Excited about proposed changes to GA

Thanks to Boy in the Bands, I read the UU world article about planning for the 2012 GA in Phoenix.  And something stood out to me right away that got me really excited.

The possible elimination of Actions of Immediate Witness.

I almost squeed in excitement right here in the middle of work. This is something that bugged me about the GA last year in Minneapolis, the first GA I’ve ever gone to.  So much of GA and the buisness of our denomination was focused on Social Justice it just seemed…well kind of bizarre to me.  I couldn’t get why that was the primary focus of GA. The Board of Trustees, quoting from the UU World article,

…voted to put a bylaw amendment on the 2011 GA agenda that would eliminate Actions of Immediate Witness, a move that would reduce the amount of official business that would need to be conducted at the 2012 GA, but would also limit social justice resolutions at future General Assemblies. (Another proposed bylaw amendment would allow for the return of AIWs in a modified form in 2013.)

This excites me to no end.

You can expect me to be arguing, loudly on this blog, in support of this measure and if my congregation selects me to be a delegate again this year (which I’m going to try for), I be certainly voting for these changes.  And lobbying my fellow delegates to do the same.

The format of CSAIs, although it takes a while, is better.  It commits us to seriously look at all sides of an issue before making a stand.  So much more has been done around CSAIs in my congregation than AIWs or Responsible resolutions – this is the right format to me.  Although you lose the ability to make a stand on a sudden current event that’s suddenly bubbled up, we ought to be thoughtfully deciding where we stand beyond a 10 minute discussion at a GA.

I wholehearedtly agree with Gini Courter’s quote in the article – AIWs and the responsive resolutions have no teeth.  There’s no reason that a congregation needs to even think about thinking about them, much less doing anything about them.  They are pieces of paper to make constituent groups within Unitarian Universalism feel all nice and fluffy on the inside, but they don’t actually do anything.  (I tried to rally my Board around the Youth and Young Adult responsive resolution, haven’t heard anything back on that front from a Board member yet.)  They absolutely lack accountability.  Instead of trying to make constituent groups happy with a meaningless document, how about we try to do something meaningful?  That will actually change things?  Or are we too scared as a denomination to do so?

Next time I see our wonderful Mid-South Trustee Nancy, she’s getting a hug.

Just sayin’.

This entry was posted in Unitarian Universalism. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Excited about proposed changes to GA

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Excited about proposed changes to GA | Spirituality and Sunflowers -- Topsy.com

  2. I think it would be smart to scale back the “Actions of Immediate Witness” from the current maximum of 6 to something smaller like 2 or 3.

    For a few issues, AIWs might make sense. The GA votes that support denominational work on marriage equality are based on AIWs and the earlier forms of short-notice resolution (“Resolution of Immediate of Witness” was the bylaws term in 1996). You can look at this online here:

    http://www.uua.org/socialjustice/issues/bgltequality/marriageequality/27682.shtml

    With all the flaws in the existing AIW process, it’s one of the reasons that we as a denomination can take stands on marriage equality.

    One proposal on the table is to eliminate AIWs from the 2012 GA and bring them back in a reduced and modified form for subsequent GAs. The UU World article on the can be found online here:

    “Board focused on planning for 2012 General Assembly”
    http://www.uuworld.org/news/articles/175338.shtml

  3. mattkinsi says:

    The AIW process may be A reason why we support marriage equality, but I doubt it’s one of the major reasons. Now, I admit to not being around UU back then (In the mid 90s…I was either in Middle School or High School…) so I can’t speak to what it was like then. But what it seems to me from UUism of today that it’s something that we were theologically already in favor of. It already aligned with our principles. And I doubt that those AIW-like things passed…changed anyone’s mind about marriage equality. The process may have led to a discussion, but the AIW itself isn’t going to change the mind of a lay person who has never been to GA…because in all likelihood they never would have heard about it in the first place. If anything, from those links, the resolution establishing the department of “Gay Affairs” (which, ok, made me giggle a little) did way more than the AIW.

    I did see that proposal about only 3 in 13- Personally, I am in favor of doing away with them all together and not bringing them back. If we bring them back, we ought to find a way to give them some teeth.

  4. Bill Baar says:

    I’m curious about the “We” in the above comments. My understanding of an approved AIW is that it represents the position of the GA that approved it.

  5. Matt and Bill — without some sort of vote by congregational delegates putting the UUA on record as supporting marriage equality, would it be OK for the UUA staff to devote time and energy to this?

    Here’s what I found out about the impact of Actions for Immediate Witness on the UUA web site:

    “Unlike a Statement of Conscience, an AIW does not carry the full authority of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA); rather, it expresses the conscience and carries the authority of the delegates at the GA at which it is passed. This distinction follows from the difference in procedure: Congregational Study/Action Issues are initiated by congregations or districts or specified UUA sponsored organizations and move through a three-year period of study and action with opportunities for congregational and district comment. There are no such opportunities for AIWs, which are initiated by individual delegates or groups of delegates and move through their entire creation and adoption process during one GA. Nonetheless, AIWs are the product of considerable thought, collaboration, and commitment. The AIW process allows Unitarian Universalists to respond quickly to social issues deemed urgent. Adopted AIWs are used by congregations in local efforts and empower the Washington Office for Advocacy to take action and recommend action through other departments of the UUA and other UU groups.”
    Source — http://www.uua.org/socialjustice/issuesprocess/process/44104.shtml

    So … the AIWs have less authority than the four-year-process Statement of Conscience resolutions. But they do have some impact as you can see in that they show that the work of the UUA staff is grounded in a democratic process.

    Would we want the UUA staff acting totally on their own on an issue like marriage equality without us voting on it first? Even if it the issue is one that has broad support, is it a good thing to ignore democratic process for supporting this work?

    Like I said, I’m all for reducing the number of AIWs at GA in order to reduce the time we spend on them at GA. But I think that we still need a mechanism for reacting to the few high-priority short-notice issues that deserve the support of our democratic process.

  6. mattkinsi says:

    Update: She did get a hug on Sunday. I try to live up to my promises after all…

  7. Sallijane says:

    I have been following this topic on the UUA-GA listserv for quite a while, and one of the purposes that I have found for an AIW is that I can say that the UUA assembly passed a resolution supporting (or opposing, as the case may be) Issue X (in my case it was supporting single-payer health care). I was distressed about the lack of follow-up on that issue—when I was looking at uua.org, and even uujec.org, in 2010, all the links were to public-option sites, not single-payer. AAARRGH! I do think that AIWs would be better if some of the suggestions on the listserv were taken, such as a lot more pre-GA work, fewer accepted issues, inclusion of specific action items, etc. I would like to see pre-GA virtual miniassemblies for both CS/AIs and AIWs, as the time for that process has been way too short when I was present, with no practical way for delegates to get feedbacks from their congregations (and congregations generally do not have enough delegates to field experts on all issues). Anyway, I do believe that they could be much better.
    (And yes, I do think that UUA staff could work on some issues without a vote, though I am a big believer in PARTICIPATORY democracy—publicizing a group’s work on such subjects as mountaintop removal, financial reform, anti-cruelty, etc., to at least a limited extent, whether posting a link, sending E-mails to congregations, etc., would be a benefit for all of us—though something that would use a lot of time or resources should certainly be debated.) Basically, the “if it not expressly forbidden and falls within basic guidelines, then it is permitted” attitude of governing by policy.