A Response to a Concerned UU

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

Dear <name>,

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.

What are your thoughts?

Please leave your comments and thoughts below.

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Eric Schuman
Eric Schuman
6 months ago

Why not include the author identities of the two letters?

Burton Brunson
6 months ago

There is a mindset that says if I consider myself morally righteous, then facts don’t matter. It’s hard to communicate with that mindset. Society today reflects the futility of trying to humor that mindset.

John Shea, Ellicott City MD
John Shea, Ellicott City MD
6 months ago

I think it’s time for old school UU’s to start a new denomination. Unitarian Universalism is a lost cause–the leadership is completely committed to postmodern Social Justice ideology, and more importantly this ideology is firmly entrenched in the seminaries–you cannot become a UU minister these days without agreeing with Social Justice dogma. Rev. Eklof, if you are reading this, we are hungry for your leadership–let’s create a new church that embodies the liberal virtues that we once found in UU.

Mark Perloe
Mark Perloe
6 months ago

Agreed.

Sasha Kwapinski
Sasha Kwapinski
6 months ago

Agreed. Several years ago, I was signed in with an online community, the American Unitarian Conference, or AUC. Does anyone know if they are still around. Last I checked, they have a website, but I haven’t heard from them in quite a while.

Barbara Keating
Barbara Keating
6 months ago

I just finished the first six chapters (of 12) of (Philosopher) Andy Norman’s book, Mental Immunity: Infectious Ideas, Mind-Parasites, and the Search for a Better Way to Think (2021; Harper).  Norman’s analysis reminds me of the UUA issues.  The MFC is persisting in their “culture warrior” mode choosing unsubstantiated, accusatory, finger-pointing tactics instead of respectful consideration of ideas or making any effort to find common ground.  Extremists on both sides, left and right, use similar tactics.  I am especially disappointed, however, to see such tactics used by those claiming to speak for an organization that once promoted such ideas as “acceptance of one another …,” and… Read more »

Eric Limbach
Eric Limbach
6 months ago

Well put Mary. I side with you & Eklof – In criticizing Eklof, the MFC seems to interpret the same facts, not objectively, but subjectively with personal biases & perceptions. I find the current UUA admin very frustrating but I have no real power in the dispute. So I vote by not financially supporting my local, very small UU fellowship – I do janitorial & maintenance at our meeting house but refrain from $ donations. The majority of our members went along with the attack on Eklof & the Gadfly Papers at the time. Rather demoralizing, in truth. Best regards.… Read more »

Mark Perloe
Mark Perloe
6 months ago

If the writers are unwilling to accept and acknowledge their own truths by revealing their identities one has to wonder if it is out of fear that they wish to remain anonymous. Anonymity is much the same as remaining silent. If you expect dialog to change UUMFC, UUA and UUMA to change based on letters, prepare to remain irrelevant.

Jim Aikin
6 months ago

<sigh> More disinformation and outright lies from the UUA. I’ll confine myself to one point. They say this: “Todd Eklof’s refusal to participate in the review of an ethical complaint brought against him….” If you read his 2nd book, The Gadfly Affair, you’ll find out what actually happened, step by chronological step. The UUMA was jerking him around, and both he and his good officer objected. But still the UUA continues to spin their lies about how the ministerial review process was conducted. I contributed handsomely to my local UU congregation this year, and I consider myself a UU, or… Read more »

Mary Paynter
Mary Paynter
6 months ago
Reply to  Jim Aikin

Like you, Jim Aiken, I made a very generous pledge to my UU Church for 21-22 and I will fulfill that pledge. However, unless things change, it will be my last substantial pledge. Instead, I will contribute at least an equivalent amount to the UU Church of Spokane. I am grateful that UUCS continues to exist and that Rev. Eklof continues to serve there despite the efforts of the UUA to destroy both.

Jim
Jim
6 months ago

“Distortions dressed up as research” heh.

Distortions Dressed Up as Research

That would be a much more accurate name of the document entitled “Widening the Circle of Concern.”

Rev. Jack Reich
Rev. Jack Reich
6 months ago

I agree with Eric Schuman. All of us carry a history of our utterances on our backs, like turtles. These are not irrelevant to arguments we make. It would be helpful to know who signed the letter from the MFC, and who responded. In this whole affair, there is too much finger-pointing in the dark.

Terry Anderson
Terry Anderson
6 months ago

Thanks for publishing this exchange. It is quite amazing what has happened to UU under the current leadership of the ‘elect’ For those interested, Todd Eklof’s talk this coming Sunday will be of interest (it will be streamed online). Here is the description: The Occupation of America’s Most Liberal ReligionJanuary 16, 2022 9:15 & 11:00 A.M. Rev. Dr. Todd Eklof If it is true that Liberalism is defined by its commitment to individual freedom and expression, then it has become clear that the Unitarian Universalist Association is no longer being guided by liberal leaders or liberal principles. This member service organization,… Read more »

Tim Bartik
Tim Bartik
6 months ago

I think part of this depends upon the burden of proof, and what one views as “harms”. The core complaint seems to me to be the following passage in the MFC letter. “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.” So my first comment: given the importance of freedom of speech in a free religion, the burden of proof should be on the UUMA and… Read more »

Frank Casper
Admin
6 months ago
Reply to  Tim Bartik

Excellent post, Tim. Your points about the charge that Eklof misrepresented the anti-racism work of the UUA, and that of asking what is actually meant by the word “harm”, have been made many times in exchanges on Facebook with an array of UUA supporters. You say as much in your last paragraph, but none of them has ever demonstrated by page and passage any support either for the allegation of Eklof’s misrepresentation(s) or how he has harmed anyone. They just keep repeating the charges, as we see they have in the documents starting this thread, and regarding any persistence in… Read more »

Jacques
Jacques
6 months ago

If Fifth Principle Project abhors baseless, evidence-free accusations of racism, why has it allowed such an attack on its website, in the comments to “When Democracy Dies,” where a minister is accused of being anti-white and anti-straight? Is 5PP only concerned when the target is white?

Frank Casper
Admin
6 months ago
Reply to  Jacques

Oh dear. Has Tom Clowes found himself yet another way to get on this page?

Jacques
Jacques
6 months ago
Reply to  Frank Casper

Hi Frank! If you’d like me to stop writing here, you could tell me to stop and I would respect that. However, in the spirit of the Fifth Principle Project, including what’s written on this very page, would it be unreasonable to ask that first I be told specifically what comment I made that broke your code of conduct and give me a chance to respond? Thanks and all best.

Frank Casper
Frank Casper
6 months ago
Reply to  Jacques

We’ve been over this ad nauseum. So yes, please stop posting here.

Alex
Alex
6 months ago
Reply to  Frank Casper

Huh? How did this person break the code of conduct? I have seen no thing inappropriate in their posts.

John
John
6 months ago
Reply to  Alex

He appropriated another culture by using the name Jacques

Lee
Lee
6 months ago

If a representative for UUMFC, UUA and/or UUMA met with (a representative for) Rev. Eklof to create a list of agreements then that might make a good first step. If they can mutually back some details about fixing society’s ills, freedom of speech, democracy, etc. then both might realize how much they are on the same side. The handling of those statements where there is no agreement would be briefly deferred. Those later steps will still be hard, but with a long list of agreements as a starting point and common ground, the temperature of the discussion might be significantly… Read more »

John
John
6 months ago
Reply to  Lee

Yes, that would involve finding common ground and working to understand each other.

Robert Lamb
Robert Lamb
6 months ago

A plague on both your houses. Whenever I read comments on posts here, I see echoes of the same incivility, rigidity, and lack of understanding that you accuse the UUA of (often with good reason.) I see dissenting voices silenced. I joined this group for what light it might shed, and I see darkness. I hope to see better things in the future, but I challenge you to look at yourselves and what you are saying, and the tone in which you say it.

Frank Casper
Frank Casper
6 months ago
Reply to  Robert Lamb

You could help by providing a bit of the light you want to see. You might begin by being a bit more specific about your issues with this page. No obligation. Just a suggestion.