Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Candidate Statement

Why I am running for election? 

    

Unitarian Universalism has been my religious home for fifteen years. I have always felt a sense of welcome and belonging among diverse groups, and I cannot think of a more religiously diverse denomination than UUism. Our faith has always encouraged us to do good work in love and in freedom. 

But, like many UUs, I am grieved to see the direction our UU leadership has taken in the past several years. The UUA has gone from being an organization that supports its member congregations in our liberal religious work, to a highly centralized and insular group, disengaged from individual congregations, and disturbing in its dogmatism. 

This departure from the heritage roots of our denomination has brought such distress that sometimes I wondered if I should leave the church; however, I cherish my home congregation, the UU Church of Rutland, Vermont. That love fills me with a fierce determination, and I want to bring that sense of purpose to the UUA Board of Trustees. I believe in our Seven Principles, and I will do everything I can to uphold and preserve them.

My position

     The three principles that I most wish to protect are the first, fourth, and fifth: the inherent worth and dignity of every person, a free and responsible search for truth and meaning, and the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process. These principles, particularly dear to me, are also the ones that I see being abandoned by the UUA. 
 
For the past several years, the UU World and the UUA website have been telling UUs what to think and how to act, which I believe has no place in a free church. As a Trustee I will do all I can to preserve and promote scientific processes and diversity of thought within our congregations and UU leadership. 
 
To this end, I believe denominational decision-making authority should be returned to our congregations, and I will sponsor the conversation to end the current regional organizational structure and reconstitute our congregation-led district structure. Also, the recommendations of the 2009 Report by the Fifth Principle Task Force should be revisited. Using these strategies to bolster democracy in our denomination will promote a clearer, more direct relationship between UU leadership and Unitarian Universalists as a whole, and will provide a more robust structure for the UUA to fulfill its role as a supporter of congregations.

My background

    I have many years of experience with the democratic process, both as a church trustee and as an elected official, serving four years on the city council of Rutland, Vermont. As a city council member, I learned to listen to all parties with care and empathy, including my opponents. I worked to build an environment that was no longer “us vs. them” but just “us.” We engaged in constructive debate, did our best to meet the needs of all - never perfectly of course, but often successfully. 
 
I believe that diversity of thought is any group’s greatest strength. UUism was built on the foundation of free thought, and I aim to do all I can to keep us there. Thank you very much for your consideration.
 
 

Attend a "Meet the Candidate" Townhall Meeting 

Follow this link to get dates and register for townhall meetings. 

 

Donate to Campaign

Follow this link to get information on how you can contribute to my campaign.

Dogmatic and Authoritarian?

I have been asked to explain why I say that the UUA has taken a dogmatic and authoritarian turn.

At least six ministers/lay ministers I know of have been disfellowshipped, censured, unseated, or otherwise sanctioned for sharing their opinions in the past five years. These opinions are nothing extreme, in fact represent views that are quite common among UUs. Most UUs of my acquaintance may not agree with everything (or even anything!) these ministers have said, but they still believe in their right to speak their conscience. There are a variety of philosophies that are under discussion these days, for example, questions of whether speech is violence, whether we should treat each other differently based upon various identity labels, etc., along with all manner of questions around political and social policy. These ideas are important and should be discussed freely, without threat of punishment.

My campaign has two main areas of focus: improving democracy in the UUA and improving diversity of thought within the UUA. The fact that for over a decade, only a single UUA Trustee has been subject to voter choice between two candidates, is a situation that I claim is not very good democracy. The fact that ministers are being punished for stating their philosophical and political views is a situation that I claim is a direct attack on freedom of conscience. This is what my campaign boils down to. 

I recently sent an email (see "Newsletter Insert" below) to every UU congregation, asking them to put a notice in their newsletters about my campaign for Trustee. I believe it is newsworthy that there is a real election at GA this year for two Trustee seats. Some said "yes," some said "no," some probably just ignored my request ... all well and good. However, I also received this email: 

"Rebecca,You recently contacted the office administrator at my congregation, _________ UU, with a request to put your ad in our newsletter. I want you to know that our congregation supports the marginalized in our community and fully believes in the direction our UUA is leading us towards a world that is more just, equitable, and compassionate.  We do not believe in your fake and thinly veiled platform of hate and exclusion. I will say this directly, do not contact my congregation again for this or for any other reason.

Warmly,

Rev. ___________ "

 

This is an example of what I mean by dogmatism and authoritarianism. 




Thursday, May 5, 2022

Who Am I?

 

Candidate Biography

I have been a Unitarian Universalist for fifteen years. I am a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Rutland and have served on our board of trustees for six years. I've been active within my church throughout my membership, and am especially proud of the work I and my congregation did to welcome Syrian refugees to our city in 2016-2017. 

I recently completed four years’ service on the city council of Rutland, Vermont, where I earned the respect of my fellow public servants on both sides of the political aisle for my principled discussion, listening skills, thoughtful attention to facts and due process, and ability to help craft solutions to complicated problems by attending to the needs of all. 

I am currently the chair of the Rutland City Planning Commission, overseeing the complete rewrite of the zoning bylaws of the city. In this work, I have made sure that people with varied and opposing views are at the table, because I know that creating good policy depends upon incorporating the input of diverse representatives of the community. 

I was a teacher for many years, including five years teaching middle school math, and I currently volunteer, teaching English to asylum seekers and refugees from Central America and Afghanistan. I sing in the church choir, give occasional sermons, and enjoy hiking, writing, and playing the ukulele.

Why am I running?

 

Why I am running for election? 

I cherish Unitarian Universalism. I love my home congregation, our Seven Principles, and the sense of freedom and belonging I feel as a member of the denomination.

But our liberal church has taken a dogmatic and authoritarian turn. Every time I open the pages of the UU World or receive an email from the UUA, I am being told how I should think and what I must do. 

As an everyday UU, I feel abandoned by the UUA. It is supposed to be an organization that supports member congregations, but increasingly it seems to be trying to turn itself into our only source of moral authority.

I am running because I believe I have something to offer to all UUs and to the UUA in its proper role. I have experience with the democratic process as an elected official and public servant. Someone has to stand up for what is right, and I am willing and able to be that person!

My Position

My Position

I want the UUA to be an organization that is truly diverse, which includes diversity of thought. I want it to have a closer, more supportive relationship with member congregations. I want it to be a paragon of the democratic process. I want it to be an exemplar of liberal religion, in which diverse people exist in a community of love, service, and freedom.

The three principles that I most wish to protect are the first, fourth, and fifth: the inherent worth and dignity of every person, a free and responsible search for truth and meaning, and the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process. I believe the UUA has lately ignored, abandoned, and even sometimes attacked these principles.  

As a Trustee I will do all I can to preserve and promote scientific processes and freedom of conscience within our congregations and UU leadership. I will do all I can to foster the relationship between everyday UUs and the UUA. To this end, I believe denominational decision-making authority should be returned to our congregations, and I will sponsor the conversation to end the current regional organizational structure and reconstitute our congregation-led district structure. I will also revisit all of the recommendations of the 2009 Fifth Principle Task Force report.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Newsletter Insert

Dear Newsletter Editor,

We, Rebecca Mattis and Beverly Seese, are requesting that you publish the announcement below in your congregational newsletter to inform your members and General Assembly delegates that there is an actual election for UUA Board members at this year’s Portland General Assembly. This election is required since we petitioned to have our names placed on the ballot to provide delegates an opportunity to participate in the selection of our UU leaders.

 

Announcement of Elections at General Assembly

At this year’s General Assembly in Portland, Oregon, delegates will be given the opportunity to vote on candidates to serve on the UUA Board of Trustees. We, Rebecca Mattis and Beverly Seese, petitioned to be placed on the ballot providing delegates a choice on who will serve as future UU leaders.

Please visit our personal campaign websites, RebeccaMattisUU.Blogspot.com and BeverlySeeseUU.Blogspot.com to learn about our backgrounds and campaign platforms.

We have arranged to hold three Meet the Candidates Townhall meetings on May 18, May 25, and June 2.  Details can be found on our campaign websites.

Delegate voting opens June 1.  We encourage you to become informed voters and live into our Fifth Principle, the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large.