The 2017 UK Unitarian General Assembly – Report

The 2017 UK Unitarians General Assembly took place between 10-13 April in the Hilton Metropole Hotel,Birmingham. Louise Reeve attended as the representative for the Newcastle Unitarian Church, accompanied by several members of the Stockton-on-Tees Unitarian Churc, and wrote up the following report for the church congregation. The video below summarises this:

The Plenaries

Once more, it was great to spend three days in the company of other Unitarians, many of whom I know from last year and from their visiting our church. It was especially good to parade the Newcastle Unitarian banner on the first day!

As the church representative, I attended all seven plenary sessions. The plenaries have several purposes: allowing attendees to hear the annual reports of all the various strategy groups (Youth Strategy Group, Visibility Strategy Group, and so forth). Several motions were put to the vote at the plenaries, and I am grateful to the Newcastle Church Management Committee and members for valuable discussions about which way we wanted to vote. A quick summary of the three motions debated (other motions related to more procedural matters were passed on a general aye):



Name Comments Results
1. Rev. Cliff Redd That this General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches recognises the considerable contribution of Rev. Cliff Reed to the Unitarian cause worldwide by naming him as an Honorary Member. Passed
2 The Format of Future General Assembly Meeting (Executive Committee) That this General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches supports changes to the length and format of the Annual Meetings [as set out in report AGM 13/17] and therefore requests the Executive Committee and Annual Meetings Panel to bring forward proposals to the next Annual Meetings, including any amendments to the Constitution and By-laws, to enable such changes to take place for future Annual Meetings. Passed
Emergency Motion Climate Change (Stockton Unitarian Church) That this General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches deplores the harsh and degrading treatment of County Durham resident Irene Clennell on 26 February 2017 when she was taken away from her husband and family by the UK Border Agency, held in Dungavel immigration removal centre and then deported to Singapore in the most humiliating manner. We call upon the government to:

1.    Immediately reinstate Irene Clennell’s indefinite leave to remain in the UK to permit her to return to her husband and family in County Durham.

2.    Cease the practice of using obscure technical issues to deport people whom have long been fully integrated into British families, thereby subjecting them and their family members to extreme anguish and distress.

3.    Instruct the UK Border Agency to treat persons subjected to deportation with the utmost care, dignity and respect.


The full details of these motions, and the background to them, are available online, or I can provide a copy. The final session ended with the investiture of our new GA President, Rev. Charles VanDenBroeder


The Workshops

I found the workshops to be extremely helpful, perhaps the most valuable part of the GA for me personally. They allow attendees a chance to hear from the various strategy groups and UK Unitarian organisations, including the Lessons Learned sessions from new Unitarian Fellowships such as New Unity and Derby Unity, Visibility Group and the Congregational Website project, the Web Project “Space to Search”, Executive Committee – Next Steps, From Vision To Action, and the Lifelong Learning and Development Project. I also took the opportunity to purchase some new Unitarian books for the church from the well-stocked bookshop, and keep up on the events I was missing via the invaluable “GA Zette” daily news digest, produced by a team of keen young Unitarians.


The Worship and Evening Sessions

Worship sessions consisted of morning worship, the evening sessions, and Peace Vespers at the end of each day. Monday evening ended with the opening service – a fascinating service on the topic of Unitarianism in Wales – Tuesday with the social evening, and Friday with the anniversary service.