.
I feel that the new Values and Covenant is the focus of our future, and including the current wording of the existing Principles (no more, no less) will let people feel comfortable with the transition to the new Article II. The text will be easy to remove in the future if the denomination generates a new way to remember the Principles that brought us here, or they can be kept forever, possibly being updated in coordination with the other sections. Transformation is part of who we are.

I personally would support simple inclusion of the existing principles for just the reasons you state. However, i think that ANY change or suggested change to the text of the existing principles would doom it to failure, so I sure would not suggest any change.

Eric, are you a delegate? Are you able to submit such an amendment June 1-5? or is there anyone who can in this group? I am kind of committed elsewhere.

Thank you for your work on this!

Yes I am a delegate, and plan to submit my amendment as soon as the the GA mechanism becomes active.

1 Like

Amendment submitted today of just the existing words, between lines 9 and 10. Feel free to pile on :smile:

whoa, you mean we are able to submit amendments NOW? I thought that opened June 1

I agree with the thrust of your suggestion, and as noted there are a number of similar suggestions, including mine. Because there are so many similar suggestions, and because I will be attending GA remotely (for health reasons), I will not move forward with an amendment of my own. I will support any amendment retaining the 7 principles.
Jerry Ross, First Parish in Bedford, MA.

Eric, have you built a document in which delegates can indicate their support of your amendment? I would sign in support if such a document exists. If you needed a model, I’ve posted my support sheet several times and again just this morning, June 5, for Amendment 86 on Equity. Or if you want a copy I am glad to share. I just want to support an amendment to add back in the 7 principles.

thx, Bek

I suspect there are a lot of people who will find this proposal quite appealing, so I’d like to use this space to offer my own perspective on the seven principles, which differs from those expressed here. I am NOT one of the people who can recite the seven principles from memory, and it is not my experience that other UUs are typically able even to paraphrase all seven of them, much less recite the exact text. I believe that the first and seventh principles remain in very active use as theological starting points, that the fourth principle is often invoked as the basis for practices such as freedom of the pulpit, and that the fifth principle effectively expresses an important aspect of our polity. I WISH the third principle were more often invoked as a basis for encouraging spiritual depth. But the second and sixth principles are almost never used among us, except in such a general sense that their meaning is indistinguishable from that of the first.

Also, the language of the seven principles is NOT kid-friendly. I’ve seen many attempts at kid-friendly paraphrases, and it has always seemed to me that they fundamentally change the meaning of at least one of the principles.

For me, the new language is appealing primarily because it encapsulates each value in a single word, which will be much easier to remember for people of all ages.

In short–I think the affection many feel for the seven principles may simply be the sort of affection we will come to feel for ANY language once it is been in longstanding use.

Wow, I experience your closing comment as quite condescending and dismissive, for any number of reasons I will not enumerate here. For me, I regularly cite to 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, and 7th principles.

Hi Bek–I’m sorry for my poor choice of words. I shouldn’t have said ANY language. I do think that the 1985 Seven Principles have been especially successful language, that lots of people have found valuable for a very long time. I can think of lots of other statements of principle that have not been so successful. The original 1960 Article II, for example, had become severely dated by 1985 because of its use of sexist language. There was an urgent need for revision then, while the need for revision now is more debatable.

My point was simply that it is always challenging to weigh the relative merits of older language versus newer language. The older language may seem more eloquent simply because we associate it with positive memories. Or it may actually BE more eloquent. It is hard to know for sure, which is what makes this process challenging.

Best wishes,