We Quit – UU Ministers Resign from UUMA

“We Quit” Letter

To:  UUMA Board of Trustees                                                               September 15, 2020

From:  Disaffected Colleagues

We write to express our profound disappointment with recent developments in the UUMA and its new norms of thought, behavior, and procedure.  We highlight below three of the most relevant events of the past year or so.

Public Letters of Condemnation from groups of colleagues (DRUMM, POCI Chapter, ‘White Ministers’) in June 2019 denouncing The Gadfly Papers and its author, Todd Eklof.

Of course it is okay to criticize published views – we might not be all of one mind about The Gadfly Papers ourselves.  But these letters of condemnation are a stain upon our collegiality in several respects, the most prominent of which are:

* Making charges of racism, ableism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, vitriolic rhetoric, alt-right ideology, and white supremacy culture without citing any particulars.

* The rejection of reason and logic, calling them expressions of white supremacy.

* The fact that hundreds of colleagues signed one or more of these letters within 24 hours of the book’s release – few could have read it, much less reflected upon it.  Plus, the letters (and therefore the colleagues) preemptively reject the idea that it’s necessary to read something before publicly condemning it and its author.

* The mob mentality which all this reflects – condemning hurriedly at the urging of others rather than forming one’s own view of the matter.  It seemed everybody was eager to get in a kick – a disgraceful scene.

The UUMA Board’s censure of Todd Eklof

The Board’s conduct in issuing censure has been disheartening and relationship-breaking…

* Violating the disciplinary process defined in our UUMA Code of Conduct – not just minor deviation, but dispensing with the most basic rudiments of fairness, like notification of the charges, presentation of evidence, and the opportunity to respond.

* Echoing the other letters of condemnation in disavowing logic, calling it a strategy of white supremacy culture.

* Citing no particulars from the book as evidence of its offense.

* Disingenuousness about the basis for censure:

– In response to charges of censorship, claiming the censure was not about the content of the book, although the first sentence of the censure letter states it was about exactly that.

– Claiming the censure was really about Eklof’s ‘refusal to engage’ with his critics and the Board – implausible because that was never mentioned in the censure letter.

– Most preposterous, claiming that the public letter of censure was not a disciplinary action, not a professional admonition, and not a formal reprimand (and therefore not subject to the procedures required in the Code).

It is heartbreaking to find the leaders of our professional association engaging in such astonishing deception and double-think.  Under these standards of dishonesty, how is any genuine relationship possible, much less ‘covenant’ or ‘beloved community’?

When challenged on its behavior, the Board might have said, “Upon reflection, we were wrong to censure the way we did.  We panicked under pressure.  We have re-thought the matter and will [a] rescind the illegitimate censure, and [b] pursue a fresh course of action consistent with our rules and our covenantal values.”  This could have included a genuine discussion of Gadfly and its effects (rather than a uni-directional scold), or even a fresh censure process on a legitimate basis.  But in the present state of UUMA culture, that was evidently not a viable avenue for the Board.  Condemnation must be swift and unquestioning, or one’s status as an ‘ally’ of the oppressed may be in question.

June 2020 Annual Meeting

The most recent and decisive event was the approval by the UUMA membership of an overhaul of our Code of Conduct.  The new approach was said to be ‘more covenantal,’ and yet greatly amped up rules and enforcement.  Although some features of the new Code have merit, in several important respects it is deeply disturbing…

* Some of the new offenses outlined in the Code are outrageous, if not patently absurd…

– It is now Bullying & Emotional Abuse (defined in the Appendix) to exhibit a pattern of:
“challenging a person’s perceptions, opinions, and thoughts.”
– “switching topics” or
– “using words or other means to stop a conversation.”
     This is so absurd as to require no further comment.

– The new offense of Tokenism (defined in the Appendix) includes: “any superficial gesture” or “sense by a member of the dominant group of fulfilling an ethical mandate, of ‘doing the right thing,’ or of avoiding criticism” in efforts toward diversity, equity, and inclusion.  While superficial gestures can indeed be irksome, it is outrageous – perhaps fanatical – to mandate diversity, equity, and inclusion but then make it misconduct to seem to be doing it to fulfill a mandate.

* Language throughout the new Code conveys the implicit presumption of guilt and places the aggrieved colleague almost entirely in control of the process – an apparent rejection of the very notion of fairness.

* Perhaps most shocking is the complete elimination of due process in the enforcement of our Code.  This is chilling in itself.  Further, it is indicative of fanaticism that our colleagues see it as ‘covenantal’ to discipline or expel a member without even specifying the offending behavior and providing opportunity to respond to the allegations.

* In the amendments debate, ‘con’ statements seldom even addressed the merits of the amendment in question.  Most implied that any criticism of the proposed overhaul,
no matter how carefully measured and reasoned, was a kind of oppression, inflicting fresh trauma upon marginalized colleagues.

This whole dispiriting episode dispelled for us any remaining doubt that our professional association has become entranced with an illiberal, even anti-liberal, ideology.

Conclusion

Numerous letters have been sent by colleagues to the Board expressing alarm at the growing dogmatism and intolerance in our UUMA.  A group from Return to a Democratic Faith met with Board representatives in April 2020 for a detailed discussion of the Board’s conduct in issuing censure, and its implications.  The discussion was civil, but produced no genuine engagement with the concerns raised.  In June 2020, amendments were proposed to mitigate the worst aspects of the Code overhaul, which were not only rejected by 85-90% of the membership but unfairly characterized as hostile.

It is apparent the UUMA leadership and a large majority of members now reject the Enlightenment values which have always been baseline conditions of our faith and have inspired social progress for several centuries.  These values have been replaced by a vision of cultural revolution, guided by identity politics and White Supremacy Culture jargon.  Ritual confession of identity-based guilt and virtue-signaling are now primary practices.  We may be supportive of many of the anti-oppressive aspirations of this movement, but find the dogmatism and the unreflective revolutionary fervor repugnant and destructive.

Despite (for many of us) long years of cherished ministerial collegiality, the UUMA has become for us an inhospitable place and an embarrassment.  As it has been made clear that genuine dialog on the new orthodoxy will not be tolerated in our ministerial association, we cannot in good faith continue our association with it.

And so, with great sorrow, we withdraw our membership from the UUMA.

Signed,

Rev. Mark Gallagher – 28 years in UU ministry (23 parish)

Rev. Rick Davis – 35 years (all parish) – Good Officer

Rev. Dr. Floyd Vernon Chandler – 44 years (15 parish)

Rev. John Robinson, Jr. – 51 years (40 parish) – UUMA Exec/Board, Good Officer, Settlement Rep

Rev. Rick Hoyt-McDaniels – 22 years (all parish) – Chapter President

Rev. Kenneth W. Phifer – 49 years (38 parish) – Chapter President

Rev. Dr. George Kimmich Beach – 40 years (36 parish) – Chapter President, Commission on Appraisal

Rev. Kathleen Korb – 41 years (33 parish) – Chapter President, Settlement Rep

Rev. Richard Kellaway – 61 years (35 parish)
Social Justice Grants Panel, UUSC Assoc. Director, IARF North American Coordinator

Rev. Beth Marshall – 18 years (all parish)

Rev. Craig Moro – 41 years

Rev. Dr. Vern Barnet – 50 years (14 parish) – Chapter President, Good OfficerRev. Earl Holt – 48 years (38 years parish) — Commission on Appraisa) President UU History and Heritage Society.

Rev. Dr. Charles Gaines – 59 years (17 parish)  MFC,  UUA staff

Additional Supporters (Support the Message but do not resign from the UUMA)

Rev. Robert Murphy
Rev. Dr. Doug Gallager
Rev. Dr. Celia Thurston

Rev. James Hobart
Rev. Byron Bradley Carrier
Rev. Alex Holt
Rev. Dr Neil Shadle
Rev. Richard Trudeau

 

 

 

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Susan McWethy
Susan McWethy
1 month ago

I support the sentiments and actions of this group wholeheartedly. How can we let them know that there are huge numbers of us out here who have their backs?

Rick Davis
Rick Davis
1 month ago
Reply to  Susan McWethy

Thanks for your support, Suan – anything you and others can do to spread the word among UU laity would be helpful – I do think many of them will share our concerns once they are aware of the current dangerous drift of the UUA and UUMA

Barbara Grady
Barbara Grady
1 month ago
Reply to  Rick Davis

How can individual UUs and UU congregations provide financial support to the “We Quit” UU ministers’ cause?
Many of us believe in fairness of rules and of process and want to help.

David C. Willkomm
David C. Willkomm
1 month ago

Appreciate the update. I have witnessed first hand a UU member, losing their membership, for supporting the distribution of the Gadfly Papers. I have requested my local TV reporter to do a story about this conflict, but have received no follow up response. I think it would be helpful for an investigative reporter to do a documentary on UUA’s current practices. Maybe someone reading this post, would know of a person and/or group willing to take on this project.

Bennett Stark
Bennett Stark
1 month ago

Thank you to the 13 ministers for their resignation from the UUMA. It is a meaningful response to the transformation of Unitarian Universalism into a veritable political action community.

Dick Burkhart
Dick Burkhart
1 month ago

Very well written and well reasoned. You are heroes to us all. However I would like to point out that the unethical behavior you have identified so well is legitimatized by the illiberal doctrines of Critical Race Theory. Therefore we must reject the teaching of Critical Race Theory as “Truth” by UU seminaries and public universities. Such ideologies should be taught as in a comparative religions course or survey of philosophies, emphasizing the controversial nature of these doctrines, not just in the context of our UU principles but also in the context of more general Enlightenment values, especially the aspirations… Read more »

Mark Gallagher
Mark Gallagher
1 month ago
Reply to  Dick Burkhart

Thanks for the affirmation, Dick. And yes, the behavior and manner of thought to which we are objecting are expressions of ‘Critical Race Theory.’ I use quotes because I reckon it’s not a theory at all. A theory must be falsifiable and supported by generalizable evidence, but CRT is ideological doctrine — a set of values and perspectives which are simply declared and supported by anecdotes and personal feelings. I agree that its sway over the minds of leading UU’s is a major root of our problem.

Barbara Grady
Barbara Grady
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark Gallagher

Have you set up a funding site for UU members and congregations to donate in support of the “We Quit” ministers?

Mark Gallagher
Mark Gallagher
1 month ago
Reply to  Barbara Grady

Thanks, Barbara, for the encouragement. We do no have a funding aspect. Conversation and reflection are going on as to what might be plausible next steps — and whether funding might turn out to be needed.

Maggie Lynch
Maggie Lynch
1 month ago

Thank you for standing up and articulating the difficulties not only of those who have resigned, but of many congregants. Since the Gadfly Papers situation, coupled with the code of conduct changes I have been questioning my own membership and wondering where I may find community now. In this time where it is so easy to be divisive, fearful, territorial, and not engage with the very principles of our faith it makes me sad and realize that the principles I so believe in are not as widely used at the UUA or in some congregations as I would have thought.… Read more »

Kathleen Jacobson
Kathleen Jacobson
1 month ago

I am broken hearted but this is the only place I can be with a UU context. I am interested in honest conversation and it seems to be happening here. I am in full support.

Allan Lindrup
1 month ago

Thank you to the ministers who have resigned from the UUMA for noble and well articulated reasons. The U.U. Multiracial Unity Action Council (UUMUAC – http://www.uumuac.org) is aligned with your thinking. There is a need for the formation of an independent UUMA, probably structured similar to the UUMA that existed a couple decades ago, to fellowship and support U.U. ministers who cannot abide the current UUMA’s ideology and procedures, and to provide a source of ministerial talent for UU congregations who seek a minister not beholden to the current UUMA ideology. The UUMUAC’s Religious Professionals Committee has had some initial… Read more »

Barbara Grady
Barbara Grady
1 month ago

Growing up in the 1950s Outlaw’s Bridge Universalist Church I was enveloped in a loving community. My question in this debate: where is the love?

Steve W
Steve W
1 month ago

After being introduced to the Unitarian Universalist ideals and being overjoyed at the logic and reason they professed, I became a member. It did not take all that long to see that the UUA was not “as advertised on the tin”. I went to General Assembly 2019 and was in disbelief at the morphing culture and its misguided form of anti-racism as a religion. My concerns were acknowledged by Columbia University Linguist John McWhorter, then the Gadfly Papers, and the censure of author Dr. Todd Eklof. May we be resolute in upholding the Fifth Principle. My faith hangs on this… Read more »

Kenneth Christiansen
20 days ago

Very strong letter and much appreciated.  Dick Burkhart correctly identifies the connections of current UUA policies to Critical Race Theory (CRT). CRT asserts that all white people are racist and only white people can be racist. From this frame, anti-racism becomes a process of reaming out racism from white people’s souls. The generic term Guilt-Based Anti-Racism would seem to apply. It tends to shut white people down rather than motivate them to engage in fights to change racist policies. The alternative approach to anti-racism is to identify policies and practices that need changing in our communities and nation and gather… Read more »

Schuyler Geery-Zink
5 days ago

I totally support these ministers denouncing dogma in our faith. I grew up in the UU church and now am the youngest to serve on our board of directors. I’ve had it. This stuff infected our church. It infected my workplace. It’s infecting society. And it’s *dangerous.* Identitarinism leads to human rights abuses. Seriously, how are we at the point where our leaders are calling themselves and our faith institution white supremacist like this white fragility bs? If you think you’re a racist or white supremacist, I’ll take you at your word. Then you need to get out. Make way… Read more »

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