The Price of Having a Voice

From Ministerial Fellowship Committee to Rev. Dr. Eklof

Dear UUA Religious Professionals and Lay Leaders –

I write to inform you that the Ministerial Fellowship Committee (MFC) voted on June 5th to remove the Rev. Dr. Todd Eklof from fellowship with the Unitarian Universalist Association. The decision was made based on the Rev. Dr. Eklof’s refusal to engage with the fellowship review process after a complaint of ethical misconduct was filed by the Liberal Religious Educators Association (LREDA) in January of this year. After the Rev. Dr. Eklof refused to engage with the initial investigation, the MFC moved to create an independent three-person investigative team to undertake a full fellowship review. Participation would have allowed the Rev. Dr. Eklof to present his perspective and any concerns he had with the process, but again he indicated that he would refuse to engage with the review.

The MFC takes very seriously the requirement that our fellowshipped clergy abide by the guidelines of the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association and the Rules of the Ministerial Fellowship Committee. They regret that the Rev. Dr. Eklof refused earlier attempts to “come to the table” after the distribution of his book The Gadfly Papers at the UUA General Assembly in Spokane in 2019 was received as harmful – particularly by the LREDA, Diverse and Revolutionary Unitarian Universalist Multicultural Ministries (DRUUMM) and other organizations representing Unitarian Universalists with historically marginalized identities. This refusal to engage forced LREDA to seek redress through a formal complaint process.

Ministry is a relational endeavor, and it is a sine qua non of fellowship as a minister in the UUA that one be willing to engage with others when there is a concern expressed that one’s words or actions have caused harm, particularly to those from historically marginalized communities. We as Unitarian Universalists are called to work to repair historic and ongoing injustices to Black, Indigenous and other People of Color, to transgender and nonbinary individuals, to those who are disabled, who are poor, and others who have been marginalized, and to do so both within and beyond our faith community. The Rev. Dr. Eklof has sought to focus public attention on his critiques of the UUA’s approach to this work of repairing injustice. Whether he agrees or not with a particular approach to this work is not the essential issue in the Committee’s process or determination. Rather, the refusal to engage in dialogue with others and to be accountable for his actions through the MFC process was the context of the Committee’s review, and the basis for which it has now removed his fellowship.

In Faith,

The Rev. Sarah Lammert
Executive Secretary, Ministerial Fellowship Committee
Co-Director of Ministries and Faith Development

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Paul Alan Thompson
Paul Alan Thompson
4 months ago

I will be at my next Board of Directors meeting. I will be proposing that we withhold our membership dues from the UUA for one year. This decision by the MFC is completely inappropriate in light of our 7 Principles, and the false rationale used by the MFC to punish Rev Eklof means that the MFC is making false statements. For shame.
 

Last edited 4 months ago by Paul Alan Thompson
Eric Limbach
Eric Limbach
1 month ago

amen.

Sandra Rudd
Sandra Rudd
4 months ago

If I hadn’t already resigned as a member of the Seattle Westside UU (not so much because of Westside but I cannot be a part of this craziness) I would resign now because this move. I highly respect
Rev. Eklof and his bravery and honesty. I would gladly be a part of any splinter group he would form.

Marian Hennings
Marian Hennings
4 months ago
Reply to  Sandra Rudd

Thank you for your support. Send me your email or befriend me on Facebook and we can stay in touch. I belong to Todd Eklof’s congregation and could let you know what happens.

Eric Limbach
Eric Limbach
1 month ago
Reply to  Sandra Rudd

amen

Jim Stembridge
Jim Stembridge
4 months ago

Can we be informed of the Rev Dr Eklof’s specific wording that is perceived as harmful (inconsistent with UU free and responsible search for truth and meaning), as well as the nature of the harm caused by the words?

Marian Hennings
Marian Hennings
4 months ago
Reply to  Jim Stembridge

I have tried asking people exactly how they were harmed by Todd’s book and have been met with howls of protest, that I am
denying their existence and attacking them because I criticize UUA policy. These people are totally unreasonable, but they want to run things! The prospect of that is frightful.

Eric Limbach
Eric Limbach
1 month ago

amen. Keep up the good work, getting into good trouble!

Joan Erickson
Joan Erickson
4 months ago
Reply to  Jim Stembridge

Thank you, Jim Stembridge. Your request is primary to further discussion.

D.R.
D.R.
4 months ago
Reply to  Jim Stembridge

Considering many to most of them have not read the book, they may know of no wording much less be able to point to it. Many UUs who have read the book are mystified what is offensive in it, as they can’t find anything.

Eric Limbach
Eric Limbach
1 month ago
Reply to  D.R.

amen

Eric Limbach
Eric Limbach
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim Stembridge

amen

Marian Hennings
Marian Hennings
4 months ago

I am disgusted by the MFC’s action, but the pettiness of LREDA and DRUUMM is almost worse. They know that Eklof is not a bigot. They just want everyone to chant the same words and mindlessly play follow the leaders. I think I speak for many at Todd Eklof’s church who oppose authoritarianism of this sort, and who support our minister’s independence.
 

Last edited 4 months ago by Marian Hennings
Paul Alan Thompson
Paul Alan Thompson
4 months ago

Has there been any reaction in Rev Eklof’s congregation?

Betty-Jeanne
Betty-Jeanne
4 months ago

Here is a review by one of Rev Eklof’s congregants:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/15cohiVhwJQ_Vy0JuNWocjZIFVdHNCbo9/view?usp=sharing

Frank Casper
Frank Casper
4 months ago
Reply to  Betty-Jeanne

I think perhaps the first thing I want say of Ms. Lowes lengthy piece about Gadfly is that just on the surface, before any close reading, it appears to be a worthy effort at critique. So just for openers, let’s assume it is as thorough and substantive as it appears to be. If so, then within our faith tradition, centered as it is on our principles, that is a good thing. Our principles, particularly the 4th, lead us to expect this kind of engagement, with ourselves, with one another, but particularly when it comes to leadership. That is why they’re called… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by Frank Casper
Frank Casper
Frank Casper
4 months ago
Reply to  Frank Casper

Reply to the second section “Free Speech”     The second section of Ms. Lowes critique of Gadfly focuses on a single but lengthy quote from page 3. See her essay for reference. It contains a Facebook post that Dr. Eklof uses to advance his view that what is termed by Lukianoff and Haidt as “safetyism” “reflects a value system that stands in opposition to free speech.” (pg 2 GF) Safetyism is a culture in which people feel they should be safe from offensive ideas in the same way as they should be safe from car accidents or sexual assault, ideas that are… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by Frank Casper
Frank Casper
Frank Casper
4 months ago
Reply to  Frank Casper

Section II of Free Speech, “Emails Are not Linguisticide”    After criticizing Dr. Eklof for his failure to see that free speech is little more than a tool of the white supremacist hierarchy, and completely ignoring his lengthy section on “The Religion of Humanity,” Ms. Lowe moves to a section subtitled “Linguisticide” in which she takes Dr. Eklof to task for an exaggeration. It concerns a series of email exchanges over the publication of an article in UU World, “After L, G, and B,” by Kimberly French. It was the story of a cisendered mother’s challenges trying to master the preferred pronouns of… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by Frank Casper
Frank Casper
Frank Casper
4 months ago
Reply to  Frank Casper

Free Speech, Section III, The “Principle of Charity” is Uncharitable    Moving on from it being wrong for Ms. French to write her article and for. Walton to publish it, Ms. Lowe feels it’s “important to call out what Rev. Eklof gets wrong in his attempt to invoke the “principle of charity.” This is a principle often honored among philosophers and “requires interpreting a speaker’s statements in the most rational way possible and, in the case of any argument, considering its best, strongest possible interpretation (Wiki). Ms. Lowe begins this section with a lengthy quote from Eklof, which she indicates is from page 47 but is actually from page… Read more »

Frank Casper
Frank Casper
3 months ago
Reply to  Frank Casper

Section IV Free Speech, The Violence at UC Berkeley  This closing section on free speech concerns itself with the way Dr. Eklof approaches the violence that happened at UC Berkley in order to stop Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking there February 1, 2017. Perhaps the single most important thing to say about this section is that, despite stating flatly she is not pro-violence, Ms. Lowe then proceeds to write an apologia for it in this case. That is how she distinguishes her views from that of Eklof, “charitably” describing his views as “smug, censorious, moral posturing.”   For Ms. Lowe, Dr. Eklof’s views are “smug,… Read more »

Frank Casper
Frank Casper
3 months ago
Reply to  Frank Casper

Political Correctness, part 1 Here it is critically important to recognize that Ms. Lowe does not use a single original sentence from the entire section of Gadfly on the subject of political correctness. She completely ignores everything Dr. Eklof himself said on PCness, and instead tries to show that the sources he refers to about the matter do not support his views. She claims that he cherry picks from his sources in order to exaggerate what they say about PCness, so that Dr. Eklof can portray the phenomenon as far more important than it actually is. And it should also be… Read more »

Frank Casper
Frank Casper
3 months ago
Reply to  Frank Casper

Political Correctness, Post Script. In this follow-up to her section on Political Correctness Ms. Lowe still avoids using any original sentences from Dr. Eklof. But here she finds what is clearly a genuine factual error, and she makes the most of it while admitting it’s a rabbit hole. Dr. Eklof misattributes a quote from one of his sources. It is the kind error an editor would likely have found prior to publication, saw to it that it was corrected, and never have found the kind of sinister motive in it that Ms. Lowe insists upon.  But let’s be clear about… Read more »

Frank Casper
Frank Casper
3 months ago
Reply to  Frank Casper

Section on Identity Politics Pages 28 to 36 of Ms. Lowe’s piece are supposed to be about what Dr. Eklof gets wrong about the idea of Identity Politics. But in 9 pages, count them, 9, there is only one sentence from Dr. Eklof’s book, and that refers to one of his sources, Mark Lilla’s 2018 book, “The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics.” Practically the whole rest of her section on Identity Politics is what appears to be a lengthy critique of that source. Maybe it is just me, but I would expect that if you’re going to critique Dr.… Read more »

Frank Casper
Frank Casper
3 months ago
Reply to  Frank Casper

Section on the notion of “Concept Creep” In this section Ms. Lowe continues her preference for talking about Dr. Eklof’s sources over Dr. Eklof’s book. What little she does provide from the book is again, Dr. Eklof using said sources. Indeed, the very first thing she quotes is a paragraph from the main source Dr. Eklof relies on. Since the sources are wrong, Dr. Eklof is wrong. In this section she wants to argue with the authors of Coddling of the American Mind, Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, for the way they approach the notion of “concept creep,” which originated… Read more »

Frank Casper
Frank Casper
2 months ago
Reply to  Frank Casper

Section on Microagressions After a lengthy quote from Gadfly in which Dr. Eklof discusses the origins and subsequent concept creep of the term “microaggessions,” Ms. Lowe launches her response predictably. “There’s a lot of wrong packed into Eklof’s explanation, so I might as well give it to you straight.” Well, so far, the only thing she’s given straight is the prime directive with which she started, that Dr. Eklof is wrong, and it is not ok to be wrong. On that she has been relentless. Largely ignoring the substance of it, Ms. Lowe has two issues with the passage she… Read more »

Frank Casper
Frank Casper
2 months ago
Reply to  Frank Casper

Section of Safe Spaces/Safetyism In this section Ms. Lowe continues her argument with Lukianoff and Haidt, and Eklof by extension. She opens with a quote from a review of Coddling, and it is very instructive to compare her quote with the original review. Ms. Lowe says: “As author Scott Lemieux points out in his review of Coddling, one of the biggest problems with the book is the authors’ “… tendency to draw the very broad conclusions laid out at the book’s outset from a series of cherry-picked anecdotes.” Here is the line from the actual review. “The biggest problem with… Read more »

Eric Limbach
Eric Limbach
1 month ago
Reply to  Frank Casper

Ame. Agreed 100%!

Jay Kiskel
Jay Kiskel
4 months ago
Reply to  Betty-Jeanne

I welcome Ms. Lowe to the conversation on the Gadfly papers.  Unlike all other critiques that have been primarily snark filled drive by shootings, this work, What the Gadfly Papers Gets Wrong, is thoughtful and well-researched.  It is not to be overlooked.  Nor is it free of its on critique.    Ms. Lowe’s work is a call and response document. That is, it cites a section from Eklof’s Gadfly book and then renders an observation. Such a vehicle has its uses, but it also robs the reader of an independent narrative by the author.  What would be said if the starting page was blank… Read more »

Dick Burkhart
Dick Burkhart
4 months ago

I have heard that those present had different interpretations of the LREDA story, but this was only a minor point in Eklof’s book. Few of us who read the book knew anything about this incident. It now looks like this LREDA dispute was just an excuse to attack Ekof, given the the record of strong bias against Eklof and of unethical behavior by the leadership of the UUMA.   Note: The UUMA terminated Rev Rick Davis as Eklof’s “good officer” for pointing out the UUMA’s overt violations of their own procedures and codes of conduct. At the same time the… Read more »

John Robinson
John Robinson
4 months ago

I am reminded of the oft quoted, “When they came for the Jews, I said nothing …. When they came for me, no one was there to speak for me” (I crudely paraphrase from memory). As a minister who finds some wisdom in Todd’s book. I wonder when they will come for me (an ordained minister of 51 years – and if I dare say one of few who actually build a strong congregation of free religion). If I am cowed into silence I am sure they will take that as agreement. If I speak out what then? I am… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by John Robinson
Jay Kiskel
Jay Kiskel
4 months ago
Reply to  John Robinson

John, please stay.

Jay Kiskel
Jay Kiskel
4 months ago

Some see harm, others see legitimate criticism. Remember how this started . . . Todd Eklof wrote a book that the UUMA openly recognized in their August 16, 2019 letter of censure “to encourage robust and reasoned debate about the direction of our faith.” What has become of UUism?

Frank Casper
Frank Casper
4 months ago

I must admit to being a bit demoralized by all this. I posted this letter to the “Faith of the Free” Facebook page, link provided, and it started a firestorm of a discussion. My one takeaway is how many of those participating support this action by the UUMA. I’m coming to the realization that of the UU’s who know anything about this, either they don’t care what is happening at the level of the UUA, or have a kind of faith in leadership that is wholly out of the step with the faith they actually belong to.

Frank Casper
Frank Casper
4 months ago
Reply to  Frank Casper
Robert Kent
Robert Kent
4 months ago

It is time, now, to move forward. The word is Reformation. A few additional basic UU conservative principles – the Yang – and a new encompassing UU denomination of independent free thought, conscience and care for both the community and the individual. This is all good. Thank you Todd Eklof.

Frank Casper
Frank Casper
4 months ago

I highly recommend this article from Andrew Sullivan, “Is There Still Room for Debate.” It’s perhaps the best assessment so far of a trend that is growing in our country and has completely taken over the UUA.
 
https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/06/andrew-sullivan-is-there-still-room-for-debate.html?fbclid=IwAR3u_LDToF0L5roRUE0kTDPyd6bkbeIaJxUvh5DoL3qKRU11l0Z3r0RlHhI
 

Last edited 4 months ago by Frank Casper
Frank Casper
Frank Casper
4 months ago

Rev. Dr. Todd Eklof Sets the Record Straight on His Being UnFellowshipped.
 
http://topiccentral.com/tgp/setting_record_straight.pdf
 
 

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