Process or Love? — A Reflection on Article II

Adam Lawrence Dyer
6 min readJun 20, 2024


I’m wading in…

Mostly because I have brought up the concern about Unitarian Universalist values and specifically the Seven Principles having no reflection of “love” since I first started seminary in 2012. I’ve been yammering on about it ever since. I’ve consistently preached about this deficiency and ministered from a place of needing to address what feels to me like an emotional vacuum.

While I have great respect for the individuals of the Commission, their intellect, their labor and intentions, from my perspective, Article II still misses the mark. To be clear, this is not about their work as much as it is about the structure of Unitarian Universalism. For the uninitiated: “Article II of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Bylaws, Principles and Purposes, is the foundation for all of the work of our UUA and its member congregations and covenanted communities”[ 1]. Article II contains the Seven Principles and Six Sources and according to the provision for amending the bylaws (ARTICLE XV Section C-15.1. Amendment of Bylaws — 6) the Association is due for an update. The update in graphic form looks like this, with love at the center:

Yes, this is pretty, but I wonder if in this ambitious project, Unitarian Universalists may have missed the opportunity to think deeply or wrestle with what we truly mean by “love”. Are Unitarian Universalists afraid of love? The parallel that comes to mind is the UU approach to racial justice where we are very good at and quick to point out what whiteness in the world (supremacy, exclusivity, historical oppression, etc.) but we are less willing to unpack what whiteness .

As for Article II, “love” feels like a bystander. There is a sweeping assumption here that everyone shares a common understanding of what love is. This is far from the case. The current rework of “values” seeks to literally center love within 6 distinct values: Justice, Equity, Transformation, Pluralism, Interdependence, and G enerosity. Creatively, Unitarian Universalist Religious Educators have adopted “Jet Pig” (the first letter of each value) as an acronym to teach and operationalize the newly organized values. But what about accountability? Where is loyalty? Where is repair? What about forgiveness? What about ingenuity and understanding? The properties that Jet Pig names are all well and good if you live in a world where you don’t have to actively fight for your identity every day; where you aren’t struggling to eat; where you don’t have to argue with the government to get them to understand that someone really does need access to Medicaid…or that you are a whole and legitimate human being. With all due respect, love, that is, the real world love that is necessary for an intentional community that is committed to one another through the real struggles of human life, must have more muscle than plush toys, platitudes, slogans and songs.

Starting with governance, and not trusting love as an organizing principle unto itself bows to the very “white supremacy culture” that UUs say they are determined to dismantle.

What is Needed

Because of the complexity, and frankly the real lived importance of love, I firmly believe that the bylaws are the wrong place for what Unitarian Universalism requires in this crucial moment. What UUs need in order to be the transformational place that our rhetoric says we are, is to make the statement of our values a stand alone commitment. Having principles, values, or whatever as part of the bylaws prioritizes democratic process over content…and THIS is the problem. Bylaws are a bit like Roberts Rules that way; they tell you how to do things regardless of what is being done. But shouldn’t what Unitarian Universalists do first and foremost be love? Shouldn’t the bylaws be created ? Are we saving lives or running meetings? A community needs for things to be in a different priority order than we currently have them. We can’t place love at the center after cherry picking what we think is non-offending and lofty enough for everyone to agree on. Love needs to point the way toward everything we do…including creating bylaws.

S tarting with governance, and not trusting love as an organizing principle unto itself bows to the very “white supremacy culture” that UUs say they are determined to dismantle. The organizational commitment to bylaws and process structures goes directly back to the 1961 merger and the focus on documentation, committees and legalities. Historically it goes back further. One, if not the most important value to proto Unitarians and Universalists who largely came from places of privilege and or cultural homogeneity was “liberty”. “Liberal religion” was always first about the individual right to an expression of belief. The resistance to coercion and having the tools to resist that coercion runs deep. But in a modern and truly diverse world, individual liberty is only one concern. By sublimating our values to the structure of bylaws, we are challenged to hold love as a functional overarching priority. Instead, individual rights and expressions of freedom emerge as a true Unitarian Universalist creed.

Recently, Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL) made statements that claimed that black people during Jim Crow held stronger more conservative aligned values which he claims was a good thing. Regardless of what one may think of black conservatives, this repackaging of violent history requires a response. Outside of the fact that black people were blocked from voting because of Jim Crow policies (oh the irony!) he and the rest of his cronies like Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) are invested in rewriting black history to tell black conservatives that “really…pre-Civil Rights Movement racism wasn’t that bad” and “we overcame!” They are willing to trade on the lives of the people who died for the right to vote, the right to be housed, the right to education, the right to not be raped and the right to not be lynched simply to put a someone who has shown himself to be a dangerous bigot in the white house. How does Jet Pig respond to that?

In addition to the Article II Commission members, I have immense respect for Unitarian Universalist Religious Educators. Religious Educators are asked to carry the maximum burden of laying moral building blocks for our culture while being provided with the minimum tools and often the minimum of pay and resources (something in dire need of correction). I am beholden to them for being willing to literally put lipstick on a pig, but we can and must do better for and by them. By doing better for Religious Education in Unitarian Universalism, we will do better for all of us. Religious Educators have been saying for years that we need a stronger statement and position on our moral and ethical positions as part of what we teach. Why not listen to them and just do it as opposed to forcing them to once again, be the most creative people in our communities with the least amount of support because of our fetish for bureaucracy.

Unitarian Universalists have the opportunity to do something no other faith community does: we can start with a “Statement of Love”. Because we are not bound by creed, doctrine or dogma, we can put love FIRST…not at the center, not at the side but FIRST. Love can be our motivation and our destination. But that will require talking about love, wrestling with what love expressed in the lived actions and felt hearts of a truly diverse world actually means. This is the tough work ahead of Unitarian Universalists. It is a challenge that cannot sit comfortably on its long held assumptions about individual liberty. Considering what the world currently is, and what some would like it to become (see Project 2025), it may be the most important call to action that we have ever received. The time is now. My only worry is that we will be too averse to the messiness of actually loving one another and too tied up in the process of processes to answer the call.


Originally published at on June 20, 2024.