Amendment 36 to Article II - Proposed by Rick Nida

Bold underlining indicate insertion ; [brackets indicate deletion.]

Replace the usage in all seven instances of the ancient,
Biblical term, “covenant” with its vestigial connotations of animal sacrifice
and divine retribution with “pledge.”

10 Section C-2.2. Values and Covenant.
11 As Unitarian Universalists, we pledge [covenant], congregation-to-congregation and through our
12 association, to support and assist one another in our ministries. We draw from our heritages of
13 freedom, reason, hope, and courage, building on the foundation of love.
14 Love is the power that holds us together and is at the center of our shared values. We are
15 accountable to one another for doing the work of living our shared values through the spiritual
16 discipline of Love.
17 Inseparable from one another, these shared values are:
18 Image Description: This image is of a chalice with an overlay of the word love over the flame,
19 with six outstretched arms that create a circle around each of the core values and form a six
20 petal flower shape. Each arm is a different color and clockwise they are: Interdependence
21 [Orange], Equity [Red], Transformation [Purple], Pluralism [Dark Blue], Generosity [Teal], and
22 Justice [Yellow].
23 Interdependence. We honor the interdependent web of all existence.
24 We pledge [covenant] to cherish Earth and all beings by creating and nurturing relationships of care
25 and respect. With humility and reverence, we acknowledge our place in the great web of life,
26 and we work to repair harm and damaged relationships.
27 Pluralism. We celebrate that we are all sacred beings diverse in culture, experience, and
28 theology.
29 We pledge [covenant] to learn from one another in our free and responsible search for truth and
30 meaning. We embrace our differences and commonalities with Love, curiosity, and respect.
31 Justice. We work to be diverse multicultural Beloved Communities where all thrive.
32 We pledge [covenant] to dismantle racism and all forms of systemic oppression. We support the use of
33 inclusive democratic processes to make decisions.
34 Transformation. We adapt to the changing world.
35 We pledge [covenant] to collectively transform and grow spiritually and ethically. Openness to change
36 is fundamental to our Unitarian and Universalist heritages, never complete and never perfect.
37 Generosity. We cultivate a spirit of gratitude and hope.
38 We pledge [covenant] to freely and compassionately share our faith, presence, and resources. Our
39 generosity connects us to one another in relationships of interdependence and mutuality.
40 Equity. We declare that every person has the right to flourish with inherent dignity and
41 worthiness.
42 We pledge [covenant] to use our time, wisdom, attention, and money to build and sustain fully
43 accessible and inclusive communities.


I agree that “pledge” is in some ways preferable to “covenant.” But what do you think about the option of removing the repetition of any word and instead letting the specific verbs do the work of saying what we will do? That’s what my congregation did in Amendment #24.

So for example change from “We pledge/covenant to cherish the Earth” to simply “We cherish the Earth.”

The word “pledge” or “covenant” would still be in the introductory paragraph, but specific verbs would be emphasized for each individual Value.

What do you think?

I agree with that; no need for the repetition.

My amendment calls for substituting the word “pledge” for “covenant” in 7 places in the Values and Covenant Section. Here’s why: First, covenant is a noun not a verb. With its forced use as a verb in the proposed revision, it is awkward and doesn’t read well.
Second, I expect that few, if any of us, have ever used the word covenant in everyday conversation. For the most part, that’s because even as a noun it is used usually in legal real estate documents and discussions about ancient religious rituals. In those ancient religious rituals, the covenants were frequently sanctioned by animal sacrifice, often a goat, and then enforced by divine retribution. How then will our new Covenants be enforced? Will heavenly lightning bolts be visited on transgressors?
Third, as a professional communicator and Professor of Communication, I regularly advise clients and students that simpler is better. Pledge is a perfectly acceptable alternative to covenant, has one syllable instead of three, and doesn’t carry all the excess baggage.
For the sake of simplicity and for conservation, let’s save some syllables, some goats, and perhaps some lightning bolts.
Vote yes for my amendment.


I prefer down to earth language like pledge rather than covenant. I’d also like to see the word “assist” deleted from line 12. We can support one another but realistically cannot assist in all ministries.

We have used covenant as a verb for a long time in this religious tradition including in the current version of the beginning of the principles and sources. Pledge, while a synonym, doesn’t really get at the ethical/the(*)logical/historical essence to me for Article II. I use covenant in ‘everyday’ language but usually to refer to something held between us-the covenant (noun) we make for small group ministry or a team or committee or board is deep work. Also- we regularly start those types of covenants with the verb version: The members of x committee covenant to: and then the words follow… While religious language certainly can carry multiple meanings, both useful and harmful, it feels important for UUs to claim the words that work for our faith and not just let others define them for us. Covenant doesn’t carry baggage if we are willing to put it down. :slight_smile:

It has not been used in the past as consistently and frequently (and to me almost oppressively) as in the last decade or so. Actually, “oppressively” is too strong for my personal experience; “ubiquitously” or “stiflingly” is probably better. One can hardly be in a room with a group of UU folks than someone brings up needing yet another covenant.

I have also seen various complaints of covenants being weaponized; though that has not happened to me, I can see the suggestion of being “out of covenant” being abused. (In fact, I am just remembering a prior GA when someone decided for me that I was upset and should talk about it, and was disgruntled when I said that no, I just express myself more actively than some, I was not upset, I did not have anything to discuss. It definitely felt like condescending/belittling at best.)

Wendy, I never have heard the word covenant used in everyday language or in any of the four UU churches I have attended in two different states. I have seen it in print only in our present Article II. I think it appears only appears once. In my experience, it is not a commonly used word. I think our language should be easily understood across geographical settings and even if English is a person’s second language.


Isn’t that interesting? We can have such varied experiences. I too, have been involved with 4 congregations in two different states and covenant was used quite regularly. If one was to turn to the 1993 Singing the Living Tradition hymnal and turn 6 pages to where the principles and sources are listed, it begins with covenant. Small group ministry programs, which have different models and origins but include things like Wellspring involve covenant. Many congregations have a covenant. Many Boards, Teams, Committees, and RE classrooms begin with creating covenants. Some would say part of our origin story with the Cambridge Platform includes the concept of covenant. I appreciate wanting to be understandable. But we also use the word pledge in some particular ways in congregational life that refer to stewardship so understandable becomes relative… Language is funny that way. We happen to think differently about this particular amendment. That too, is part of our faith!

“Many Boards, Teams, Committees, and RE classrooms begin with creating covenants.”

I agree, and in some cases it seems that we can’t even have a meeting without creating a covenant—for some things, it seems to be an unnecessary exercise. Other times, particularly for a group doing important work representing others, that will be ongoing, that might be dealing with contentious issues, it does make sense.

Given the early religious use of the word, when it was about following God’s orders, I like pledge better here.

I support this amendment.

The word pledge is a promise one makes to do something. It is generally understood as a promise one makes as an individual and is individually responsible for achieving.

A covenant is a promise made between individuals where one holds the other accountable to see that the thing is done. (According Webster’s Dictionary, covenant is a formal, solemn, binding agreement.)

I believe our faith would be stronger if we decide what we want to pledge to do, and each of us work towards achieving that end rather than entering into a myriad of covenants with one another which can lead to calls for accountability amongst and between us.

I really believe that our religious faith would be the strongest if we lay out our goals and say that we will STRIVE to achieve them. You can pledge to do something or you can enter into a covenant to do that thing, but in the end all a person can really do is strive to achieve a goal.

I believe an aspirational, striving faith is stronger than a formal, solemn, binding faith.


Thanks for articulating that so well. I concur.

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