Wow! In light of my The Emerson Avenger blog post about the inhuman indifference of many Unitarian*Universalist U*Us to victims of clergy misconduct and other U*U injustices and abuses posted earlier tonight, the following blog post of an 'An Open Letter About Clergy Sexual Misconduct to the UUA Presidential Candidates' addressed to Rev. Dr. Laurel Hallman and Rev. Peter Morales and publicly posted to the FUUN blog of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashville, Tennessee is really quite serendipitous, almost an online synchronicity of sorts. I had been planning to draft a letter addressed to both candidates asking similar questions myself. For now I will cross-post this Open Letter About Clergy Sexual Misconduct verbatim here so that more people get to see it and hopefully read it.
I will later post my take on it and draw up my own follow-up letter about clergy misconduct of all kinds, not just clergy sexual misconduct, and inquiring what Rev. Dr. Laurel Hallman and Rev. Peter Morales intend to do in terms of providing restorative justice to all victims of clergy misconduct perpetrated by U*U ministers and perpetuated by the negligence and complicity of the congregations they serve and/or the UUA. I am very glad to see that the Denominational Affairs Committee of First Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashville has written this letter and posted it publicly, thus making UUA handling of clergy sexual misconduct, to say nothing on non-sexual forms of clergy misconduct, a 2009 UUA Presidential campaign issue as I had intended to do myself. . . I for one look forward to seeing how UUA Presidential Candidates Rev. Dr. Laurel Hallman and Rev. Peter Morales respond to the issues raised and the questions asked in this important Open Letter. I posting this Open Letter now but may add more about my take on it to this blog post later -
An Open Letter About Clergy Sexual Misconduct to the UUA Presidential Candidates
Posted in Denominational Affairs at 5:32 pm by Comm Comm
March 25, 2009
Rev. Dr. Laurel Hallman Submitted on the contact form on hallmanforuuapresident.com; and 4015 Normandy Ave. Dallas, TX 75205
Rev. Peter Morales By email to email@example.com; and Morales for UUA President 15321 W 66th Pl. Arvada, CO 80007
Dear Rev. Morales and Rev. Hallman,
We write to you in the spirit of enhancing the democratic process in our Association in regard to the presidential election at General Assembly in June. We hope to learn from both of you what your positions are on issues of vital importance, helping ourselves and others be fully informed on these issues.
First, let us give you some background. As the Denominational Affairs Committee of First Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashville, we are some of the individuals in our congregation most involved with the Mid-South District (past and present officers) and the UUA (including members of the GA Planning and Volunteer Committees and the 1998 - 2000 Safe Congregations Panel, also known as the Muir Panel), as well as having four past presidents and many present and past board members of the congregation. It is our role to be a conduit for information between the congregation, the District and the UUA. As this matter concerns the election for president of the UUA, it falls in our sphere.
Our questions have to do with how you will provide leadership around the issue of clergy sexual misconduct. Before we get to the questions, we would like to say why we believe this is an important issue for you to address. We know this is a difficult topic. Because of our congregation’s history, we know that as deeply as any church in the Association. We also know that, just as with other types of abuse, silence is a large part of the pattern and that silence often endangers more victims, impeding both justice and healing. So, even though it is a difficult topic, it must be broached for the truth to come out and progress to be made.
Also, because of the structure of the Association and congregational polity, the areas of giving credentials to ministers and deciding when to take them away are unusual in being ones in which the UUA, through the staff led by the President, the board and the Ministerial Fellowship Committee, actually has the authority to take these actions. In this area, it is not a matter of the office of the UUA president being a bully pulpit or providing support to congregations or advocating for the issues we care about in the wider world; this is an area where one of you, together with your staff will be making decisions that determine the process in which the UUA deals with these issues, which in turn is likely to affect the outcome of the cases. We recognize that the MFC actually makes the final decisions.
You probably know that the UUA established a panel chaired by Rev. Frederic Muir that in 2000 made its report to the UUA entitled “Restorative Justice for All.” That document is still on the UUA web site. The panel made 13 recommendations of actions for the UUA. Many of them have never been carried out by the current administration. Others were only partially put in place.
Our first question to you is: if you are elected, will you carry out all 13 of the recommendations of that report? If so, on what time frame? If not, what will you do instead, with input from whom?
Secondly, is there anything else your administration will do to provide support and ministry both to victims of UUA clergy misconduct and to the congregations disrupted by it, and to decrease the likelihood of future misconduct?
To help others who are concerned about this issue, we will be posting this letter on our church web site, and we hope to post your responses there as well. We like to think of this as a small step in breaking the silence and hope you will join us in the effort. We hope that you will be able to either reply to us within a month or let us know when we can expect to hear from you. It occurs to us that at some point down the road if we have not heard from you, we may have to assume we will not be getting an answer, and we would rather not have to make that assumption.
We would like to thank you for the time you take in thinking about these issues and formulating your position. We believe the Association will benefit from your having done that.
The Denominational Affairs Committee of First Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashville, Tennessee
This time it is corpse-cold Unitarian*Universalist U*U Rev. Scott Wells who says the following on the 'Who I’m backing for UUA President' blog post of his 'Boy In The Bands' blog -
I think Dan Harper is absolutely correct in his take on the UUA presidential race. . . If given a choice, I suppose I would vote for Morales. I don’t, however, have a vote. Neither am I all that enthralled in the process.
With "friends" and "supporters" like Rev. Daniel Harper and Rev. Scott Wells, UUA Presidential candidate Rev. Peter Morales sure doesn't need any enemies. . .
Some time ago the idea of a co-Presidency of the UUA with both Rev. Dr. Laurel Hallman and Rev. Peter Morales briefly flitted through my mind but I did not give it too much serious thought because it just seemed unrealistic and impractical. Somewhat later, it occurred to me that the runner-up in the UUA Presidential s*elections *could*, and perhaps should, get the proverbial "consolation prize" of replacing Kathleen Montgomery as the Executive Vice President of the UUA. I don't know a lot about Kathleen Montgomery, she seems to keep a rather low profile, but regardless of how competent or indeed incompetent she may be in her role as Executive Vice President of the UUA *I* think that she has held that position for a bit too long for anyone in a genuinely *democratic* religious community. So I am formally proposing that when the UUA Presidential election has been decided in June that the person who is s*elected as UUA President and the UUA Board of Trustees give very serious consideration to giving the job of Executive Vice President to the hopefully not so sore loser of the UUA Presidential s*election campaign. In fact I think that they should be given that position unless a) they have no interest in being the Chief Operating Officer of the UUA aka UUA COO or b) there are some compelling reasons for not making them Executive Vice President of the UUA.
Morales - I would want to be the CEO, and that’s the way I have worked a great deal of my life. (Editor's note: Bear with me. . .) And if one were to look at my track record in government and in publishing and right now in my own congregation, I am relentlessly collaborative. I mean, I make sure that everyone who has a stake in a decision, gets input into it. I seek consensus. I also try to make sure that people who don’t belong at the table don’t have to suffer through meetings where they have nothing, where they don’t have a dog in that fight, because I’ve spent too many of my own hours doing that. But you make much better decisions when they’re collaborative. It’s a matter of input, but accountability is about, I think, the CEO being held accountable. (Editor's note: Gotta love that bit. No U*Us?) The executive vice president, yeah, especially given how much of the presidency has been, and I think will be and needs to be, dealing with the external. The UUA needs in the corporate world what would be called a chief operating officer.
Hallman: I would want to (sic) COO, to clarify that as well. And collaboration has, I just want to also be very clear about the fact, that collaboration isn’t necessarily consensus. We have a strange understanding of consensus, I believe, which is not, we take it from the Quakers but we don’t take their whole spiritual and their disciplined way of going about it. And so I want to make sure that we don’t, that you don’t hear that I’m saying that we need consensus or that everybody has to have a voice and kind of thumbprint everything. We tend to do that, too. We want to be efficient about that process and make decisions when decisions just need to be made and we don’t need to go through the loops of getting everybody’s thumbprint.
Presumably Rev. Dr. Laurel Hallman meant to say, "I would want a COO." As in, "I would want a Chief Operating Officer." I take note of how she says this in response to Rev. Peter Morales' statement in which in almost the same breath as saying, "I would want to be the CEO," he mentions how relentlessly collaborative he is and quickly segues into mentioning the position of Executive Vice-President of the UUA being a a chief operating officer. I *may* be reading a bit too much into this but then again, I may not. . . Time will tell. If following the UUA Presidential election UUA President Rev. Dr. Laurel Hallman appoints Rev. Peter Morales as Executive Vice-President of the UUA aka Chief Relentlessly Co-Operating Officer of the UUA just remember that U*Us read it here first. :-)
"I’m going to vote for him even though the theological vision he states in his platform is not particularly compelling, nor particularly deep. . ."
"Most important to me, Morales seems to really understand that The UUA Way has to undergo rapid change to respond to the vast changes in surrounding society — I don’t think he would change The UUA Way as much as I’d hope to have it changed, but at least we’d see some change in the right direction."
In 1992 I underwent a profound revelatory experience of God which revealed that the total solar eclipse "Eye of God" is a "Sign in the Heavens" that symbolizes God's divine omniscience. You may read about what Rev. Ray Drennan of the Unitarian Church of Montreal contemptuously dismissed as my "psychotic experience" here: http://revelationisnotsealed.homestead.com - This revelatory religious experience inspired me to propose an inter-religious celebration of Creation that would take place whenever a total solar eclipse took place over our planet. You may read about what Rev. Ray Drennan and other leading members of the Unitarian Church of Montreal falsely and maliciously labeled as a "cult" here: http://creationday.homestead.com - I am now an excommunicated Unitarian whose "alternative spiritual practice" includes publicly exposing and denouncing Unitarian*Universalist injustices, abuses, and hypocrisy. The Emerson Avenger blog will serve that purpose for me and hopefully others will share their concerns here. Dee Miller's term DIM Thinking is used frequently and appropriately on this blog. You may read more about what DIM Thinking is here - http://www.takecourage.org/defining.htm