Oregon UUs are Talking About the 8th Principle


REPORT: PROSPECTIVE NEW UUA PRINCIPLE  # 8 BEING DISCUSSED IN PORTLAND

On February 10, 2021, our Archivist Barbara Turk attended a conversation on the proposed 8th Principle held via Zoom through 1st Unitarian in Portland, OR. Barbara has prepared this report on the conversation to help introduce this community to the proposed 8th Principle, which has been passed by UU congregations across the country, though not yet by the UUA

For this special  Feb. 10th  ZOOM, the speaker was Paula Cole Jones, of All Souls Unitarian in Washington, D.C.  A member of  All Souls since 1969, she described it as a “multicultural” congregation.  (Having visited it, I concur.)

Jones has been a “Principle Originator” of the proposed 8th Principle since 1999. That brings me to a long-ago story shared by UUFKC founder, Ben Kerns.  Ben spoke of a fork in a road: One direction  has a sign, “TO HEAVEN;” the other has a sign, “DISCUSSION ON HEAVEN.” Ben said that UUs always take the road to ‘Discussion,’ meaning that change is often a long time coming.

In contrast, Jones asserted UUs can be a vanguard of social momentum, and shared that over the past four years 29 UUA churches, from PA to HI, have given approval to the proposed 8th UUA Principle, which reads: 

“We covenant to affirm and promote journeying toward spiritual wholeness by working to build a diverse, multicultural beloved community by our actions that accountably dismantle racism and other oppressions in ourselves and our institutions.” 

Jones opened with, “WORK EQUALS GROWTH”.  (Amen to that!). Next she explained the following  visual:

A: Dominant Cultural Paradigm
*White men *White traditions

B: Multicultural Paradigm

Under A, we have our history, our principles, our documents and our structure. This is our history, but what’s our design for B? Jones is hopeful that the 8th Principle will act as “a bridge” between A and B.

Jones continued with the following points:

  1.  Our (USA) system has been damaged by segregation
  2.  Jones stated current UU Principles are basically, “feel good statements”. So we must ask: “Is this how we live, or do we just work toward it?”  She added that the Principles don’t hold us accountable—not one, “Thou shall / shall not.” 
  3. Do we truly relate with, affirm, covenant and coordinate our Seven Principles?  
  4. We have a Mission Statement, we have a vision of our community, we covenant and basically promise one another.
  5. We have history. Jones asserted, “That’s not by chance. History is who we are”.
  6. “And overall we have accountability–definitely not to be overlooked.  History and accountability go together.” 

Jones shared that the 8th Principle is for “spiritual wholeness,”  emphasizing that passage of the 8th Principle, by a congregation or by the UUA as a whole, doesn’t mean much if the principle is not then embodied by those who have passed it. 

Basically, Jones shared, UUs need an identity change.  The old stance of, “Beloved Community” is fine, but we need to find ways to broaden who is included in these beloved communities, and become a “community of communities.” 

Folks may be kin, but think very differently.  How does each fit in?  How are we living diversity in our cities?  Can we become part of a community of communities, beyond our own beloved community? Can/will we truly become a “JUUST Community?”

Giving us an abundance of questions, Jones ended as she began:           

                             “WORK EQUALS GROWTH”   

–Barbara H. Turk