A New Process for UUCM Public Statements
Becky Halat, Board of Trustees
The board has received several communications from members asking what work the church plans to do around anti-racism in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. One specific question that has emerged from some of these emails centers around making a public statement about the BLM movement (most specifically, hanging a Black Lives Matter flag on our building.)
Fred Hulting, our UUCM Board President, recently published an article dedicated to the actions that our church has already taken around anti-racism efforts, as well as encouraging more work to be done. We’re very happy to see that our church community is showing passion and resolve around anti-racism. As a largely white congregation, our privilege is a power that we certainly can’t ignore.
We also acknowledge the need to ensure we’re handling any public statement with consideration and care. This care is not for the sake of perfection, which is certainly impossible to achieve, but to avoid working with a “sense of urgency that makes it difficult to take time to be inclusive, encourage democratic and/or thoughtful decision-making, to think long-term, to consider consequences” (excerpt from The Characteristics of White Supremacy Culture from Dismantling Racism: A Workbook for Social Change Groups by Kenneth Jones and Tema Okun, ChangeWork, 2001).
On the note of perfectionism–in any action we take around anti-racism, we will mess up. This isn’t to give us permission to mess up, only to acknowledge that it’s unavoidable. In taking time to make decisions, we hope to avoid having these mistakes falling on the backs of BIPOC individuals in and outside of our community.
The Board interprets the hanging of the flag as a “public statement” by the congregation. But what is the meaning behind the statement? There has been a lot of debate around what having a BLM banner on the church means. Some believe it’s to be earned after engaging deeply in anti-racism work, while others view it as a statement of support for the movement. Still others see it in a variety of other, complex and different ways. As of right now, we don’t believe that there is clear alignment around what such a statement would mean to our congregation or to the broader community.
While the UUCM By-Laws provide guidelines for approving a public statement, and asks for acknowledgement of a minority vote, it is short on the specifics. How do we ensure the statement is adequately communicated to the congregation? How do we incorporate feedback from a variety of perspectives? The Board believes that a process needs to be articulated to support the congregational approval of a statement and ensure the Membership is fully engaged in the process. At the October 8th meeting of the Board, a new process was adopted.