Charge to the Social Justice Council
ADOPTED BY THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF JAMES REEB UU CONGREGATION ON NOVEMBER 21, 2006
Underlying Principles and Background
JRUUC is a religious and spiritual community for which social action is a fundamental expression of our core values and principles. The health and vitality of our congregation depends on creating opportunities for our members to take strong and effective social action.
JRUUC recognizes that social action comes in many forms. Both the form of action and the spiritual discernment and integrity we bring to our actions are equally important. More specifically we note that
- Social action may take many forms, including educational or service activities, initiatives to directly address problems or efforts to influence decision-makers. Many social action efforts will aim to produce concrete changes that are visible and apparent to those engaged in the action. But there will be times that call for symbolic action–a voice in the wilderness– when we do not know how our actions may bring about justice.
- Some situations may call for action by groups within JRUUC, while others call for a fuller congregational commitment.
- Some situations may call for longer processes of discernment (similar to UUA “Statements of Conscience”) while others call for an immediate response (similar UUA “Actions of Immediate Witness”).
JRUUC recognizes that social issues impact those both inside and outside of our walls. All of our members experience suffering, need and injustice to different degrees and at different times. We honor the resilience and knowledge of the survivor as one of the greatest strengths of our community. Just as we are called to act on our compassion for each other, so are we called to stand in solidarity with each other against injustice.
JRUUC recognizes that while there may be broad consensus among members on many social issues, controversial issues may arise which challenge and divide our members. Social action leaders and groups are called to approach such issues with care and in the spirit of the UU Principles.
Therefore, JRUUC will create policies which encourage social action, structures which facilitate social action and resources which nurture and develop lay leadership to act effectively on social issues.
JRUUC will support opportunities for the full diversity of our members to engage in social action, paying particular attention to those who face barriers to participating in JRUUC social action efforts.
JRUUC will support social action efforts with the time and talent of our members, monetary support, and our name, in that order. JRUUC recognizes that attaching our name to an effort or an issue only has real meaning to the extent that it brings with it the active commitment of members.
The primary charge and goal of this council is to encourage and facilitate action for social justice by members of JRUUC. This Council is not charged with doing the social justice work of JRUUC, but with facilitating it. However, members of the council may themselves take the lead on such actions with an eye toward creating opportunities toward broader involvement and leadership by JRUUC members. Responsibilities are as follows:
Facilitate and Encourage Social Action
Support JRUUC members interested in social actions by helping them to connect with other members with similar interests, identifying resources such as outside organizations working on similar issues, training opportunities, etc. If a group of members wishes to formalize the work that they do, assist them in forming a Social Justice subcommittee and in writing a charge for that subcommittee, clarifying the goals of that group.
Provide information to the congregation regarding actions being taken, with these goals in mind.
- Keep the congregation aware of the social actions of its members
- Inform them of opportunities to participate in social actions.
- Inform them of issues that call for social action.
Use of the James Reeb Name
The public use of the JRUUC name shall be limited to occasions where there is significant buying by the congregation. This is to ensure that action in the name of JRUUC is representative of a significant portion of the congregation. The JRUUC name shall not be used in conjunction with a committee or portion of the congregation unless authorized by the Board of Trustees or the congregation as follows:
- Board of Trustees (“BOT”) – Should the Board of Trustees decide to take a position, a ¾ majority is required to approve the public statement, and it shall be attributed in these terms. “This action is taken by the Board of Trustees of JRUUC”, or “This position is taken by the Board of Trustees of JRUUC “, or “This position is authorized by the Board of Trustees of JRUUC.”
- Congregation – Should the congregation decide to take a position, a 4/5 majority vote of those present at a congregation meeting is required to approve the public statement, and it shall be attributed in these terms: “This is the position of JRUUC”, or “This statement of Conscience is the position of the congregation of JRUUC.” Only a congregation statement empowers the minister to represent its position.
Congregation Statements of Conscience
The steps to adopting a congregation Statement of Conscience are as follows with the role of the Social Justice Council Included:
- Members requests for congregation statements of conscience will go first to the SJC.
- The SJC will respond to these requests by assisting the members requesting the statement as needed to determine the congregation level of interest in such a statement. These actions might include polls taken of the membership, informational meetings, etc.
- It is the judgment of the SJC that sufficient interest and acceptance exists in the congregation for approval, it reports this (and specific wording of the proposed statement of conscience) to the BOT.
- The BOT examines the proposal and the SJC assessment and votes on whether to pass it to the congregation for approval. The BOT’s main interest lies at this point in being sure that sufficient acceptance exists in the congregation for its passage.
- If passed by the BOT, the BOT will schedule the vote and conduct the meeting.
- Passage of a statement of conscience by the congregation requires a 4/5ths majority.
Actions of Immediate Witness
In circumstances where a quick reaction is needed (meaning time does not allow for a congregation meeting or a BOT physical meeting) the SJC can request that the BOT take a vote to decide on a statement. The request shall be made to the Board president.
Requests From Outside JRUUC
Handle social action requests from individuals and groups outside of JRUUC. This council may develop more formal procedures (and where necessary recommend policies to the Board) for fielding, evaluating, and responding to such requests.
Because the law limits JRUUC social justice actions, the SJC will make subcommittees aware of the legal limits of their actions by providing information from the UUA. Currently this is found online at UUA.org
The SJC shall be responsible for requesting funding from the BOT for social action. The normal way will be to request it as part of the budgeting cycle. Member Response The SJC shall hear and respond to concerns raised about social justice projects or activities within the congregation.
Actions of Immediate Witness – Actions of Immediate Witness are undertaken where the Social Justice Council and the Board of Trustees recognize a broad consensus in the congregation that a situation requires a public expression of our UU principles, but where time constraints do not allow bringing the situation up for a vote of the entire congregation.
Statements of Conscience – Statements of Conscience are approved by the congregation at an open, well-publicized meeting by a voice or paper ballot vote indicating that the principles embodied in the statement enjoy support by an overwhelming majority of the congregation. The adoption of statements of conscience may require a period of research, discussion and meditation extending several months before the congregational meeting. Once approved, a Statement of Conscience provides the basis for action by the congregation.