Ironicschmoozer’s Weblog

Sunday in Minneapolis: the last day of General Assembly
June 28, 2010, 7:43 pm
Filed under: Travels, UUA General Assembly 2010 in Minneapolis

There were plenary sessions after worship and after lunch.  After decades of studies, debates and votes, we have changed the way we select a UUA President (head of staff) and UUA Moderator (board chair and General Assembly moderator).  Instead of two terms of four years each, the president and moderator will serve for one term of six years.  Candidates will be nominated by an elected Presidential Search Committee.  Moderator candidates will be nominated by the Board of Trustees.  This may reduce the cost of political-style UUA campaigns.

In the afternoon, Minnesota minister (and the new minister of the UU Church of the Larger Fellowship and Church of the Younger Fellowship) Meg Riley introduced us to the Hon. Al Franken, United States Senator.  He said we were “a cool church” and that instead of his planned speech he was going to talk to us about religion.  He spoke, at surprising length, about his Jewish tradition and his late father, his children, and his commitment to doing good and doing justice in his public service.  He became visibly moved a few times and told some funny stories, which I hope to quote in a sermon some time. (Earlier at GA Meg had introduced U. S. Rep. Keith Ellison, an African American man from Minneapolis who is the first Muslim in Congress.  He took his oath of office with his hand on Thomas Jefferson’s copy of the Holy Quran.  She also introduced us to Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, who like California Secretary of State Debra Bowen is a member of a UU congregation.)

Delegates heard from various committees of the UUA Board of Trustees as well as the elected Commission on Appraisal.  As its next topic for research, polling, study, and hearings, the Comission on Appraisal has selected the issue of authority and ministry in congregational life, with the catchy title “Who’s in Charge Here?”

Delegates passed a Responsive Resolution on the state of congregational ministry to youth (teens) and young adults (those 18-35), noting that while youth and young adult caucuses have a lot of community and support at the denominational level, the local experience is often unsatisfactory, leading to isolation and a feeling of being ignored by congregation members.  This resolution called on delegates to take this urgent message back to our churches and get involved in evaluating the state of programs for these two groups of younger UUs.  It was overwhelmingly approved.

We heard a special presentation from Daniel Aleshire (president of the Association of Theological Schools) about issues of ministerial education, professional ministry and congregational life–and the major changes in each of these areas going on right now in our culture, making church work harder and people less likely to attend religious programs than they used to.

At every GA about four congregations are highlighted as “Breakthrough Congregations,” notable for their risk-taking, growth in attendance and programs, or turnaround stories.  Each church’s team presented a video and spoke briefly to delegates.  These short videos will be available on or YouTube soon, and we may get DVD copies at the church.

The delegates passed three Actions of Immediate Witness on Sunday:  against anti-immigrant state laws, for Gulf Coast environmental justice and economic justice, and to “clean up the clean energy bill.”  These actions arise among delegates during GA and require a minimum number of petition signatures even to be considered at the Mini-Assembly and then on the floor of the plenary session.  To be approved takes a 2/3 majority vote.  Twenty minutes of significant debate on both amendments and the core Action texts preceded the votes.  Actions not getting a 2/3 majority (but getting lots of impassioned debate) were those calling for the ending the blockade of Gaza and the growth of Israeli settlements on Palestinian territories and for “ending the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”  (I may have dozed off and missed that one of the other items actually DID NOT get a 2/3 vote.  I’ll correct it when I find out.) The Commission on Social Witness says:  “While Actions of Immediate Witness carry the authority only of the General Assembly at which they are adopted, AIWs reflect considerable thought, collaboration, and commitment.  Use adopted AIWs to advocate in your congregations and districts.”  Given the high emotion of the debates, after the fifth AIW vote (which failed to achieve a 2/3 majority), Moderator Gini Courter said it was a good time to sing together again, so we did.

By the closing ceremonies at 7:30 PM many folks had left, but there was a decent crowd.  On the stage was the 75-member Children’s Choir, who sounded lovely and whose cheerful faces showed in close-ups on the big screen.  With them was the adult GA choir, about 200 folks.

We were invited to the 2011 General Assembly, to be held in Charlotte, NC.  We were assured that the downtown has been revitalized and now has restaurant choices.  The big theme of 2011 will be the 50th Anniversary of the Unitarian Universalist Association (i.e., the merger).  The speaker for the Ware Lecture will be major author Karen Armstrong!  Our 2012 GA will be, given the debates and votes made at this GA, considered and planned as a justice assembly, focusing on mercy, compassion and justice for immigrants, and limiting regular business.


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