Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Fifth Principle

"The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large." The "Fifth Principle" of Unitarian Universalism

After the presidential election, and before we get really into the election of our own UUA president, and amid the discussions about changing our principles, comes the Fifth Principle Task Force. Formed by Board resolution in October of 2007, this Task Force is addressing the issues I hear raised in a number of "hallway" conversations: does our General Assembly governing process, often attended by congregational delegates named in a hasty process (or no process) who can afford to attend, really exemplify the Fifth Principle?

This task force has recently provided its first report, and has been soliciting feedback from a number of places, including the District President's Association. Included in the draft is a proposal to have both a General Assembly, with today's workshops, exhibit hall, and UU University; and a Delegates Assembly, a shorter version focusing on governance of the Association. The two assemblies would meet in alternate years, possibly starting as early as 2011. As these proposals evolve, you will hear far more about them.

There will be a number of opportunities to express your opinion about this (including a GA 2009 Workshop and a planned online survey), but in the meantime add your voice with the short survey (with thanks to fellow UUA Trustee John Blevins) to the right. I welcome this examination, but wonder if it will add the gravitas to the delegate selection process within many congregations that appears to be lacking.

Why is it lacking? I think it is primarily because many UUs do not find the UU organization outside of the walls of their own congregation relevant, and feel that "congregational polity" keeps them immune from interference from any decisions made outside those walls. Rather than viewing being part of a larger whole as a strength, I hear things like reducing the "constant initiatives" from district leaders.

That is not to point a finger at these leaders - there is a valid reason for those feelings. We are all part of the problem - are we all willing to be part of the solution?


Language Lover said...

All very good points, Linda, and thanks for bringing them up. I've also been troubled for a long time about how delegates are selected and (not) instructed on how to vote. I'm glad there is some attention and discussion around this.

Joseph Santos-Lyons said...

yes to every other year GA

Jo said...

I think that one of the reasons that delegate selection is not what I'd like to see is financial. It is so costly to attend GA, and most of our congregations cannot (or do not) cover the cost. This means that those who can afford to go end up being our delegates. We need to find a way to address this inequity.