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 firstname.lastname@example.org; 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
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