by Lay Minister for Social Justice Wini Atlas.
Unitarian Universalists have worked to bend the arc of the universe toward justice throughout our history. In 1850, transcendentalist Unitarian minister Theodore Parker, a noted abolitionist, wrote:
“I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.”
When Parker wrote those words, the Unitarians and the Universalists were immersed in the abolition of slavery.
One strategy our faith uses in social justice work is the Congregational Study/Action Issue (CSAI). The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) website states: “The Congregational Study/Action Issue is an invitation for congregations and districts to take a topic of concern and engage it, reflect on it, learn about it, respond to it, comment on it, take action – each in their own way. A CSAI is NOT a statement – it is a question.”
UUs believe that we are stronger together. By combining our efforts, we can accomplish more. As Unitarian Universalists, we set priorities for our social justice efforts, namely those issues that exemplify our commitment to our Second Principle: justice, equity and compassion in human relations. One way we do this is through the CSAI process. As UUCF’s lay minister for social justice and a member of the UUCF Denominational Connections Committee, I’d like to tell you more about the three most recent CSAIs.
The CSAI process takes 4 years. After the first 3 years of study, delegates to the UUA General Assembly (GA) can vote to approve the CSAI as a Statement of Conscience (SoC). At this year’s UUA GA, attendees voted on the 2015 SoC on reproductive justice.
We are in the final year of discernment on the escalating inequality CSAI. Last year, a UUCF task force presented a series of monthly meetings exploring factors that contribute to escalating inequalilty. Now we are ready for the next step in the process. A draft SoC and a ballot to place this CSAI on the 2017 GA agenda will be included in the congregational poll that every UUA congregation fills out yearly. The poll will come out on Nov. 15 and comments are due by Feb. 1, 2017. The draft SoC will be posted on the UUCF website and your comments will be collected and transmitted to the UUA Committee on Social Witness that manages the CSAI process. We hope you will comment on the draft SoC, including your vote for or against it. Your votes will be included in UUCF’s response to the poll. A quorum of 25% of congregations must be reached for the SoC to be placed on the 2017 GA ballot. Key dates and steps in the escalating inequality Statement of Conscience process can be found here.
At the 2016 General Assembly, five new CSAI topics were presented for consideration by the attendees, which is how the process starts. Congregations are asked to submit proposals for new CSAIs and the Committee on Social Witness chooses as many as 10 for comment before choosing no more than five to present to GA delegates. The CSAI topic chosen this year was corruption of our democracy.
Please comment on the draft SoC and think seriously about attending the 2017 GA in New Orleans. Please also consider being a UUCF delegate. Delegates vote on UUA business including whether to accept a Statement of Conscience or to create a new Congressional Study/Action Issue. The Denominational Connections Committee selects delegates with Coordinating Team approval before each GA. For information on being a delegate, click here and look for Upcoming Events.