Widening the Circle of Concern – A blog post by Beth Elliot

Our denominational organization, the Unitarian Universalist Association, has released Widening the Circle of Concern: Report of the UUA Commission on Institutional Change. 

“After three years of research, the Commission on Institutional Change wrapped up our work at General Assembly 2020 and issued this report, which contains recommendations for the systemic change at all levels of our Association, including congregations…you can can use this guide to further the work of racial justice and dismantling systems of white supremacy in your community.” 

I want to encourage everyone at UUCB to read Widening the Circle of Concern. As your Membership Director, I can say unequivocally, that this is the best possible way you can help this community. We will be using these recommendations extensively and it will help everyone to have read it. You can read the report online (and even download a copy) by following this link, or you can order your own bound copy from the inSpirit Bookstore

Let me share a portion to tempt you…

The culture of many congregations is not keeping pace with the expectations of new generations for anti-oppression practices. We believe that for Unitarian Universalism to survive as a faith movement, we must have reform at the congregational level. This will be some of our hardest work. Those who have long been entrenched in our congregations believe that this kind of work is not useful, is simply a form of political correctness, or is not of value for them. Longtime congregational leaders may not see the patterns of white privilege, institutional racism, and other oppressions that can be present in our congregations—and they may not see the ways that a changing world is asking that Unitarian Universalism be accountable to all the diversity of people in our congregations and communities.

It is urgent that we recognize that those among the newer generations and marginalized identities represented in Unitarian Universalism have begun to lose hope that our congregations will ever choose to change. These communities and individuals are therefore less willing to continue to give of their time, energy, resources, and emotional labor in order to do the work of teaching and leading for internal justice at the congregational level.

This example from submitted testimony illustrates the tensions:

We have begun engaging in a process of visioning for our congregation. And one of the first actions [was] we gave everyone an… opportunity to write or draw or something, some part of where they hoped our congregation would go. And then people were given little blue stickers, two little dots, so that they could attach the dots to the things that they liked…. So one of the things that I wrote in that process was that I would like the congregation to commit itself to antiracism. And a lot of people wrote that they wanted to see the congregation become more diverse, and there were a lot of blue dots next to becoming more diverse. There were no blue dots next to becoming antiracist. Or maybe I said ending white supremacy culture…. How are we going to become more diverse, assuming that diverse means racially diverse, unless we commit ourselves to acting against racism? So it seems to me there’s a disconnect there, and that might be a way of expressing that disconnect and therefore the struggle so that it’s easier for someone to say, “Yeah, I want to diversify as long as I don’t have to actually do anything to change myself, as long as the congregation doesn’t have to change.” And I suspect that’s kind of a struggle that a lot of people are going through.


Let’s get reading!