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Introduction to “Polity among the UUs,” by Peter Raible

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Polity relates to our governance, that is, how we are organized. Among Unitarians and Universalists, however, that clear parameter quickly becomes permeable, for so much seems to relate to horn we mew our polity. Polity is not theology, but belief issues affect church organization. Polity is not history, but how we govern our churches §rows out of an historical content. Polity is not “how to do ministry” but clerics cannot work effectively without understanding the strictures of governance under which they labor.

No wonder that so many polity courses become a catch-all for the study of rites of passage, history, theological issues, and even ministerial candidating.  In many schools not related to the Unitarian Universalist movement, the UU polity course may well be the only strictly UU course.  In such circumstance, the polity instructor will undoubtedly have to grapple with many matters, which are not in the strict sense polity.

The hope which prompts this document is that making many presently difficult to discover documents readily available, instructors will be able to share a ready resource with students and thus find it easier to illucidate vital matters relating to our governance. In a few cases, where documents should be readily available, the texts are not included.

Each document is introduced briefly, usually with a few key questions that might provoke discussion. Materials are organized generally, but set strictly, by time periods. Some articles do not fit into a particular time slot, so they have simply been placed where the editor thinks the material integrates best. The tent is divided into ten sections, which can easily be expanded, if there are a greater number of sections in a course. Instructors mill, of course, assign materials as they believe works best and they may well wish to cut out certain readings.

This work has required the effort and help of many persons. I acknowledge those co-editors elsewhere by name; here I simply underline anew my gratefulness.

Peter Raible
March, 1992