Published with permission of the author. (Edited 07-29-2021)
TO: UUMA Board of Trustees
Greetings to you all,
I remember all too well the arguments I had with the people who brought me up in rural Maine
during the ’60’s. They weren’t pleasant and often I’d say variations of “you just don’t get it!” Now, it’s my turn to be an out-of-touch old person. I don’t get it. Get what?
The focus of the UUA and UUMA on Critical Race Theory is admirable in its revolutionary thrust. It’s bold, brilliant, and will likely be transformational to whatever the UU world becomes in this country.
So why am I leaving the UUMA after 30+ years?
It’s certainly not that I’ve ever been treated unfairly by the UUA or the UUMA. The lessons have been wise ones. The staff have given me wisdom and insight to my own growth. I admit that I tend to be contrarian and stubborn and that’s a part of my cultural heritage as a northern New Englander. I’ve had the opportunity to be part of several projects: the addictions ministry, GA chaplain and Co-lead chaplain, an officer in the old Interim Ministers Guild, and so forth.
I am leaving because I cannot accept the ways in which CRT (and, I suppose, ARAOMC) is being interpreted and carried out in the UUMA as well as the UUA. There seems to be a strong partnership between the two organizations now that is new. The UUMA walks in lockstep with the UUA staff and institution. It appears to have little or no interest in supporting ministers who disagree with the current model of CRT.
The letter by respected colleagues sent to the UUMA board of trustees on September 15, 2020, expresses far better than I can the intolerance that has become part of UUMA and UUA ‘values’.
Two things bother me a great deal: shaming, and the future of congregational polity. They both arise from my own lived experience as well as others.
I loathe shaming. I was a victim of it in childhood and beyond. Why shaming in the UUMA? It serves no purpose other than to scapegoat ministers who have devoted their lives to liberal religion and the principle of a free and responsible search for truth and meaning. Rev. Eklof was just one example when he was censored and then thrown out of the UUA and UUMA in the last two years. There are others who have been condemned for speaking their minds.
Yes, I remotely signed that 2019 GA letter attacking Rev. Eklof for his book passed out at GA. I later regretted it when I learned more about the reasons why the letter was published. I apologized to Rev. Eklof and he graciously accepted my apology.
I also think of Rev. Rick Davis who has been a friend and fellow Buddhist practitioner for many years. There are others as well who decided that injustice disguised as a new form of justice wasn’t acceptable.
How can there be useful dialogue and debate when two utterly different languages and views of the world are being spoken? In a few short years, the ‘rules’ (so• called ‘guidelines’) have been radically changed to fit a new norm of covenant and accountability that seems to forget the foundations upon which they were based.
Maybe that was necessary in order to speed the work of CRT quickly. I wonder, though, how many religious professionals and laypeople will be thrown overboard in order to create such a brave new denomination.
My second worry is about our centuries-old congregational polity where congregations were vested in their authority to hire professional staff, to manage their own budgets and buildings, and to be involved in their communities that worked best for them.
I note that verbiage from the UUA website talks about ‘denomination’ rather than ‘association’. That implies a very different understanding of authority and hierarchy than in the past. Standard ministerial contracts tell us now to affirm a focus on ARAOMC in our work.
Some years ago, the board of an interim congregation and I made a difficult staff termination decision. The congregational support person from the region wrote to the board president and me to express concerns about external voices interfering with an internal congregational process.
They wrote, in part “…I tell you this because I have never seen an internal situation be made the business of UUA leadership or area ministers in this way. I’m concerned with the implications of our congregational polity and want you to know that I’m bringing that up with everyone who is not directly with UU who has an opinion as to what is going on. I’m feeling protective of your faithful leadership and the freedom of your congregation to make its own decisions. (And yes, acknowledging that or polity is interdependent and mutually accountable as its core, as well, and it is in that spirit I assume others are wanting to get involved.).”
Is that the future of a centuries-old model of congregational independence? Who is accountable to whom? What is the role of the UUMA now compared to five years ago? Does the UUMA even care about those who have raised their voices critiquing what feels like a sin-and-salvation approach to justice?
I don’t know the answers, but I do know that I cannot in good conscience be part of an organization that speaks of accountability and covenant on one hand but punishes those who disagree on the other.
It’s time for me to walk away. I will continue to focus my parish ministry on what I consider essential priorities: pastoral care, planning for the 200″ anniversary of this congregation, and being the best minister I can be to an old and proud congregation.
This is therefore my official resignation letter from the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association effective immediately.
Rev. Alex Holt, Accredited Interim Minister
Contract Minister Unitarian Universalist Church of Meadville, PA