Delegates discuss Article XV amendment, congregations

At a business mini-assembly Thursday afternoon, General Assembly delegates examined a proposed bylaw change to Article XV of the UUA bylaws, which dictates the procedure for amending other bylaws.

UUA Financial Advisor Dan Brody said the goal of the amendment was to provide a “clearer, more understandable process for amending the articles” and “one that would give the General Assembly delegates a role in that.”

The proposed changes got first-year approval when delegates at the 2011 GA in Charlotte, N.C, voted overwhelmingly and without debate to pass the bylaw change to Article XV. If approved during plenary again this year, Article XV will be amended.

Article XV came under scrutiny after delegates at the 2009 General Assembly narrowly rejected a proposed revision to Article II, the Principles and Purposes, because they were unable to amend the revisions or vote on them in sections under the rules outlined in Article XV.

Article XV’s current language requires that 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 the 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 retain 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.

One delegate at Thursday’s mini-assembly proposed amending the amendment, striking a portion of the language, but the majority of the group voted against the proposal. After some additional discussion, primarily focused on clarification, the delegates voted to pass the Article XV amendment without changes.

The full text of the proposed Article XV bylaw amendment appears on pages 104-106 of the 2012 General Assembly program.

The afternoon mini-assembly also briefly discussed two other proposals delegates will consider this week that would:

  • remove the word “full” from Section C-10.9: Pension System, as it refers to a now obsolete distinction between associate ministerial fellowship and full ministerial fellowship, and
  • expand the definition of “congregation” in the UUA bylaws

Giving the statement of support from the UUA Board on redefining what constitutes a congregation, trustee the Rev. Dr. Susan Ritchie, said:

Many people, including youth, young adults, people with accessibilities issues, people who work on Sunday mornings, and members of groups that have sometimes been marginalized by traditional congregations, tell us that they want other ways of gathering. We believe it serves the cause of justice to expand the definition of ‘congregations.’ These bylaw proposals remove the requirement that congregations be a physical location.

Delegates at the mini-assembly unanimously passed both proposed amendments with no discussion beyond questions of clarification. These proposed bylaw amendments were given first-year approval at at last year’s GA and, if approved this year, will be adopted. The full text of these bylaw amendments is on page 103 of the GA program.

About 75 people attended the mini-assembly at the Convention Center, with an additional 15 to 20 offsite delegates participating online, according to Mark Steinwinter, UUA director of Information Technology Services.

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