There’s news other than the presidential campaign: the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Commission on Appraisal (COA) has issued a draft of the proposed bylaws revision, which if adopted will supersede the “Principles and Purposes” of the UUA. I wrote about their debut yesterday.
Let me start with what I liked.
- The COA did the work. They engaged in a process offering language to change a document that — more than any other, for better or worse — epitomizes Unitarian Universalism within and outside our general fellowship, and is very popular in its current form. The last time this happened, the process very nearly tore the Christian wing away. Their duty is to their credit; I wouldn’t want to have had the task.
- The new Sources section begins “Unitarianism and Universalism are grounded on more than two thousand years of Jewish and Christian teachings, traditions, and experiences.” This is a great improvement over the current reductionism that makes the two traditions into its teachings, or rather one teaching: “respond[ing] to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves”
- The COA has started a Facebook group, which seems like a good way to attract interest in the process (if not a way to get responses.)
But I’m afraid my problems with the draft are far greater.
- It swims in jargon.
- It is long and unwieldy, making it hard to be memorable (which some may see as a plus). It also reads in a twee and sing-songy cadance.
- It mixes the vital with what is — to me anyway — incidental. Does fabric — yes, like cloth — deserve a place in the UUA bylaws? Or, as blogger and ministerial colleague Christine Robinson (iMinister) ponders, the plank on cultural appropriation.
- It is strikingly prescriptive in actions and attitude.
But the biggest problem I have with it is it leaps from defining the covenant among the congregations of the UUA to discussing the covenant reponsibilities of individual members. This is a major shift in the nature of the covenant relationship and muddles the meaning of covenant within a particular congregation.
I don’t think the COA members intended a centralizing of power, but neither is it over-reading to see that this new draft makes claims on church members that churches themselves may or may not have decided to make. And that’s a step too far.