Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A new vision for immediate witness

Seventh in a continuing series of posts about the January UUA Board Meeting

The Board was joined by several members of the Commission on Social Witness, who were there to discuss some new ideas for immediate witness at General Assembly. There will be no Actions of Immediate Witness at this coming GA, but they will commence in 2013. The Commission is looking at various ways to make the process more meaningful with greater impact.

But first, some preliminaries.

The Commission read a statement about how they had felt dismissed and disrespected by the Moderator's Report at General Assembly. Moderator Gini Courter listened intently, and apologized, gracefully, several times. I suspect this had all been planned, and in my opinion, needed to happen to move forward in the kind of collaborative spirit the Board needs to have with the Commission.

The ideas presented for a "new vision" were interesting. They starting with some principles around social justice articulated by Dan McKanan, who fills our Emerson Chair at Harvard, including:
  • social justice and dialogue should be part of every General Assembly
  • if we already have consensus on an issue, the focus should be action
  • dialogue is needed if we don't yet have consensus
  • wordsmithing in plenary is almost never helpful

They then presented several ideas for Board input. These ranged from AIWs being proposed by congregations versus individuals, congregations proposing a social action project, handling AIWs like responsive resolutions (no petitions or mini-assemblies), and/or using an Open Space-like environment at GA for issues formulation. The only option that was discouraged was the social action project, as the lead time to do it well (and with local partners) made it unfeasible. The image of a large group of (mostly white, middle-class) people coming to town to demonstrate, with little or no contact with those who were impacted by the issue, then disappearing, was not flattering.

No comments: