Where Do We Go From Here?

As you all might know by now, the Article II Study Commission has issued another and perhaps the final version of the Article II report, pending amendments. We will follow up with another Fifth Principle Discussion once members have had time to review the report.

It is clear that if UU leadership gets its way at General Assembly, the Principles will be gone, and UUism as we’ve known it will go with them. This essay was written by Rev. Dr. Kate Rohde last September for those lamenting its passing, but the question it raises and the advice it gives are even more timely now.

Rev. Rohde shares with Rev. Dr. Todd Ekloff the pain and misfortune of having been disfellowshipped with charges that were never specified that came from anonymous sources. Rev. Rohde started her first parish ministry in 1980 as the only UU woman minister serving full-time in 8 states of the deep South. She served in eight churches over the next thirty-two years, several as interim, and at her retirement in 2014, was the living female minister with the most years in parish ministry. Her social activist history reaches back to her teen years when she organized the first program to address the Civil Rights Movement in her hometown to after retirement when she organized to get her country officials and law enforcement officials to agree not to cooperate with the crackdown on immigrants by ICE. Throughout her career, she was active in women’s rights, Civil Rights, gay and lesbian rights, immigration reform, peace, and U.S. policy in Latin America, especially genocidal policies in El Salvador and Guatemala.

The Institutional Capture of the UUA and Possible Strategies to Deal with It.

by Rev. Dr. Kate Rohde

Institutional Capture” is a reference to the many institutions that have been completely or partially captured by the new, illiberal leftist ideology, which goes by many names:  “woke,” “the successor ideology,” Critical Theories, “The Elite,” and so on.  This ideology sells itself as a social justice ideology, but has not, in fact, had demonstrable success in changing the lives of those it purports to help – usually referred to loosely as “members of marginalized groups,” nor does it have support from the rank and file of most of these groups.  The typical adherent of these ideologies is white, college educated, and has a history of being on the left or progressive.  They both claim to speak for the “marginalized” while at the same time saying that the voices of the marginalized should be centered.  However, they continue to take positions that are anathema to majorities in those groups.

Latinos overwhelmingly dislike the term “Latinx.”  The black community in Minneapolis soundly defeated police reform centered on defunding police.  Few trans people support California’s new policy of allowing any male who will claim a female identity to be housed in women’s prisons.

Institutions that are captured are characterized by a lack of free expression of ideas, members fear contradicting some often-fuzzy norm, shunning, punishments, or firing of those who resist the new ideology.

Ideologues do not deal in evidence and reason and even denounce reason.  Beliefs should be based not on a careful examination of evidence but on “lived experience.”  They decide whose “lived experience” counts. Their approach and framing are the only true doctrine.  Those who argue with the “woke” are not met with considered, reasoned, counter-arguments.  Rather they face attacks on their character and are called “racists,” “transphobes,” “homophobes,” right winger, or a FOX news addict. You are even accused of promoting violence and genocide.  Language is used not to elucidate but to confuse and has ever-changing meanings, not unlike “newspeak.”  Orthodoxy is paramount.  Intent doesn’t matter.  Hurt feelings are evidence of malfeasance, but if your feelings are hurt, you are fragile.

Institutions of Higher Education

Institutions of Higher Education have been institutionally captured all over the country, in part or in whole.  The most famous instance is Evergreen College, but many of the elite schools: Harvard, MIT, Yale, Smith, Reed, Middlebury, Berkeley,  and not-so-elite schools, have fallen to this illiberal culture that seeks conformity over truth.

  • The ACLU has stopped its robust defense of free speech and has taken extreme, illiberal positions on freedom of information, cruel and unusual punishment, etc.
  • The Southern Poverty Law Center has been captured.  NPR, the NYT, the Guardian, and most liberal media has skewed coverage to appease the “woke” members of staff.
  • Publishers have been pushed to decline books by the younger, woke staff members; even books that were selling very well in England could not find a publisher here for political reasons.

Again, these books and articles are not extreme and are usually written by people who thought of themselves as Left or moderate until that position seemed to be captured.   Due process in firing has gone by the wayside, and democratic processes have been undermined in many of the ”woke” institutions.

Unitarian Universalist Association

The Unitarian Universalist Association headquartered in Boston has been institutionally captured.

  • Theological education and the certification of UU clergy have been captured.
  • The UUMA has been captured, and thus the institutional arms of the ministry.

However, we do not know about our churches.  Some are captured.  Some are not.  There are many in between.  We have no idea what the numbers are.  We also know that most UUs in the pew have little idea what is happening or has happened and tend to find out from a captured minister — one already in place or, more often, a newly minted one.   Some new “woke” clergy have been ejected.  Many “unwoke” parish members have been ejected or slipped away.  The nominating committee has violated the will of GA and our By-Laws for nominating only one candidate for President of the UUA, an admitted CRT ideologue who has racial intimidation to silence others.

Amongst us, there are the folks who see this new, illiberal, ideology, as an orthodoxy – a new religion of sorts.  Of these folks,  John McWhorter says, there is no dialogue because they are not operating out of the same frame of reference, nor do they believe in a meeting of minds – trying to change their minds is like trying to get a Fundamentalist Christian to give up Jesus.

There are those in an in-between space.  Amongst those, the ones who can be reached are the ones who share a belief in freedom, reason, and tolerance and the idea that talking to people who differ can be educational and even help us refine our own thinking.  The truth is more important to them than any particular ideology.  Then there are those who see the capture and grieve the loss of freedom, reason, tolerance, and grace, in Unitarian Universalism and want to return to or keep what I would call, “UU Classic,” a democratic faith, without orthodoxy, that believes in continuing revelation, a search for truth, and that only with a free exchange of ideas can we refine and develop our beliefs and commitments.  It does not divide people by race, ethnicity, sex, age, or other “identities.” Still, it seeks to help all kinds of people find access to our religious communities and contribute to them.

What Can be Done?

So, in this time of institutional capture, what can those of us who are classic UUs and would like to nourish those traditions for the future do?

I would put responses in the following categories:

  • Nourish and strengthen churches where classic UUism is still the norm.
  • Publicize far more widely the attack on classic UUism by the UUA, MFC, UUMA, and Theological Schools.
  • Create new churches or online churches for classic UUs who no longer can find a home in their home church.
  • Keep pressing the institutions within the UUA to keep living up to Classic UU values.

Nourish and strengthen churches where classic UUism is still the norm

How can we support classic UU churches going forward?   I would say for these congregations, there needs to be a new organization that will do for them what the “woke” UUA will not.  It would be a membership organization and need not exclude congregations who chose to remain in the UUA, but it would encourage those congregations to donate a substantial portion of UUA “dues” to UU Classic.

The most important task for classic UU is to find and make available ministers who are classic UUs in philosophy and temperament.  Again, these ministers could be approved by the UUA or not, but the organization would check to see if they had education and training suitable for ministry and a view and understanding of UUism that is in line with Classic UUism.

Create and/or collect of curricula suitable for Religious Education for children and adults.

Create programming to connect congregations with one another for support and for learning, including some sort of way to share “best ideas.”  Create more spaces for interaction with Classic UUs beyond the local church.

Publicizing the Institutional Capture  

Many of us first became aware of the institutional capture of the UUA in 2017 when there was a complete turnover of leadership due to forced resignations and death, as well as a sudden declaration that we were a “White Supremacist” organization.  This was followed by the Gadfly Papers, the mobbing, the book banning, and the throwing out of all rules and precedents to get rid of Rev. Eklof.  None of these things happened in an orderly, reasoned, nor well thought out manner.  Elected people were replaced by unelected people, and the only election was disrupted.

Some thought that this capture might have been aided and abetted by the anxiety around the rise of Trump and the onset of the pandemic, but it continued when  I was removed from Fellowship for private Facebook posts.   Elections have been rigged, with challengers forbidden from disseminating information at General Assembly and not given opportunities to get their message out.  Lay people have been harassed and punished at GA and in churches.  A new church was banned from using the UU name.  There are many incidents, but most UUs in the pews are unaware, nor do they understand how that may affect them in the future.

We can publicize and get reading groups for the many good books that are being written about what has happened – such as Used To Be UU.

We can raise money for a lawsuit and publicity campaign to get coverage of a liberal denomination canceling ministers for heretical views in a religion without heresies.   We have some media contacts and there are a host of substacks, podcasts, and YouTube channels, looking for stories about cancellation culture and institutional capture.

We can create business resolutions to ameliorate cancel culture in the UUA, thus forcing a conversation.  We could do this with candidates as well, but we would need to start early.

We can propose alternatives, as FAIR does, (perhaps using some of their materials), for addressing race and other justice issues in an inclusive rather than intolerant way.  As they put it, take the “pro-human” approach.

Create new churches or online churches for classic UUs

We have some models for this.  There is the Church of the Larger Fellowship model, where there are individual members who form their own group but do not meet.  There is the online church that most of us attended during COVID, and some attended church at a distance — this could be formalized with programming for distant members.   There is a satellite model where the “mother” congregation helps organize small groups at a distance who are members of the “mother” congregation and get partially online worship (sermon and such) with local additions. The mother church hires an assistant or coordinator to help these folks organize other programming.  First Church Albuquerque tried something like that about a decade ago.  This would allow “classic UUs” to continue a church connection where they don’t have one and to be formal members of a UU Classic congregation, swelling their ranks.

Keep pressing the institutions within the UUA to keep living up to Classic UU values

Remain involved with the UUA to slow the spread of the illiberal takeover and be there should there be a retrenchment.  We don’t know where this “woke” virus will go, but since it eats its host it is not sustainable.  Remaining involved might help if there is a movement toward recovery allowing classic UUism to pick up the pieces.   Meanwhile, we could have a business resolution re-establishing the free exchange of ideas in forums, by clergy and laity in the church, at GA and other UU gatherings, etc. Forbidding the MFC from using positions on public, philosophical, and theological debates to prevent Fellowship or remove someone from Fellowship.  Reinstate people removed for things they said or wrote.  We could run candidates for every position and provide them with volunteers to help them get on the ballot and campaign.    Create an organization of individual classic UUs to coordinate efforts in all these areas.

 

 

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John Eichrodt
John Eichrodt
16 days ago

Grateful thanks for the essay, and the courage to speak up and speak out. That has been our sacred tradition. As was once often said: dissent is a sacred act. I truly hope that the schism can be healed and we can once again walk on our two legs, and engage with both our hearts as well as our heads. My wish for the New Year. Again, deep and grateful thanks for keeping this side of our faith alive.

John Eichrodt
member CLF and EUU

A. Anne Holcomb
A. Anne Holcomb
16 days ago

I would really like to see the creation of a new association of congregations (both physical and virtual) based on “Classic UUism”, consisting of congregational polity, and the principles and purposes that served the UUA well over the last few decades, until apparently now, as the UUA has taken sharp turns in a neo-orthodoxy direction. I have been unchurched since 2002, when Community Ministry (Ministry of Mission) education and credentialing was kidnaped and ultimately killed by early UUA institutional capture. Few congregants in the pews were even aware at the time that the UUA, MFC, and the UUMA, behind closed… Read more »

Jim Aikin
16 days ago

Your request for a new association was answered before you made it. There has been a public announcement of the formation of the North American Unitarian Association. The organization is still in a state of flux; it’s very early days. But things are definitely happening, and concrete plans are being made. I don’t know how much of the behind-the-scenes activity is public knowledge, so I’ll hit the pause button. Expect more news soon!

Mark Perloe
Mark Perloe
16 days ago

An incredibly well stated discussion of post-modernism in our society and how illiberalism has taken over the UUA and it’s other organizations. As a former UU who shares “classic” UU values, I hope you’d consider recording a video of your statement that can more easily be shared both with those who are unaware of the degree to which UU has changed as well as those who saw these changes and escaped earlier. While I share your vision for classic UU congregations of the future, I believe the principles we hold valuable are diminished by failing to acknowledge that the present… Read more »

Robin Bossert
Robin Bossert
16 days ago

RIP the democratic process at the UUA and it’s new Article II.

Sally Beth Shore
Sally Beth Shore
16 days ago

How can I post this to my congregation’s FB page?

Frank Casper
Frank Casper
16 days ago

Copy the link to this discussion and paste it to the group on FB. That way all interested parties can have access to the essay and all the comments.

Jim
Jim
16 days ago

Religious schisms are not uncommon. They are always painful. This is all very sad.

The present illiberal activists remind me of this from Lord Varys:

he would see this country burn if he could be king of the ashes.

Miles Fidelman
Miles Fidelman
14 days ago
Reply to  Jim

Schisms yes. So are NEGOTIATED schisms – as in the old days, when lots of First Churches split into First & Second churches, along Unitarian/Congregational lines – along with negotiated splits of buildings & other assets. In a historical context: Pre-Revolution, every MA community had to have a church – it was essentially the government – and while they had congregational polity, they generally adhered to the Cambridge Platform. In order to form a new town, one had to first establish a church. When a group of folks, petitioned the General Court to establish a new town, a church was… Read more »

Julie
Julie
16 days ago

Great article. Thanks. Agree wholeheartedly with everything except “liberal media.” There is no such thing. NPR, the NYT, the Guardian and other corporate media are mixed in the views they present and are actually overall subtly Right Wing biased. They have many journalists assigned to the “Left Wing Cancel Culture” beat and they report on it–sometimes even making much ado about nothing–but only from a Right Wing point of view. They promote the idea that Dems are wrong about everything and that therefore everyone should vote for the GOP. Almost no one can get articles published on censorship by Left… Read more »

Paul
Paul
15 days ago
Reply to  Julie

The “liberal” media and the “woke” tend to represent a well educated upper middle class or wealthy constituency so they don’t really want to address economic inequality and identity group politics is a good substitute way to be “socially conscious”. And of course corporate media will serve corporate (economic elite) interests. I tend to be an old school liberal and view the social landscape from a class perspective. As the identity group ideology slowly sinks the UUA ship groups like NAUA can be our life boats.

Last edited 15 days ago by Paul
Dick Burkhart
Dick Burkhart
16 days ago

Fantastic analysis, Kate. Yet many are so cozy in their illiberal bubbles, that it all seems righteous to them.

BARRY ANDREWS
16 days ago

Thank you, Kate for your thoughtful remarks, although I would prefer the word traditional over the word classic. We do, after all, have a tradition that we wish to both preserve and advance. The current situation reminds me of the schism that led to the formation of the Free Religious Association in the mid-19th century, also over the notion of a creedal-type statement. A number of congregations renamed themselves Free Churches or Community Churches. Unitarianism was founded on the twin principles of congregational polity and the right of private judgement. It is no longer Unitarian if it doesn’t adhere to… Read more »

Mary Paynter
Mary Paynter
15 days ago

Loved the line “Hurt feelings are evidence of malfeasance, but if your feelings are hurt, you are fragile.” Also the idea that the virus that has captured UUA eats its host, so is not sustainable. Speaking on behalf of “marginalized groups” while claiming to center their voices is richly ironic. And I myself, an older white woman, have experienced a dismissal of my “lived experience.” My deepest sympathies to white hetero cis males who have no chance to be heard at all.

John Sykes
John Sykes
15 days ago

In chasing down the latest info at UUA.org, I came across the WCC report, along with the WCC implementation and training plans. I’m not sure what is going to be voted on at GA, but it sure appears that UUA is 2 years into the implementation of transition into a Liberation Theology framework. At my own church, this Sunday’s service and townhall meeting will discuss the “ongoing development of the bylaws”. I must have been sleeping during past services, but I don’t recall being asked my opinion about UUism being transformed into a different faith, nor being told that 1)… Read more »

Stephen Polmar
Stephen Polmar
15 days ago

I too would like to thank Rev. Dr. Rohde for her insightful analysis of the current status of Unitarian Universalism and the UUA, as well as for her suggestions as to what Classic or Traditional Unitarian Universalists might do to save our religion now. I must admit, however, that I am not optimistic about the future of Unitarian Universalism. I believe policies and actions of current UUA Leadership will lead not only to a further decline in membership in the denomination, but a schism as well, which I believe is already underway. While I support the efforts of the various… Read more »

Terry Anderson
Terry Anderson
15 days ago
Reply to  Stephen Polmar

Great essay Dr Rohde. I couldn’t agree more. Further to Stephen’s comment above, A key advantage for small and perhaps dwindling congregations, is that connecting to services like those from Spokane, provides a very high quality service. The local congregation(s) still has capacity to augment the service with a local choir, special regional issues, informal “coffee hour’ conversations etc. -without the expense and hassle of hiring preachers and staff. Of course the satellite congregation(s) can also feed back content and interaction back to the “mother church” as well, since cost of two way video is no longer prohibitive. As an… Read more »

Shaun Allen
Shaun Allen
10 days ago
Reply to  Terry Anderson

I think this is a very good idea. I tried to comment on this earlier (but it was blocked by this website’s automated comment moderation). There was a suggestion made toward the end of an earlier FPP post (“Town Hall with Todd Eklof discussing the NAUA,” from 12/20/2022– see my comment there for the time stamp), of forming local house churches where people get together to view sermons and other content that is produced remotely, but still form in-person connections with a local group of people.

Last edited 10 days ago by Shaun Allen
Miles Fidelman
Miles Fidelman
14 days ago

Just read the report. A few notes: “Project Manager to the Office of the President, Rev. Marcus Fogliano” and, (from the charge to the commission) “The new Principles and Purposes should guide us in the transformation of ourselves, our communities and our faith into active networks of collective care, restoration, and justice.” and, “Our commitment to anti-racism, anti-oppression, and multiculturalism is love in action, and should be centered in any revision of Article II.” and, “Further, the Commission shall de-center habitual practices that reinforce white supremacy culture.” kind of says it all about foregone conclusions As does the list of… Read more »

Miles Fidelman
Miles Fidelman
14 days ago

I just wrote this in a comment on someone else’s comment, but it seems like a higher level point: If we’re in the midst of a schism, perhaps it’s time for congregations who chose, to formally withdraw from the UUA, and claim a proportionate share of UUA assets. Kind of like when a lot of early “First Churches” split along Unitarian/Congregational lines – forming a lot of “Second Churches,” usually amicably, with a split of people & assets. One might suggest that the proposed changes to the UUA by-laws, which essentially assert a change from an association of congregations, to… Read more »

John Sykes
John Sykes
14 days ago

What If? 1) Given that both the WCC training plans are apparently underway and Study/Action Guide published, I’m wondering what is it that will be voted upon at the next two GA’s.

2) What happens if the bylaws aren’t adopted at the next two GAs? Does the implementation plan of record and Study/Action Guide rollout stop, disappear or pause until a new set of bylaws are adopted?

3) According to some, each UU congregation can decided to or not to adopt the new UUA adopted bylaws. If a congregation doesn’t go with the new bylaws, what does that mean operationally?

Deborah Landen
Deborah Landen
12 days ago

I’m a bit lost, having stumbled upon this group searching online after hearing a a rather disturbing presentation about the proposed 8th principle. Now, reading the proposed changes to Article II, it appears there will ne no UU principles. Is that correct?

Frank Casper
Frank Casper
12 days ago
Reply to  Deborah Landen

What you read from the A2 commission is their last version as delivered to the UUA board. What it tells you is that if they get their way at GA, the principles will be gone, as will the sources as we’ve all known them. So yes, you are correct in grasping the fact that the UUA intends to ditch the principles and sources. They will claim that they are there, embedded in their new language of values. But they are in fact gone.

Barbara
Barbara
8 days ago
Reply to  Frank Casper

My understanding is that A2 will be presented at the 2023 GA and will need a simple majority to pass and move forward. If passed then it will be presented at the 2024 GA and will need a 2/3 vote to pass. This does appear to be using a democratic process… or am I missing something?

John Wunderlin
John Wunderlin
12 days ago

I’ve been traveling for a few weeks and just read the prior post. It is fascinating to me to see the similarity of responses from many who have been indoctrinated in the new ‘Woke Religion’. Clearly those of us who have not been enlightened yet are simply secretly Trump supporters and are not worthy of any type of consideration. The ‘true believers’ almost always lash out using ageism and incoherent accusations of being secret right-wingers. On the current topic- it’s frustrating that it appears our best options are to abandon the core organization, but as McWhorter rightly points out in… Read more »

Cynthia Wright
Cynthia Wright
9 days ago

Is there anywhere that somebody has clearly defined “woke” in these three ways? If not, maybe we should take a moment to do so here. 1. Origin of the term. 2. The way most people who currently identify as “woke” define “woke.” 3. The way woke-critical or non-woke people see “woke” from the outside. I think it could be helpful to include both beliefs and behaviors in these definitions, because it could more crisply identify divergence between meanings. How are people expressing their beliefs with their actions? How are “woke” people shooting their own ideals in the proverbial feet by… Read more »

Ducin Altum
Ducin Altum
8 days ago
Reply to  Cynthia Wright

I highly recommend James Lindsay’s work on this subject. Here’s a starting point.

https://newdiscourses.com/tftw-woke-wokeness/

Podcast:
https://youtu.be/VdsSIWh_VkQ

Last edited 8 days ago by Ducin Altum
Tim Bartik
8 days ago
Reply to  Ducin Altum

I do not regard James Lindsay as a reliable source. He is prone to conspiracy theories, and has, for example, been active in promoting bad arguments about “grooming” and about the COVID vaccine. Obviously you should avoid “ad hominem” arguments in cases where someone is making logical arguments with facts that you have independently verified. But when someone is making arguments characterizing the nature of intellectual movements, and you haven’t read the source material, you need to have some trust that the person is likely to fairly characterize the source material. I lack that trust in James Lindsay, due to… Read more »

Ducin Altum
Ducin Altum
8 days ago
Reply to  Tim Bartik

Good point. Listen to his podcasts on the “Drag Pedagogy” paper and Gayle Rubin’s “Thinking Sex,” too.

Cheryl Conn
Cheryl Conn
8 days ago
Reply to  Cynthia Wright

I want to respond, yet every time I attempt to write back, I realize how difficult it is to be a liberal who is overwhelmed by fear how our liberal bent to punish one another over the slightest infractions results in ostracized folks. Al Franken?

Alex Haider-Winnett
Alex Haider-Winnett
7 days ago

So for me, to uphold “Classic UU” as the author defines it: “a democratic faith, without orthodoxy, that believes in continuing revelation, a search for truth, and that only with a free exchange of ideas can we refine and develop our beliefs and commitments.” We are called to assess, edit and discern how Article II serves our faith. Otherwise, we run the risk of accidentally enshrining our values as creed. There is nothing so precious or fragile about our principles that they can’t survive an overhaul. They are a tool for daily use and should be regularly honed. The critique… Read more »

Tim Bartik
7 days ago

I doubt whether anyone believes that it is impossible for the current Article II to be improved. As has been mentioned many times, the current Article II is not particularly poetic or memorable. And while the current Article II upholds values/principles of individualism, I think it is fair to say that it does not do enough to uphold values/principles of community interdependence. But I find the proposed revised Article II to be even less poetic than the current Aricle II, and less memorable. It is vaguer and less challenging than the current Article II. The principles are included in significantly… Read more »

Tom C
Tom C
6 days ago

The shared value of democracy has been removed.

When we no longer hold democracy as a value, faithfully considering what democracy looks like for the 21st century will become obsolete.

John Sykes
John Sykes
6 days ago

Shortly after the resignation of UUA president Morales in April 2017, the Board of Trustees directed the creation of “The UUA Interim Presidency Transition Plan”. which required the COIC to: “a. Determine the necessary measures to make concrete progress toward expanding the number of professional people of color, including but not limited to ministers and other religious professionals employed within Unitarian Universalism. This includes particular and measurable emphasis on senior staff positions including the Executive and First Management level of the UUA. b. Analyze past practices, structures and patterns that foster racism, oppression and white supremacy. c. Provide the incoming… Read more »

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