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

Maybe Clara is just tired of using her understanding to call out problems and seeking folks to work with her in finding a way to confront powers of evil with Justice, compassion and the transforming power of love.
Maybe Clara does sometimes, but wonders why they are the one always expected to adjust, understand, keep feelings under wrap, be reminded they are seen as different, have that pointed out, realize people that they love would not be welcomed, subjected to a downer, realize they must keep their guard up, and more.
And maybe Clara is exhausted from dealing with this kind of thing every.single.day.
Maybe Clara decides her time, resources, and emotional energy are just too depleted to keep returning and interacting in this particular community.
Maybe Clara is scared of what is happening in the outside world and just can’t deal with it in her faith community as well.
Maybe Clara just doesn’t come back in those doors.



YES! Sounds exhausting! I wish for her all the support she needs to recover from her exhaustion, and to find places that do not lead to a repeat of that exhaustion. I agree that our faith community should do everything it can to provide that support - including BUT NOT LIMITED TO listening to HER, understanding HER, respecting HER, and responding. appropriately to HER. That listening etc. is an important part of the “attention and wisdom” needed to build and sustain accessible and inclusive communities that support EVERY PERSON to flourish with dignity, Love, and compassion.

Are we ready for GA? If you’d like a chance to respond in written form, here is the draft 90-second speech to introduce the Stebbins Amendment:

The current proposed Equity Value states: “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.”

The Stebbins amendment deepens our understanding of “wisdom” and “attention” - and provides concrete and compassionate means to achieve them - by adding this idea: “Equity calls us to listen, understand, respect, and respond to one another.”

The importance of this idea relates to why we joined UU and how we want to be treated as valued community members. We are here partly because we value our differences. We seek to understand and learn from one other. We respect one another - no matter where we are in our spiritual journeys and no matter who we are as persons.

Specifically in the context of Equity:
When we actively listen, understand, respect and respond to one another, we discover the needs of individuals - and of communities as a whole. Then we are all included in the search for solutions to prevent and address inequities.

It’s time to answer Equity’s call “to listen, understand, respect, and respond to one another.” It’s time to vote Yes for the Stebbins Amendment.

Thank you .

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I’ve been thinking about how I look at listening and how I look at hate speech.

Listening is the key to understanding. Listening is the key to solving problems. Listening is the key to communication.

Effective listening is a skill – a skill that leads a conversation from disagreement to understanding the problem to working together toward realistic solutions – solutions that work for everyone – and therefor prevent and address inequities.

What about hate speech? When there is hate speech, it is an attack – it is no longer a conversation! Nobody is listening to anybody! So it’s time to walk away!

Then what? At some point, someone – the same individual - or a different individual - or a community as a whole – needs to recover enough from the trauma to figure out how to respond effectively – and that inevitably involves the skill of effective listening.

Listening is the key. Please vote YES for the Stebbins Amendment. Thank you.

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I hear the power of the use of “listen” and so went back to the revised article II and would ask if delegates would consider that each of the three values, Pluralism, Justice and Transformation already contain the effective solution asked for by this amendment - particularly Pluralism.

I read that the amendment changes the emphasis and purpose the authors heard reflected in their listening sessions when composing Equity.

This reflection is offered with great respect for the author of the amendment.

Pluralism. We celebrate that we are all sacred beings, diverse in culture, experience, and theology.
We covenant to learn from one another in our free and responsible search for truth and meaning. We embrace our differences and commonalities with Love, curiosity, and respect.

Justice. We work to be diverse multicultural Beloved Communities where all thrive.
We covenant to dismantle racism and all forms of systemic oppression. We support the use of inclusive democratic processes to make decisions within our congregations, our Association, and society at large.

Transformation. We adapt to the changing world.
We covenant to collectively transform and grow spiritually and ethically. Openness to change is fundamental to our Unitarian and Universalist heritages, never complete and never perfect.

Thanks for the post, @Steward . I agree that Pluralism, Justice and Transformation all capture aspects of Listening etc.

I still think Equity needs its own emphasis on Listening. I see the amendment as strengthening the Equity Value by adding clarity, specificity, and inspiration to the covenant statement.

The amendment elaborates on the current covenant language of “attention and wisdom” with the words “Equity calls us to listen, understand, respect, and respond to one another.” I think Equity is about accessibility and inclusiveness in communities AND that part of the way we ensure accessibility and inclusiveness is based on Listening to one another - both as individuals AND as communities. Based on that, I DON’T see the amendment as changing the emphasis or purpose of the Value; I see it as strengthening it.

Can you offer details in what you read that would help me understand “the emphasis and purpose” in “their listening sessions”? As I say, I see the amendment as strengthening the Equity Value by adding clarity, specificity, and inspiration to the covenant statement.

Thanks again.

For detail on emphasis maybe this will make sense

As I read the covenant phrase in the RA2 without amendment

Emphasis is on the individual congregations’ and their members’ responsibility to use time, wisdom, attention, and money to build and sustain fully accessible and inclusive communities. I read that as an agreement to improve the institutional systems, to make them fully accessible and inclusive. To arrive at what is then a complete work - that is done until redone.

The RA2 Equity first calls out that we use our time wisdom, attention, and money to build fully accessible, inclusive communities. The amendment adds to this purpose by considering the possibility that we also revisit why the system change was necessary and listen to and respond to concerns that would otherwise have been considered part of “time, wisdom, attention” - the existing Equity covenant single original phrase.

Having gone through this exercise. I will use creative license to add an instructional footnote rather than the amendment that says something to the effect:

Footnote to Equity: We are called to be attentive and learn from the sources and fellow congregant voices (if not our own) that describe and take it upon themselves to do their best to build fully accessible and inclusive communities as part of their congregational work. We are called to listen and respond to each other as we further the work to arrive at fully inclusive, accessible, and inclusive communities.

— Equity (amendment in brackets)
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.]

Hi @Steward . Thank you for the details. I agree with the wording of your “footnote,” but I don’t think it fully captures the intent of the Amendment. (And obviously I think it needs to be an Amendment, not just a “footnote.”).

I believe that for Equity specifically, an integral part of “building and sustaining” is practicing a day-to-day “spiritual discipline:” for individuals, communities and institutions to listen/understand/respect/respond to one another.

I see the current Equity Value as having 2 emphases: 1. the right of “every person” to flourish; and 2. the covenant to build and sustain accessible and inclusive “communities.”

I see the Amendment as an essential means of integrating and elaborating those 2 emphases: In order for every person to flourish, every person - as an individual, as part of a community, or part of an institution - needs to be included in the process of defining and achieving access and inclusion. If we all listen, understand, respect, and respond to one another, the solutions to prevent and address inequity belong to all of us - and work better for all of us.

To me, that sounds like a call to Equity - and even to liberation!

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Everything is interconnected.

So transformation of the world requires individual spiritual discipline.

Creating and nurturing communities that are accessible and inclusive requires systemic change - and that change must be built brick-by-brick from day-to-day actions of every person. We need to pay attention to and be wise about “every person” and every “community.” We need to listen, understand, respect, and respond to one another – as individuals, as communities, and as an association of communities.

How do we define and achieve accessible and inclusive communities? By paying attention to how every person defines and dreams of achieving access and inclusion. We listen to one another – every one. When we all listen, understand, respect, and respond to one another, the solutions to prevent and address inequity belong to all of us – and work better for all of us.

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Hi again @Steward I re-read your question and wanted to reply with additional specifics:

The Equity Value requires a specific call to listen, understand, respect, and respond to one another, and that is what the Stebbins Amendment provides.

To learn from one another in our search for truth and meaning is good for the Pluralism Value, but it is not the same as learning from one another about how each of us defines and seeks to achieve access and inclusion.

The use of inclusive democratic processes for decision making Is not as specific as listening, understanding, respecting and responding to one another for the purpose of Equity.

Collectively transforming and growing spiritually and ethically does not necessarily mean transforming and growing towards Equity.

The Equity Value requires a specific call to listen, understand, respect, and respond to one another, and that is what the Stebbins Amendment provides.

I’ve found some of the “con” speakers on this amendment to be quite persuasive. Dr. King reminded us that there are things to which we should all be maladjusted. It’s a lot to ask oppressed people to listen, understand, respect, and respond to their oppressors.


I just don’t see how we can control how people act by adding in a sentence telling them they have to listen to someone else. As a Unitarian I believe that they already know this.

I am concerned about the expectation to respond to one another. When I first read this I found I had a knot in my stomach and I could not identify exactly what it was. As others have spoken, it has become more clear. I have experienced interactions with people, in spaces which were called safe and sacred, but where others were intent on persuading me to agree with them, and were persistent beyond the point where it felt safe for me. The addition of this amendment calls me to not get up and walk away from the harmful language and actions I may encounter. The equity statement as written, for me, seems sufficient. I do not see the need to add this to our bylaws, particularly when several of us are articulating the ways in which it is harmful to so many of us. I encourage you to vote no on this amendment.


Thank you for your comment. There were some folks who wrote in the chat in that session and some even spoke at the pro mike who said to the effect that if this was adopted, and harmful language and speeches were happening I could just leave! I was so upset like I’m supposed to leave the business GA sessions when hurtful language is used? I’m supposed to somehow leave when some white UUs have physically blocked me in the pews demanding I listen to them. They certainly proved my point that I do not wish to covenant to have to listen, to understand, respect and respond to UUs. Thank you again for your understanding.


I appreciate you pointing this out, as someone who considers the association of the phrase “inherent worth” with slavery to be something akin to a trauma trigger, and not a reasonable justification for changing language. I also value consistency, which is another reason I appreciate your comment.

I would like to be part of a community that can understand words have different meanings in different contexts - if we can do that with the word ‘equity’ then I hope we can do that with the phrase ‘inherent worth’ as well.

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I appreciate you tying this into how the word ‘love’ has developed negative connotations for some people due to their associations of it within religious communities. This just came up recently at my local congregation’s Pub Theology meeting. Really, I was the one who brought it up, to encourage us to treat love as an ideal but also accept and welcome all the spectrum of human emotion, including hatred and rage. That part of being loving is being compassionately present with people - including ourselves - who are experiencing those emotions.

To me, aspiring to listening as a value is similar. Valuing listening does not mean we will listen all the time. I am extensively trained in Nonviolent Communication, and one tool from that body of work is the NVC Tree of Life, which shows that self-empathy is the root of all the other NVC practices (empathy for others, nonviolent self-expression). When we find ourselves feeling overextended or pained upon listening to others’, it can be a cue to turn inward and listen to ourselves. This may mean pausing a conversation.

I know that the language for this specific amendment and the current vote is already set in stone to be a yea or nay, but maybe for the future that could be something to add, or a way to frame it - that this listening and responding etc includes listening to ourselves and responding to ourselves and our own needs.

If we trust that this language is proposed in good faith and read it in the context of UU values, then I think it is asking for listening, understanding and respect so that everyone is heard and no one is oppressed. Of course there are reasonable limits to all of these things. There are views that can’t be listened to or respected beyond a certain point, that are out of alignment with the existing Principles and the newly articulated Values. But it seems a stretch beyond the intent here — in the context of an amendment about equity — to infer that this language means oppressed people are being asked to understand and respect their oppressors (!).

Does the 3rd Principle’s call for “acceptance of one another” mean to us that oppressed people should accept their oppressors? :thinking:


Worth (noun)

  1. excellence of character or quality as commanding esteem:
    women of worth.

  2. usefulness or importance, as to the world, to a person, or for a purpose:
    Your worth to the world is inestimable.

  3. value, as in money.
    a quantity of something of a specified value:
    ten cents’ worth of candy.

  4. wealth; riches; property or possessions:
    net worth.

[Random House Unabridged Dictionary]

IMHO I don’t quite see how “worth” sometimes meaning in a monetary sense is so different from “value” which also sometimes refers to finance and money.

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Is that what is being called for here though? I hear that there is a call for listening and responsiveness amongst fellow community members. In the UU community that I am involved with, and I would extrapolate in other communities, power and identity dynamics are much more complex than oppressor vs oppressee, and also much more human.

There are older, male, middle class, straight community members in my congregation who may not understand every aspect of my experience as a relatively younger, non-straight female from a poor background, but if I see them as merely ‘the oppressors’ and refuse to listen to their life experience or perspective, I believe that I deprive myself of the enrichment of getting to know their complex humanity beyond a few demographic characteristics, and contribute to the stalemate of misunderstanding prevalent in the wider culture wars. I am interested in the UU tradition because I believe it can offer something better than that.

To me, aspiring to listening and mutual responsiveness doesn’t mean that I do so beyond my own capacity/ within parameters conducive to my emotional and mental health. It means that it is a touchstone to return to as I am able. I also trust that within a UU context, people will extend me that same curiosity as they are able - or at least I want to trust that, and believe there is some foundation for it. Affirming it with this language would help me trust it more.

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You are right, and I struggled with this amendment, but ultimately decided that it is really not necessary, and though I like it from the good-faith perspective, I heard those who see the problems of misuse, and decided that we need not include it. I had help from my fellow Central Unitarian delegates and professionals with whom I watched the session and did not truly decide until I had the ballot open.