Social Mission Policy

Introduction

According to Richard Gilbert, in his book, The Prophetic Imperative, “Social action is not the central function of the church. It is a vital function, but it must emerge out of a religious community that serves well the functions of worship, caring and education. Yet a church that ignores this function fails to understand its mandate to seek the Beloved Community. Social action is a necessary but not a sufficient dimension for a Unitarian Universalist church.”

In order to be effectively involved in social action, it is imperative that we become a “community of moral discourse.” As a faith, we have a long tradition of social action that grows out of our deep commitments to ethical, humane and enduring values, including those found in our Seven Principles.

Annual Social Justice Theme

The congregation will choose a social justice topic to be the focus for the following year at its annual meeting. The board will create a list of broad topics (e.g. the environment, human rights, identity-based oppression, economic justice, health, and peace) for the congregation to vote on, with examples of areas of concern for each topic. Members may add items to the list in the annual meeting. Committees and programs of the church are encouraged to connect to the Social Justice Theme throughout the year.

Congregational Support for Organizations

To add an agency to the list of agencies that UUCEL supports, a member may suggest an agency to the board, and the board will approve the addition to the list. In asking for an agency to be listed, a member should share with the board:

a) The name of the agency,
b) The mission of the agency,
c) How supporting this agency fits with the congregation’s mission, Unitarian Universalist principles, or past social justice actions of the church or association.

Agencies may be added to the list by members at the annual meeting by majority vote. At the annual meeting of the congregation, the congregation will select four agencies (or projects) that will each be recipients of a special offering sometime in the following year.

All agencies on the list of supported organizations are considered to be supported by UUCEL. Supported organizations may have activities advertised in the newsletter, announced in worship services, and receive public statements of support on behalf of the church.

Emergency Special Collections

Emergency special collections may be taken by an agreement of the Minister and Board President or Vice President if the President is unavailable. If the minister is unavailable, the Worship Chair may make the decision with the President. Emergency Special Collections should be used sparingly and are designed for emergency situations in the local community or disaster situations.

Social Justice Projects

For church-wide social justice projects where church members may be asked for participation or involvement, any member may bring to the board a proposal of a project, and the board may approve the project. Examples might include a recycling project or a voter registration drive, and may also be projects led by other agencies. The proposal should include:

a) A description of the project,
b) How the project fits with the congregation’s mission, Unitarian Universalist principles, or past social justice actions of the church or association.

Actions requiring significant levels of involvement of the church and its resources should follow the same procedures as a Statement of Conscience. The board may use its discretion as to whether or not a project should require a congregational vote, for example when designating the church as a sanctuary location for immigrants. Projects given board approval may be advertised or mentioned to the media as a project of the church, unless otherwise indicated by the board.

Committees of the church (and the board itself) may also create their own social justice projects, and these do not require board or congregational approval. Examples might include the RE program creating “warming bags” or the worship committee holding a letter-writing campaign in conjunction with a Sunday service. Such projects should be in keeping with Unitarian Universalist Principles or past social justice statements of the church or congregation. Public statements about these projects should indicate that they are on behalf of the committee or board, not the whole church.

Statement of Conscience (SOC)

The congregation may sometimes wish to take a stand on a social justice issue. Examples include becoming a welcoming congregation and a nuclear-free zone.
At any time, a member, may submit a petition request to the Board for a congregational public statement on a particular social issue. The petition must contain the following information:

a) The name of the author of the petition.
b) A draft of the statement to be adopted.
c) The reasons for the commitment, such as the need for action,
d) The way the statement with our principles, past social justice stances by our church or the UUA, or the past history of the church.
e) The signature endorsement of at least 10 members of the congregation.

The Board or its designee will create at least one congregation discussion and education session in advance of a formal congregational meeting, and call a congregational meeting for addressing the statement of conscience. The SOC may be passed by a majority of the quorum attending the meeting.

All approved SOCs may be circulated to the appropriate organizations and to the media, and should be communicated to the congregation.

Action of Immediate Witness (AIW)

If time is of the essence, a member or the Minister can ask the board to pass an Action of Immediate Witness as a board resolution. The member should follow the same petition procedure for an SOC, except for the signature endorsement requirement. This AIW process waives the need for congregational vote on a statement. The board should assess whether the statement or action requested is in keeping with Unitarian Universalist principles or past social justice statements of the church or UUA, and whether or not time is of the essence. If the Board passes the resolution, then it shall become the official position of the church on that social justice issue until revoked or superseded.

All approved AIWs may be circulated to the appropriate organizations and to the media, and should be communicated to the congregation.

Revoking of Congregational Commitment

The congregational commitment in any of these categories can be revoked under two circumstances. First, if no action has been taken in the past year, or if an agency has ceased to operate, the Board can revoke the commitment. Second, the congregation may revoke the commitment to action by congregational vote at any time.

Involvement of Children and Youth

Children and youth are encouraged to participate in this social action process. Children and youth enrolled in the Religious Education program of the church may author petitions, sign petitions, and participate in discussions and votes.

Role of the Minister

UUCEL’s Minister is encouraged to be visible and involved in social action in the community. As an essential aspect of their work, the Minister may wish to associate themselves in their ministerial role with a particular activity, policy statement or call to action. The Minister may identify themselves in their official capacity as Minister of UUCEL in their work in the community and in speaking to the press. It may sometimes be appropriate for the minister to state that this does not represent an official policy of the church, but we defer to the Minister’s discretion whether or not a disclaimer or qualifying language is appropriate. The Minister should advise the Board promptly following their decision to take an action in the church’s name.

Adopted by the congregation 2005, Revised 2006, 2007, 2018