Equity Calls Us to Listen, Understand, Respect, Respond – Stebbins (amendment to Article II, which will be placed on the final agenda)

Amendment:
41 Equity. We declare that every person has the right to flourish with inherent dignity and
42 worthiness.
43 We covenant to use our time, wisdom, attention, and money to build and sustain fully
44 accessible and inclusive communities. [INSERT: Equity calls us to listen, understand, respect, and respond to one another.]

Clean version:
41 Equity. We declare that every person has the right to flourish with inherent dignity and
42 worthiness.
43 We covenant to use our time, wisdom, attention, and money to build and sustain fully
44 accessible and inclusive communities. Equity calls us to listen, understand, respect, and respond to one another.

Rationale:
This Amendment brings Equity - an important Value containing language from the 1st Principle - into line with the structure of other Values which have three sentences; Equity currently contains only two.

A 3rd sentence parallel to other Values can give a fuller description of how “every person” can be supported to “flourish” (1st sentence) within “communities” (2nd sentence): “Equity calls us to listen, understand, respect, and respond to one another.”

Equity calls us to listen and understand – because how can we hope to treat every person equitably if we don’t know “what size ladder they need in order to see over the wall”?

Equity calls us to respect – because how can every person have the “right to flourish” if their dignity is not respected?

Equity calls us not to ignore the fact that a person “can’t see over the wall,” but rather to respond to them - we may or may not actually be able to respond in a way that meets their need, but we can try to respond compassionately.

Equity calls us to do all of these things within community. So there still may be instances in which we have to ask someone to leave. We are “called,” not “forced” to listen, understand, respect and respond.

I personally believe that the more people are listened to, understood, respected, and responded to, the less divisive the world will become.

“Equity calls us” to do what we can.

This Amendment meets the Commission’s Charge to honor “the historic roots of our liberal, progressive faith” and be “powerful and relevant” moving forward, by ensuring the Equity Value befits the importance of the 1st Principle. It also follows the Commission’s Charge to be “brief” and “inspirational, memorable, and poetic.”

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After listening and trying to understand feedback from various Facebook groups, several UU ministers, a consultant for DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion), and voices from within my own Fellowship, I want to express my gratitude - and share additional reflections on the Stebbins Equity Amendment within the larger context of the Proposed Revision.

Oppression is a harmful way of treating both individual people and groups of people – a way of treating people that is sometimes so systemic that it can seem impossible to escape from – and sometimes even difficult for everyone involved to see. So how do we dismantle it, how do we build and sustain something different – and what does that “something different” look like? I don’t have the answers, but I am in a learning process.

Here’s my current perspective, using the language of our Principles, our Values, and the Equity Amendments under discussion:

I believe I am inherently worthy, AND that I have a right to flourish with dignity, love, and compassion. I believe you are too, and you do too. That’s why we are called to learn about our complex, interdependent, plural and transforming world – and to generouslylisten, understand, respect and respond.” Through this way of relating to one another, this compassion in human relations, we can work to dismantle racism and other systemic oppressions – and we can build and sustain equitable, accessible, inclusive, just, multicultural, and interdependent Beloved communities that may allow us all – every person – to flourish.

We are called to “listen, understand, respect and respond” at all levels - at the individual level, the community level, the congregational level, between congregations, and in association thru the UUA and our leadership – so this should be specified in Article II of our Bylaws!

These are the specific words that my Fellowship and I – and more than 15 other Congregations - believe should be considered, and that I strongly believe will support us in realizing the vision of the Proposed Revision: “Equity calls us to listen, understand, respect, and respond to one another.”

Please vote YES on the Stebbins Amendment if you agree.

If you have questions or concerns about the Amendment, please let me know! Let’s continue the conversation - so that Love can support the growth of our Living Tradition.

Thank you for listening.

I look forward to your replies.

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The Study Team’s response to why the word “worth” was replaced with "worthiness was that in the past monetary value was assigned to human beings.

I find this reason completely inconsistent with the word “equity” which was chosen as the value. Equity has all sorts of monetary implications. I have equity in my house. I have equity in my IRA.

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SMyles,

First, just to clarify, the Stebbins Amendment only addresses adding a 3rd sentence to the Equity Value: “Equity calls us to listen, understand, respect, and respond to one another.”

In contrast, the Wheeler Amendment only addresses changing the wording in the 1st sentence of the Equity Value - including changing the word “worthiness” to “worthy”. For more details, see the Wheeler Amendment.

Then I have a question for you, Steve. I think I understand the basis for the point you make - that if someone argues that “worth” isn’t an appropriate word, it might suggest that “equity” is also not an appropriate word. But I’m not sure I understand what you think would address your concern. Do you want to help me understand that?

This touches on something that I think is missing from the proposed Article 2. I would like “Accountability” to be added as a separate central value, because without accountability you can’t have real love or anti-oppressive momentum. Adding “Equity calls us to listen, understand, respect and respond to one another” is really getting more into the domains of accountability and respect.

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Frances, I think I understand how “responding” would be part of an Accountability Value, and how it addresses something “missing” from the Proposed Revision.

I’ve also been wishing I had used more words to explain in more detail what I feel is “missing” from the Equity Value. If I had used more words, I might have come up with something like: “Every person is inherently worthy and has a right to flourish with dignity, love, and compassion. We covenant to listen, understand, respect and respond to one another in ways that prevent and address inequities. We use our time, wisdom, attention, and money to build and sustain fully accessible and inclusive communities, advancing equity for all.”

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Based on a post on the WHEELER Amendment page, I want to clarify that the WHEELER and STEBBINS Amendments can stand alone or together. (And I personally am on record as believing that they work better together.) The WHEELER Amendment changes the 1st sentence, while the STEBBINS Amendment adds a 3rd sentence. Depending on how the vote goes, here are the 4 possible outcomes:

WHEELER only: We declare that every person is inherently worthy and has the right to flourish with dignity, love, and compassion. We covenant to use our time, wisdom, attention, and money to build and sustain fully accessible and inclusive communities.

STEBBINS only: We declare that every person has the right to flourish with inherent dignity and
worthiness. We covenant to use our time, wisdom, attention, and money to build and sustain fully accessible and inclusive communities. Equity calls us to listen, understand, respect, and respond to one another.

BOTH STEBBINS AND WHEELER: We declare that every person is inherently worthy and has the right to flourish with dignity, love, and compassion. We covenant to use our time, wisdom, attention, and money to build and sustain fully accessible and inclusive communities. Equity calls us to listen, understand, respect, and respond to one another.

NEITHER: We declare that every person has the right to flourish with inherent dignity and
worthiness. We covenant to use our time, wisdom, attention, and money to build and sustain fully accessible and inclusive communities.

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“What about HATE speech?”

Before this UUA discussion website was opened on February 2, there was a lot of discussion about Amendments on Facebook ( GA 2024 A2 Amendments: Process, Procedures, Resources & Connections | Facebook ).

One concern that was raised there – and I hope adequately addressed both there and here below – was that folks don’t want to be forced to listen, understand, respect and respond to HATE speech.

The 2nd Principle is “Justice, equity and compassion in human relations.” I believe that listening, understanding, respecting, and responding is an IDEAL for how we act with compassion in human relations.

When someone inside or outside of our communities uses hate speech, it is important to remember our IDEAL from the current 6 sources - which is also echoed throughout the Proposed Revision: “Confront powers of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love.”

Remember, “Listen” does NOT mean forever/ad nauseum; “Understand” does NOT mean only from the speaker’s perspective; “Respect” does NOT mean agree with the speaker; and “Respond” does NOT mean do exactly what the speaker wants you to do.

In fact, by “listening, understanding, and respecting,” we may find we are able to “respond” in ways which “Confront powers of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love.”

Your thoughts?

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Thanks for clarifying this, Kara. I was wondering what might happen if both amendments passed. They are clearly not mutually exclusive.

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I share your concern about accountability. Accountability has been mentioned, repeatedly, in Article Two discussions, but it’s a theme that is usually brushed aside. In part, because many people aren’t sure if they’re accountable to anybody or anything. In part, because some folks want to emphasize “transformation” as a value. Indigenous people understand the problem but their traditional emphasis on accountability isn’t popular in a consumer culture that celebrates individualism and self-indulgence. Today’s people will be held accountable by “the seventh generation.” We can be good ancestors.

Who are the 7th generation?
Wow, I do not see “accountability” as being ‘brushed aside’ at all. i see it as a core of the current A2.

To free-associate a little, recently a worker at my house was proselytizing me. I commented to him that I was a lifelong atheist. He replied “well that’s pretty easy on you, because there is no judgment day for you.”

I replied, “on the contrary, Every day is judgment day for me.” I judge myself on meeting my core ethical commitments, every minute, every day.

Accountability receives little mention in the recent drafts of Article Two. It’s not identified as a core value. Instead, there’s emphasis on “transformation.” “Transformation” isn’t a value.

I’ve been diagnosed with cancer. My body is being “transformed.” However, I don’t look forward to the experience. Climate change “transforms” planet Earth. Again, it’s not something to celebrate. What’s needed is more emphasis on what Unitarian Universalists want to see in the world.

Early versions of Article Two gave some attention to accountability. BIPOC leaders worked for more emphasis on accountability. It’s unfortunate that the conversation didn’t develop.

The seventh generation concept is identified with “the Great Law of the Iroquois.” (Haudenosuanee people.) One source explains, “In every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.” Note the term “we” in this statement. It’s not a personal creed.

Indigenous people are often concerned about community needs. In thinking about the community, the ancestors are honored and concern is expressed for future generations.

The stewardship concept may come close to “accountability” for some Unitarian Universalists. Although stewardship isn’t mentioned in the new versions of Article Two. Little is said about our sources (ancestors) and little is said about the people who will inherit our institutions.

Atheists and agnostics can appreciate the message. The UUA exists because of what the old folks accomplished. All of us can be grateful for the good work (including stewardship) of previous generations. Future generations will hold today’s leaders accountable.

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“Responding” as a form of “Accountability."

I’ve been thinking about accountability in context of the Equity Value and the Proposed Revision as a whole.

In the second paragraph of Section C-2.2 Values and Covenant, it says “We are accountable to one another for doing the work of living our shared values through the spiritual discipline of Love.”

This can be read with an emphasis on “living our values through Love” - but it can also be read with an emphasis on being “accountable through Love.”

One of the ways we can Love is to “listen, understand, and respect.”

One of the ways we can be “accountable through Love” in the context of Equity is to “respond” – in ways that prevent and address inequities, so that our communities can advance equity for all.

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I have many of the same objections to this one as I do the one by Niell except I dislike the amendment line ‘Equity calls us to listen, understand, respect, and respond to one another’ even more. I’m in favor of Wheeler’s equity amendment but not this one. I strongly prefer A2’s description of generosity, interdependence and inclusion about how we treat each other over this amendment.