#354 | Beki Halpin | Change "covenant" to "aspire"

Submission 354
Beki Halpin
First UU Church of Austin (Austin, TX) 7713

What is your suggestion or idea?

Change ““we covenant”” to ““we aspire”” in the entire Article II document

What is the reason for your amendment idea?

A covenant is a binding agreement between parties.

Our guide star documents should be aspirational, not binding pledges to do certain things.

Further, the document states that we are accountable to one another for living these values.
I don’t think we want to be accounting to each other for how well we are or are not living prescribed values.

We are a religion where each person is free to follow their own conscience, not a religion that binds congregants to prescribed actions.

Change all uses of ““covenant”” to ““aspire””.
Also, remove ““We are accountable to one another in living our values”” and replace with ““We support one another in living our values””

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

We discussed this is a meeting about the Article II update with our minister and there was some support for keeping the Principles in part because of move to all the covenants.

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See #245: would you consider “Love connects us to each other, and it keeps us accountable to our values.” This formulation is based on the respect for different paths to live our values and avoidsjudgement if others follow a different way. I believe this would make us accountable to our own conscience.

I appreciate your response that love keeps us accountable. But I do not want a religion that holds me accountable, nor do I want to hold anyone else accountable for how well they do or do not act out of love. I want a deeply aspirational faith, a faith that lifts us up, but does not judge or require covenants to behave or think or believe a certain way.

If I’m reading you correctly, you are warning us that this language is too big a commitment to community standards. But the words can – and I believe it is the authors’ intention – frame a healthy status in-between no substantial ties at all and full submission of the individual conscience to the community. Accountability doesn’t necessarily mean someone else judges if I am doing enough. It can mean that part of really living out our aspirations is a commitment to tell others what we are doing and listen with an open heart and mind to their feedback. I may hear negative responses, or even something mostly positive like “we appreciate your intention but what you are doing is not helpful to the related efforts of others.” What I do with the results of making myself accountable to others who may see things differently is generally still my choice, but now it’s grounded in a reality bigger than my private thoughts. A covenant, ideally, does not seem to me in UU world to be a one-sided binding pledge in the sense I’m getting from your words – it’s a mutual promise to try to build Beloved Community. Having made that promise, the consequence is that if what we tried in response to the covenant somehow fails, we now have an obligation to try to share in getting everything back on track. If the damage is irreparable after attempts to heal, seeing the situation through the covenant lens can lead to a revision of the covenant or an end to the relationship in a much more respectful way. I might vote against this language if I thought it was saying what you seem to think it is saying, but I support what I think it’s saying.

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