29 December 2006

Resources on History of Congregational Polity Within Unitarian Universalism

In a recent post, Paul Wilczynski mentioned the Cambridge Platform. The Cambridge Platform is an important historical document for the Unitarian part of our heritage. It is the foundation of our congregational polity.

Congregational polity is a subset of a larger topic -- ecclesiastical polity. Wikipedia defines "ecclesiastical polity" as:
" ... the operational and governance structure of a church or Christian denomination. It also denotes the ministerial structure of the church and the authority relationships between churches. Polity is closely related to Ecclesiology, the study of doctrine and theology relating to church organization."
And Wikipedia defines "congregational polity" as:
"Congregationalist polity dispenses with elders or bishops as a requirement of church structure. The local congregation rules itself, though local leaders and councils may be appointed.

Members may be sent from the congregation to associations that are sometimes identified with the church bodies formed by Lutherans, Presbyterians, Anglicans, and other non-congregational Protestants. The similarity is deceptive, however, because the congregationalist associations do not exercise control over their members (other than ending their membership in the association). Many congregationalist churches are complete independent on principle.

It is a principle of congregationalism that ministers do not govern congregations by themselves. They may preside over the congregation, but it is the congregation which exerts its authority in the end.

Congregational polity is sometimes called "baptist polity", as it is the characteristic polity of baptist churches."
Two resources on congregational polity can be found on the UUA web site:
Both of these resources talk about the Cambridge Platform within the context of Unitarian Universalist history. And both are free downloads from the Unitarian Universalist Association's web site.

26 December 2006

24 December 2006

"Gifts To The World" -- Rock Music Commentary on the "Meaning of Christmas"

Is Christmas a "Christian" holiday where we celebrate the birth of Jesus? Or is it a syncrestic holiday blend of Pagan and Christian elements? Or is it a totally secular holiday where we get presents?

Related to the mishmash of Christian and Pagan elements is the recent rock video from the band Sin Destroyers. Their video can be seen online here via youtube or Google video:

They appear to be a tongue-in-cheek parody of a heavy metal Christian rock band -- one press quote about them says:
“If Iron Maiden had attended Catholic school, this would be their garage band."

20 December 2006

Concerns Over Southwest District Youth Camp Decision Process

This morning I received a link to an online petition from a fellow youth advisor in my district regarding the decision process used with a radical restructuring of our district's very successful youth summer camp.

Before you get into the petition, here's a brief glossary of the acronyms used in it:

SWUUC -- Southwest Unitarian Universalist Conference (aka "Southwest District")
SWUUSI -- Southwest Unitarian Universalist Summer Institute
YRUU -- Young Religious Unitarian Universalists

The petition is copied here:
To: SWUUC Board

Whereas the SWUUSI Youth camp has for many years been a popular and successful youth-governed program that convenes the same week as the SWUUSI intergenerational camp at a separate site on Lake Murray in Oklahoma,

Whereas Jennifer Nichols-Payne reported to district SWUUC that the SWUUSI Board agreed to change the Youth Camp to a different time and place (July 3-8 at Briarwood Retreat Center in North Texas) without involving the YRUU in that decision,

We, the undersigned, propose that SWUUSI youth camp take place at the same time and place as it has in past years for the summer of 2007. We further propose that a task force involving youth, parents, and advisors be formed to discuss the concerns articulated by Jennifer Nichols-Payne and that the task force make changes to address those concerns while maintaining the youth-centered character of the camp.


The Undersigned

And you can sign the petition using this link. Thanks for your support.

08 December 2006

Non-Transgender Privilege

I learned about this non-transgender privilege list at a recent workshop at my church that was presented by the founder of the Transgender Alternatives Project (TGAP) in Shreveport, Louisiana.

The author of this list is the very prolific "unknown author" according to the web site were this list was found. This list is based on Peggy McIntosh's White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.
1) Strangers don't assume they can ask me what my genitals look like and how I have sex.

2) My validity as a man/woman/human is not based upon how much surgery I've had or how well I "pass" as a non-Trans person.

3) When initiating sex with someone, I do not have to worry that they won't be able to deal with my parts or that having sex with me will cause my partner to question his or her own sexual orientation.

4) I am not excluded from events which are either explicitly or de facto* men-born-men or women-born-women only. (*basically anything involving nudity)

5) My politics are not questioned based on the choices I make with regard to my body.

6) I don't have to hear "so have you had THE surgery?" or "oh, so you're REALLY a [incorrect sex or gender]?" each time I come out to someone.

7) I am not expected to constantly defend my medical decisions.

8) Strangers do not ask me what my "real name" [birth name] is and then assume that they have a right to call me by that name.

9) People do not disrespect me by using incorrect pronouns even after they've been corrected.

10) I do not have to worry that someone wants to be my friend or have sex with me in order to prove his or her "hipness" or good politics.

11) I do not have to worry about whether I will be able to find a bathroom to use or whether I will be safe changing in a locker room.

12) When engaging in political action, I do not have to worry about the *gendered* repercussions of being arrested. (i.e. what will happen to me if the cops find out that my genitals do not match my gendered appearance? Will I end up in a cell with people of my own gender?)

13) I do not have to defend my right to be a part of "Queer" and gays and lesbians will not try to exclude me from OUR movement in order to gain political legitimacy for themselves.

14) My experience of gender (or gendered spaces) is not viewed as "baggage" by others of the gender in which I live.

15) I do not have to choose between either invisibility ("passing") or being consistently "othered" and/or tokenized based on my gender.

16) I am not told that my sexual orientation and gender identity are mutually exclusive.

17) When I go to the gym or a public pool, I can use the showers.

18) If I end up in the emergency room, I do not have to worry that my gender will keep me from receiving appropriate treatment nor will all of my medical issues be seen as a product of my gender. ("Your nose is running and your throat hurts? Must be due to the hormones!")

19) My health insurance provider (or public health system) does not specifically exclude me from receiving benefits or treatments available to others because of my gender.

20) When I express my internal identities in my daily life, I am not considered "mentally ill" by the medical establishment.

21) I am not required to undergo extensive psychological evaluation in order to receive basic medical care.

22) The medical establishment does not serve as a "gatekeeper" which disallows self-determination of what happens to my body.

23) People do not use me as a scapegoat for their own unresolved gender issues.
While searching for this list online, I also learned a new bit of jargon. Instead of using the term "non-transgender," one can use the term "cisgender." According to Wikipedia:

"Cis is a Latin noun or prefix, meaning "on the same side [of]" or "on this side [of]". It is the opposite of trans, which means "on the opposite side"."

A cisgender person is a person who presents a gender identity that society considers a match for the person's biological sex. Wikipedia has a page on cisgender here.

Cisgender is an example of inclusive language. Other terms like "normal" and "non-transgender" implicitly suggest that cisgender is normative and everything else isn't (sorta like describing men as non-female or women as non-male).

Nostalgia for "About Your Sexuality" Curriculum?

During recent Our Whole Lives (OWL) curriculum training workshops for Grades 7-9 and Grades 10-12, I've heard adult participants who attended the earlier Unitarian Universalist About Your Sexuality (AYS) program while they were adolescents voice nostalgia for the earlier AYS program and the sexually explicit filmstrip visuals used in AYS.

I've also heard some criticism of the decision in the OWL Grades 7-9 program to use hand-drawn images instead of photographs in this program's visuals.

I mentioned this AYS nostalgia on another blog as a comment. This blog's author said that she isn't nostalgic for the AYS images, would never be nostalgic for the AYS images, and the AYS images almost turned her off sex entirely.

This wide range of observed recollections (nostalgic memories and unpleasant memories) is very normal. This probably reflects a very normal human variation ("your actual mileage may vary" as they say in the TV ads).

I suspect that there's a self-selection involved when a person decides to attend an OWL facilitator training workshop. If a person was uncomfortable with the earlier AYS filmstrips, then he or she probably won't decide to spend 2 1/2 days in an OWL Grades 7-9/10-12 facilitator training workshop.

This wide range of reactions has me curious. If you attended AYS as an adolescent and would feel comfortable sharing your reaction to the AYS filmstrips, please comment on this thread.


PS -- Here's some background history on AYS for those who are curious about the sexuality education program offered before OWL:

Our Whole Lives -- Interfaith Roots (from the UUA web site)

When The Public Eye met a private institution's program: Taking sexuality education out of context (article by Rev. Sarah Gibb, former Outreach Coordinator Sexuality Education Task Force -- Unitarian Universalist Association and United Church of Christ and current Adult Programs Director -- Lifespan Faith Development Staff Group, Unitarian Universalist Association

About Your Sexuality (Wikipedia article)

04 December 2006

Online Youth Ministry Survey

The Consultation on Ministry to and with Youth is a two-year process to revision, renew and support the Unitarian Universalist Association's ministry to and with youth. This process is intended to gather inputs from the widest possible spectrum of stakeholders in Unitarian Universalist youth ministry.

Part of this gathering of inputs is an online youth advisor survey. Check out the information below on this survey:
Dear Youth Advisor,

Thank you for your commitment to Unitarian Universalist youth. The Task Force of the Consultation on Ministry To and With Youth would like to better understand the vital roles and complex experiences of adults who work directly with youth. That's you!

Not only do we wish to learn from your expertise and feedback, but we also hope to better understand the diversity of adult involvement in the spiritual lives of youth across the Association. To do this, we ask you to complete this survey.

In these 20 to 30 minutes of questions, we ask you to reflect on support, training, vision for youth ministry, and the definition of youth empowerment as well as offer demographic information. We realize the limitations of survey data; however, we hope that open-ended questions create the space to communicate your unique and significant knowledge.

As a religious community, we can and must do a better job of supporting and sustaining you in your ministry to and with youth. In the spirit of youth ministry, we hope that this survey serves as a window into the lived experiences of youth advisors.

We will keep the link to this survey "live" from December 1, 2006, until February 28, 2007. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact us by email or phone.

In faith,

Megan Dowdell
(508) 314-0783

Jesse Jaeger
Youth Program Director
(617) 948-4359