Correction: Ours is a Liberal Religion, not a “Covenantal” One

In his October 17, 2021, sermon, Rev. Dr. Todd Eklof, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Spokane, straightforwardly and understandably, explains how UU leadership is attempting to transform UUism from a liberal religion founded on freedom, reason, and tolerance to a covenantal one.

You are encouraged to share the URL of the sermon on your social media platforms and with others. https://youtu.be/MKakVDyKLqs

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Judi McGavin
Judi McGavin
10 months ago

Re: Covenant As a former trustee, elected by the district I served,I am in agreement with the stated mission of this project. However, I respectfully disagree, or see differently Rev Ekloft’s position on “Ours is not a covenantal religion.” While in the religious meaning his quote is correct, it does not mean we can’t use covenantal in it’s broader meaning. I think he is being to narrow in his thinking. I believe it is extremely valuable to state we make promises to walk together in our congregational life. In my district we made covenant congregation to congregation. I further don’t… Read more »

Stuart Hurlbert
10 months ago
Reply to  Judi McGavin

So much strife is caused by the deliberate or careless use of language for purposes of deception, distraction, innuendo, etc. This is an art well developed by politicians and especially by university “chief diversity officers,” etc. The abundance of neologisms and changed definitions often make it impossible for many people to know exactly what is being said, even if they have an unabridged dictionary by their side. Consider “social justice.” Back in the 1960s that meant pushing for and then implementing, inter alia, the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Now, for many, it means giving priority to “group equity” over the… Read more »

Chuck Schneider
Chuck Schneider
10 months ago
Reply to  Judi McGavin

“…..,we must make those decisions as a whole..”. Does Bill mean as a covenantal action ( army) of the UUA? Why can’t you, and each of us, individually fight to rid society of racism, ( and other xxisms) in our own way? We can band together at times – even with other religious societies- for specific purposes. But, that does not mean there is or must be only one way to solve social problems. What works in Texas may not work in NYC. We certainly do not need to tell our ( non-woke) free thinking church elders they have been… Read more »

Richard Palmer
Richard Palmer
5 months ago

Agreed.

Jay Kiskel
Jay Kiskel
10 months ago
Reply to  Judi McGavin

Judi, thank you for your clarity on the need to reform our Association so that we can again have democratically elected national representation, transparency, and renewing leadership. I and other UUs share your vision.   BTW: The liberal nature of UUism makes room for those who, in their search for truth and meaning, wish to enter into a covenant with their communities, congregations, and the world.  It is not the role of our national leadership to determine the promises and to whom those promises are made.  As one who has been declared “out of covenant” at the national level, I can attest, that… Read more »

Tom C
Tom C
10 months ago
Reply to  Judi McGavin

Aren’t “walk” and “stand” ableist metaphors? Aren’t you and Bill Sinkford “out of covenant” for using them?

Even if we extend the meaning of covenant to mean “walk together in our Congregational life,” the UUA is insisting we all walk the same path. If we deviate from that path, we can expect to be thrown off a cliff.

Bob Lamb
Bob Lamb
10 months ago
Reply to  Judi McGavin

I agree with Judi that it is a stretch to say ours is not a covenental religion. I also note that Rev. Eklof glosses over the fact that he was told that the covenant was in the UUMA Guidelines, in the section called “Covenant”. I looked. There is, in fact, a Covenant labeled clearly as such, and according to the UUMA website it was adopted in 2009 at the annual meeting. It can be argued either way that he violated the Covenant, but it’s there. I am disappointed that Rev. Eklof does not address this.

Frank Casper
Frank Casper
10 months ago
Reply to  Bob Lamb

The opening paragraph of that section you refer to reads: United in our call to serve the spirit of love and justice through the vocation of ministry in the liberal religious tradition, we, the members of the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association, covenant with one another: Notice the phrase “on the liberal religious tradition.” This is precisely what Rev. Dr. Eklof defends and in fact does refer to our covenant to affirm and promote the heart of that faith as stated in the 7 Principles. The point is, to the extent we have a covenant, it is to promote and advance… Read more »

Howard Weisman
Howard Weisman
10 months ago
Reply to  Bob Lamb

Thanks, David for pointing out the ‘vagueness’ of the brief 2009 statement of the covenant. How can I best locate and read all 160 words? In Dr. Eklof’s October sermon, he presented the UUMA use of the term ‘covenant’ was purposively so, to be a cover ( He used the term euphemism.) for whatever future top-down credo or practice they could next spoon-feed the laity. It’s a sharp power play if so but also deceitful. Like you, David pointed out there was no communal input nor agreement behind this so-called covenant at its inception. It is simply a shell. Oh,… Read more »

Sasha Kwapinski
Sasha Kwapinski
10 months ago

The word “covenant” has apparently come to mean whatever UUA and UUMA leaders want it to mean.

Interestingly, this is not much different from the way that many right wing religionists toss around the word “cult” to refer to any religion or denomination they don’t happen to like.

Stuart Hurlbert
10 months ago

A brilliant sermon and excellent foundation for the future of UU. Now just need to come up with a whole new Principle 8 to replace the proposed one that builds on all the worst ideas that are producing so much dysfunction and divisiveness in universities, K-12 education, government, and the private sector. Read the handwriting on the wall! A uniting Principle 8 would be one that builds on what modern science is telling us about humans, like large numbers of social animals, are genetically hardwired for behaving with empathy and compassion not only to individuals in their own species but… Read more »

Paul Alan Thompson
Paul Alan Thompson
10 months ago

There is no way of prioritizing one race over the others which does not violate the 1st principle.

Deborah C. Donovan
Deborah C. Donovan
10 months ago

I do not covenant my politics to a church- any church.

Steve Myles
Steve Myles
10 months ago

Although I agree completely with Dr. Eklof, a presentation on whether or not we are a covenantal religion is really a diversion from the goal of preventing the erosion of the 5th Principle and the fall into authoritarianism. If the UUA and UUMA want to now claim ours is “covenantal religion” let them. But then turn the argument against them. If we are a covenantal religion, explain how it is they who have “broken covenant” by allowing congregations to adopt an 8th Principle and ignore the 5th Principle in the process. They must agree that the central core of our… Read more »

Jim
Jim
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Myles

This is an interesting point. But the word “covenant” is another one of those words that means what they want it to mean. Technically, adopting the 8th principle is, indeed, “out of covenant” as you point out. But they’ll hang you on the “technically.” The Article 2 Study Commission says  https://www.uua.org/uuagovernance/committees/article-ii-study-commission/blog/8thprinciple-0 In the “UU congregations’ role” Adopting the 8th Principle at the local level is an act of covenant making amongst the members of that Congregation, to be anti-racist. The Covenant between Congregations can be shaped by engaging in the A2SC process, and voting on the amended Article 2 at… Read more »

Steve Myles
Steve Myles
10 months ago
Reply to  Jim

Jim – it’s only a faint hope if we stay silent. Their interpretation is a bogus justification for an illegitimate act under the guise of eliminating racism. I reject it. The problem is that there are too many nice people who won’t stand up and call Bulls**t and instead get stuck arguing semantics. Maybe they’re afraid of dealing with issues of race. I have no problem with the Principles being a “living tradition” but their “evolution” is managed by the 5th Principle of democratic process, not by anarchistic individual congregations. The need for “evolving” the principles has been co-opted to… Read more »

Miles R Fidelman
Miles R Fidelman
10 months ago

Gee… and here I thought we WERE a covenantal (and congregational) religion – at the level of individual congregations, with members in covenant with each other. The issue would seem to be that the UUA leadership seems to think that it has the final say on a covenant for all of us – which is a rather broad overreach for what was created as a service bureau and marketing arm for a group of independent congregations. The notion of a covenant among congregations, that is binding on members of those congregations, seems fatally flawed. That’s like imposing a Nicean Creed… Read more »

Lee
Lee
8 months ago

The end of Article 2 says: “Nothing herein shall be deemed to infringe upon the individual freedom of belief which is inherent in the Universalist and Unitarian heritages or to conflict with any statement of purpose, covenant, or bond of union used by any congregation unless such is used as a creedal test.” That says that Article 2 claims no authority over individual beliefs or congregational covenants. It is aspirational. There is one exception in that apparently Article 2 can “be deemed to infringe upon … a creedal test.” I don’t see how that would be enforced, but as far… Read more »

Tim Bartik
10 months ago

I think this was an interesting and thought-provoking sermon. I agree with Rev. Eklof that “out of covenant” has clearly been stretched to mean disagreeing with ever-changing fashions of UU national leadership. In fact, a key problem is that much of the “covenant” that is supposedly being violated is either not written down, or is vague. However, I wish the sermon had emphasized more that the “principles commonly agreed among us” go beyond freedom of thought and speech. The other principles were briefly mentioned, but the overwhelming stress was simply on our religion being a free religion. I agree with… Read more »

Lee
Lee
8 months ago
Reply to  Tim Bartik

I am having trouble following the logic of “We are marginalized because of our race, our ethnicity, or gender or sexual orientation, and the ‘real us’ is our group membership, which is based on a fixed characteristic that we were simply born with. That is really what defines us.” I don’t think that there is anyone who makes that logical connection. Many of us are marginalized because of our ethnicity, gender, etc. But how does that imply that the superficial prejudices and categorizations by others are the most important aspects of ourselves? I suppose if you hunt around among the… Read more »

Ron
Ron
9 months ago

Excellent!

Topher Benum
8 months ago

In my view, I feel that the #1 difference between the Unitarian Universalist movement under the UUA & UUMA on the one hand, and Roman Catholicism and its theological protestant offshoots on the other, is that the main lineages of Western Christianity, all descending from “Saint” Augustine, openly expound their allegiance to his doctrine of Original Sin. The UUA/UUMA are not willing to directly admit that they are following in the same footsteps, but instead euphemize and repackage this dogma under the guise of “white fragility”, “male privilege”, “ableism” and other magical phrases.   Rebranding the name of something can… Read more »

Lee
Lee
8 months ago
Reply to  Topher Benum

The reality on the ground is that People of Color are not faring as well as white people in the United States. This is due to all sorts of historical overt racism but the results are nonetheless quite real today. Personally, I find no value in feeling guilty for what my ancestors were a part of. Although I regret mistakes that I have made, I generally stay away from dwelling on guilt there too. Instead, I take today as it comes. I see good in many places and I am happy. Where I see a need for change, such as… Read more »

Topher Benum
8 months ago
Reply to  Lee

Thank you, Lee, Your comittment is admirable. At the same time, I quit the Unitarian Universalist association after attending GA on-line last summer. It’s been disappointing enough that we no longer revere true martyrs like Jan Hus and Norman Chopak. Now, while congregation after congregation is dropping “Michael Servitus” from their names, the GA venerated someone who was reportedly the victim of an off-color joke 19 years before. Why was this so much more important to do in 2021 than it was back in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 or even 2007? I had already been participating in Jungto Society, an… Read more »

K. Lusignan
K. Lusignan
3 months ago

For a differing perspective, see Dennis McCarty’s commentary on this sermon, here:
https://revdennismccarty.com/it-cant-possibly-be-a-bird-todd-eklofs-ignorance-of-covenantal-theology/