Tuesday, September 16, 2008

My take on UUA Principles&Purposes Revision Effort

Apologies to non-UU readers for this: And This may not have much to do with church planting within the liberal UU tradition, or it may have everything. Anything that takes away time and energy and focus away, at this pivotal cultural time, from starting new ministries/misisons/churches in as many ways as possible is consequential. So I shouldn't go with my first impression when all this talk of revision came up a year or so ago--which was to yawn, ignore and just keep on keeping on...

But there has been a lot of very good conversation by a bunch of very thoughtful and committed people...So....I like trying to talk about roots and the future and a theology of culture and appropriation and tradition; I have never been a big fan of the existing P&P and basically ignore them in my church planting as well as anything smacking of denominationalism or creedalism. I personally resonate with the suggested draft that nuances what wasn't nuanced, which has some acknowledgment of evil, and that couches our faith tradition in the language of faith traditions. But the more I read the great prose in the draft, and from those who are commenting on it, the more I think we shouldn't have it in the bylaws.

I just don't turn to bylaws for theology and statements of faith, or whatever. In fact, I would think all bases would be covered, for me, if the current section under Principles was just removed, and the other three sections of Purposes, Non-Discrimination, and Freedom of Belief were left in.

I know as a Christian that means there isn't mention of God or our roots, etc. which has caused so much historical consternation in the past (another good reason not to go down that road again), but I have come to the conclusion that if we have to have that in our institutional bylaws for it to matter than all is lost anyway. I know what the purpose of the church is, to be a body of people to make Jesus visible in the world; but since that language will never be in the bylaws, then it doesn't really make much difference what is, except if we focus on words and thought and mental propositions then we won't be focusing as we need to, especially to make up for lost time, on incarnating our spiritual DNA in the cultures around us. And on the plus side for me it also means there wouldn't be any other of the theological or values language in there now like there seems to be that seems to just wither away over time (see Rev. Marlin Lavanhar's comments about the P&P in the post below about being who we are where we are when we are).

And the more I read all the attempts, and all the beautiful words that really do resonate with me but just fall flat when applied here for all of us, the more it seems we try to pack too much period into the bylaws as a legal document. Leave the bonds of union up to churches in the Association; that way we put the organizational focus on the purposes and promoting and starting churches, and we don't run any risk at all of creeping creedalism, the use of the P&P as marketing, and we really do put congregations first.

If people feel something is just missing then (something to explore by the way) we could always just leave in the last paragraph, a little tweaked, from the Principles as a kind of preamble to the Purposes section. It would just read: Grateful for the religious pluralism which enriches and ennobles our faith, we are inspired to deepen our understanding and expand our vision. As free congregations we promise to one another our mutual trust and support.

Let the congregations and the individuals, and our history and our name, determine then what that "our faith" is without it having to be elaborated on and every mandated time period reviewed....end.