We have seen a sentiment expressed in comments recently that people are so frustrated with our UU leadership that they just want out. Some long-time UUs have already resigned their memberships in their home congregations. At the Fifth Principle Project, we fully understand this urge to finalize a divorce with UUism, but we urge people to preserve their congregational membership and voting rights. At the 2023 UUA General Assembly, there will be an election for a new UUA President and the first vote on the proposed new language for Article II. If there were ever a time for local congregants to be involved with their vote, next year will be that time!
At the Fifth Principle Project, we are considering next steps. Over the past two years, we believe that we have given UUs a safe place to share differing opinions; over 2,000 comments have been posted. Our membership has grown to 446 (We would like 500 to Join by the end of 2022, It’s free.). Many of our members are financial supporters. We wrote a book, Used to be UU, the Systematic Attack on UU Liberalism. What You Need to Know. What You Need to Do. We submitted our application, Fifth Principle Project, for a booth at the 2021 General Assembly, only to have that application denied and our book banned from General Assembly. We sponsored and financially supported candidates for UUA Board of Trustee positions in 2021 and 2022. We successfully advocated in 2021 for the defeat of the Board-sponsored bylaw amendment that would have eliminated a UUA presidential election. After 14 months of asking, the Article II Study Commission finally granted us a stakeholder interview.
What is clear from our prior efforts is that using the elective process, our Fifth Principle, to influence the current direction of the UUA Board of Trustees has a low chance of success. We had explored running a full slate of petition candidates in 2023 anchored by a presidential candidate. When the UUA caught wind of this effort, it immediately and imaginatively interpreted language gaps in the bylaws. It declared that timeframes for collecting presidential petitions from congregations was restricted to about ten weeks. Additionally the Board raised the requirement from 25 congregations to 50. The interpretation of the timeframe makes it impossible to successfully solicit 50 congregational boards or specially called congregational meetings to acquire the needed petitions. Finally and critically, the Board continues to dominate and control that ability of UU’s to communicate with one another, preventing a wider debate about the direction they are taking. One does not need to be a rocket scientist to see that the UUA will use its vast administrative power to thwart governance by the democratic process.
We now contemplate what to do next. We ask that members share their thoughts in the Discussion comments.
Rev. Dr. Todd Eklof included in his book, The Gadfly Papers, a chapter entitled “I Want a Divorce: A Case for Splitting the Unitarian Universalist Association.” Eklof argued that unresolved issues between Unitarians and Universalists from the 1961 consolidation resulted in a denominational identity crisis. This identity crisis was fertile ground for re-interpretations of UUism. One of these re-interpretations is the allegation of UUism’s complicity with white supremacy culture requiring abandonment of our traditional Unitarian principles of reason, freedom, and tolerance.
Some UUs have started divorce proceedings by reducing pledges to home congregations that have so closely aligned their policies with UU leadership that the congregation no longer represents the congregant’s UU values. Others have taken additional steps to redirect endowment gifts in their wills away from their congregations to organizations that do support their values.
What is needed more than anything else is for the vast majority of UUs to become “woke” to the threat to the true nature of UUism. Ideally, there should be outrage that the Article II Study Commission is openly ignoring their bylaw’s mandated two-year term that expires on August 7, 2022. Maybe this is a teachable moment to hold the Commission accountable for failing to complete its work in the allotted time.
How this awakening occurs is unknown. Maybe when changes to our Principles and bylaws begin to be published, more UUs will take note. Perhaps as the platforms and positions of presidential candidates become known, more UUs will take note.
Let us hope some awakening occurs. If not, the divorce may become final.
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My observations suggest to me that the woke ideology started outside the UUA and the UUA became ripe for the takeover which is well under way. Folks I talk to in the congregation seem to contain a contingent that are unaware, do not want to be informed, and believe if they ignore the woke invasion, they can just enjoy the portion of the community like them and not have to partake in the conflict. Unfortunately, the UUA appears to leave no space for those rejecting their mantra and mandates that oppose reason, conscience, and democratic processes. The UUA may choke… Read more »
Agreed and well said.
When a group of people agree to function along certain lines (the 7 principles) then it seems reasonable to label those who violate the agreed-upon rules as dissenters. Only rhetorically is it acceptable to agree on procedure, then violate the agreement, and claim that a reasonable person must accept the violation in a spirit of tolerance of alternate views
We listened to Todd Eklof speak last night to our group. We formed an affinity group in order to hold our own programs without being censored by our board. Todd is quite impressive in person. He advocates staying engaged but agrees that divorce may happen.
I guess I really don’t understand what the new leadership thinks they will gain after they take over. The UU world isn’t very large and isn’t growing. We have no power or even presence in the larger field of national politics. So what do they get?
Well said Doug….
They get power and satisfy their resentment and anger over past individual grievances. It is really amazing what a handful of people have been able to do.
Douglas, was Eklof’s presentation recorded? If so, where might we find it? Thank you
I’m trying to hang on, but it is getting harder all the time. I listened to Todd’s sermon on Sunday, and I really don’t know what comes next. My congregation is split on the issues. This could break us apart and even if it doesn’t, I have a feeling that the UUA leadership isn’t going to let whole congregations just leave with all our stuff. If we leave, can we still use our hymnals? Can we still call ourselves UUs? Can we still sight our 7 principles and 6 sources? Can the UUA lay claim to our church property? I… Read more »
My understanding is that congregations own their buildings, hymnals, etc. and can run their services as they please. The cost of giving up UUA membership would be not attending General Assembly and other UUA events, not getting UUA assistance in my minister searches, etc. The benefits would be financial savings from foregoing UUA membership fees and freedom from UUA interference….
Steve, true, as far as what you’re saying goes. However it really gets kind of ugly when a UU church leaves the UUA… Rev Ekloff talked about it earlier this year (https://fifthprincipleproject.org/2022/01/20/have-you-no-sense-of-decency/). Apparently, they had to stop calling themselves the 7principles fellowship. See the article earlier this year from Ekloff…. They have completely changed their name to Open Hearts and Minds Fellowship (https://www.ohmfellowship.org/)
The benefits may outweigh the costs. It seems that delegates don’t have much say anyway.
May I share this with others in our congregation? I am going to propose that we no longer bear the financial burden of belonging to the UUA. This is useful information. Thanks.
Another drawback is that a congregation cannot draw on any training or advisory resources of the UUA or the regions.
It’s not a matter of needing UUA permission to leave. You can leave, if you want to. You can keep and use your hymnals (if they’re paid for). It would probably save a lot of hassle if your congregation called itself Unitarian OR Universalist, but the UUA would have some basis for resenting your using the UU paired term. Not sure whether the 7 principles are copyrighted as written, but you could use the ideas, reworded. The UUA has no claim to your property unless it is in fact part owner, or has a mortgage on it. Your main problem… Read more »
It is important to read your congregation/fellowship/society‘s by-laws/constitution; dissolution will likely give the UUA your remaining resources, but pulling out of membership likely would not. It would probably require an amendment; our constitution states that we are a UUA member.
My first official connection was a new Fellowship in Santa Maria CA in 1961 and except for the 4 years we lived in Bavaria, my husband, 3 sons and I were active everywhere we lived until my decision to change from a member to a friend after the final straw of the treatment of Rev. Eklof which was supported by the minister and music director of my last congregation. I can’t be a passive member of any group and just show up for votes. I can’t participate in a split of a congregation. .And 20 years of chairing SJ work,… Read more »
I “divorced” myself from the UUA some decades ago (One of the more intelligent decisions I’ve made in life, I guess), Even so, I consider my Unitarian experience to be a central part and turning point in my religious journey and an important contributing factor in my religious heritage. I have since gone on to religious activity and faith another denominational tradition. Several teachings, which I understand to be “classic Unitarian” are still central to what I believe.
UU no longer recognizes or understands the 7 principles. It is clear that the UUA will as did Trump take any step necessary to preserve their power and block dissenting voices. It is far too late to hang around in an abusive relationship. We can live without UUA, UUMA and the Woke elect who support the abuse our former religion suffers through. The Unitarian Universalism is a ghost of a previously great religion. The rotting corpse has yet to be buried. It’s time we sit Shiva, celebrating the dead, and move on beyond our grief. Jews and Moslems inter the… Read more »
I understand your need to move on. While I have received some snubs at my fellowship, I still get more positive than negatives, when I’m on the UUFG campus.Something that helps me cope is a mantra I learned in the 12 step program, ” Take what you like and leave the rest “.
As I read the comments of others, the overwhelming impressions that I got was one of sadness, loss, and pain. These emotions are a response to the loss of something that was very dear and important to all of the respondents. I share those very same emotions. I have been a Unitarian for 65 years since age 17. Like many others, I am struggling with making the decision as whether or not to resign from my current UU congregation. The minister and a vocal minority in congregation have dominated discourse and have led the congregation into taking “hyper-progressive” positions with… Read more »
I was at a gathering where someone started making negative comments about the Fifth Principle Project, and I stopped her, saying that I was a member. A staff member asked me about it, as she said she knew my work and positions, and they did not match with her image of FPP. So I talked for a fair amount of time about the Project, our concerns with the identity politics, etc. There were only about 5 of us, but I did get at least a few people thinking.
Good for you. We all need to have the courage to speak up. My wife and I plan to inform our Church Council at our meeting at the end of August of what is going on. We were delegates this year, so we have some official authority to inform our leadership. The minister and one other delegate are supportive of the UUA, so my wife and I are taking a big step.
Bravo, Ron. Good luck. I hope that you find some open minds and get some positive responses. When I have discussed such issues in the recent past, I did get some positive responses. Where it will go, I don’t think we can tell at the moment.
Well said, I couldn’t agree more!
If we at least ran a candidate for president that would give us the platform to communicate the issues and our concerns more broadly. Without that we simply do not have the scale of communication necessary to address the challenges our denomination faces. We may not be able to win the presidency, but we might win more understanding and adherents.
We suspect that UU leadership also understood how a UUA presidential candidate running by petition would open up a national dialogue. A dialogue needed, but avoided by the UUA. Ergo, the interpretation of the Bylaws to cut short such a candidate.
This situation only reinforces the observation in this Discussion that the UUA intentionally controls – restricts – the mechanisms UUs have to communicate with one another.
It’s not necessary to make an essentially simple situation so complicated. The individual congregations created the UUA. A congregation that doesn’t like the present course can simply drop out of the UUA. Maybe revert its own name to Unitarian or Universalist, but not paired. A congregation that doesn’t drop out is endorsing the association’s actions. In the same way, an individual who doesn’t like his congregation’s position can remain a member, thereby endorsing the congregation’s position, or he can resign. End of problem.
I would suggest simply violating the Presidential petitions process. Start collecting petitions early, and force the UUA to disqualify the candidate.
Respectful civil disobedience such as this can be an effective way of public education.
Or start campaigning early, and ask congregations to reaffirm within the time window. Then they could disqualify based on early campaigning, which is supposed to be against the rules, but you simply need to inform them that their process is anti-democratic and impossible to reasonably comply with. This would make disqualification even more politically difficult for the UUA. I suspect they would do so anyway, but the UUA would pay a political cost.
You ask what to do next regarding concerns about intolerance from some UU leaders. I have three ideas on this matter. 1) I continue to stay active in some of my fellowship functions, which includes serving on the Sunday Services Security Team. I believe this is vital as liberal organizations are becoming more of a target for right wing extremists. If they attempt to remove my membership, my absence would be more readily noted. Also, I’ve suggested to our membership chair to have an exit interview offered to those leaving UUFG, as I have done this on an informal nature,… Read more »
Folks, on a related note, I was on the UUA site the other night and came across this page on “decentering whiteness in worship.” I have wondered what exactly was being asked/recommended. Well, these videos tell us (sorry if I am way behind on knowing this.). The page includes 3 webinars 30 minutes, 50 minutes, 1 hour (or approx). #3 is at top. I started there. Not done, but it includes guidance, commentary such as 1) You want the UUA to have a search criterion of “black author?” How tokenizing. It’s as if you are just checking off a box.… Read more »
Divorce is a last resort. While there are such things as “amicable” divorces, it usually is a painful process, and often a financial loss for both. Lots of times partners seek counseling before taking that final painful step. Perhaps there’s hope to avoid this disaster. But hope via counseling requires that both partners act in good faith. If one partner is in denial or refuses to take any responsibility there is very little hope. It becomes a tragic communications failure. If one partner has required that their wants and needs be “centered” and righteously maintains that a refusal of the… Read more »
While it is attractive in the context of this discussion to use the analogy to divorce, I think there is a problem with it. In the dissolution of a marriage, two equal partners are involved and clearly counseling and mediation may be possible. But in our situation, there are not equal partners. We are currently a relatively small group and the UUA and its loyal followers feel that we and our concerns can be ignored or dealt with by “cancelling” and/or by name calling, which many of us have experienced personally. I therefore believe that if we want to engage… Read more »
Yes, I get your point. It does seem that the voices of dissenters may seem very small and it may seem that those who are daring to speak up compose a very small group. But this could be deceptive. Those who built and maintained the house and designed the infrastructure may appear to be slowly fading away and willingly handing over the keys to the house they built… but I sense an underlying rumble of dissatisfaction at handing over everything they built to those who are seeking to claim it for themselves. I’m sensing that the “centering/decentering” dynamic has a… Read more »
My experience with UUism is only 12 years long, but I see in UUism what occurs in other organizations: most just go along for the ride. It’s challenging to swim upstream in any organization, and not everyone has the resources to do it. This (plus hope for improvement) is why I stuck with my congregation until February of this year, then decided my money should not go to a church that doesn’t spiritually nourish me, and in fact stands for things I do not support. There are limits to resistance. One of these limits is our time and energy. Another… Read more »
I’ve gone to my UU church for about 9 years. When Obama was president, there never was a sermon preached about anything political. The problem is that UU allowed national politics to get involved and ingrained in every facet of life. Trump offended so many sensibilities that people’s entire community identity revolved around cursing him. So here are the grapes of wrath poured out onto a group that allowed themselves to be swayed by the Pigs. Perhaps it’s best to leave the woke to wallow in their self loathing, white supremacy mud. The Spiritual Naturalist Society (https://www.snsociety.org/) seems to have… Read more »
When I first experienced the hive-mind thinking underlying the social justice warriors that emerged in our UU churches, I thought that our liberal heritage and our practice of critical thinking would immunize us from much of this illogical and ill-liberal ideology. I was wrong. The issue came to a head in Canada over the proposed 8th Principle. The debate constituted of a series of critical race theory workshops and a few scheduled congregational meetings where proponents of both sides made impassioned speeches – with no real attempt to understand or compromise with those holding oppositional views. In most congregations a… Read more »
Bravo, Terry. Thank you and Rev. Eklof so much for this initiative. I too have been watching the services of the UU Church of Spokane as an alternative to attending my own church UU church. I think that through creating a virtual community of those of us who are truly committed to our 7 principles and to the Enlightenment values of Freedom, Reason and Tolerance, our numbers could grow to the point that the UUA might finally have to “come to the table”. Thanks for your efforts.
I too have been attending the UU Church of Spokane virtually for a few months now and have been having the same thoughts that you are initiating. Please sign me up!
This discussion of divorce reminds me of the Canadian divorce from the the UUA in 2001. It was mostly amicable but unfortunately we settled for joint custody of the kids. Our ministers stayed with the UUMA!!
As the disillusionments, disappointments discouragements, and divisions (“The D’s”) accumulated over six years in our congregation, I envied UU’s with alternative congregations within reasonable driving distances. A few former members, in fact, mentioned the possibility of starting another UU congregation in our town but did not. We had invested 20-33 years with high-involvement time, energy, leadership and donations into our congregation building it into a “Breakthrough Congregation” recognized at GA only to experience its decline over six years into a dysfunctional autocracy with a rude, dogmatic minister. As “The D’s” accumulate re: UUA, it matters less and less. The Pew Research Center reported that… Read more »
I and my congregation are Unitarian, and always have been, but UU and Unitarian Universalist is used increasingly.