A Report from General Assembly

A Report from General Assembly – from Rev. Victoria Poling

Attending General Assembly is an experience of Unitarian Universalism on a larger scale than most of us experience during the congregational year, with 2,300 UUs gathered in person and 1,700 online. I was thrilled to hear the full, beautiful choir led by Dr. Glen Thomas Rideout. I was moved by the words of our outgoing UUA President, Rev. Dr. Susan Frederick-Gray, and the vision of our incoming President, Rev. Dr. Sofía Betancourt.

In the 15 hours of business sessions, we engaged in the spiritual practice of discernment. UUs use the practice of listening to many voices, through alternating Pro/Con statements, to discern the spirit–and the vote–of the gathered delegates. As I listened to the amendments on our Article II bylaws revisions (while working on fabric art projects to stay focused), I was reminded of the deep roots of our UU tradition in our values of justice, equity, and generosity. Mistakes were made and some reconciliation was necessary mid-stream–after all, we are imperfect in our seeking. Overall, the process powerfully upheld our 5th Principle, the “use of the democratic process in our congregations and in society at large.” Here are the results of GA 2023.

We Elected Rev. Dr. Sofía Betancourt as our UUA President 

Here is a brief sketch of her vision:

“Unitarian Universalism has a vital, liberating message for our time. Our nation and denomination are experiencing challenges in a time of significant division, change and radicalization…But together, I know we can serve one another, organize for justice, widen the circle of concern, collectively imagine new ways forward in community, and grow spiritually. I am looking forward to the continued work of radical inclusion, faithful witness, and the embrace of a wide range of voices and leaders for our faith.”

Read more here about her background on the leadership and commitment she has already brought to our movement: Rev. Dr. Sofía Betancourt. 


Proposed Article II Bylaw Changes–Advanced for a Year of Additional Study

From the UUA Press Release:

“Delegates contemplated new proposed bylaws for the association. Article II of the Unitarian Universalist Association Bylaws – “Principles and Purposes” – is the foundation for all of the work of the UUA, and its member congregations and covenanted communities. The process for examining and revising this core religious language reflects the faithful practice of Unitarian Universalism. It also reflects UUs understanding of their faith as a Living Tradition, rooted in democratic practice and engagement. Delegates voted to advance recommended changes to Article II, which last underwent a wholesale revision in 1987. A final vote on the revised Article II will take place at General Assembly in 2024. More information on the Article II process is available online.

Business Resolution: Complete Divestment from the Fossil Fuel Industry and Subsequent Reparations–Did Not Pass

As delegates, we held a meaningful and difficult discussion on a business resolution put forward by members of the UU Youth and Young Adult caucus. This resolution linked complete divestment from investments in fossil fuel industries held in the UU Common Endowment Fund to immediate distribution of the funds to reparation efforts. Going about reparations in this way, unfortunately would have deeply impacted the staffing of the UUA.The UUA Board of Trustees Statement affirmed,

“support for the long-existing work of the Investment Committee and the UU Common Endowment Fund (UUCEF) on climate action, human rights, and values-based investing. Divesting from fossil fuel companies and advocating for climate action has been a long-term commitment of UUCEF and is an urgent priority for our faith and our planet.”

The resolution did not pass. As I reflected on the discussion, I was appreciating the commitment to moving forward–however slowly–and that the discussion is about how to go about reparations work, not whether to do it. I am grateful to be part of a faith tradition that affirms that reparations are necessary and is committed to them. Outgoing president Rev. Dr. Susan Frederick-Gray noted that our UUA is working towards reparations that address our specific UU history of particular acts that we can be accountable for. You can learn about current UUA staff and board engagement in divestment and reparations work in the 2023 UUA President’s Report.

Actions of Immediate Witness

The three AIWs recommended by VIUU members moved forward. From the UUA Press Release: “UU delegates overwhelmingly voted for social justice resolutions that support health equity (PDF 2 pages), ending the planned “Cop City” training center (PDF 3 pages) in Atlanta, Georgia, and protecting the rights of Dreamers (PDF 2 pages), those who have received Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) status.”