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General Assembly Report by Rev. Roger Jones, clergy delegate to GA from UUSS
July 9, 2015, 7:05 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

About 4,600 Unitarian Universalists recently gathered in Portland, Oregon, for the General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association. Two dozen UUSS members made the trip, attending varied workshops, worship services, lectures, public witness events, and having personal conversations with UUs from near and far.

GA is part business meeting and part revival meeting. It’s a church convention, and a trade-show for spiritual progressives.

UUSS provided 9 of the 1,700 lay and clergy delegates for the business meetings. Delegates changed the UUA bylaws to limit donations and spending for election campaigns for president of the UUA. Next election:  June 2017.

Delegates also debated a proposal by the UUA board to add a board-appointed committee and thereby eliminate an independent Commission on Appraisal. This elected commission chooses and issue to study and then reports findings and recommendations to the whole denomination. Delegates debated, and a majority voted NO–no change to the Commission on Appraisal.

Every two years GA delegates choose an issue for three years of study and action. Our congregations are urged to dig into the issue and report back. Some choose to do so; some don’t. The resulting statement is debated, amended and then approved by vote. By this work, the delegates make a proclamation of where we stand as a denomination. We call it a Statement of Conscience. The title of the latest one is Reproductive Justice. As reported in the UU World, it espouses the human right to have children, not to have children, to parent the children one has in healthy environments, and to safeguard bodily autonomy and to express one’s sexuality freely.” The statement explicitly acknowledges “reproductive justice” as a concept developed by women of color.

As I noted in my July 5 sermon on democracy, delegates also selected three Actions of Immediate Witness to urge congregational attention: Support the #BlackLivesMatter Movement; End Federal Detention of Immigrant Children and Families; Support Local Climate Justice Protests (including the native Lummi Nation’s opposition to coal extraction).

Read reflections and responses from some of our UUSS delegates and other GA attendees here in the Comments section.

8 Comments so far
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I was inspired that John Lewis honored us to come speak to us and humbly accept the U. U. Service Committee Eleanor Rooseveldt Award… I would like to learn what our congregation can specifically do to join with others in Sacramento to serve the “Black Lives Matter” cause. John Lewis strongly urged us to have clear achievable goals.

Comment by Meg Burnett

Most exciting moment – interruption of the plenary meeting with the announcement that the Supreme Court had okayed marriage between same sexes. The meeting broke into cheers and applause that lasted for about 15 minutes.

Most beautiful Moments – the banner parade that featured bringing in banners from 500 UU congregations.

Best workshop – Divestment of Fossil Fuel Investments

Comment by Shirley Hines

I was most impressed by the U.U. Youth! In their intelligence, social awareness, and caring behavior I saw the future direction of our society. At one of their workshops I attended, they formed small groups, had discussions and shared ideas. Then each group reported their ideas back to all the workshop attendees. (Personally I think they might have been having the most fun… with their playing instruments, friendship circles, and regular runs for boxes of Voodoo Donuts.)

Comment by Pat Skeels

My heart raced as the banners of hundreds of UU churches were paraded around the room on opening night, and then came our own UUSS banner and my eyes filled with tears at such a lovely symbol.

Comment by Maxine Cornwell

This was my first GA attended, being relatively new to UU. I feel very lucky to have attended such a far-reaching conference. If I had to choose one word to describe my impression of the UU congregations all gathered together in Portland for the GA, it would be PASSION! I was moved and inspired by the diversity of workshops on so many different subjects, the multi-generational focus, the innovation evident in approaching so many issues… Most of all, I was struck by the emphasis that UU places on activism as the driving force for positive change in society. It gave me much food for thought.

When it was announced that the Supreme Court had passed down the decision proclaiming the right of LGBT members to marry, I thought, “Wow, I couldn’t be in a more relevant and joyfully reverberating place to see this decision celebrated,” considering UU’s history of commitment to advocacy on this matter.

I attended some of the presentations conducted by young UU adults, and I was, as has been mentioned by others who posted here, very impressed with the depth, insight, and maturity of the speakers.

One of the highlights for me was hearing John Lewis speak. As he pointed out so cogently, a lot can happen over 50 years — from marching for the right to vote to seeing the first African-American president elected. His courage to march and demonstrate for justice was part of that long walk to freedom that would not have advanced forward were it not for people like him, an example of living history as it evolves.

One last thought: Roger mentioned at a recent UUSS service UU members comprise only 1% of the population of church-goers in the U.S. If I understood that correctly, seeing all the banners from all over the U.S. hanging from the 2nd level of the convention center and hearing the power of the words — and stirring music presented — made me think that the 1% statistic wields a power and voice far beyond its actual numerical value.

Comment by Paula Joy Welter

The most inspirational event for me was the last day’s worship where Rev. Allison Miller spoke about her close encounter with death as a child, and then shared powerful examples of how this near tragedy has continued to positively shape her life and values. I was also inspired by the number of workshops on sustainability, especially how our UU principles are tightly woven with global climate change, food justice, water justice, climate justice, environmental justice, and social justice.

Comment by Fred Deneke

I was impressed by all I saw and learned and inspired by being with such a great number of UU’s together in one meeting place and also with seeing the democratic process in action. Two of the sermons were knock-outs too.

Here’s what I learned at the workshops:

We need to market ourselves more and get more known in the community by social media, newspaper articles/ads, presence at social justice events with our t-shirts or banners, and participation in more interfaith events.

An effective idea is collaborative worship where the congregation picks two issues or three that it wants to focus on for the year.

Children should be highly visible and participate in part of each service.

Bring more outside groups who are like-minded into our building for reduced rent so that we get our name around in the liberal community.

Invite other religious groups to some of our adult enrichment or youth programs to become more well-known to them and in the community at large. Have platform cafes or coffee shops to attract like-minded people or young people and advertise these on

Do more work, sermons, adult programs, youth programs etc.around the theme of oppression and privilege. Have “Beloved conversations” available curriculum through UUA with community groups of different races, religions and orientations.

The web site has 4.5 seconds to attract new people. Make sure your message in that 4.5 is a clear picture of who we are.

Do a better job of branding, aligning our signals and identity making an implicit promise of what newcomers can expect.

Be clear about whom you are trying to reach and why.

Comment by Linda Klein

I am inspired about the suggestions that you gleaned for expanding our congregation and marketing our programs/church. I enthusiastically recommend that we at UUSS establish a working group to research and evaluate all of these as preparation for instituting a strong program of outreach.

At one session I attended, the speaker who was not a UU, stated that Unitarian Universalism will grow as folks leave mainline church and seek a replacement. She also saw our denomination as the choice of families in which the parents have different religious backgrounds and seek a religious home for their newly created families.

Comment by Maxine Cornwell

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