Delegates at the 2012 General Assembly in Phoenix, held June 20–24, approved a change to the UUA bylaws that was requested by the UUA Board of Trustees. The change relates to how congregations are referred to, and it opens the way for the creation of congregations that are not tied to a particular location.
Delegates approved changing all bylaw references to “churches and fellowships.” That phrase will be replaced throughout the bylaws with “congregations.” In addition, the word “local” will be dropped in bylaws in reference to congregations.
The Rev. Dr. Susan Ritchie, the UUA trustee who introduced the amendment at GA, said that removing “local” will support the creation of congregations that are not based in a particular building or location, such as the Church of the Larger Fellowship, which meets online and at GA. “We can gather as intentional religious community with people we do not share a particular geography with,” Ritchie said. “The board believes it serves the cause of justice to expand the definition of congregations.”
The term “congregation” is also more welcoming to many Jewish UUs than “church.” Congregations may, of course, continue to use whatever name they choose. The bylaws change simply changes how the UUA refers to congregations and provides space for the creation of other types of congregations. Youth and young adults have been especially supportive of the creation of non-traditional congregations.