Reflecting on the 8th Principle and Opportunities for Growth

Evan Wilson, 8th Principle Task Force

chalice image for 8th principle

At the end of January, Paula Cole Jones joined us over zoom to lead a workshop. She offered insights and led reflection on the 8th principle, which is shared below:

We covenant to affirm and promote 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.

Paula, one of the founders of the 8th principle movement, reminded us that the history of social hierarchy has prevented us from fully embracing one another and that it takes spiritual energy to come to terms with this reality.

While action is important to drive change, words can also inspire and direct us to do work that is necessary. The 8th principle forces us to examine how our UU values can expand in order to address the longstanding reality and legacies of oppression. This is not new for us as UUs, since our principles have not remained static over time. Just as feminism drove changes to the UU principles for more gender inclusion, UUs across the country are adding the 8th principle to their guiding values. The Unitarian Universalist Association committed to becoming an anti-racist organization nearly 25 years ago and the 8th principle movement began in 2013. Today, 233 congregations have adopted the 8th principle, with the majority of congregations coming after 2021, following the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement and the killing of George Floyd. 

The efforts across the US to adopt the 8th principle, along with denomination-wide review of our principles demonstrates a willingness to see a future of possibility of beloved community. Coming to terms with the reality of racism and oppression brings us to consider adding the 8th principle to the guiding values of our congregation. 

Paula highlighted 4 major shifts to help us think about building a culture of inclusion:

  1. Moving from 7 UU principles to 8 UU principles
  2. Moving from a dominant cultural paradigm to a multicultural paradigm
  3. Thinking of church as a community of communities as compared to a family
  4. Commiting to reconciliation as a leadership competency instead of being conflict avoidant

Embracing these shifts, she argued, can be the source of spiritual awakening and revitalization for Unitarian Universalism. For people seeking a liberal progressive faith, the 8th principle might serve as the welcoming they didn’t know they were looking for. In addition to reflecting on the 8th principle, we also discussed in small groups how our understanding of the existing 7 UU principles had changed in light of what we had discussed. 

At the upcoming annual meeting, the UUCW community will have the opportunity to add the 8th principle to our own UU values. The 8th principle offers us ongoing reminders of the need to put our faith into action. We invite you to continue your commitment to learning, reflection, and action in line with anti-racist and anti-oppressive values outlined in the 8th principle. 

See below for a range of opportunities here at UUCW:

  • Film Screening & Discussion – Saturday, April 1st – 6:30-8:30pm @ UUCW, Fellowship Hall
    • Join us for film screening and discussion
    • Screening of the documentary film, “I, Too” which looks at the January 6th insurrection alongside other white supremacist insurrections in America’s history, calling us to reflect on our true understanding of the past, present, and future possibilities.
    • More information about the film can be found here
  • Share your celebrations and commitments – Throughout the year, the 8th principle task force will host gatherings to learn, but also track our ongoing work towards our anti-racist and anti-oppressive commitment. Share your own work or that of a group at UUCW. 
  • Looking for tips and suggestions for you or your group at UUCW on how to incorporate the 8th principle into your work? Review UUCW’s 8th Principle Toolkit

~The UUCW 8th Principle Taskforce – Rachel Keyo, Mara Pentlarge, Dave Schowalter, Karen Stephenson, and Evan Wilson