SUMMIT, NJ - Summit's Beacon Unitarian Universalist Congregation (Beacon UU) adopted an 8th Principle at its annual meeting on June 28, committing members to work to dismantle racism. The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), the umbrella association of Universalist Unitarian congregations in the United States, will likely adopt the Principle as well during next year's General Assembly*.

The 8th Principle affirms and promotes “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.”

The UUA adopted Seven Principles in 1985 as a faith movement covenant. The 8th Principle will join the other statements of UU shared values, which are seen as dynamic and subject to change over the years.Beacon co-minister Reverend Dr. Robin Tanner said that “by joining with other leading UU congregations across the country, we hope to convince our denomination to add these 8th Principle pledges to our core set of practices. This Principle goes to the heart of our mission -- to be radically inclusive, to feed the human spirit and heal the world.”

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Beacon UU has been actively involved in racial justice for at least 13 years. In 2007-08, a group of Beacon members participated in a year-long UU anti-racism curriculum, 'Building the World We Dream About'.  Shortly thereafter, the 'Racial Justice Task Force' was formed, with an active commitment to affordable housing in Summit. In 2010, the congregation began an annual celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday with readings from his speeches, in collaboration with clergy and members of Pilgrim Baptist Church in Summit.

In 2013, Beacon brought in an anti-racism facilitator training program developed and led by Dr. Mark Hicks of Meadville-Lombard Theological Seminary. More than a dozen members participated. Afterward, these trained facilitators offered the Beloved Conversations curriculum to the congregation for the next several years.

In 2014, horrified by the deaths of Mike Brown and too many other Black men and women at the hands of police, a reconfigured Racial Justice Team crafted a congregational statement to affirm that Black Lives Matter. In the Spring of 2016, the Congregation voted unanimously to take this stand. The statement includes a commitment to ongoing education and to taking actions to address structural racism.

In September 2016, Beacon -- in partnership with Summit's Fountain Baptist Church -- raised Black Lives Matter banners on our respective congregational buildings. More than 400 members and friends marched through Summit, ending at Beacon for a shared celebration.

Since then, the team has worked to engage Beacon members and the larger community with initiatives of anti-racism education and action. Beacon was one of the leaders when the Summit Interfaith Council’s Anti-Racism Committee developed a series of interracial, facilitated Dialogue Circles on Race, open to all members of the Summit community. More than 400 residents of the Summit area have participated to date in the Dialogues, aimed at promoting honest conversations about what is often an uncomfortable topic.

In 2019, the Racial Justice Team developed a process for taking the pulse of the Beacon community with regard to our individual journeys toward spiritual wholeness based in anti-racism. Members of the team are inviting Beacon community members into dialogue about the meaning of “radical inclusion,” a key plank in Beacon’s mission, as well as the steps we can take to dismantle racism and become a Beloved Community.  

The UUA's Seven Principles affirm and promote:

The inherent worth and dignity of every person;

Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;

Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth;

A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;

The right of conscience and use of the democratic process;

The goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all; and

Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

The movement for an 8th Principle developed in response to issues related to hiring practices within the UUA that came to light in 2017. As a result, Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism (BLUU) and Diverse and Revolutionary UU Multicultural Ministries (DRUMM) proposed an 8th Principle for adoption by the UUA to explicitly hold UUs accountable for addressing racism and other oppressions. 

Beacon and other UU congregations, including the UU Church at Washington Crossing in Titusville, have taken the early proactive step of adopting the 8th Principle to show support for the proposal and as a direct expression of their commitment to its terms.

*Editor's Note: This article has been amended to reflect that, while Beacon UU in Summit has adopted the 8th Principle, the UUA has yet to formally adopt it, but is expected to at its next General Assembly.