Amendment 51 to Article II - Proposed by Janet Leavens

Bold underlining indicate insertion ; [brackets indicate deletion.]

44 Section C-2.3. Inspirations.

45 As Unitarian Universalists, we [use, and] are inspired by[,] the full depth and breadth of sacred and secular [understandings] human knowledge.

46 [that help us to live into our values.] We respect the histories, contexts and
cultures in which

47 [they] the life-affirming wisdom we draw upon [were] was created and [are] is currently practiced. With care and compassion for every person’s individual path, we discern, balance, and build upon the sources of Unitarian Universalism as we move forward.

These sources include:

Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which renew our spirit;

Religions and wisdom traditions which inspire us in our ethical and spiritual life and which center love, justice, and harmony with one another and with nature;

Words and deeds of prophets, innovators, and other pathfinders whose example challenges us to transform oppressive and exploitative powers and structures through justice and compassion;

Humanist teachings, which counsel us to rely on our experience and use the powers of our mind and heart to create a better world for all.

Ethically informed science and reasoned inquiry, which produce verifiable knowledge and offer powerful insights into the world and human effects upon it, while revealing the awe-inspiring diversity and beauty of nature.

Creative arts, which reveal to us the face of life’s beauty and joy, its struggles and sorrows, and its enduring truth and meaning, and which open our hearts to emotions of joy, solace, and gratitude.

These sources ground us and sustain us in

48 ordinary, difficult, and joyous times. Grateful for the religious and cultural ancestries we inherit and the

49 diversity [which] that enriches our [faith] community, we are called by our living tradition to ever deepen and expand our wisdom.


History of this amendment (combined amendments #147 and #460 in the prior list):

My first draft of this amendment was done while participating in many of the Commission’s online feedback sessions with fellow UUs, and I solicited further feedback before submitting the form. (The “Arts” language is based on a proposed addition to the Sources by Rev. Rick Davis that gained widespread support during 2006-2009.)

The amendment was further workshopped starting in February in the Facebook groups Blue Boat Passengers and UU Humanists, and then taken by both @Janet and me separately to our congregations for further input and editing. I am on my congregation’s ad hoc Article II team and an alternate delegate, while Janet is on her congregation’s board and is a delegate. Janet’s congregation voted on eight separate amendments, and her draft of this amendment was the one that came out on top with a strong majority. My congregation hasn’t had a congregational vote or poll yet, but feedback was solicited in several information sessions and congregational spaces.

Both versions were posted separately to the Discuss board by the April 30 deadline. Collaboration and feedback solicitation continued via our congregations, the Facebook groups mentioned, and an email group started from the May UUA-sponsored Inspirations workshop, which considered several amendments simultaneously. (We have continued to cross-pollinate language between some of these versions, as may be seen on the Discuss board’s earlier list). After Janet recombined the two amendments, we did a final, intensive, collaborative phase using all the above-mentioned venues: feedback gathering, brainstorming, editing, and a heartfelt effort towards deep synthesis of all comments.

This proposed amendment seeks to synthesize and reconcile the existing Sources with the proposed Inspirations, as well as update them with newly cited concerns and clarifications (e.g., honoring religious sources vs. cultural appropriation vs. past religious traumas; clarifying science vs. humanism while placing these in balance with other values, etc.). And it adds one source or inspiration (the Arts) that gained widespread support in previous years.

Thank you for considering this labor of love.

Some historical links:

First draft Nov.-Dec. 2022 (submitted in feedback form to Article II Commission):
Blue Boat Passengers: Info & Constructive Discussion re Article II, etc. | Facebook

Amendment #147 drafts and discussion:
#147 | Janet Leavens | Add Depth, Breadth, and Specificity - Article II Amendment Idea Submissions / Amendment Ideas - UUA General Assembly Business

Amendment #460 drafts and discussion:
#460 | Kerry Lusignan | Condense and include Sources - Article II Amendment Idea Submissions / Amendment Ideas - UUA General Assembly Business

Final editing collaboration, June 2-3, 2023:
Blue Boat Passengers: Info & Constructive Discussion re Article II, etc. | Last call today, 6/3, input on amendment #147 (combining this amendment with #460 | Facebook

Document with signatures of support, from previous thread:
Delegate Support for Inspirations amendment (Combination of #460 and #147) - Google Docs


I really appreciate the wide net cast for input by the writers of this amendment, and the deep and sincere listening and dialogue they engaged in when offered input. I hope this version of the inspirations amendments gets chance to be discussed at GA, it has my support.


I sort-of feel that science and reason are more cautiously, almost reluctantly, accepted in this list than are the other sources, which have fewer qualifiers and yet also can be misused if ethics are lax, but overall I like the amendment.


Thanks, @Sally .This was part of the compromise to understand what the sources and their wording meant to different people, as well as humanists’ and others pointing out that the previous linking of and wording re science and reason were not necessarily on point. For some, using “rational” implies that the other sources are not rational. We did our best to respect every concern that was raised and seek language that might express the main points desired without over-riding anyone’s concerns. There are a few sources where you can see this especially in the wording.

In the science and humanism sources, it helped to separate them and brainstorm about what was most important in each. With science, some of the main points were the process of the experimental, peer-reviewed, data-driven aspect from which we all benefit in areas like medicine. We are also aware that many scientific endeavors have been misused for ideological reasons or profit considerations, so the “ethically” was felt important to add. In addition, we wanted to affirm that this means of engaging with the natural world around us offers its own means of wonder and appreciation of nature, as well as the practical means to engage with this world in a non-destructive, non-exploitive way. (Again, “ethically” comes into play here as well.)

In the religions’ source, we went with not listing any religions specifically, as we understood the problems of exclusion and how to group religions that the Commission encountered. Different wording was tried, but other than referring to our Unitarian and Universalist roots, none seemed to work. In the end, we ended up only referring to Unitarian Universalism and not trying to name any religions.

This was a difficult decision, because we know that UUs worked hard to have the “earth-centered” Source added, and there are many UUs who identify with and seek to add additional religions, including Islam, Buddhism, and others. I would definitely be happy to see another amendment in the future, with a group of religious professionals and scholars convened, perhaps along with CUUPs, those who have been working to have Islam added, members of specific faith fellowships within UU congregations, religious scholars, etc.

The religious source and the introduction also tried to be cognizant of multiple needs and concerns. We wanted to express gratitude for these sources in a way that acknowledges cultural appropriation (it was discussed whether to add an explicit reference, but we understood the language the Commission included about respecting the “histories, contexts, and cultures in which [they were] created and [are] currently practiced” was the preferred, more positive and explanatory perhaps, wording).

Additionally, there was quite a bit of feedback about the need for many UUs to not imply wholesale respect, one could say acquiescence to, every aspect of every religion, including traumatic abuses in the name of religion. None of us want to affirm hate-based “religious” language and practices. This is why we changed some language in the second part of the introduction, specifying that it is the “life-affirming wisdom” we respect and that we also have “care and compassion for every person’s individual path.”

The final phrase, “we discern, balance, and build upon the sources of Unitarian Universalism as we move forward” intends to affirm all these points and that the sources are held in balance, none above the other, much as the new listing of the Values placed them in a circle.

While we did not use a circle formation, we did try to follow a sequence that made sense in moving from related sources and transitioning to others. In restoring the “prophets” source that many had commented they also miss, we also responded to concerns that the secular sources did not acknowledge these visionary leaders as well. Important to include in this source was that they are all kinds of leaders, both religious and secular, who teach by example and are another mode for experiencing our growth together (as well as individual, direct experience, and generalized religious and secular sources), and reaffirm the kind of injustice they inspire us to confront.

I hope this helps explain some of the language choices, and why some of the sources seem perhaps more parsed out than others (they were!). The whole process of soliciting feedback, brainstorming, and trying to respond to all issues that were raised (as best as we could) in co-editing has been very joyful as well as challenging. It has certainly been a reminder of the work that must have gone into all the language created by the Commission so far.

This Inspirations/Sources amendment is explicitly intended as a synthesis of and reconciliation between very widely varying views and issues of importance for all of our UU siblings.

1 Like

@EmilyinMA thanks for your support and for engaging in the dialogue on these amendments!

Thanks for that very detailed explanation; it does help explain, and it is clear that a lot of thought went into the writing. Lots of priorities to balance; you all did a really good job! I support this amendment.

Grammatically, I think you want that instead of which twice in this sentence, to be selective about the particular traditions:

Religions and wisdom traditions which inspire us in our ethical and spiritual life and which center love, justice, and harmony with one another and with nature;


@Sally thanks for your support and kind words! :star_struck: We did put a lot of thought (and love) into the editing, and it is nice to hear you can see this.

Also coming from a proofreading/editing focus myself, “which . . . and which” is acceptable in this construction, and I wanted some I guess poetic consonance with other listed sources. All of the others, due to their grammatical construction, use “which” except for the one where “whose” stands in for “which.”

Personally, I would use “that” if I lumped the traits together more, something like this:

“Religions and wisdom traditions that inspire us in our ethical and spiritual life, centering love, justice, and harmony with one another and with nature;”

But I would not quibble! I am sure there will be some added little changes if this amendment gets incorporated among others. For one thing, the periods and semi-colons were too small to see on my phone (where I was weighing in from at the end) and I missed that we were not consistent with our punctuation at the end of the listed items. Oops!

I DO NOT respect the histories, contexts and cultures (that includes slavery, misogyny, facism, burning people at the stake, colonization, and more) that wisdom was created in and is still practiced in many places!!! Wisdom can come from horrendous contexts and flawed cultures - we do not need to say we respect that. Could a friendly amendment be accepted that eliminates that part of the amendment?
46 We respect the histories, contexts and cultures in which
47 the life-affirming wisdom we draw upon [were] was created and is currently practiced.


@Margie this would not be a friendly amendment, unfortunately, because many felt strongly that that language, specifically linked to cultural appropriation concerns, needed to stay in. (My first draft had eliminated this language, without fully understanding its context.) We added the other language hopefully to address the concerns you raised. I explained the feedback process in my comment above and not sure if you have seen this.

I think both editors are quite aware of these conflicting considerations. I certainly welcome hearing other ideas that do not simply remove language that is important to some, but perhaps spell out your concerns more clearly without diminishing the other concern.

Sally, thank you for your support and for you comment. We appreciate both!

I see that Kerry has already explained our process and addressed your concerns. I just wanted to add a little bit more since I understand exactly what you are talking about. If I had to critique our own amendment, I too would point first to the same phrase “ethically informed science and reasoned inquiry” and give similar reasons for my critique. It is for me personally, the closest thing to a deal-breaker in this amendment.

And yet, I was also the one who came up with that phrase … in response to repeatedly-voiced concerns about the past misuses of science as well as the imbrication of science in our system of (often) exploitative capitalism. I felt, and Kerry and others agreed, that “ethically-informed” was broader, much more positive and less ideological than the alternatives we were considering (saying anything directly about “exploitative capitalism” in sources didn’t seem appropriately positive and inspiring).

For me, science, done well, is powerful. And that power can be used for good or for ill. So it is more the political use of science that can be unethical, rather than science itself. However, there definitely have been cases where the actual practice of science has been unethical (many examples, unfortunately in the medical field). Besides, there are many UUs who do, as mentioned above, see science as inextricably linked with the predations of our capitalist system.

So, in the end, we all felt that “ethically-informed” was a reasonable compromise.

I should also point out that all the other sources do have qualifiers and it would have been odd not to have any qualifier in the science source.


Hi Margie,

Thanks so much for your comment!

I see Kerry has already responded to you.

I just wanted to add a little bit more. First, the precise argument you make was brought up by a member of my congregation (University UU Fellowship, Orlando) in equally forceful terms. This led me to omit the “respect the histories …” sentence in the version of this amendment I submitted in April. Also, others have reported similar vehement objections from members of their congregations. So, you are definitely not alone in your critique.

However, since April, I have learned just how important this sentence is to many UUs who are deeply concerned about cultural appropriation. I am not sure if you saw the poll that was conducted in the very long email chain about the inspirations amendment, but the results of the poll showed that 65% (13 out of 20) of those who responded wanted to retain that or similar language.

But again, as a delegate representing my congregation, I couldn’t accept that language without any qualification. I explained that the idea of cultural appropriation recognizes a certain positioning. The “respect the histories …” language seems to suggest the perspective of a subject approaching a religion or source of wisdom as a cultural outsider.

However, in addition to being outsiders, many of us are also insiders having grown up in (and sometimes left) certain faith traditions. As insiders, many UUs do not respect certain elements of the religions as sometimes practiced in the histories, cultures and cultural contexts which they left. This may be true of any religion or culture.

As a response to these arguments both in favor and against the “we respect the histories …” language, Kerry came up with what I see as an elegant solution. By adding the phrase “With care and compassion for every person’s individual path …” directly after our slightly reworked “We respect the histories …” sentence, she makes it crystal clear not just that we respect the histories, cultures and contexts of religions with which we are unfamiliar, but also that we respect the intimate contextual knowledge of individual UUs.

I hope this helps!


Thank you! I FULLY support this amendment!

Bek Wheeler


Thank you to all who worked on this amendment. I fully support it.


The thoughts are good but I wish it were more concise. This is more like a dissertation than a section of Bylaws.


Thank you for the explanation. It still seems to me that language referencing cultural appropriation should be mentioned as the broad language does not convey the intended meaning to many UUs. We want to be as clear as possible don’t we?

I said the same, but the argument was made that that sentence (“We respect the histories, context and cultures in which the life-affirming wisdom we draw upon was created and is currently practiced”) is widely used academia and social justice work, and people who DO know the reference are likely to vote against this amendment unless those specific words are included.

It’s worth noting that the language will be included if no amendment on Inspirations passes, since it appears in the commission’s Article II revision.


Thanks, @EmilyinMA! Yes, a Rev. explained the importance of this language to us, although I will note that the above quote does include our added insertion/change “the life-affirming wisdom we draw upon” as part of the accommodation for the other consideration, that this sentence otherwise might be construed as not acknowledging the concerns held by @Margie and others (including @Janet and me, who left it out of our earlier drafts).



It’s funny – I was having a similar thought as our amendment gradually expanded from four to six sources.

However, I also thought of it this way:

Unlike the seven principles which, in our congregation and I imagine in others, are sometimes recited as part of a service or published as part of a service program, the six sources were not treated in this fashion. And concision could be considered less of a crucial value in a text that is typically read privately.

Also, given that the UUA bylaws are already 33 pages long (over 27,000 words), an extra 69 words (the difference between our Inspirations amendment and our current six sources) or an extra 184 words (the difference between our Inspirations amendment and the proposed Inspirations paragraph) could be seen as a mere drop in the bucket.


I think this is much better than the initial proposal by the commission and much better than our current list of sources. However, it is still a list format which folks find problematic and doesnt really capture the change from sources to inspirations. Sources to me are more where we get our wisdom and history. Inspirations I think can be much broader kinds of things. Our delegates thought this approach was too similar to our previous sources and this is the primary reason we decided to propose our own amendment #27. That said, I think with additional time we would have loved to try to engage folks that supported this amendment more to see where there was additional common ground. Hopefully the board or commission creates a more in depth group to look at this section specifically in the future.