What is the 8th Principle that is being considered for adoption?
We covenant to affirm and promote: journeying toward spiritual wholeness by working to build a diverse multicultural Beloved Community by our actions that accountably dismantle racism and other oppressions in ourselves and our institutions.
How did the 8th Principle come to be?
Paula Cole Jones, Director of Racial & Social Justice for the JPD (Joseph Priestley District, now part of the larger Central East Region, CERG) developed the idea of the existence of 2 different paradigms in UU circles: the UU 7 Principles and Beloved Community (deep multiculturalism). After working with congregations on these issues for over 15 years, she realized that a person can believe they are being a “good UU” and following the 7 Principles without thinking about or dealing with racism and other oppressions at the systemic level. Evidence: most UU congregations are primarily European-American in membership, culture (especially music), and leadership, even when located near diverse communities. She realized that an 8th Principle was needed to correct this and worked with Bruce Pollack-Johnson (UU Church of the Restoration, Philadelphia) about some of the components that should be in it. Dr. Pollack-Johnson put together an initial draft in 2013, and the two of them worked with a group of anti-racist activists in the JPD to refine it. In May, 2017 the UU Church of Restoration incorporated it into their covenant and recommended that the UUA adopt it.
The 8th Principle came from a feeling that UUs need something to renew our commitment to this work of anti-racism and racial justice, to hold ourselves accountable, and to fulfill the potential of our existing principles.
It has been over 20 years since delegates at the 1997 General Assembly voted to require the UUA to intentionally commit to become a multicultural and anti-racist institution. This act was five years after the passage of the 1992 Resolution of Immediate Witness which affirmed the “vision of a racially diverse and multicultural Unitarian Universalism”. The 8th Principle is a call to action to explicitly address these multicultural and anti-racist goals.
What is a Beloved Community?
Beloved Community happens when people of diverse racial, ethnic, educational, class, gender, ability, sexual orientation or backgrounds/identities come together in an interdependent relationship of love, mutual respect, and care that seeks to realize justice within the community and in the broader world. A Beloved Community is the “we”.
What is the process for adoption of the 8th Principle by the Unitarian Universalist Association?
The Article II Study Commission (A2SC) has been established to review all of the principles, including the 8th Principle. At General Assembly Session V of General Assembly 2021, 91% of the delegates voted in favor of asking the study commission and the Board of Trustees “to ensure proposed changes to Article II include in the Principles a clear and direct statement that accountable systemic anti-racist and anti-oppressive actions to build a Beloved Community are part of what it means to be a Unitarian Universalist.”
The Board of Trustees has charged the A2SC to include the essence of the 8th Principle in its recommendations. The proposed 8th Principle will be presented at the 2022 General Assembly, but a formal vote will not occur. The Study Commission will present its recommendations to the UUA Board of Trustees in January 2023 for inclusion in business in the 2023 General Assembly. If passed by the General Assembly in 2023, the Article II Study Commission recommendations will be voted on again in the 2024 General Assembly as required in the UUA Bylaws.
The 8th Principle has been endorsed by BLUU (Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism), and DRUMM (Diverse Revolutionary UU Multicultural Ministries). It has been adopted by over 125 congregations and UU groups to date.
Why are the principles under review and why the 8th Principle?
The first version of the Principles was adopted in 1960 and their current form was adopted in 1984 (including the 7th Principle) and reflected greater gender inclusivity. The UU Principles were designed to be dynamic, not a fixed creed. The principles imply how our actions are guided. It means we want to always continue to be educating ourselves, exploring truth, and raising our consciousness. When we get to a new level of understanding and clarity, our structure makes it possible to reflect that. UU is one of a very few religions that intentionally builds in that flexibility to acknowledge the importance of ongoing revealed truth. The periodic review of principles, sources, and purpose are carried out to reflect priorities and concerns, and are required by our bylaws.
The more we learn about how deeply embedded white supremacy culture is in our society, the more we realize that the 7 Principles have not been adequate enough to dismantle white supremacy culture within our congregations and Association. Many UUs contend the absence of any mention of racism and other oppressions is a glaring omission.
What does it mean to “accountably dismantle racism and other oppressions”?
To act accountably is an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or account for one’s actions. It is important for us to be accountable to those within and beyond Unitarian Universalism who are people of color and others enduring oppression. In accountable relationships, the people are equally invested in one another, where the impact of broken commitments is borne equally by all.
How will we decide about adopting the 8th Principle at Westside?
The following is our process:
- The Board of Trustees approved an 8th Principle Discernment Planning Team to guide the process of education and reflection prior to the Congregational vote. The Planning Team members are John Britt, Tracy Burrows, and Cindy Jackson.
- The Discernment Planning Team will prepare materials to educate the congregation on the meaning and implications of the 8th Principle. This includes an initial survey of the congregation’s understanding of the 8th Principle and supporting a special page on WSUU website for access to resources to meet the congregation’s needs.
- Congregants will have an opportunity to digitally post their reflections pertaining to the 8th Principle. This provides an opportunity for sharing among the larger WSUU community.
- Small group meetings will be held to allow congregants additional opportunities to listen to one another and share understandings and views on adopting or not adopting the 8th Principle.
- A formal vote by voting members of the congregation will occur at a congregational meeting (date to be decided by Board of Trustees).
- 8th Principle Fact Sheet, UU Fellowship of the Peninsula, Newport News, VA
- 8th Principle Fact Sheet, UU Church of Fairfax, VA