Did Polyamory Get the Pagans (and everyone else) Kicked Out?

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  July 14, 2007 — 8 Comments

There has been much conversation on Unitarian-Universalist blogs about the recent decision of the UUA Board to severely limit “Independent Affiliates” within it’s organization. This lead to the vast number of IAs, most notably those that advocated for a specific theology (including the Covenant of UU Pagans), to lose their privileged status within the UUA.

“The results of this rejection means that CUUPs will lose official recognition within the UUA, will not be granted a program space at future General Assemblies (though they will be included at this years’ GA), and will have to pay higher participation fees at UUA events. It also throws into doubt the fate of other theologically focused IAs such as the Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship and the Unitarian Universalist Buddhist Fellowship.”

At the recent UU General Assembly, the UUA made it clear that their position on Independent Affiliates wasn’t going to change, and it was implied that theologically focused groups (Christians, Jews, Humanists, Pagans etc.) should band together as a single council if they wanted IA status again.

“Gini’s strong suggestion was that we in that room ought to join ourselves into an umbrella organization and apply as that body as an IA. (Various names for such a group have been suggested by wags and visionaries since: my suggestion was that it would be called, “the amalgamated organization of hyphenated, and therefore, not real, UU’s” Excessively snarky, I suppose. Another person, much wiser, suggested calling ourselves “The Council of the Sources” which has some real merit.) Gini seemed to think that this organization of organizations could play a positive role in providing some of the content for lay theological education.”

While it remains to be seen if such a body of “sources” will attempt to form, since the GA a growing theory for the change in policy towards Independent Affiliates has arisen, that it was all done in order to justify keeping pro-polyamory groups out of official affiliation with the UUA.

“Now, the recurring suspicion is that all of this is the Board’s response to the UU’s for Polyamory Awareness … Gini said at our meeting, to answer the critique that this was a sudden thing, that the board had been working on the new IA policy ever since the Long Beach Convention. The Long Beach convention was the height of our collective Polyamorous Awareness. Much hand wringing … all the cynics say: that the IA mystery is really quite simple. It is the way to set up a structural block to having to say “yes” to an application from UU’s for Polyamory Awareness. There is no evidence which contradicts that theory. But consider the implications of it being true … It means that the elected leadership is finessing and not confronting an issue that is right before us — an issue that is not only significant for Unitarian Universalism institutionally, but is actually right below the surface of our culture.”

Since then, several prominent UU blogs have been chiming in on the issue of poly acceptance within the UUA, with the discussion getting rather heated in some corners.

“The advocates of multi-partnered relationships within the UUA have taken a passive-aggressive stance toward the association, its churches and especially its ministers. Rather than trying to demonstrate that the widespread, and eventual, legal recognition of multi-partnered relationships is warranted, necessary and socially responsible, they have asked UU’s to prove that they are not prejudiced, ignorant and backward by advocating for them.”

So what happens from here? It is pretty certain that anything pro-poly is “out” if the UUA has anything to say about it (at least for the time being), but the challenges of groups like CUUPs aligning with UU Christian, Jewish, and Humanist organizations in order to win Independent Affiliate status once more may be insurmountable.

“I can tell you this: from what I’ve heard, and what I feel myself, UU Buddhists, Jews, Pagans, Humanists and Christians – all of whom have beloved, thriving Independent Affiliate groups, are hardly at all interested in becoming one big organization of UUs Who Still Care About Theology. Not even if they get a cute name like the BuddhiHumiChristiJewPas.”

What seems even more unlikely is that these proposed “councils” (grouped thematically around social, theological, and political interests) would then act as “gatekeepers” against groups the UUA would find embarrassing and undesirable.

“One thing that Gini said at the meeting was that the UUA board did not want to have to ride herd on 60+ IA’s, and so it would be a good thing if there was a Council of Theologically based Organizations to handle its own membership requirements. In other words, the proposed Council could decide who was in and who was out. A long time ago, a friend of mine, who shall remain nameless for obvious reasons, and I had a good laugh about starting a UU affiliate of Devil Worshippers, complete with our story of exclusion and oppression by mainstream religion, to satirize what we saw as the UU inability to set any sort of boundaries. (We even had a name, “the LUUciferians”). We abandoned the plan because we were afraid that no one would get the joke … Well, apparently, the Council of Theologically Based Organizations will be the body to guard the door against the LUUciferians.”

So did the UUA throw dozens of thriving UU-based independent groups into disarray to avoid having to deal with UU polyamorists (or large churches against such practices leaving the UUA)? I doubt we’ll get a clear answer soon, but it is the only theory that has gained any traction since the new policy took place, and the resulting chaos and controversy certainly won’t help organize the former IAs into action against these changes. But one thing is for certain, the Unitarian Universalists for Polyamory Awareness have certainly archived their goal of greater “awareness”, but perhaps not in the manner they expected.

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • Steve Caldwell

    I’ve written about this on my blog:Speculation on UUA Independent Affiliate Decisionshttp://liberalfaith.blogspot.com/2007/06/speculation-on-uua-independent.htmlPart of my speculation about the decision to reduce the number of affiliate groups is that it is in some ways analogous to the actions taken by public school administrators when faced with the decision to permit gay-straight alliances (GSAs) to form as clubs in public schools.Some schools have decided to elimiate non-curricular clubs since the legal alternatives are to allow all clubs or no clubs. US law requires fairness in giving all non-curricular clubs access to schools (the law’s intended effect was to allow Bible clubs to meet after school).As Unitarian Universalists, we don’t have a law requiring fairness in who can and cannot be an affiliate. But we do have fairness as a religious principle.My speculation has been the Independent Affiliate rules have changed because our dedication to fairness would give us no way to say “no” without appearing arbitrary and unfair.With school GSAs, an unfortunate side-effect of banning all clubs is that some students blame BGLT students and their allies as the cause for the ski club and chess club going away.I would hate to see other Independent Affiliate supporters lay any blame at the feet of the UUPA for these recent events.It’s not wrong for people to ask for a metaphorical place at the table. If asking for a place at the table causes for the table to be taken away, that isn’t a fault of the person(s) asking to join the table.

  • Rev Cindi

    So am I understanding that UU Pagan groups would be unaccepted? I was looking to visit our local UU church purely because of their acceptance. Should I reconsider this? Would love your opinion on the matter.

  • Jason Pitzl-Waters

    Cindi,UU churches should as welcoming as ever, its just that the CUUPs organization (along with every other theologically focused affiliate group) is no longer an “affiliate” of the UUA. But that shouldn’t be taken as a sign of hostility towards Pagans. I say, visit!

  • Robin Edgar

    Maybe instead of endlessly speculating about whether or not the desire of polyamorists to “affiliate” with the UUA caused the UUA Board of Trustees to distance itself from ALL affiliated groups U*Us should enter into a genuinely free and responsible search for the truth and meaning behind the reason(s) why the UUA Board acted the way it did. Surely U*Us can write letters to UUA administrators and UUA Trustees requesting an explanation of why they did what they did. I guess the most telling part about all this speculatiojn is the fact that no shortage of U*Us wouldn’t put it past the UUA Board of Trustees to distance the UUA from ALL UUA affiliate groups in order to distance itself from a single affiliate group. What does that say about the UUA and U*U distrust of the UUA?

  • birthingjourney

    “UU churches should as welcoming as ever, its just that the CUUPs organization (along with every other theologically focused affiliate group) is no longer an “affiliate” of the UUA. But that shouldn’t be taken as a sign of hostility towards Pagans. I say, visit!”I have been reading the posts regarding polamory on LT’s blog and others. As a polyamorist, I feel the attitude of the UU’s from the exclusionary action of the IA’s to the downright hostility of ministers and UU commenters makes me feel that perhaps UU churches are not as welcoming as the would like to think.

  • Lance

    I’ve been following this discussion since it erupted before GA. At this point, I’m not convinced there is an ulterior motive to the Board’s actions. The “block UUPA from becoming an IA” theory is attractive and is getting lots of discussion, but we don’t have anything concrete to substantiate it.I spoke with Gini Courter at GA about the Board’s decisions and how it effects CUUPS. I did not get any feeling from her that there is any hidden motive or that UUPA looming on the horizon wanting to become an Independent Affiliate spooked the Board into such a drastic response.I sincerely hope the Board speaks out more and clarifies the situation with the IAs.

  • Bill Baldwin

    I’ve been poly since about 1975, Unitarian Universalist since 1976, Pagan since 1980.Gee, I hope this isn’t all happening because the UUA is afraid of polys!I don’t see that anything in Unitarian Universalism requires UUs to practice monogamy — or forbids us practicing polyamory if we respect the dignity and worth of our significant others.

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