Open Letter to Meg Riley, UUA co-Moderator

We at the Fifth Principle Project have been sharing the experiences of Rebecca Pace, a lay leader, from the recent 2023 General Assembly. We now have another experience from a retired minister, Rev. Denise  Tracy. She shares her experience in a letter she sent to Rev. Meg Riley, Co-Moderator of the UUA. We welcome your comments.

We will also be hosting a post-GA forum on July 5th so that we can all discuss our experiences at General Assembly.  Please see the bottom of this post for the particulars, the time and the date.

Letter to Rev. Meg Riley

Meg,

I want to tell you what it felt like to be at GA. I attended these meetings for 30 years in a row. I took a 20-year break. This was my first time back in 20 years. The entire meeting felt like a giant manipulation. One aim: convince (or intimidate) attendees to accept this new (or expanded ) point of view.

Perspective

For the past three years, the smaller congregations have worked hard to just survive. To continue to have worship services, much of their money has been spent on technology. The tech geeks in these congregations have basically saved their/our churches.

Across the UUA, both attendance and giving are down. Smaller churches have cut back on non-essential giving, one of these decreases has been giving to the UUA. Smaller congregations do not get visits from field staff and basically are ignored by the UUA.

During a pandemic where we have all lost loved ones, our lives have been at risk, and the leaders of our denomination (you) spent $500,000.00 to launch an exploration of our faith statement. You say that 10,000 people were contacted. I would dare to suggest that few of these 10,000 folks were from small struggling lay-led societies. Churches with large budgets and well-paid professional ministries were engaged. So everyone on the commission went to their friends to reinforce their point of view.

Every song, every reading, every sermon at this GA was in line with “change” and the message was– if you are not for it, you are not looking forward “as WE are.” From the sermon in the Service of Living Tradition—You are turtles! Our now-former President told us if we disagreed, we were part of an unhappy minority group.

The UUA has two new splinter movements, the NAUA (North American Unitarian Association), and the Fifth Principle Project. Both exist because of the bullying style of the current (your ) leadership. Until this GA, I knew nothing of either of these groups. I do now. When this type of splinter happens it is usually because people are not being listened to. They act against it because there is no other choice.

At the GA, I staffed a booth. People wandered by and wondered out loud.  I heard many statements like this:  “Where did this Article II come from?” “Why are the Principles no longer worthy?” “I taught my kids the Principles, I use them myself to measure my actions.” “I came into the UUA when I most needed a faith. I don’t like the way this meeting feels. I am seriously considering leaving.”  “Why can’t we have the Principles AND this new document?”

People were afraid to speak up because of how they were feeling and how others were being treated. If love is supposedly at the center of this new Article II, it was not evident. In fact, the entire meeting felt unloving, unsafe, and bordered on an abusive environment. The applause and cheers for those who spoke for the new point of view and the begrudging silence for those who questioned or wanted more explanation made this very clear. Those in power were not protecting anyone who had not drunk the kool-aid.

Your leadership did not protect all in attendance.

People voted for discussion because they wanted to see what real discussion would actually be like.

So you have your year of discussion. Is this year going to continue to be a continuation of the editing of the new document? Or are there going to be some real questions, answers, and choices?

Questions

Do the principles really need to be done away with?

Is there a way for Article II to include the Principles as well as a newer expansion of the ideals of our denomination?

What is a congregation to do if it does not want to follow some type of new and revised faith statement?

When I entered the UUA in 1971, I was not welcomed. I was in attendance in 1978 when the idea of the Principles was first suggested. I worked for nine years for their adoption. We had four years of discussion and three votes before they were passed. I wanted to have a faith statement in plain language to use as a yardstick for my own faith in action. From the Principles, I officiated many Holy Union ceremonies (gay weddings), worked in my community on race issues, and worked on equality, and from this people joined congregations I led.  I am in a mixed-race family and my children found a home where they could grow.

I looked at this GA and the dream of equality that the Principles stood for was before me. My dream and my 50 years of work were in evidence. What was also in evidence was no appreciation for how hard many of us have worked for the diversity we now have. No, it may never be enough, and in the past 50 years, our faith has grown and changed.

If there is not a real discussion this year, the UUA may no longer be my church. When I came into this denomination there were knock-down drag-out discussions at GA. Then people went out to lunch or dinner with those they had argued with, minutes before. Disagreements were faith-strengthening. This is no longer the case. The plenaries were set-ups toward one point of view. You have the influence and power to make this year a real exploration not a sham of a forced choice.

Thank you,

Denise Tracy
Retired UUA Minister

Post General Assembly Townhall Forum

The Fifth Principle Project will host a post-General Assembly Townhall Forum to provide a venue for people to share their thoughts about this year’s General Assembly.

We have three guest speakers, Anne Schneider, Dick Burkhart, and Rebecca Pace. They will share their perspective on General Assembly.

  • Date: Wednesday, July 5, 2023
  • Time: 8:00 PM Eastern, 7:00 PM Central, 6:00 PM Mountain, 5:00 PM Pacific
  • Duration: 75 – 90 minutes

Pre-registration is required.

All are welcome. However, if you wish to participate in the discussion, make a comment, or ask a question, you will be required to turn on your device camera and directly speak to the forum. To foster a free-flowing conversation, we have opted not to use the Chat feature for questions.  In short, we ask that if you have a comment or a thought to share, please engage in the conversation and not use the Chat feature.

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DOAK M MANSFIELD
DOAK M MANSFIELD
7 months ago

Thank you, Denise. So very, very well said! You and I have been tending this faith and serving it for 50 years. I’m frightened and saddening by where we are today as exhibited by this last General Assembly. Love is ideally at our core but it was not evident in process at GA. If the Principles go so goes our commendable heritage. An 8th Principle may be needed but restrictions on viewpoints, is certainly not needed except when exposed and rejected by reason and logic…and ethic. Not by policing!
The Rev Dr Doak M Mansfield

John Eichtodt
John Eichtodt
7 months ago

Again and again, I can only repeat how grateful that we can speak up and say what needs to be said , and thus to exist in the narrative of our faith. And it is being so well said. I ardently hope that Meg and the leadership will listen and hear well enough to preserve our principles along with a new affirmation. It is vital that it be so if the community is to remain whole and healthy. I am especially glad that Rev. Tracy put her plea in letter form to Meg and the leadership so that it can… Read more »

Julie
Julie
7 months ago

I am from a fairly large–300+ members–congregation that has not been struggling financially until recently when Board leadership decided to go along with the UUA cult and create a hostile highly conflictual congregational environment.

And we were not contacted either. Would love to hear from any congregation that was contacted.

Julie

Karen
Karen
7 months ago
Reply to  Julie

As far as I understand, EVERY congregation was notified and received information and materials. There may be internal communication issues to look into: Does your congregation need to reach its own members in new / different ways?

Janet Leavens
Janet Leavens
7 months ago
Reply to  Karen

Our own minister didn’t even know until this past January when the A2SC published their report. I told her last summer and she didn’t believe me. How did I know? I spend too much time snooping around on-line, I suspect that the UUA did make a pro-forma, limp-wristed effort to communicate their efforts to all congregations. But I also bet that they were not forthright about their project. Our minister (and our president) for example both knew that work was being done on Article II, but they both thought it was just a matter of tweaking the principles. Not a… Read more »

Julie
Julie
7 months ago

I am glad that this is an open letter, that is shared with other UUs, so that we can face the realities of our situation, rather than succumb to the gaslighting. In my experience, UUA loyalist cultists can not be influenced by logic, truth or reality. But most UUs are not cultists and thus can be influenced to take back our religion from the cultists. Every UU should read The True Believer by Eric Hoffer, which describes UU cultists very well–despite having been written 72 years ago. All of us should also read Rev. Eklof’s 2 books, Used to Be… Read more »

Karen
Karen
7 months ago
Reply to  Julie

I would add “A Gadfly Report” by Rev Dennis McCarty to the reading list.

Rebecca
Rebecca
7 months ago
Reply to  Karen

I have read Rev McCarty’s book. If one is going to read these other books, it should definitely be included.

Steve
Steve
7 months ago

McCarty’s malicious screed manifests the dystopian trajectory of our faith movement.

He has claimed that he wrote a book that was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. It wasn’t.

I feel sorry for people who discredit themselves a la George Santos.

It’s profoundly sad that trickery, fraud and deceit are subverting our processes and discourse.

Azure
7 months ago
Reply to  Steve

As Rev Eklof has suggested I’ve stayed with my congregation (while I reject the re-written description of UUism, and yes it is already re-written). I agree that some good can come of my continued participation. My main problem is the struggle I feel inwardly in ‘brushing shoulders’ with fellow congregants with whom I once shared a positive rapport. They are happily driving the knife deeper, destroying my spiritual home. They show no compassion for those who are sadly suffering loss. I feel reactive and I don’t want to inadvertently offer the article II group more opportunity for aggression by behaving… Read more »

Adrienne
Adrienne
7 months ago
Reply to  Azure

I truly feel your pain. For what it’s worth, I could not continue and left my congregation. I would say that you shouldn’t punish yourself by remaining in a toxic environment.

Terry Anderson
7 months ago
Reply to  Adrienne

I also feel alienated from my old congregation, I was definitely not going in the same direction as the leadership. I have found a new home at UUChurch of Spokane. The sermons are excellent, the music OK, usual UU hymns with occasional guest musicians and more ‘modern music”. We are also building a nice community during after service zoom coffee. Feel free to join us 9:30 PDT at https://tinyurl.com/spokanezoom

Adrienne
Adrienne
7 months ago
Reply to  Terry Anderson

Thank you! I will check it out!

Connie
Connie
7 months ago

Thank you for this letter. Different than Rev. Tracy, this is the first time I attended GA and just the business sections. I was shocked. There were many pro article II proposal speakers who stated they were for continuing discussion rather than stating they were for the proposed article II. It surprised me that anyone would say that. Next year delegates cannot submit amendments as they could this year, it takes 15 congregations to jointly submit an amendment. Then 75% yes vote to pass. To me a yes vote on article II this year was a vote to suppress changes… Read more »

bylaw.PNG
Last edited 7 months ago by Connie
MaryArri
MaryArri
7 months ago
Reply to  Connie

As a delegate (and 1st timer), I received no training regarding a yes/no vote. I followed the information in the GA program book (I paid to have a printed version mailed to me) p.68: “If the proposal receives preliminary approval, it will continue the process for Article II to be further discussed, considered and revised as defined in the UUA Bylaws, with a final vote set for GA 2024. At last night’s town hall I put this in the chat section and was told it was “wishful thinking”. Please tell me where to find the UUA Bylaws quoted above. Thank… Read more »

Connie
Connie
7 months ago
Reply to  MaryArri

Here is how I read the bylaws. I believe when I said this last night others agreed I basically got it right. I plan to share this so if anyone has more info to make it more accurate, please let me know what I need to fix.

bylaws with comments.PNG
WebMaster
Admin
7 months ago
Reply to  MaryArri

Our UUA leadership inserted a subtle but very important bit of misdirection (a.k.a. dis-information) on the vote for the proposed Article II language. The GA Program booklet and the speakers from the podium all stressed that a “yes” vote would allow “further discussion.” Who would vote “no” for “further discussion?”  We think a number of delegates who voted “yes” did not fully grasp the impact of their vote. A “yes” vote did precisely what the UUA bylaws said would happen following preliminary approval, the “Article II proposal shall be submitted for final approval to the next regular General Assembly.”  Rather than “further discussion,”… Read more »

Terri
Terri
7 months ago

I heard the same complaint today from a fellow congregant who went to the GA. This and the very nature of what is going on leads me to believe what Dr. Todd Eklof says in the Fifth Principle Project video entitled “Occupation of American’s Most Liberal Religion.” This is, that UUA may be “occupied by some who are not UU and are working swiftly to completely take it over by squelching dissent.” So what should our response be? Well, it seems, in light of what we’ve heard, that the majority of UUs want the Principles and Sources to stay right… Read more »

Karen
Karen
7 months ago
Reply to  Terri

That’s quite a conspiracy that non-UUs are occupying / taking over. (Interestingly, this at the first era of UU history where both UUA President and Executive Vice President are lifelong UUs, while Eklof is not.) It makes me wonder who Rev Eklof and followers deem “real” UUs or UU “enough”.

Frank Casper
Frank Casper
7 months ago
Reply to  Karen

Read the sermon. Read our book “Used to be UU.” We are not conspiracy types, despite the oft-heard accusation. We have documented this abandonment of UUism using the UUA’s own documents and actions. At the very least, “real” UU’s do not squelch dissent and criticism, do not hang their own out to dry for their principled disagreement with leadership, which is precisely what they have been doing. “Real” UU’s do not in any way suggest that the Principles are white supremacist. In this sense it can be legitimately argued that leadership has abandoned UUism in favor of a political religion… Read more »

Last edited 7 months ago by Frank Casper
Rebecca
Rebecca
7 months ago
Reply to  Frank Casper

I had read the material you have suggested when I made my comment.

John C.
John C.
7 months ago
Reply to  Rebecca

I notice that “Karen” and “Rebecca” have the same internet protocol (IP) address

Miles R Fidelman
Miles R Fidelman
7 months ago

Re. Denise Tracy’s letter: Sounds like a Soviet or Chinese Party Congress.

Steve
Steve
7 months ago

Miles, your metaphor is spot-on. By many accounts, GA23 was a caravan of despair and dysfunction. Many thanks for all your discerning Reddit posts. And muchos kudos to Rev. Denise for speaking the truth about power-hoarding (a symptom of WSC).

larry lunt
larry lunt
7 months ago

Thank you.

Barbara Kidney
Barbara Kidney
6 months ago

Well said. I observed a UUA Board Meeting in January in which Meg Riley lamented that incumbent UUA Board members sometimes have to deal with candidates running against them for the next term. Democracy is just so inconvenient for some people, I guess– e.g., oligarchs. Of course, the “problem” of maintaining an office while running for another term could be obviated by having a bylaw that no term can be consecutive. That would be a democracy-supporting solution. An oligarchy-supporting approach would be to make it impossible for others, especially those with different positions on issues, to run for office– which… Read more »

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