Live your Unitarian Universalist values out loud. Make your year-end gift today!
General Assembly 2012 Event 303
GINI COURTER: 51st General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association. Good morning. Please welcome the Reverend Doctor Walt Wieder, Chair of your General Assembly Planning Committee. Show some love.
WALT WIEDER: Why don't you come sit down? Welcome. My name is Reverend Doctor Walt Wieder. I'm chair of the General Assembly Planning Committee. I also live in Phoenix. I serve our congregation in Surprise, Arizona.
Our Chalice Lighter is Mordecai Roth, member of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Surprise and my friend. The chalice we light this morning was created by Mordecai. It is one of over 130 chalices he has created for UU congregations and individuals around the country.
Peace activist—[APPLAUSE] Peace activist and World War II veteran and holder of the Silver Star, he was a member of the Great Peace March in 1983. The combination pleases me.
The Great Peace March, for those who don't know, was a cross-country event aimed at raising awareness to the growing danger of nuclear proliferation. The group left Los Angeles on March 1, 1986 and arrived in Washington, DC on November 15, a journey of about nine months and 3,700 miles. Would you light the chalice?
We light this chalice this morning mindful of the heritage of social justice that this chalice represents, from issues in helping people fleeing Nazi oppression to its presence in countless events supporting the rights of women, GBLT people, civil rights for all, and today, at Justice GA. Amen.
I would like to take this opportunity to introduce the members of the General Assembly Planning Committee. We are ready and eager to listen to any concerns you may wish to share. You might also want to take a moment sometime during the week to say thank you to one of them—co-vice-chairs, Tim Murphy and Bart Frost; secretary, Kathy Charles; Debra Boyd; Greg Boyd; Ila Klion; Chip Roush; Nan White; Jacqui Williams; and a representative from the Board of Trustees who serves with us at many, many meetings, representing the Board, Jackie Shanti.
The General Assembly Planning Committee was charged with creating a Justice GA for 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona. The decision to respond to the cruelty and oppression of our draconian immigration policy—of which Phoenix and Arizona were but examples—by our presence, instead of boycotting, required a different GA.
This GA is the result of two years of effort by a coalition of many people and groups. Beginning with an expanded design group, closer ties with marginalized communities of the UUA, through the accountability group. Thanks in large measure to the moderator and Board of Trustees, and close ties with the Arizona immigration ministries and communities on the ground in Arizona, particularly Puente and NDLON.
The GAPC has worked diligently to create an opportunity to make a difference in Arizona and in the communities to which we will return following this week of service, witness, and worship. Worship and time for reflection have been built into what is a unique experience in service and witness. Training in service and witness will carry us forward, will carry Justice GA forward. Welcome to Phoenix and Justice GA. May our time together be a time of witness, service, learning, and joy. Thank you.
GINI COURTER: Tom Loughrey, Secretary of the Association, is going to give us a preliminary report from your Credentials Committee so we can find out if we have a quorum.
TOM LOUGHREY: I think we do. We have as delegates total members of congregations including the Church of the Larger Fellowship, 1,314 delegates. We have 310 ministers who are delegates by their position, 14 ministers emeritus emerita. We have three master's-level DREs. We have two representatives of associate member organizations which include UUSC and UU Women's Federation, and 24 members of the Board of Trustees—a total of voting delegates of 1,644.
In addition to that, we've got a lot of other folks here representing 518 congregations from all 50 US States plus the District of Columbia and 300 youth registrations [APPLAUSE] for a total preliminary credentialing report of 3,590 people. I think we have a quorum.
GINI COURTER: All right. Well, on the basis of that preliminary report from the Credentials Committee I declare a quorum is and has been present since this meeting was called to order on Wednesday night.
I am so, so glad you are here. How many people are glad to be here today? And yet I am also mindful always that it's not enough to simply show up, right? Because it matters how we are together after we arrive. And it will matter again how we hold this togetherness in our hearts after we leave.
Two weeks ago, I was at a meeting with leaders at our Eno River congregation and we were—yeah, those folks—and we couldn't remember the exact quote. But one of their folks with a smartphone Googled TS Eliot's "Choruses From The Rock" for this quote, which was the center of our conversation in that moment.
Eliot wrote, "When the Stranger asks, 'What is the meaning of this city? Do you huddle close together because you love each other?' What will you answer? 'We all dwell together to make money from each other?' Or, 'This is a community?' Oh my soul, be prepared for the coming of the Stranger. Be prepared for him who knows how to ask questions."
So how shall we prepare? Please welcome the co-chairs of the Justice GA Right Relations Team and some of their colleagues. Welcome the Reverend Melissa Carvill-Ziemer and Tomoko Takano.
TOMOKO TAKANO: Good morning. On Wednesday evening, during our opening celebration we told you that we were going to make mistakes this week. And indeed we have. We have made mistakes, caused offense, and hurt one another's feelings. These mistakes haven't been intentional but still had an impact and have been uncomfortable.
We are glad that so many of you have felt comfortable approaching us to share your experience or seek support. As we promised, this morning we are going to share with you some of what has been shared with us. Our hope in calling out these uncomfortable moments is not to single out one person but rather acknowledge that the mistakes made by one could have been made by many of us. Our hope is that by sharing this experience we can all learn more about what it takes to live in right relationship.
MELISSA CARVILL-ZIEMER: During the opening ceremony those of us up on the stage heard waves of laughter ripple through the hall a few times. We can't see the teleprompter up here so we didn't realize that there had been several humorous errors in the closed captioning. One of those errors happened when Steve Newcomb was offering a prayer in his native language. The closed captioning read "speaking in a foreign language." Another little wave of laughter swept across the hall, perhaps fueled by a nervousness or embarrassment about such an obvious mistake.
Mr. Newcomb was confused why people were laughing at his prayer. The laughter was in response to the closed captioning, not to his prayer. But to the presenter it felt like the laughter was directed towards his spoken words.
It would be appreciated if you'd be sensitive to the errors in the closed captioning, knowing that those are not necessarily the words of the speaker. We later learned what happened and we've requested that from now on the closed captioning say, "Speaking in a native language," when that is what's happening.
We've also heard from several of you, especially people participating in the banner processional that opening night, that you were hurt by the conflicting and sometimes stern mixed messages you received. While lined up waiting outside excitedly for the banner processional to begin, several people were told that the intent of this year's processional was different. That it was not a time for joy and excitement but rather for solemnity.
This message was delivered to a few adults as well as to a large group of youth. The ushers had been asked to deliver this message and they diligently tried to be accountable to the request. The youth and others who heard it, though, were confused. Our banner parade is not usually a solemn affair and they were surprised to be getting such an unusual message for the first time.
Things got even more confusing when the people carrying the banners into the hall came in and heard uptempo music and found people clapping and cheering. The youth in particular responded by matching the emotional tone they experienced here in the hall.
When they got back outside they stopped to take a picture of their group with the banner. One of the adults charged with communicating the message about being solemn spoke to them somewhat harshly, frustrated as he was that the vision of solemnity and was not being respected.
Since this happened we have spoken with many of the people involved and we've learned several things. We learned that they youth were frustrated because they felt some adults were speaking to them unkindly in communicating messages about solemnity. They were also frustrated because they believe that justice work can be joyful. And they didn't want to be solemn in expressing their gladness to be part of this.
As it turns out, the worship and music planners had come to a similar conclusion. And so they had changed their plan about having a solemn processional. So the music was more upbeat. However, this change in vision was not communicated to the ushers who were trying really hard to do their job.
TOMOKO TAKANO: We can learn some things from this incident. It underscores the clear and consistent communication in relationships. It also reminds us that there has to be room for joy in this work for justice for the sustenance of our spirit. And it reminds us how difficult it can be to deliver a message that is not being well received.
We appreciate that it was difficult for adult volunteers to be trying to ask people to be solemn over and over again. Similar challenges often happen at the door of Plenary Hall when people try to get in without a name tag. However, even when we are delivering unpopular messages and even when we are having to deliver them over and over again, we still need to try to be kind and respectful to our delivery.
There are few things we'd like to lift up this morning. If you're trying to save seats here in Plenary so you could sit with your friends, that is amazing. However, please be mindful when you're selecting seats. If they're not necessary for anyone in your group please do not save seats in the aisles near the spaces reserved for scooters or near fragrance-free sections. Even if they're not reserved some people may require the aisle seats due to whatever necessities they have. If you're trying to save seats and someone comes up looking for a place to sit in the section, please make room for them too.
MELISSA CARVILL-ZIEMER: Several people of color affiliated with DRUUMM—Diverse Revolutionary Unitarian Universalist Multicultural Ministries, a Unitarian Universalist People of Color Organization—had been approached by white people wondering why we need a people of color organization. And even suggesting that such an organization is unnecessary and divisive. So if you identify as white and you're having similar thoughts, we'd like to suggest that you visit ARE—the Allies for Racial Equity-—booth in the exhibit hall.
ARE is a group of white-identified people who work in partnership with DRUUMM in support of an anti-racist, anti-oppressive, multicultural vision for our faith. The folks at that booth would really like to have a conversation with you about the value of identity groups in our efforts.
TOMOKO TAKANO: And finally, speaking of identity we gladly recognize that there is a wonderful turnout of youth here at Justice GA. Several older adults have approached several youth, especially youth of color, to tell them how deeply glad they are to see youth of color here in our midst. Some of these greetings—while no doubt heartfelt—have been experienced by some of the youth has a little overly friendly and familiar. And also making them hyper-visible.
We have long had devoted, passionate youth of color involved in the Unitarian Universalism. And to call undue attention to them can make it seem like they have been invisible up until now. This also makes the adults of color who have been one of them to feel invisible also.
Be kind with your words. Even in conflict please open up your hearts and use kindness towards each other. We can communicate in "I" statements and in covenantal relationships. Even if we are almost 24/7 together here at General Assembly.
MELISSA CARVILL-ZIEMER: Finally, if you have any questions about anything we've shared in our report this morning—or if you want to talk with us about anything else—you know how to find us. It's our honor to serve and support all of us in our efforts to be in right relationship.
GINI COURTER: Thank you. Excellent. Excellent.
There's a physicality to how we do things when we meet. And one of them is that we have ramps that people go down and come up. So there's really no point in me introducing people coming up until the people going down are gone. They can't occupy the same space. It's one of the laws of physics. I'm sure someone will tell me which one. We're a smart group. But if I wanted to know I'd Google it. All right. Please welcome the first vice Moderator and trustee from the Clara Barton district, Jackie Shanti.
JACKIE SHANTI: In 2010, delegates at General Assembly were faced with a quandary—to go or not to go? That was the question. Would we honor the Arizona boycott protesting inhumane anti-immigration laws and practices? Or would we go to Phoenix in 2012 for GA as scheduled? And stand in solidarity with local congregations and organizations who were fighting for justice?
After passionate debate, deep listening, tearful confrontations, deep breathing, and creative late-night collaboration, a resolution was fashioned and was passed by the delegates. This business resolution called on the UUA board to gather UUs for a Justice General Assembly that would avoid business as usual. And would focus on standing in solidarity with allies mobilizing in love against the oppression and oppressive legislation of SB1070.
Recognizing that people with historically marginalized identities within our faith movement would be exposed to increased risk and inaccessibility, the Board was instructed to work in accountable relationship to identify measures that could be taken to increase safety and accessibility at Justice GA.
The UUA administration was called on to work with leaders in Arizona UU congregations to establish an Arizona Immigration Ministry to partner with other groups in Arizona who were working for immigration reform. And to strengthen those partnerships in preparation for our arrival in 2012.
In our Board Covenant we pledge in working together to build new bridges and to mend ones that are broken. And this was our approach to fulfilling the vision of the 2010 business resolution.
While the Board's relationship with the Planning Committee had become strained we mended bridges, developing new ways of working together to create a new kind of GA experience. The Board appointed an accountability group made up of representatives from historically marginalized groups, creating new bridges. And we ensured that there would be funding for an Arizona Immigration Ministry.
You will now hear about some of the experiences of the GA Planning Committee chaired by the Reverend Doctor Walt Wieder, the Arizona Immigration Ministry led by the Reverend Susan Frederick-Gray, and the accountability group convened by the Reverend Leslie Takahashi-Morris, all partners with the UUA Board and administration in making Justice GA a reality.
WALT WIEDER: The repairing of relationships was perhaps the most important task before us. For if we can't get along with each other it's going to be difficult to reach out to others.
I said thank you this morning during the chalice lighting to two groups in particular. Thank you doesn't begin to cover it. The support and generosity, insight and concern from both the accountability group and from Arizona Immigration Ministries is the reason we are here and that this GA is in fact going to make a difference. They were gentle with the Planning Committee. They were gentle with each other. And they worked tirelessly. I cannot say it too often, too loud, or too much. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
SUSAN FREDERICK-GRAY: The Arizona Immigration Ministry, or AZIM as we call it, was established last June by the Unitarian Universalist Association as a ministry of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Phoenix. The funding was provided in large part by the UUA. Additional funding came from the Fund for Unitarian Universalist Social Responsibility, the UU Congregation of Phoenix, and the Don Fenily Bequest for Social Justice, and donations from many of your congregations and from individuals around the country. Thank you for your generous support.
In addition to my serving as half-time as the lead of AZIM, we were also staffed by a full-time organizer and stellar planner, Ms. Sandy Weir. And supported by many volunteers.
The purpose of the Arizona Immigration Ministry is to mobilize effective participation by Unitarian Universalists in support of the movement for human dignity and migrant rights led by those most affected by our country's immigration policies. Our key purpose this year was to foster a successful Justice General Assembly by working with local groups to create strong public witness and service events that would support the larger goal of human rights for all.
Our key partnerships have been with the organizations that first invited us to come to Phoenix. Namely, the Comites de Defensa del Barrio, which we call the CDB, the Barrio Defense Committees; Puente Arizona; the National Day Laborer Organizing Network; and Somos America. To do this, Sandy and I attended the regular meetings of the CDBs, Puente and Somos. And engaged UUs in their campaigns.
We worked with congregations across Arizona creating and deepening connections to the justice issues of this General Assembly. I traveled to district events and conferences around the country to highlight the moral dimensions of immigration policy. And to promote attendance at this Justice GA.
Arizona Immigration Ministry was involved with many of the details of planning this General Assembly. And provided a key bridge between national staff, the Planning Committee, and the local human rights community. This included working directly with the GA Planning Committee, the UUA staff, the accountability group, and the UUA Board.
AZIM provided key political awareness, communication, and accountability to our local partners, and significant logistical support to some aspects of this GA. The key measure of our work this year is this Justice General Assembly. Next year AZIM will continue to facilitate the effective participation of Unitarian Universalists in this movement to stand in solidarity with our partners.
We will be creating a resource tool kit. Sharing strategies to end mass detention and deportation, applicable across the country. Inspired by our partners we are invested in this issue. This is personal for us.
And we will continue to work for an end to the brutal and oppressive system then attacks our communities, our friends, and our neighbors. Together with our faith voices joining the voices of the migrant rights movement, we will turn the tide from exploitation to human rights and from fear to love.
TAKAHASHI MORRIS: Good morning. You might have heard occasional references to the accountability group and wondered what that meant. The accountability group for Justice General Assembly was established by the UUA Board of Trustees in the fall of 2010.
I'm Leslie Takahashi Morris and it has been my privilege to serve this group as its convener. I'm going to share a few brief facts about the group's work. First, our circle is composed of representatives from organizations which represent or work to support groups who have been historically marginalized in our association.
We're not all here today but I'm going to ask those who are to raise their hand as they're identified. Jose Ballester and Patricia Jimenez represent the Latino Unitarian Universalist Networking Association or LUNA. Mitra Rahnema and Tomoko Takano represent the Diverse and Revolutionary Unitarian Universalist Multicultural Ministries or DRUUMM. Suzanne Fast and Linda Wright represent Equual Access. Paul Langston-Daley and Sean Parker Dennison represent Transgender Religious Professional Unitarian Universalists Together or TRUUST. Sun Principe represents Interweave. Sarah Surface represents the Youth Caucus. Michael Han—I think the youth would like to say something about that—Michael Han represents the Youth Ministry Advisory Committee. Ian Jaffe represents the Continental Unitarian Universalist Young Adult Network. And Laura Gilmore represents the Young Adult Caucus. James Hobart and Wendy von Zirpolo represent Allies for Racial Equity.
So the first important fact is that we are representatives of many small voluntary organizations, which do their best to provide collective voices within our association. Secondly, we have worked with the UUA Board, the UU administration, the GA Planning Committee, the Arizona Immigration Ministry to help make the vision of a Justice GA we voted on in 2010 a reality.
We are also charged with ensuring the participation of historically marginalized people within our association at this GA. So the last fact that you need to know about us is that we have in service and in a mode of learning on your behalf trying to be ever mindful. To speak our truths in love. And to maintain the spirit of what the Buddhists call beginner's mind on this most important journey.
JACKIE SHANTI: The UUA board and our association are indebted to these leaders and their committees and colleagues for staying at the table and helping us all to live into our dream—a beloved community. We're pretty excited about this GA. Are you?
The board would love to hear how you think we've done in honoring the challenges presented by the delegate at GA 2010. So join us Saturday at 10:45 a.m. In room 227AB for a delegate feedback session—it's program number 426—on the board's response to the GA 2010 resolution. That's Saturday, 10:45 a.m. In room 227AB. If you can't make it we're still interested in your feedback and you know where to find us. Thank you.
GINI COURTER: So as you just heard the accountability group that our congregational delegates—you all, two years ago—encouraged us to create has been busy learning and sharing their learnings with the Board, with the administration of the UUA, with the General Assembly Planning Committee, with the Arizona Immigration Ministries. And it just seemed perhaps appropriate that some small part of what they have learned during this past year be shared with you, the delegates who informed this group's creation.
As UU leader I will always be grateful that groups inside Unitarian Universalism were so quick to provide leaders to serve on the accountability group. As you have noticed you've seen some of these folks back in other roles. We asked a lot of folks in our historically marginalized communities. And so I'd like to start by simply recognizing the work that these folks have done as volunteers for the last year.
Make no mistake. It is not their work that they're doing. It's all of our work. So one of the goals is to spread the knowledge and to spread then the work more clearly so we are owning the work we each need to do as members of a faith that requires us to move towards truth and justice. So I've asked them to share some of what they've learned in today's plenary and in tomorrow's plenary. Please then give a warm welcome to the convener of the accountability group for Justice GA, the Reverend Leslie Takahashi Morris.
TAKAHASHI MORRIS: And I'm going to invite those who are going to be participating to join me up here. And actually they will be reading our collective thoughts.
We've been asked by the moderator to share some reflections on cultural humility. When we talk about culture we're talking about all the norms, messages, identities, and givens that—because they are so deeply ingrained—are almost invisible. Culture is often hidden and implicit. Culture is everything we take for granted about how things are or how they should be.
SPEAKER 1: Sometimes people assume culture is just about race and ethnicity. In education we have cultural studies classes that fall outside the core curriculum. And yet at any one time many cultures exist.
Different generations have different cultures as do different communities shaped by sexual orientation or gender identity. There's Deaf culture and disability culture as well. Now that you've been at General Assembly for a couple of days, you may have noticed a certain UU culture.
SPEAKER 2: Even though many cultures exist, the history of domination—an attitude of superiority that upholds it—have created a hierarchy of cultures, a dominant culture and others that are relegated to being subcultures or counter-cultural. Often we don't really notice culture much until we encounter another culture—one with different norms and messages. And suddenly the messages of our culture become explicit.
SPEAKER 3: Sometimes we take the time to intentionally learn about other cultures and even to learn skills such as listening and not judging, appreciating and learning about other cultures. This is sometimes referred to as cultural competency. Cultural competence is about learning how to approach others with that beginner's mind which allows us to be open to what might be learned.
In the health care field a discussion has emerged about how we can move beyond cultural competence to what Doctor Melanie Tervalon and Jann Murray-Garcia call cultural humility. Cultural humility means letting go of a hierarchy of cultures and learning that we don't have to assume there is a norm and exceptions to that norm. It means reorienting ourselves so that we let go of thinking of our way as the way and everything else as different or other. Cultural humility is learning to let go of a mindset of domination that assumes one culture is real and that others are somehow less or therefore less important.
Here are some questions that we believe invite us into a spirit of cultural humility.
SPEAKER 4: How can we truly open to learning? How can we learn not to assume our reality reflects the norm? For example, we might be discouraged that we are not interacting with more of our partners on the ground. We might not think about their context in which they work long hours with little flexibility or vacation. One woman at the border links booth has taken her only week of vacation to be with us and raise interest in her organization.
SPEAKER 5: In this week here how can we remember that we are not here to lead? We are here to support our partners and allow them to lead. How can we learn when to step up and when to step back?
How can we be more listeners than talkers, learners than experts? We might have ideas about what we should be doing here. And yet we are doing what we're asked to do by those who invited us.
TAKAHASHI MORRIS: How can we bridge the gaps between those who are on the margins and those who are in the mainstream? How can we remember to put people first? How can we restrain from judgments about whether an indigenous speaker expressed what we culturally might think of as too much anger? How can we decide what is too much anger from someone who has watched his language and his culture and his people systematically destroyed in the name of progress for the now majority in this nation?
SPEAKER 1: How can we use what we are experiencing to check in with ourselves? For instance, is the boredom we feel actually a marker of discomfort? Is any anger we feel a reflection of our own discomfort with what we are being asked to change?
SPEAKER 5: Sometimes when we're in community we make mistakes. Cultural humility reminds us that this is because we are on this ongoing journey and we are always traveling. When we realize that the assumptions we have been making cause harm to others humility reminds us to accept that truth, make amends, and move forward.
SPEAKER 2: Culture is about the context of people's lives and understanding that context. Not assuming that their context is ours. Not assuming that the opportunities we have are the same for others or that our assumptions about the lives of others are accurate.
SPEAKER 3: At this justice General Assembly we have an opportunity to practice cultural humility—to let go of our desire for our needs to always be front and center, our every opinion to be heard, our expectations that things will be a certain way. The ultimate act of cultural humility for us here is to remember that we came here to learn and we came here to serve. And then to enter into those commitments with openness and love.
GINI COURTER: Let's thank them one more time. Your accountability group. I would like to sing. Would you like to sing? I'd really like to sing. So I think that we're going to ask Amy Carol Webb to come up here and sing with us. Help us sing. I think she has a new song. Do you have a new song? She has a new song. All right.
AMY CAROL WEBB: Good morning. And my friends Pat and Sandy—Emma's Revolution—they're coming up here too.
PAT: Good morning.
SANDY: Good morning.
AMY CAROL WEBB: OK, so this song has a part for you. A little bit of a call and response kind of thing. And Pat and Sandy are going to sing the part—part of the parts that you want to sing. Part of the parts. Parts is parts. It's going to go a little like this. I'm going to sing and you're going to answer.
[SINGING - "TELL SOMEBODY"]
GINI COURTER: Oh wow. There's a little joy in my morning. How excellent. I was wondering how long it would take more people to get up and dance with me. That was kind of nice. Thank you.
Amy Carol Webb asked me to tell you that "Tell Somebody"—there are 200 free CD's of it as a single in the bookstore area in the exhibit hall. She doesn't want to take them back to Florida. So you know what to do. All right.
So in the interest of clarity and fairness we started late this morning. Who was here for worship this morning? Yeah, yeah. Amazing worship this morning. Took a little longer. Plenary started a little later because of that. But it's all good, see? So we're about 15 minutes out. It's OK. And we had one song this morning instead of two. That was my adjustment. So that was one song. I'm glad we had one great song.
OK. We are now at the part of the agenda where a vote will be taken to decide which of the five proposed Congregational Study/Action Issues that appear in your final agenda—at pages 90 through 102—will be referred to our member congregations and other UU groups for study and action. My simply saying those words should have encouraged many of you to reach towards things like voting cards and programs. OK. 90 through 102. Somebody yells hint, hint. Yes.
See Bylaw Section 4.12 for a complete outline of the process if you'd like to know about that. This is the first step in a process that may ultimately produce a Unitarian Universalist Association Statement of Conscience. The five potential CSAIs are "Climate Action and Adaptation Plans: Why Greenhouse Gases and Their Effects Matter to Us"; "Families, Population, and the Environment"; "Expanding Our Social Justice Calling"; "Exploring Class Barriers"; and "Ending Slavery".
Pursuant to Rule 11 of the Rules of Procedure, the sponsor of each issue will have two minutes to speak in favor of the issue. I'm just making sure we have everybody. OK. So the first proposed congregational study action issue eligible for referral to member congregations and districts is found on page 90 of the final agenda and is titled Climate Action and Adaptation Plans: Why Greenhouse Gases and Their Effects Matter to Us. Will the Chair of the Commission on Social Witness please introduce the sponsor of this proposed congregational study action issue, who will have two minutes to speak in support of the issue?
I think we have them at the pro microphone. Let's have them speak from the pro microphone. OK.
CHAIR: All right. The sponsor for the first Congregational Study/Action Issue is Janice Booher. She's from the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Boca Raton, Florida.
JANICE BOOHER: We submit this proposal because we feel that as a matter of human rights we must reach consensus on a carbon emissions reduction policy and back it in Washington. And that we must simultaneously work locally to implement climate action and adaptation plans. If we advocate locally we can help determine the future shape and feel of our communities for decades to come.
These plans address renewable energy, public transportation, environmental restoration, agricultural sustainability, waste management, protection of public infrastructure, and if the faith community is involved, racial and economic justice to avoid Hurricane Katrina-like scenarios. There is strong opposition and some states are trying to ban these plans.
Our congregation is in southeast Florida. We're what the UUMFE calls a canary community. A canary community is either already suffering from climate change impacts or is at extreme risk. Southeast Florida like all coastal States is at ground zero for sea level rise. Others are experiencing storms, floods, droughts, heat waves, and food and water insecurity.
We have a unique opportunity for local alliance building to address these impacts. The need for us to engage in climate justice in defense of Earth, in alliance with the vulnerable and the disadvantaged who are suffering disproportionately from the effects of climate change, is now clear.
We feel that our congregations will need help to physically prepare our own properties for changes brought by climate change. And that we need to become knowledgeable advocates in order to work effectively climate justice. This vote is for my daughter Leah Booher.
GINI COURTER: Thank you. Tech deck, are we trying to get a clock up on the screen? Thank you very much.
The second proposed Congregational Study/Action Issue eligible for a referral to member congregations and districts is found on page 93 of the final agenda and is titled, "Families, Population, and the Environment." Will the chair of the Commission on Social Witness please introduce the sponsor of the proposed study action issue?
CHAIR: The sponsor of this proposed Congregational Study/Action Issue is Reverend Bob Murphy from the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Falmouth, Massachusetts.
BOB MURPHY: Good morning. I'm Bob Murphy. I work for same sex marriages and for adoption rights. I work for immigrants, a lot of immigrants. And I work for economic justice. And I'm concerned about all those issues.
And I ask you to support this statement that's called "Families, Population, and the Environment." If you want to grow your congregation, if you want to work for justice in this world, this is one of the things need to know about. You need to work for families. You need to work for their rights Because this is a very difficult time, this 21st century. There's a lot of economic injustice. There's a lot of oppression.
When we talk about families, we talk about all families. We support same sex marriage and we support adoption rights. We talk about the rights of immigrants. We talk about the rights of people with disabilities. We talk about the rights of older Americans who we haven't heard very much about them recently. But we're concerned about their future.
This is the statement—It's on page 93—that supports Planned Parenthood in family planning. This is the statement that supports our OWL program, that asks for more support for that program. It's a statement that does a lot more.
If you vote for this you can help to start a three year discussion about sustainability and economic justice—not just for some people for all people. And that will do a lot of good for this entire planet and for all of its inhabitants. I ask for your support for Families, Population, and the Environment. It's a big project. But it's a project that will do a lot of good for your congregation. Thank you. Please support us.
GINI COURTER: The third proposed Congregational Study/Action Issue eligible for referral to member congregations and districts is found on page 96 of the final agenda and is titled, "Reproductive Justice: Expanding Our Social Justice Calling." Will the chair of the Commission on Social Witness please introduce the sponsor of this proposed Study/Action Issue?
CHAIR: The sponsor for this proposed Study/Action Issue is Mandolin Restivo from the Unitarian Society of Ridgewood.
MANDOLIN RESTIVO: The time is now. Unitarian Universalists have not addressed women's rights or reproductive rights since 1993. The 25 endorsers of this CSAI—including SisterSong, creators of the reproductive justice framework—urge Unitarian Universalists to vote for CSAI number three, Reproductive Justice.
This analysis—created by women of color left out of traditional reproductive rights organizing—that focuses on choice asserts that all people should have the human right to decide if and when to have a baby and how they will give birth; consider options for preventing or ending a pregnancy; and parent the children that they do you have with necessary social supports in safe, healthy environments.
This is about much more than choice. It is about our lives. This framework accounts for the ways oppression and privilege affect our ability to control our bodies, our reproduction, and raise the children we have.
The need for this work is urgent. Women's rights and reproductive rights are under attack. And this debate is wholly ironic when one considers the government sponsored testing of dangerous birth control on and sterilization of women of color and women in indigenous communities in the name of environmental sustainability and population control.
In addition, our treatment of pregnant women is abominable. The US has staggering rates of maternal death. 49 countries have lower rates. Personhood initiatives have caused women to be charged with child abuse during birth for refusing to sign a blanket consent for a c-section before one was medically necessary. Please vote for Reproductive Justice. The time is now.
GINI COURTER: The fourth proposed Congregational Study/Action Issue eligible for referral to member congregations and districts is found on page 98 of the final agenda and is titled Exploring Class Barriers. Will the chair of the Commission on Social Witness please introduce the sponsor?
CHAIR: The sponsor of this Study/Action Issue is Terry Lowman from the UU Fellowship of Ames, Iowa.
TERRY LOWMAN: Good morning. I'm here for number four, Exploring Class Barriers. I know that talking about class is probably one of the most uncomfortable things UUs can do.
But being class unconscious has a price. It hurts our outreach. And it limits our ability to do social justice.
At 2008's GA, I was chatting with a bright, intelligent woman, and casually asked, where did you go to college? She looked down and sadly related her family's history of alcoholism and addiction that stole her chance for a college degree. I was mortified that I caused so much pain.
When we ask questions like where do you live? What you do? Where did you go to college? We might as well be asking, how much do you make? Developing social class awareness will help us create the framing and language to connect deeply with people who don't conform to our perceived demographics.
Our misunderstanding of class has been a huge barrier to diversity. If we don't understand class and economic realities how can we hope to shift our church and culture to be more inclusive? How can we better communicate and make needed improvements? So many UUs have a reality that is very different than most people. Our vocabulary with highly—I'm sorry.
Our familiarity with highly educated people makes us oblivious to how intimidating and unwelcoming we are. I want to be better than intimidating and unwelcoming. I want our UUs to learn how to interact between different social classes. I believe that studying class barriers will help move us forward and improve our social justice work. Exploring social class issues will help us pursue all of the other vital and urgent CSAIs. Thank you.
GINI COURTER: Thank you. The fifth proposed Congregational Study/Action Issue eligible for referral to member congregations and districts is found on page 99 of the final agenda and is titled Ending Slavery. Will the chair of the Commission on Social Witness please introduce the sponsor of this proposed Study/Action Issue?
CHAIR: The sponsor speaking on behalf of this Study/Action Issue is Deborah Pembrook from the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Santa Cruz County.
DEBORAH PEMBROOK: 150 years ago Starr King rode his horse through California to end slavery. But we didn't end slavery 150 years ago. Today 27 million human beings are enslaved worldwide—more than at any other time in history.
When we say slavery we mean being trapped and violently forced to work without pay. Enslaved people are children and adults of all genders. And they're in every country.
Enslaved people are living in your community. And their stolen labor creates objects we use every day—cellphones, clothing, cars, and food. Yet slavery is illegal everywhere and it is universally repugnant.
Slavery has been pushed to the edges of our global society. And it has stayed there on the precipice of extinction. All it needs now is to be pushed over the edge.
How can we help do that? We support communities most affected, including slavery survivors. We change the transparency laws so that we know about the supply chain of products we buy. We engage with organizations like the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to put pressure on retailers to hold slave holders accountable.
We become aware of the warning signs of domestic slavery in our own communities. We work in partnership with those working to improve labor conditions for all workers. We take slavery and we push it out of existence.
Starr King's work is unfinished. Despite our long history of fighting slavery, UUs have no statement of conscience on slavery. Let's complete the work started by our abolitionist forefathers. Thank you.
GINI COURTER: Thank you. We have heard from the sponsors of the five proposed Congregational Study/Action Issues. And now we have time for up to four additional statements of support for each issue.
Here's how we're going to do this. Issue one will be at the amendment microphone. Issue two will be at the pro microphone. Issue three at the con microphone. Issue four back at the amendment microphone. And issue five back at the pro microphone.
And we don't rotate among these because we used to do that it just made us all a little crazy, so. We're going to hear four speakers on CSAI number one, which is Climate Action and Adaptation Plans: Why Greenhouse Gasses and their Effects Matter to Us. And then we'll follow that with four speakers for item two, and so on. Is anyone confused?
Great. OK. So I'm going to turn to the amendment microphone and recognize the first delegate who wishes to speak in support of Climate Action and Adaptation Plans: Why Greenhouse Gases and Their Effects Matter to Us. And wow. Jyaphia, so start us out right. Tell us who you are and what congregation sent you here.
JYAPHIA CHRISTOS-RODGERS: Thank you, Madame Moderator. I'm Jyaphia Christos-Rodgers of First UU Church of New Orleans. I rise in support of the Climate Action and Adaptation Plans.
It's unfortunate that our process sets up a competition among critical issues, in which we must stand up for some and sit down for others. And so I rise now because I come from a canary community called New Orleans. Like other coastland and wetland dwellers I've learned that the impacts of climate change are felt most harshly by the most vulnerable people—children, elders, people of color, and low income families.
When Katrina hit, poverty made it difficult to evacuate and then to rebuild. Make no mistake. All of us were devastated by the confluence of harsh weather, rising water, and failing infrastructure.
Left unchecked and unprepared for, we will continue to see a whole communities devastated. And inside that devastation we will see a hierarchy of discomfort in which mitigation and relief are available to some extent only for the most privileged.
As an environmental sociologist, I participated in research that examined the impact of Katrina on children from displaced families in Mississippi and Louisiana. Five years after the storm, one-third of these kids still suffer from storm-related mental disorders. Over 60% of the families reported that their living situations were more unstable than before the storm.
These kids—largely kids of color, kids from low and moderate income families—are the bellwethers, the canaries, heralding the potential harm of climate change. All of us are devastated when climate change impacts communities. However, some of us have access to insurance—
GINI COURTER: Thank you, Jyaphia. I now recognize the next delegates speaking on Climate Action and Adaptation Plans.
A stop for just a moment. We're going to reset the timer. If we're not clear who's speaking—excuse me. I'm ready for speaker. Thank you. Ready? Whoever's speaking, let's go. And leave the microphone in its stand and address me, please, sir. That way you'll be on camera.
ELI BYERLY-DUKE: My name is Eli Byerly-Duke. I'm sixteen years old. And I'm from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbia, Missouri.
When my generation dies we will die in a world significantly less capable of supporting human or animal life. We will die in a world in which thousands of species, evolved over millions of years, will have gone extinct as a direct result of human action.
I can see no more important and relevant issue than global climate change worthy of the Action Study of the Unitarian Church. Life is inherently unfair. But it's important to realize that as moral people we must act to make a world that we want to see. And I think that there's nothing less fair than passing on to the animals and people after us a world that they cannot live on. This fact, along with the enormity of the issue, is that this issue is crucial and is worthy of our study.
We are a Justice General Assembly. It's included a lot of rhetoric about how we want to make a difference and how we want to change things. And I think that environmental justice is the logical next step.
Environmental justice includes lots of places where we can act. We can do things beyond talking amongst ourselves and figuring out what we believe. We can study what we believe and find action that can make a difference.
I cannot pretend to speak for all of the youth. I can't pretend to speak for anyone other than myself. But I believe that climate action has a unique opportunity to engage and work with younger and motivated audiences who will be acting and working for justice for Unitarianism and also just because that's the right thing to do in the world.
If there's one thing that you're going to take away from this and remember—if you're writing anything down, by chance—that's what you should be writing down. That this gives us an opportunity to act. To do something. And to make a difference. And that is why I strongly ask that you support this Action Plan.
GINI COURTER: So hang with me for a second. When the microphones are set up, this whole hall is set up that you're speaking to this point right here. So if you turn the microphone and speak there the crowd will see the back or the side of your head on the screens. Does that make sense? It's a little unnerving, I know, because you want to talk to these folks. I'm trying to tell you the most effective way to do that.
I now call the delegate at the amendment microphone to speak to Climate Action and Adaptation Plans.
CINDY PINCUS: My name is Cindy Pincus from First Unitarian in Denver, Colorado. There is nothing new under the increasingly hot sun that I could tell you about the causes of global warming, why we should drive Priuses, or which grocery bag to use. That's not why we're up here.
Climate change is happening now. It's happening faster. It's happening sooner. And it is happening on a much larger scale than even the best climate scientists have predicted. And there is nothing we can do to stop it.
As Unitarian Universalists we need a responsive action plan for the oncoming environmental disaster—one that will begin to radically and authentically shift our way of life on an increasingly unpredictable planet. Three examples of ways we might use the CSAI in our congregations—one, we partner with our local permaculture organizations to reestablish integrated food sustainability. Two, we partner with or create city bike shares. And use them every Sunday morning to strengthen our non-polluting transportation options, including our bodies, as we near the end of an empire of oil. Three, we partner with local refugee relocation and settlement services as more and more people come from Africa, India, China, South America, and the coastal United States in the wake of ecosystem collapse and the ensuing sociopolitical disasters.
The list goes on. And the opportunities to meaningfully act upon these issues are plentiful and joyful. At its most essential this proposal is about adaptation—radical, imaginative, beyond belief adaptation—to the climate changes that are already upon us.
GINI COURTER: In our final speaker for Climate Action and Adaptation Plans I recognize the delegate at the microphone.
RACHEL ROTT: Good morning. My name is Rachel Rott. I'm a member of Palomar Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Vista, California, where I'm also the chair of our Social Justice Ministry. Climate change is the issue of our time, the issue of our species, and of all species they call this planet home. At my home congregation I see increasing action from members to change their personal choices around eating, purchases, and fossil fuel use.
But there is more that we can and must do—all of us. Now is the time to rededicate ourselves as Unitarian Universalists to the pivotal work on climate change. This body passed a global warming Statement of Conscience in 2006.
And while that was a good beginning, that document has fallen short in terms of offering congregations the denominational support that they need to do policy work and coalition building at the local level. The way to address this shortfall is through the CSAI process.
What we know and what we are beginning to live as we experience extreme weather is both frightening and imminent. Now is the time for renewed commitment, new practices, and bold action from Unitarian Universalists. Through a CSAI we can educate, speak in a unified prophetic voice, and act, fueled by the joyful energy of a beloved community that recognizes as a core value the interdependent web of life.
We must meet this challenge. All other issues of human rights will only be magnified. And human and animal suffering will only increase as time passes. In order to work for the quality of life there must be life. Vote for issue one and let's rededicate ourselves to the most critical issue of our age.
GINI COURTER: Thank you. We will now move to four statements in support of the second CSAI proposed, "Families, Population, and the Environment." I recognize the delegate at the microphone—in the moment. We're playing with the microphone but in a moment I'll recognize the delegate. Yes, ma'am.
LAUREL HARDIN: Good morning. My name is Laurel Hardin. I'm from the Chandler Valley Unitarian Universalist congregation. And I'm not divulging my age.
In my estimation standing on the side of love is trying to extend love to the most. This CSAI gives us the most opportunity to spread the most love the farthest. As Eli's impassioned plea on the first CSAI said, all people are beginning to be negatively impacted by the effects of the strains on the Earth's ability to provide for our needs and wants.
Not only our, as people, needs and wants, but the animals, the plants, the soil, the water systems are being affected. Well, this will help all of that. In my estimation this CSAI gives us the most flexibility as congregations. We are never going to be a unified voice. We are a herd of cats. As Unitarians we all are very independent thinkers. And it would give the most flexibility to our congregations to craft actions that fit the natures and abilities and propensities of our congregations.
We can develop actions or goals around reproductive rights, environmental issues, class, race, immigration, sexual orientation, marriage, prisons, corporate greed, economic justice, and impact on families. The news is there are 19 million 20- to 30-somethings moving back into the homes of their parents because of the economic problems. And this CSAI gives us the most flexibility. I urge you to vote for this CSAI. Thank you.
GINI COURTER: I recognize the delegate at the microphone.
STEPHANIE MAIETTA ROMERO: Thank you. My name is Stephanie Maietta Romero and I'm from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In the spirit of listening to others, which we initiated at our opening ceremony, I support this CSAI. There are many organizations around the globe working for justice in their own communities. Let's study what they're doing.
Let's join with the nations of the UN to work towards the very well thought out and agreed upon Millennium Development Goals. Why should we reinvent the wheel? These goals are eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; achieve universal primary education; promote gender equality and empower women; reduce child mortality; improve maternal health; combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases; ensure environmental sustainability; develop a global partnership for development.
We need to learn from the collective wisdom of these eight goals and the work of the nations and NGOs that are already doing this work. You can see that this CSAI includes all the other CSAIs. There are many, many congregations, each of you with your own issues locally. This broad CSAI gives you the flexibility to work on the issue most pertinent to your community.
We need to create a better, healthier world for all sentient beings. This CSAI will allow us to do that.
GINI COURTER: Do we have someone to speak next to this at a microphone? Excellent. OK. Thank you. I'll then turn to what's normally labeled the con microphone for the first speaker on "Reproductive Justice: Expanding Our Social Justice Calling."
JEFF PADDOCK: I stand here with Allison Fontaine from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington. My name is Jeff Paddock. Good morning. We are from the Young Adults Delegation. And I am here to speak in support of reproductive justice.
I believe reproductive justice is the most timely issue. Over the past couple of years the political environment has been extremely harsh to women and families—not just in the area of reproductive rights but also in the areas of fair pay, equal representation, programs for women and children, and immigration and adoption laws that threaten to tear families apart.
Reproductive justice provides a framework to make both immediate and long-lasting transformations in all of these areas. Having the ability to control their reproductive choices gives people more security and means they will be less likely to be forced into poverty. Reproductive justice is an essential part of breaking down racial and class barriers.
We already have a great tool box to begin this work, starting with our powerful comprehensive sexuality education program known as Our Whole Lives, or OWL. As UU youth we are lucky to have a great program like OWL made available through our faith. It is very empowering to know that your faith and your church recognizes and respects you as intelligent and responsible human beings. We should celebrate this recognized program and help make it available as many youth and young adults as possible.
It is also vital that we move to an understanding of reproductive justice as much more than just the ability to choose whether or not to get an abortion or use contraception. It is important that abortion and contraception are not only legal but readily accessible to all those who need them—that there are resources for those who can't afford to pay for their own and that those who need help navigating the system are able to get it. It is important that we include in the discussion people of all genders. Please vote for CS three.
GINI COURTER: I recognize the delegate to the microphone.
LIBBY PARKER-SIMKIN: Hi. I'm Libby. I'm from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, Virginia.
So in our years since our proud involvement with the civil rights movement, we UUs have come to learn how difficult it is to become the anti-racist and multicultural community that we dream about. Led by women of color, the reproductive justice movement calls us to awaken all that is necessary for women to make serious decisions about their lives and their choices. And about having children.
So women need access to abortion and birth control. Women need access to safe neighborhoods for the children that they choose to have so that these kids can grow up in supportive environments where they are not deemed threats because of how they appear.
Justice-making requires people like myself and people who consider ourselves know-it-alls to take a deep breath of humility and trust other women. And we need to trust brown women and black women and poor women, too—everyone, not just people like us up here.
This will be a spiritual journey that can teach us to surrender our destructive habits of control and move into a life lived with adventure, mutuality and joy. I'm leaving you now with the words of the Reverend Rebecca Ann Parker—no relation to me, sorry. "I believe Unitarian Universalists are called to radically embrace this world in all of its complexity and messiness." The Reproductive Justice CSAI offers UU communities—
GINI COURTER: Thank you. I recognize the delegate at the microphone fondly.
ROB KEITHAN: Reverend Rob Keithan, Unitarian Society of Germantown, Philadelphia. I want to start by offering my view on the question we're trying to answer in this selection process. I believe the question is not which of these issues is most important in a general sense. But on which issue can we Unitarian Universalists make the most impact given our particular history, theology, and resources?
So as you think about which issue to support I ask you to consider. If we get involved, how much of a difference will it make? This question is precisely why I believe that reproductive justice offers the best fit and opportunity for us. Because of the five proposals reproductive justice is the only issue on which the opposition is primarily religious.
The war against women and birth control and abortion is implicitly and often explicitly driven by religious values that are in deep contradiction to our own. For that reason it makes a huge difference whether or not we are acting on reproductive justice as a religious community.
Indeed one of the main reasons we have lost ground in this arena is that people of faith have not been vocal and active enough. And here's the thing. Other religious groups have happily filled that void. And the result is the offensive, demeaning, and dangerous bills that have been proposed—and far too many cases enacted- in Congress and in legislatures across the United States.
Well, it's been nearly 20 years since the General Assembly and our association took up the conversation. Just yesterday the US Conference of Catholic Bishops kicked off a two week campaign aimed in part at limiting women's access to no-cost birth control. So I urge you to vote for CSAI number three because it's time for our community to lift our powerful voice and make a real difference.
GINI COURTER: I understand that's the last speaker for this topic so we're going to swing back over to the other side of the hall. And I recognize the delegate speaking in support of CSAI number four, "Exploring Class Barriers."
SPEAKER 6: I believe there's an off-site delegate that is first in line.
GINI COURTER: Are you all ceding your place to the off-site delegate? Great. OK. I'm going to recognize then the off-site delegate who I had further back in the line. But if they'd been here people could have physically bumped this person up. Does that make sense? You know what you're doing. All right, so I recognize the off-site delegate. RANDY BECKER:
Am I on, Gini?
GINI COURTER: You sure are.
RANDY BECKER: I'm Randy Becker. I'm from One Island Family, the southernmost UU congregation in Key West, of the Conch Republic of Florida.
In a world in which various models of scarcity reign and inform, creating fear and conflict over one status in a materially-shaped culture, so much of our thought and feeling reduces down to the fact that all struggle is basically class struggle.
The extent to which we do not profoundly explore, understand, and envision modification of the rigid and deterministic class structures is a measure of our failure as a religious institution to be true to the values of equity and justice we espouse.
Many of us Unitarian Universalists benefit from maintenance of the class system either through material gain or ego enrichment by class privilege and superiority. Becoming aware of the class issues so that we can with knowledge and with vision subvert the present structures toward more inclusive ways of being in community and doing the work of the world should be a challenge our congregations are willing to undertake, even one they desire to undertake.
Until we deal with the class issue it will remain the unspoken guest at the unwelcoming table of any other social action. This social action item probably is frightening for many Unitarian Universalists because ultimately this item is not primarily about them but intimately about us. Let's agree to seek the transcendent world we can imagine, not for all people but with all people, once we truly replace class with community. Please support buddy item number four.
GINI COURTER: Thank you. I recognize the delegate at the microphone.
CAROLINA KRAWARIK-GRAHAM: I'm Carolina Krawarik-Graham from Valley UU congregation in Chandler, Arizona. I want to give a nod to Doctor Becker. I think we remember each other. And yeah, what he said.
Two years ago the delegates at the GA called for us to converge in Phoenix and work in partnership with communities engaged directly in the struggle for dignity and human rights. In the countless conversations that came of that moment we urged one another to step up our anti-racist, anti oppressive focus, and learn how to be in more accountable relationship with others. To explore our own privilege, to challenge assumptions, to listen more. To be aware how we marginalize those not like us, often unconsciously and sometimes with the very best of intentions.
Author Tim Wise and his extensive writing explores the implicit interconnections of racism and classism and traces the very origins of American racism to class domination. social While social class shapes our perspectives more than most other factors, it is in my experience often all too neglected in conversations about discrimination and marginalization. The Reverend Mark Morrison-Reed draws similar parallels in his exploration of the all-too-apparent whiteness of Unitarian Universalism, observing that a major factor in under-representation of people of color in our congregations is directly correlated to the under-representation in the social class from which we are largely composed.
It is time to explore fully how social class is a barrier to our becoming the anti-oppressive, diverse, and culturally competent organization we aspire to be. It is time to talk about how our class blindness impedes us from forming more meaningful relationships both within and beyond our communities. It is time to acknowledge that our message and values, particularly—oh, my gosh it's over.
GINI COURTER: Yes, it is time. I recognize the delegate at the microphone.
EVAN HERTAFELD: I'm Evan Hertafeld from the UU church of Greater Lansing, Michigan. And if I could snap my fingers and fix any one of the study issues magically it wouldn't be this one. But it's not about what we could do. It's about what we can do.
Now, over 75% of Americans identify as Catholic or Protestant. And the number for UUs is less than three-tenths of 1%. We simply do not have enough weight or influence to do for the world what our hearts call us to do.
To create a beloved world we must realize that we are stunted by our homogeny. UUs as a group—90% white with a master's degree and an income well over the national average—do not reflect our country. We are only a fragment, a shard. We are broken from our nation. And we cannot heal the world until we heal ourselves.
Our faith, our good news—this is for more than 0.3%. I ask you all. Can we—this 0.3%, this skewed, homogeneous, disconnected group—really go out into the world and heal all of its wounds?
I hold that we cannot until we get off our high horse, until we step down from our pedestal of privilege, until we find and break the barriers that tether us to the margins. We cannot grow and heal the world as it is our vision to do.
This issue stands out as something that we can do. This will not be four years of UUs across the nation feeling good about feeling bad about an issue that we do not have the presence to fix. This will be four years of UUs learning to battle what keeps us from realizing our dreams and visions.
We can do this. We must do this. Vote CSAI number four and put UUs on the map.
DAVID PETRAS: Good morning. My name is David Petras. And I'm a member of the North Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Lewis Center, Ohio. I am in many ways represent the perfect stereotype of a UU. I am white. I am upper middle class. I have a doctoral degree. And I am well into my middle age.
But despite appearing the stereotype I must confess I have not always been as I am today. As a child from my bedroom window I could see the fires of the steel plants. And my walks to school were bathed in the exhausts of the coke ovens at the lead smelters. My father worked two jobs. My mother worked when she can. I worked.
My families, friends were not so lucky. Food stamps, welfare, and subsidized housing were the norm. I am lucky—very lucky—to be the person who has the floor and not the person who will sweep this floor when we are gone.
I know this because my childhood friends are those people—those who labor in the factories, those who clean our offices after we are gone, those who are hidden from our view. And while I can pass as upper middle class I am but that—passing. I am a UU by choice, and not by birth.
And like many in this hall and too many in our congregations we are passing and not truly part of the conversation. These are the alienated, the people who quietly leave our congregations, whose voices are lost to us.
We speak of justice. But what does justice mean when our children go hungry? What does justice mean when our parents our ground down by hardship? What does justice mean as our neighbors descend into despair?
We often treat justice has a luxury by our blindness, our privilege, our good fortune. If we cannot overcome this blindness we will never be the force for good we aspire to be. Let us take the log from our eye—
GINI COURTER: Thank you. We will now turn to those folks who are speaking in support of our fifth CSAI, "Ending Slavery." I recognize the delegate at the microphone.
ANNA RUTH HALL: Good morning. My name is Anna Ruth Hall and I am speaking on behalf of the Youth Caucus today. We, the Youth Caucus, stand in support of Congregational Study/Action Issue number five, "Ending Slavery."
Growing up, we were taught that our country abolished slavery years ago. This is a lie. Slavery has not been abolished.
Slavery is a complex modern issue plaguing people worldwide. Many of us—which are youth just like us here all today—prior to discussing CSAI item number five as a Youth Caucus a large portion of us were completely and entirely unaware that slavery existed at all in modern society. Pushing such an urgent issue aside will leave our congregations ignorant of this crime against humanity.
When it comes to modern day slavery, education is action. Many of us unknowingly provide indirect support to modern day slavery. Consuming the products of slave labor—with greater knowledge and understanding of the products manufactured by way of slave labor—we can and will consume ethically and responsibly.
By doing so we will pressure businesses to use fair labor practices. Our knowledge will become power. We as UU youth have had the opportunity to take OWL and develop a good approach to all of our sexuality. But not everyone has these rights. Sex trafficking occurs in many parts of the world. And therefore, join us—the Youth Caucus—in the fight to end slavery by passing Congregational—issue number five!
ANJALI DUTT: Hi. Hi, I'm Anjali Dutt and I'm a young adult member of the UU Fellowship of Santa Cruz County.
We live in a culture where soulless competition and greed are rewarded. We're inundated with images of happiness that are associated with owning the latest gadget or fashion. And even more pride can come with getting a good deal.
Only rarely are encouraged to think of the larger price on the rights and well-being of the people whose forced labor enables us to purchase products so cheaply. Our fellow human beings become part of the productive machine if it enabled us to buy more products or services at a cheaper price.
The images that encourage us to be concerned and thoughtful about how our actions affect other people often don't fare much better in presenting a less objectified picture. They emphasize people living in poorer countries whose governments are corrupt and thus in need of support. The messages are all too similar in that they fail to remind us how our own actions are implicated in injustice, and in forgetting to affirm that those whose rights are violated still have the ability to think and act for themselves.
Being exposed to these images while growing didn't really resonate with my actual experiences. Half of my extended family lived in India and I knew of them to be people with intelligence capabilities equal to my own. Estimates suggest that there are roughly 10 million people experiencing slavery in India. But I knew of my cousins as people who deserved to be treated with the same inherent worth, dignity, and ability to think and act for themselves, as anyone else.
While my family in India was not enslaved, my understanding of our intimate connection to human beings throughout the world was born into my consciousness. My identity transcends geographic borders, and thus my belief that we are all deserving of a safe and compassion-filled life was the only way I could think.
Changing the realities of slavery requires changing the broader ideology about human beings can and should be treated—
GINI COURTER: Thank you. I recognize the delegate at the pro microphone.
ALLISON FARNUM: Reverend Allison Farnum of the UU Church of Fort Myers in solidarity with Lucas Benitez of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.
This year will mark the 150 years since Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. And yet today fields across the United States remain mired in a human rights crisis that enables slavery to flourish still.
To some of my home state is ground zero for modern day slavery. This is my backyard. I'm the minister of one of our two fine congregations in Fort Myers.
And the most recent indictment of slavery occur in my county's courthouse in 2008. The employers were charged with beating the workers. They were having to work against their will. They were punished by being locked in the U-Haul, whipped with chains.
Please know there are more cases pending in my state right now. What's happening in yours? The good news is that change is underway. And Unitarian Universalists are part of it.
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers—the CIW—is an internationally recognized farm worker organization. It's reached groundbreaking agreements with 10 of the world's largest food retailers like McDonald's, Subway, Trader Joe's, Kroger's. And UU congregations such as mine and many others are allies in the struggle.
Hailed by the New York Times as the most successful labor action in the US in 20 years, the Fair Food Program establishes a code of conduct protect farm workers' rights, creating a culture that has zero tolerance for slavery. As CIW member Lucas Benitez states, there's a new day dawning in the fields of Florida.
Should this issue be chosen not only will we have opportunities to learn about modern day slavery, we will also grow in partnership and relationship with organizations like CIW who are engaging deeply in abolition and liberation work. Amen.
GINI COURTER: Thank you, Allison. Thank you, Senor Benitez. And our last statement, in support of a CSAI number four. I recognize the delegate.
KATHLEEN ROLENZ: I'm Reverend Kathleen Rolenz of the West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church, Cleveland, Ohio; founder of the West Shore Allies Against Human Trafficking; and I've been asked to read the following statement by two Unitarian Universalists who are survivors of modern slavery.
"We are two adult women, both raised in middle class homes, both white, both active in the lives of our UU congregations. We also both experienced modern slavery in the context of commercial sexual exploitation when we were children and teens. One of us was commercially exploited by my family and came to my Unitarian Universalist faith in adulthood. One of us was raised Unitarian Universalist in a loving home, attended About Your Sexuality classes, and was taken into commercial sexual exploitation by an adult my family trusted. Both of us were sexually exploited, tortured, and were not free to leave, all for the profit of others. We want to thank you for this chance to tell our story here at General Assembly. Our trauma left us feeling profoundly disconnected from humanity which is fundamentally a spiritual wound. What we have sought and feel what so many trauma survivors seek is witnessing, acceptance, and a compassionate presence. This could be part of our social justice work that Unitarian Universalists offer as a spiritual community. The two of us have experienced a great solace from our Unitarian Universalist faith. But we have also felt at times deeply excluded. As Unitarian Universalists and as survivors of modern slavery we know that slavery isn't only something that affects people outside of our denomination. Too often we've felt that theologically, trauma and horror is framed as something that Unitarian Universalists stand apart from—that we learn about and study but don't experience. So as UU survivors of modern slavery we ask you support--"
GINI COURTER: Thank you. My apologies to the speaker and to the delegates. I was asked a question by the Chair of the Commission and I forgot my mike was still hot. I'm sorry.
So we are now ready to vote. If you take out your voting card you'll find that on the bottom there is a stub. It says do not remove this section until instructed to do so. If you're one of the four people in the hall that used it earlier for a bookmark you should have read that line.
You're going to write a number in the range of one to four. It will be—five, excuse me. One, two, three, four, five. It will be an integer.
So if you wish to support "Climate Action and Adaptation Plans: Why Greenhouse Gases and Their Effects Matter to Us," you would write a one. "Families, Population, and the Environment," you would write a two. "Reproductive Justice: Expanding Our Social Justice Calling," you would write a three. "Exploring Class Barriers," a four. "Ending Slavery," a five.
And then you will detach it from your voting card. And you will pass it toward the tellers. Tellers have baskets. They have vests. I have a vest too but theirs are striped. And you'll pass your ballots in.
These ballots will be counted. So occasionally what someone does is they think they can vote for more than one and they write two numbers in there. If you do your ballot will not be counted. You get to vote for one.
The tellers will then collect and count the ballots. This being at the end of Plenary we will not know the results of this vote until the beginning of the next Plenary. So this next thing I'm going to tell you becomes important. OK?
If no CSAI receives a majority of the votes cast there will be a runoff vote in tomorrow's Plenary with voting cards between the two CSAIs is receiving the highest number of votes. That's what our bylaws and rules say. If you are not here your vote will not come tomorrow. Does that make sense? And we will not be recounting it later in the day for folks who came late. So this is a good time to tell your friends and other folks that you see be sure to be in Plenary at the start of Plenary tomorrow. Make sense? All right.
If your ballot hasn't been collected I need to hold up a voting card so that the tellers can see it. So they can see the rest of the car to come find you. We have a section over towards the exit doors that way. We have a few over here. While we're doing this piece most of the announcements today are very small but I do want to make one announcement related to our work on yesterday's mini-assemblies. First, the second mini-assembly—which is on the Doctrine of Discovery—there were a couple folks who asked about how they could get access to the United Nations Doctrine of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples that is referenced in I believe the final paragraph of the Responsive Resolution.
And there are a couple answers to that. One would be, you would go online and look for it. Is the United Nations Doctrine of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In English the unfortunate acronym for that is DRIP. And you can find it under simply UN space DRIP. And you can normally find if you Google.
The other thing is if you would like to read a copy we will have copies in Plenary tomorrow. There will be 50 of them. And they will be up near the amendment microphone where the timer is. Denise could you like wave your arms? Denise [? Rhymes, ?] our timer for this General Assembly. Thank her now because we'll be cranky later probably.
It's about 18 pages. You can pick one up and read one and then return it. I was asked yesterday, or the moderator of the mini was asked yesterday about let's make copies for everyone. It's 18 pages. We have prior actions of this assembly that lead me to rule that that's a poor use of our environment. Go to the internet cafe. Find it online. Whatever you need to do. Or country to print copy.
I recognize the delegate at the procedural microphone.
SPEAKER 7: Madame Moderator, I just wanted to clarify. That's the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. I know we've got doctrine on the brain, but it's declaration.
GINI COURTER: Thank you very much Rob. United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Thank you very much. Good. So you can get that here tomorrow or you can have looked at it ahead of time online. And then there's a copy online also that you can download and print, if you want to annotate it, that's free as well on the United Nations site.
Tellers, are we done collecting ballots for sure? I'm looking for the heads up. Thank you. OK. There'd be no further business to come before us and in accordance with the schedule set forth in your program book I declare that this Plenary session of the General Assembly shall stand in recess until Saturday, June 23, 1:00 p.m. Thank you very much.
For more information contact web @ uua.org.
This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations.
Please consider making a donation today.
Last updated on Monday, October 1, 2012.
Sidebar Content, Page Navigation
More Ways to Search
Donate to Support This Program and the Ongoing Work of the UUA
Read or subscribe to UUA.org Updates for the latest additions to our site.
Learn more about the Beliefs & Principles of Unitarian Universalism, or read our online magazine, UU World, for features on today's Unitarian Universalists. Visit an online UU church, or find a congregation near you.