UUA politics: Article II revision, pt. 2

Once again, I’ll say that I’m critical of the present Article II, and since at least 2005 I’ve been advocating revision. And while I criticized the current draft revision in a previous post, I think the revision is headed in the right direction — towards a complete rewrite.


In a conversation on Mastodon, Peter Bowden said something that made sense to me: This is not the time to revise Article II.

All the UU congregations that I know are still reeling from the effects of the pandemic. We are in survival mode. (As an aside, I’m predicting that in the next few years, as many as a third of all UU congregations are going to go under.)

And for many UU congregations, the old “Principles and Purposes” are woven throughout their congregational life. Many, maybe most, UU congregations have the old “Principles and Purposes” posted somewhere in their buildings, maybe as a framed poster, sometimes even painted right on the walls. UU congregations have incorporated the old “Principles and Purposes” into their bylaws, on their websites, in their Sunday school curriculums, in their worship services, everywhere. When congregations are still reeling from the pandemic, we’re asking a lot of them to remove this central part of their identity.

Does Article II need to be revised? Heck yeah.

Is now the time to revise Article II? Mm, no.

In that Mastodon conversation, Peter Bowden suggested maybe by 2030. At first I thought he was exaggerating, but as I thought about my current congregation I think that might be a realistic time frame for when we will have the bandwidth to take this on.

8 thoughts on “UUA politics: Article II revision, pt. 2”

  1. These are good points.

    However, I would add: the proposed vision is not good. It is vague and vapid.

    Vapid: centering everything around “love” is like centering your religion around Mom and apple pie. How is this unique to UUism? “Love” is endorsed by the Rotary Club and the Salvation Army.

    In contrast, valuing the inherent worth and dignity of EVERY person is a challenging doctrine that most people don’t really follow, or even give lip service to.

    Vague: there are innumerable references to us “covenanting” to this, that and the other thing. Does this language allow more leeway for the UUA to declare ministers and RE professionals to be “out of covenant”? Or as another example: “free expression” must be consistent with “Beloved Community”. What on earth does this actually MEAN? Can this be exploited in an anti-free speech way by UU institutions?

    Added to this that the current draft omits free and responsible search for truth and meaning , and committment to democracy in both congregations and society. These omissions are problematic.

  2. I’m bitterdonald AT a2mi DOT social
    Where are the other UUs?!

    My response is this…. Everything you list is exactly why this is the BEST time.
    Because we’re going to shed a lot of people in the next few years.
    We’re going to shed congregations.
    And that means culture is going to be destroyed, at least as much as it was because of the pandemic (and for that destruction of culture, I say to the Creators of our world, THANK YOU)

    This is EXACTLY when you want to set the basis upon which we’re going to form new cultures.
    BECAUSE the old ones suck.

    Yes, many congregations have the 7 Principles on the wall. In fact, I grew up in a congregation with just such a framed copy on the wall. And a framed copy of the 6 principles without the current 7th. And a framed copy of the very different 6 principles from when the UUA was created.

    The key lesson we should be taking from the pandemic: DONT be comfortable. Don’t get comfortable, and regular examination of EVERYTHING we do is the most important thing to do.

  3. Good to hear from you both, Tim and Donald!

    Based on just these two comments, I can begin to hear the discussion in the business meeting at General Assembly….

  4. Please don’t change it, AT ALL, because we have it painted on the wall.
    We have a bronze plaque.
    We have a curriculum.

    Ye gods.

    Not a good argument among those. In fact, solid arguments for it being past time to revise it dramatically.

    The call was to bring us a document that better articulates our deeper commitments and values and goals *for* the coming century.

    Change happens when the times and conditions are ripe and *allow* for it. Not when things have (maybe) restabilized. At that point the cry will be “all these congregations have failed, and all that holds us together has been the patina on these ideas that… a whole congregation together can’t remember without looking them up.

    “We do not stand, we move.”

    Let’s move.

  5. Patrick, I’ve been calling for revision for many years. But the draft version of Article II feels like an update from 1985 to 2005 — not an update all the way to 2022. (It mentions racism but not colonialism; that diagram is so 2000s; and so on.)

    So no wonder I’m dragging my feet. I feel like I’m watching yet another revision effort go down in flames. God help me, I don’t want to be stuck with the “Seven Principles” for another twenty years. But nor do I want to be stuck with a revision that already sounds dated.

  6. It doesn’t just sound dated, it sounds whitewashed and cisheteroeurochristiancentric at best, and it is completely tone deaf to the racism in the words chosen.

    Yes, I realize that is not an actual word, but it’s the best way I can describe what I feel is blatantly missing when I view this entire rewrite.

    What do I think? The core construction of the article itself is lacking.
    The verbiage is problematic, the layout, tired and old as it is, doesn’t even reflect the same order as listed in the explanations of each. If we really wanted to show real change, how about putting justice and equity at the top? How on earth will all these explanations be listed, summarized, communicated to non-UUs?

    We’ve spent LOTS of time talking about adding an 8th Principle and that wording, and we can’t even get that one passed and incorporated before we completely throw out all seven that came before it? The whole reason there is a need for an 8th is because UUs have failed to do more than talk about ending racism since it was brought up and then dropped as a collective group in the past. Sure looks like we just abandoned that one already and don’t really mean what we say about actually working on eradicating racism “and other oppressions” which we don’t even bother to name.

    Pragmatically, do we really need to spend the money to change all the printed content that has the current seven right now? Do we really want to say this is where our greatest efforts are currently being directed when membership and ministerial supply are both dwindling?

    My thinking and feeling is all over the place trying to figure out how to accurately describe how viscerally I’m reacting to just how wrong this effort and timing feels to me.

    I feel like this article rewrite has just done the equivalent of “sending thoughts and prayers” to end gun violence. Ineffective platitudes lacking any real effort to enact actual changes.

    If we want to be seen as the boldly loving, welcoming, inclusionary group we claim to be, why can’t we make clear statements to support that perception and inspire actionable efforts?

  7. Daniel Harper insists he has advocated a complete rewrite of the Principles for some time, since like 2005? But he doesn’t say why or anything about the rewrite he would prefer. Care to be more explicit?

  8. Francis Casper, if you read the original post carefully, I say I’ve advocated for revision, not necessarily for a complete rewrite. Below are some posts I’ve written over the years giving some ideas for revising the seven principles.

    TL;DR — The seven principles were written from a white upper middle class perspective, emphasizing hyperindividualism and Eurocentrism. This bias makes them unsuitable for an increasingly multicultural world.

    Seven principles rooted in second-wave feminist, which leads to unconscious privileging of white upper middle class values — https://www.danielharper.org/yauu/2012/01/current-issues-in-liberal-religion-race/

    Seven principles are founded on Western “myths” and are thus Western-centric — https://www.danielharper.org/yauu/2021/08/the-basis-for-inter-religious-dialogue/

    Seven principles as impeding growth — https://www.danielharper.org/blog/?p=4216

    Seven principles are rooted in hyperindividualism — https://www.danielharper.org/yauu/2012/01/current-issues-in-liberal-religion-race/

    Seven principles do not function well as an affirmation of faith — https://www.danielharper.org/blog/?p=617

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *