Delegates examine proposed changes to Article XV

Delegates at a business mini-assembly Thursday morning at the UUA General Assembly in Charlotte, N.C., focused on a proposed bylaw change to Article XV of the UUA bylaws, which dictates the procedure for amending other bylaws. Article XV came under scrutiny after delegates at the 2009 General Assembly in Salt Lake City narrowly rejected a proposed revision to Article II, the Principles and Purposes, because they were not able to amend the revisions or vote on them in sections under the rules outlined in Article XV.

Under Article XV’s current language, any change in Article II must be considered by a review and study commission and be approved by two consecutive GAs. The Commission on Appraisal had prepared an amended version of Article II, but Article XV prohibited delegates from proposing any changes to that proposal. When the proposal failed, delegates passed a responsive resolution asking for clarification of “the process and limitations of a proposal to amend a bylaw in Article II.”

The proposed amendment to Article XV would keep the current process for amending Article II, with a study commission followed by votes at consecutive General Assemblies. However, under the revised process, amendments could be proposed to the study commission’s Article II language using a mini-assembly process, and no revisions would be allowed at the second GA.

Mountain Desert District Trustee Lew Phinney, UUA Financial Advisor Dan Brody, and legal counsel Thomas Bean attended the mini-assembly and clarified the amendment’s language. “The most significant change is that there is a way for delegates through the mini-assembly process—that’s very similar to the Commission on Social Witness process—to propose amendments, which I think would have solved much of the problem in Salt Lake City,” Phinney said.

Following some discussion, delegates rejected an amendment proposed during the mini-assembly by Jasmine Walston, a delegate from the First Unitarian Church of Louisville, Ky. Her amendment would have added the language “A motion to divide the question shall be in order except where the amendment is indivisible” to lines 3.71, 3.78, and 3.92. No further changes to the Article XV amendment were proposed.

The 10:45 a.m. mini-assembly also discussed other proposals delegates will consider this week that would:

  • acknowledge the decision to rename the UUA’s Thomas Jefferson District the Southeast District,
  • allow for more flexibility in staffing structures,
  • eliminate the Associate Ministerial Fellowship category in the Ministerial Fellowship Committee Rules, and
  • clarify procedures for revoking or suspending the credentialed status of a religious educator.

About 33 people attended the mini-assembly at the Convention Center, and Mark Steinwinter, UUA director of Information Technology Services, reported that six offsite delegates—about 15 percent of the total offsite delegates—also participated in the mini-assembly.

General Assembly business is officially conducted in plenary sessions. Mini-assemblies allow GA delegates to discuss business items and propose amendments to them before they are presented for a vote in plenary.

The text of all of this year’s proposed bylaw changes is available online as a PDF. A list of further mini-assemblies can be found here.

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