Mini-assembly: Focus GA in Ariz. on justice, not business

A transformed UUA General Assembly will be held in Phoenix, Ariz., in 2012, if delegates embrace the latest version of a business resolution drafted in response to Arizona’s anti-illegal immigration law SB 1070. The latest version was hammered out in a mini-assembly Friday afternoon. Preliminary work was done to merge two amendments that came out of Thursday’s mini-assembly. The General Assembly will vote on the new proposal during Saturday afternoon’s plenary session.

The amendment calls upon the UUA board to hold a justice-oriented General Assembly in Phoenix in 2012 with a limited business agenda. It also asks the UUA administration to work with leaders in Arizona UU congregations to establish an Arizona immigration ministry; asks the board to work in accountable relationships with DRUUMM (Diverse and Revolutionary Unitarian Universalist Multicultural Minstries), LUUNA (Latina/o Unitarian Universalist Networking Association), ARE (Allies for Racial Equity), EQUAAL ACCESS (a group promoting equality and access for UUs with disabilities), and Transgender Religious Unitarian Universalists Together (TRUUST), and other stakeholders to maximize the safety of historically marginalized groups going to Phoenix; calls on the UUA board to direct economic transactions during the 2012 General Assembly towards partners and allies; and calls on the board to provide resources to build the capacity of UUs to stand in opposition to systemic racism.

The Rev. Wendy von Zirpolo, minister of the UU Church of Marblehead, Mass., and ARE president, said on Friday, “The proposed amendment represents many hours of deep listening, tears, and prayer following the mini-assembly yesterday. Members of DRUUMM, LUUNA, ARE, and the Arizona ministers met late into the night. Some met this afternoon. We’ve made a commitment to continued conversation and collaboration that will extend beyond the vote on Saturday.”

After reading the amended version, Robert Smith, a member of Valley UU Church in Chandler, Ariz., who supported keeping GA in Phoenix, said in a choked voice, “I came here deep in my own conviction but not knowing if I could trust my fellow UUs and the process to set aside our differences and work together. As someone attending my first GA, I’m so impressed with you all, so impressed with the process, and with the partnerships and the allies we have formed. It gives me so much hope and faith about the future of our movement that we can disagree so much and still come to common ground.”

Then the work of amending the amendment began and the mood turned serious.

The Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, minister of the UU Congregation of Phoenix, Ariz., stood up to voice her support for the amendment. She also said that she would like to see language from one of the original two amendments reinserted stating that the 2012 GA be dedicated to justice work and that GA business be reduced to a minimum.

David Anderson, a member of University Unitarian Church in Seattle, argued that he wanted the board to use its discretion to focus on immigrant justice, but that it should also have the opportunity to add other things to the agenda.

UUA Moderator Gini Courter responded, saying that she liked the specificity of this amendment. “It’s never hurtful for the General Assembly to be clear with the board about what it expects,” she said.” I appreciate the clarity of the delegates in not leaving everything up to the board. I appreciate this degree of direction.”

UUA Financial Advisor Dan Brody agreed with Courter and pointed to congruence between the limited business agenda and the recommendations of the Fifth Principle Task Force, which is advocating for a biennial General Assembly focused on business with alternative gatherings scheduled for alternating years.

A vote was called and the first section was amended, calling for a “Justice General Assembly” “in which business is limited to the minimum required by our bylaws.”

People also raised concerns about Section 4 of the revised document, which calls on the board “to explore options within the Phoenix area that would minimize our financial contribution to the Arizona business economy.”

Frederick-Gray suggested that GA meetings and activities be held in the community, since the Phoenix Convention Center has not yet been booked. “We should look for ways that would help us honor the important work of a boycott,” she said.

Kim Chapman, a member of Unity Church Unitarian in St. Paul, Minn., argued against the idea, saying that he feared that some of the passion for an economic boycott came from anger. “There are a lot of business people who feel like we do,” he said. “Will an economic boycott directly punish these people for what we think they’ve done? Do we want to be responsible for unintended consequences as well as offending potential allies in the business community?”

Mary Francis, a member of the Norman UU Fellowship and the UU Community Church of Norman, Okla., said, “I still have a problem buying grapes after the grape boycott in the 1960s. My suggestion is that the UUA work with the people in Phoenix and create lists of [business] people friendly to our position so I can spend my money and make it go to principles we believe in.”

The amendment was voted on and that section was changed, asking “the UUA board to direct the economic impact of our presence in Phoenix towards partners and allies as much as is feasible.”

Tom Loughrey, trustee from the Pacific Southwest District and UUA secretary, emphasized that the board had brought the Phoenix boycott resolution to General Assembly to hear what the delegates had to say. “We were looking to get advice from the General Assembly,” he said. “We wanted to hear what you have to say. Our actions are going to be guided by what you’re telling us.”

The final vote on this resolution will be taken on Saturday, June 26, at plenary session V, scheduled to run from 2:45 p.m. to 6:15 p.m..

2 Comments on “Mini-assembly: Focus GA in Ariz. on justice, not business

  1. When people buy anything in Arizona–whether it's from someone who is an “ally in the business community” or not–our money will be enriching the Arizona state treasury in the form of sales taxes. That's the point of a boycott–to keep from giving money into a system we disagree with.

  2. I am so proud to belong to a movement that makes its decisions with such deliberation, knowledge, and “many hours of deep listening, tears, and prayer.”