We are publishing two letters today.
The first letter is from the Ministerial Fellowship Committee (MFC). The MFC has jurisdiction over the credentialing of UU ministers. The MFC letter responded to an earlier letter (not posted here) sent in December 2021 to the President of the UUA. That letter stated in part, “I am extremely dismayed and disheartened by the current direction of Unitarian Universalism.”
In reading the MFC letter we were struck by the tone-deaf response. We see, nearly five years after UU leadership ensnared UUism in its “white supremacy” controversy, that our leadership is still slow to listen and quick to dismiss any UU who does not agree with its policies.
The second letter is from the concerned UU responding to the MFC. This second letter observed, “May I say in response to this point that there is more than one way to combat racism and work for justice? A different approach does not necessarily equate to a “campaign of misinformation.” This letter also requests that the MFC author provide specifics to substantiate claims of misinformation and harm alleged by the author. If such information is provided, we hope to publish that information on this website.
Please share your thoughts in the comments section.
Letter from Minister Fellowship Committee
January 3, 2022
Dear (name) –
Thank you for sharing your concerns. I appreciate the hard work, commitment and <congregation> awards, and I do hope that you will bear the following in mind as you weigh whether you will be continuing to engage with your congregation and the UU faith:
- There has been a campaign of misinformation to undermine the Unitarian Universalist Association’s anti-racist leadership, which mischaracterizes our work as intolerant, anti-white, racist, and undemocratic.
- Distortions dressed up as research were outlined in the Gadfly Papers (2019) and in Used to Be UU (2021). Overlapping arguments deny that racism or white supremacy exists in our community–and ignores the voices and experiences of BIPOC and people with marginalized identities. These claims also attempt to subvert the UUA’s democratic and good faith process of engagement.
- Todd Eklof and the Gadfly Papers book caused harm by misrepresenting the UUA’s anti-racism work through public and untrue attacks against specific UU leaders and organizations. Eklof made misleading and derogatory statements about religious educators, UU leaders, the UUA, and its staff, using inflammatory language. Per our established Code of Ethics, Todd Eklof’s refusal to participate in the review of an ethical complaint brought against him led to his removal from fellowship by the Ministerial Fellowship Committee. Rather than take ethical responsibility and engage in a process to restore covenant with colleagues he verbally attacked, Eklof made a baseless claim of religious intolerance. The MFC was also upholding the UU commitment to our 1st Principle-and recognizing the inherent worth and dignity of every person. While Todd Eklof has attempted to reframe his fellowship removal as an issue of free speech, it was, in fact, a simple case of non-cooperation with the UUA’s credentialing body.
- All fellowshipped UU ministers are required by the UUA’s Ministerial Fellowship Committee to adhere to the UU Ministers Association Guidelines. Ministers are expected to cooperate with the MFC when ethical complaints are filed with the UUA. All ministers are held accountable by their colleagues for their behavior through these guidelines.
- Everyone has a role to play in our community’s anti-racist work. We all have a vested interest in creating a more racially just world and healing the wounds we carry. While the impacts are different, racism and white supremacy culture injure all of us. In breaking down systems of oppression, white people can play an instrumental role in examining and dismantling the systems of power and socialization that repeatedly privilege white people, to the detriment of people of color.
(list of recourses and links removed for brevity)
<name, position> Ministerial Fellowship Committee
Response to Letter from Ministerial Fellowship Committee
January 8, 2022
Thank you for your timely response to my letter of 12-27-2021. Much as I might wish for it, I suspect there will not be a “meeting of the minds” between you and me. We are very far apart. I will raise some issues that you have glossed over—these are not exhaustive, just exemplars.
- You assert that a campaign of misinformation is afoot designed to undermine the UUA’s anti-racism work. You do not include any text or evidence of this “campaign.” May I say in response to this point that there is more than one way to combat racism and work for justice? A different approach does not necessarily equate to a “campaign of misinformation.” See John McWhorter’s work, for example. He is heavily critical of Critical Race Theory and quite rightly points out that even if our society managed to get rid of logic, reason, dependence on the written word, over-reliance on punctuality and the other Jones-Okun hallmarks of WSC, this would not lead to one bit of improvement in the lives of Black people who need help with education, housing, health care, and jobs.
- Rev. Eklof emphatically does not deny that racism exists. Please support this assertion that he does with a citation. Rev. Eklof’s focus has been on “issue-based activism rather than divisive identity politics.” (p. 131, Gadfly Papers), on dismantling racist laws and policies rather than changing hearts. He has worked toward social and racial justice by promoting an end to the war on drugs, restorative justice, reparations for offenders swept up in The New Jim Crow, decriminalizing marijuana, and marriage equality. The UUA’s “democratic and good faith process of engagement” that you cite included summoning Todd to a meeting with various UUA officials who condemned his book without reading it, never informing him of the specific charges against him, firing him from his adjunct position with Mead-Lombard, continued condemnation from various groups within the UUA (DRUMM and others) and asserting that the censure was not about the content of Todd’s book but rather about his so-called “failure to engage” in the process. Unfortunately, this process is devoid of basic fairness such as the notification of the specifics of the charges against him and evidence for them, and the opportunity to respond to the accusations.
- All fellowshipped UU ministers are required by the UUMFC to adhere to the UUMA Guidelines. At the time that Rev. Eklof’ s distribution of his book at GA 2019 ignited such a firestorm, these guidelines included a code of ethics, part of which follows: I will not speak scornfully or in derogation of any colleague in public. In any private conversation concerning a colleague, I will speak responsibly and temperately. I will not solicit or encourage negative comments about a colleague or their ministry. The public letters of censure and other communications obviously violated this sensible guideline, accusing Rev. Eklof of writing a racist, homophobic, vitriolic book that caused great harm. My understanding is that the code of ethics has since been revised, with this requirement deleted. Nevertheless, this code was in place at the time that 500+ ministers signed a statement condemning Todd’s book, thereby violating their own guidelines. No consequences, no summoning to meetings to get back into covenant ensued for these folks. I make it sheer, brazen hypocrisy.
- Throughout this controversy, critics who condemn Eklof for causing much harm, hurt, trauma, etc. never quite get around to pointing out what passages of the book they are talking about. Your letter is no exception. You assert that his language is “inflammatory” but do not include examples. Surely for the book and its author to be so condemned there must be many instances you could cite?
- Finally, a point of agreement. Yes, we “all have a vested interest in creating a more racially just world…” And I argue that although much remains to be done, much has been accomplished in the past 7 decades. We could celebrate that while agreeing that there is still a long way to go.
Again, thank you for your response.
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