Saturday, September 27, 2014

Conversation with Jim Key, UUA Moderator

Conversation between Jim Key, UUA Moderator
and Rev. LoraKim Joyner
September 17, 2014

"This topic is worthy of debate." - Jim Key, UUA Moderator

Many thanks to Jim Key for taking the time and being present to the worthiness of the democratic process in our association of congregations!

Seeking clarification of the  UUA bylaws, I spoke with Jim Key for about 45 minutes last week.  He was quite helpful for understanding the process of seeking a change to the First Principle.

Because the Principles are a "C" bylaw, they come under special process that is meant to seriously and deeply engage the breadth of Unitarian Universalism.  Any resolution that comes to the General Assembly (the body that approves bylaw changes) therefore goes through a specific process.

1.  It is placed on the General Assembly Business Agenda by February 1 of the year of the General Assembly. This can happen by the UUA Board of Trustees, the Commission of Appraisal, 1 District, or 15 congregations.  All 15 congregations must pass the same resolution.

2. Once it is on the Agenda, the Board of Trustees works closely with the sponsors of the bylaw amendment resolution, in this case, the congregations that passed the resolution, and the sponsors and collaboratory team of the First Principle Project.  Their aim is to prepare Unitarian Universalists for the upcoming vote.

3. At the General Assembly there is a mini-assembly before the vote takes place. At this time the wording of the bylaw can be changed, but not substantively. This means that the wording can be rephrased within the First Principle, but probably no changes to other Principles will be allowed. 

4. After the mini-assembly the reworded resolution comes to a vote. The first vote is not to pass the bylaw amendment, but to determine, by simple majority, whether to assign the essence of the bylaw change to a study commission (not to last longer than 2 years).   At this point, delegates do not discuss which changes to make, but basically are saying by a positive vote that the topic is worthy of study, reflection, and discussion.  Jim Key feels that it is likely that the vote to refer this to a study commission would pass, as he said, "This topic is worthy of debate."

(It is possible at this same General Assembly that a delegate could call for a second vote seeking to pass the bylaw resolution, and forgo the study commission. This takes an 80% majority, and Jim Key said this is unlikely to pass, as would any issue at this stage of study)

5.  After this vote, it is up to the UUA Board to appoint the members of the study commission.  In the words of Jim Key, he would want the study commission "to go to a group of people to study it who understood the process and had people on it who wanted it to pass."

6. After 1-2 years, the study commission comes back with a resolution.  They may choose to change the First Principle with the exact words or different wording, or might suggest changes to other Principles or even adding Principles.  They are guided by the essence of original resolution.

7. Their resolution first goes to a mini-assembly where it can be changed, and then to the floor for a 2/3rd's vote. If it passes, it comes up again for another 2/3rd vote at the following GA before it becomes permanent.

The highlights of this conversation for me are these:

1.  We have true collaboration with the UUA Board of Trustees in this process.

2.  At this point congregations need not worry about the final wording of any change to the Principles.  True, the exact wording is worthy ofdiscussion because it helps us understand one another and our world, and we need to be mindful of holding discussions that deepen our relationships and broaden our ability to care for one another. 

3. Basically, by passing the bylaw amendment resolution in a congregation, the congregation is saying that the issue is worthy of study, discussion, and reflection.  Only after serious time and deepening, and wider engagement, will we as a body know how to put into our institutional practices the essence of the suggested change to the First Principle.

4. This is good news!  We can get this more easily on the General Assembly Agenda knowing that the final wording will be worked out slowly and broadly over time.

I am asking for discussion now on the following:

1. What do you make of the strategy to pass this resolution in your congregation knowing that it will most likely go to a study commission?

2.  Do you think now is the time to discuss any possible changes to the proposed amendment, or shall we wait until it gets placed on the General Assembly Agenda?

3. If you were to consider other words or actions that reflect the essence of the change, what would you suggest? Some suggest using different words in the First Principle, changing the Seventh Principle, or adding an additional Principle.

You can place your comments in the comment section of this blog, and also submit a reflection piece to me and I can post it here. I am specifically asking several others to submit a blog that  addresses how they would move forward so that we can incorporate their wisdom and experiences into how we as individuals and congregations engage, as well as the First Principle Project Collaboratory Team. 

Make it so and thank you for your engagement!

In hope of all beings,

 Rev. LoraKim Joyner, DVM
First Project Facilitator

Here is the proposed bylaw amendment resolution each congregation will pass:

We the (insert congregation name) do hereby call on the General Assembly of the UUA to omit "every person" and replace with "every being" in Article II Principles and Purposes, Section c-2.1 Principles, Line 12, UUA bylaws.
So far we have 3 congregations that have passed it, and 4 sponsoring organizations:

CUUPS (Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans)
UU Buddhist Fellowship
PACE (Presidential Advisory Committee on Ethical Eating)
UUAM (Unitarian Universalist Animal Ministry)

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