The Power and the Peril of the 8th Principle
You can listen to Rev. Woodbury's sermon from Dec. 4, 2022 on the 8th principle below (this is just the sermon). A written re-cap appears in the FAQ below.
8th Principle Sermon - Dec 4th 2022 - First UU Omaha
Frequently Asked Questions
What IS the 8th Principle? What does it specifically say?
The 8th Principle is a way that congregations individually commit to “journeying toward spiritual wholeness by working to build a diverse multicultural Beloved Community by our actions that accountably dismantle racism and other oppressions in ourselves and our institutions.”
How many UU congregations have adopted the 8th Principle at the local level?
Over 220 so far. This link will take you to a map of UU congregations that have adopted the 8th Principle.
What is Beloved Community? What does that mean?
Beloved Community happens when people of diverse racial, ethnic, educational, class, gender, abilities, sexual orientation backgrounds/identities come together in an interdependent relationship of love, mutual respect, and care that seeks to realize justice within the community and in the broader world.
Don’t the 7 principles already cover this?
The 8th principle was initiated by people of color within Unitarian Universalism because the first seven principles (codified in the 1980s) do not explicitly address anti-racism.As one of the authors said: “after working with congregations on these issues for over 15 years, I realized that a person can believe they are being a ‘good UU’ and following the 7 Principles without thinking about or dealing with racism and other oppressions at the systemic level.” When we are trying to change culturally entrenched attitudes and generations of habit and history, making our commitments direct and explicit is enormously helpful. The 8th principle asks us to act, to go beyond beliefs to practice/action. It asks us to hold ourselves accountable and to fulfill the potential of our existing principles.
Consider also Paula Cole Jones’ observation (from the workshop she did with us): 2022 is the 25th year since our association voted to become an anti-racist association. A long time, and we are still struggling. The 8th principle could help get us over those invisible barriers that have held us back. We have learned so much about inclusion in those 25 years, but we never went back and reflected it in our principles. Or Beloved Community would be named there. If we had named it explicitly, we would be in a different place now.
What does it mean to be accountable? What does that look like?
White UUs hold themselves accountable to communities of color, to make sure whites do what they say they will do. One way some UU communities do this is by having a People of Color Caucus within congregations, districts, etc., to discern and express needs and concerns to the rest of the community. UUs of color also hold each other accountable and help each other see and dismantle signs of internalized racism (and racism against groups other than one’s own). Similarly for other oppressions.
Rev. Woodbury addressed accountability in the context of covenantal communities in a sermon last year on “The Promise of Belonging,” drawing on the popular tv show Ted Lasso. You can watch the video here (sermon starts just before 29 minutes in) or read the text of the sermon at the bottom of this past eblast.
Why now? What’s the historical context? (Didn’t UUs already do this work decades ago?)
It’s been two steps forward, one step back in Unitarian Universalism with regard to antiracism work and building Beloved Community. Click here for a brief summary of the uneven efforts over the history of our denomination. If you’re curious about Bill Sinkford’s article about the earlier Black Empowerment Controversy (aka White Entitlement Fit) in UUism – and how it relates to this present moment – you can read it here.
Our own church has had its ups and downs too. Rev. Woodbury shares her perspective on this historical moment and our church’s engagement in this new video: