Elton Hall, President
UUA Pacific Northwest District
Elton Hall, a member of the Boise UU Fellowship (ID), attended UUA General Assembly last month along with most of the PNWD Board. Here are his reflections following the experience, which included discussions with board members of the four districts making up the Pacific Western region, and his first meeting of the UUA District Presidents Association.
General Assembly 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina, celebrated the 50th anniversary of the birth of the Unitarian Universalist Association. A time of deep reflection, participants looked back on our first 50 years and ahead to the future, acknowledging where we have not always been our best selves and frankly facing what we need to do to thrive in the coming 50 years. There was a natural emphasis on GA 2012, a Justice GA in Phoenix, Arizona.
Last year the GA delegates in Minneapolis voted to make GA 2012 a Justice GA where all typical activities except those required by UUA bylaws will be put aside and replaced by practical, public witness. Arizona has implemented harsh laws against alleged illegal immigrants and punishment for anyone who might assist them, and other states have imitated Arizona’s sad example. UUA President Peter Morales was part of a witness in Phoenix earlier this year and was among a number of UU’s arrested there. He recounted the humiliations that he and others experienced in Arizona’s jails and legal system, vowing to help lead a large UU witness at GA next June. Attendees as this year’s GA were urged to join and warned that conditions will not be entirely pleasant, given the current moral conflict and high temperature of an Arizona June. Despite the uncertainties of just what this next GA will bring, there was great enthusiasm in the GA hall to turn our best thinking into practical and nonviolent witness against state injustice.
There will be a great deal of planning leading up to Phoenix, and your District will be discussing what our contribution can be.
The GA tried a wonderful experiment, allowing a limited test group of off-site participants using current technology to participate in plenary sessions, including speaking to issues under discussion and voting. Since this was a test of the possibility of including off-site participation, the votes were not counted as part of the totals, but they were shown to those present. In every case, the off-site votes were about the same proportion of ayes and nays as those in the hall.
The UUA is entering a significant restructuring process. Delegates approved bylaws that change the composition of the UUA Board of Trustees (BoT), dropping the number of trustees from 26 down to 14. This means that districts will no longer elect their individual trustees. Rather, a Nominating Committee will offer candidates for trustee positions, endeavoring to reflect “the full diversity of the Association”—marginalized communities, geography, lay and ordained status, size of congregations, age and gender. All current trustee terms will end in 2013. Rather than just offering a slate of candidates, the Committee will make one or more nominations for each numbered BoT position.
As a result of the off-site participation and voting experiment, delegates approved a bylaw change that will allow registered off-site participants to join in future GA debates and votes. Procedures and guidelines will be developed to make this major change operable, and off-site votes will be counted.
After considerable debate, delegates rejected a bylaw change that would eliminate Actions of Immediate Witness (AIWs), but agreed to suspend them for the Justice GA in 2012 and modify the process for submitting them in 2013. And the Statement of Conscience titled “Ethical Eating: Food and Environmental Justice” was amended and approved.
All these and other developments, including reports and additional bylaw changes can be found at uua.org. Look for GA 2011 event coverage, then click the left sidebar link for "Business & Social Witness" to review the plenary sessions, where transcripts and audio feeds are available. Worship services are also available. You will find much to inspire in both.