‘Ethical Eating’ Statement of Conscience refined

'Ethical Eating' mini-assembly

Around 100 people attended the mini-assembly Thursday on Ethical Eating, the Statement of Conscience that GA delegates will vote on Friday morning. (The draft statement also appears on pages 10-12 of the Business Agenda; PDF.)

The issue was selected by delegates at GA 2008 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. There have been GA workshops on it in 2009 and 2010. Hundreds of congregations have submitted comments as well since 2008. The Commission on Social Witness took all that input and created a Draft Statement of Conscience on Ethical Eating.

That document  was further massaged at Thursday’s session. More than 50 proposed changes in wording were submitted to the CSW, whose members expected to labor into the evening Thursday deciding which changes to include. The final document will be available Friday morning.

The purpose of the mini-assemblies is to hash out most differences in these smaller sessions rather than trying to impossibly do it during a GA plenary session.

Participants in the mini-assembly divided into three groups and each group took one of the three pages of the draft document and the parsing began. One person wondered if congregations would be prohibited from ordering pizza if the Ethical Eating SOC was approved. He was assured the document would have no food rules, and would simply be a guide to ways of eating more sustainably.  Another person tried to replace the word “healthier,” as in “Minimally-processed plant-based diets are healthier,” with the word “healthy.” It failed.

Cathy Muha, cochair of the Ethical Eating team at First UU Church, Ann Arbor, Mich., wore a shirt with “Food Security” on the back. She said her congregation has studied the issue for two years. “It’s become a passion with us,” she said. She successfully got her mini-assembly group Thursday to agree to a suggested change stating that agricultural subsidies have a negative effect on small farmers. “I think this process worked very well,” she said at the end of the session. “I can’t think of a better way of doing it.”

The Rev. Dr. Paul Johnson, senior minister at the UU Congregation at Shelter Rock, Manhassat, N.Y., moderated one of the groups. “People had different points of view, but they were very civil,” he said.

Approval of the Ethical Eating statement Friday morning requires a two-thirds vote. If approved, congregations would be invited to engage in a final year of study on the issue.

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