Knoxville congregation commits to dismantling racism

Unitarian mission includes “working to build a diverse multicultural Beloved Community.”
Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church adopts The 8th Principle for dismantling racism...
Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church adopts The 8th Principle for dismantling racism in society.(wvlt)
Published: Jul. 2, 2021 at 8:10 AM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - A Knoxville congregation with a long history of inclusion is taking another step to more actively show its support for diversity.

The Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church has voted to add The Eighth Principle to its Seven Principles of Unitarian Universalism. It states, “We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote: 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 Reverend Jametta Alston explained that the congregation is committing to more than lip service about diversity, but will be finding ways to implement diversity and dismantle racism in everyday life. She said the principal means, “I will work on this. And so that’s the difference. The difference is that you could pretend or even half-heartedly, or even say ‘I do it’ and do nothing. This one demands that you change.”

Alston said an everyday example that she and Senior Minister Chris Buice have used is, “When you’re at your Thanksgiving dinner, and your uncle says something that’s outrageously racist, you have an obligation to turn to him and say, ‘I don’t believe that’ or ‘that is not acceptable’ and go from there.”

The ministers say they are working on adding new diversity programming to church activities in order to help the congregation move toward ways of living out The Eighth Principle.

A plaque outside the entrance to the church on Kingston Pike tells the story of the church integrating in 1950, being one of the first in the area to do so. The story tells of Jim Person, who as an African-American, asked a greeter if the door sign reading “Everyone Welcome” included him. This prompted the church to invite Mr. Person in, where he eventually became a church member.

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