Confirmed victory
Petitioning UUA Moderator candidate Jim Key and 4 others
1 response
This petition was delivered to:
UUA Moderator candidate
Jim Key
UUA Candidate for moderator
Tamara Payne-Alex
UUA Board candidate
Rob Eller-Isaacs
See response
UUA Board candidate
Natty Averett
UUA Board candidate
Clyde Grubbs

UUA candidates for board and moderator: Open a national conversation on clergy misconduct

Unitarian Universalists are preparing to meet in Louisville for General Assembly in June 2013, where we will gather under a theme of “from promise to commitment.” This theme, while admirable in many respects, has served to underscore the pain of those who have gone unheard and un-cared for in the wake of clergy misconduct. It is time that the promises of our association to victims of misconduct and the congregational systems devastated by its corrosive force are remembered and finally fulfilled.

 

At General Assembly in 2000, a formal apology to victims of clergy misconduct was offered by UUA Executive Vice President Kay Montgomery. This apology was received as a balm for broken spirits, a salve for wounded souls who finally felt seen, heard, and understood by UUA leadership. The importance of this moment cannot be understated. Nor can it be understated how painful, distressing and re-traumatizing the subsequent 13 years of near-silence on some of the key issues involved have been for many of those same people, as well as for our congregations struggling with histories of misconduct. Our accompanying letter outlines this legacy in detail.

 

We, the undersigned, are asking the candidates for UUA Moderator and Board of Trustees to publicly indicate their willingness to start a new national conversation on clergy misconduct in the UUA, and to ensure that survivors of misconduct have a real voice in that conversation. We ask them to commit to using the powers of the Board to take ownership of the recommendations of the Safe Congregation Panel, to update them as needed, and to hold the staff accountable for implementing them fully. And we ask them to investigate the accountability relationship between the Board and Ministerial Fellowship Committee, with an eye toward balancing the need to protect institutional interests with a pastoral responsibility to care for victims of misconduct.

 

Please sign this petition to indicate your willingness to hold our association accountable for fulfilling its promise to victims of clergy misconduct. The time for our continued silence has come to an end.

 UPDATE Both candidates for UUA moderator have endorsed the initiative to reopen the clergy misconduct conversation. Jim Key has posted this on his website and Tamara Payne-Alex has posted this on hers.

And UUA Board candidate Rob Eller-Isaacs sent the following statement:

"As a minister of long tenure, a former member of the Ministerial Fellowship Committee and a past President of the UUMA I am well aware of the lasting damage done to individuals and to congregations by abusive ministers. As a meber of the UUA Board I pledge to reveiw the Associations policies to be certain staff responsible for providing support and counsel to survivors and discipling perpetrators have the resources they need to offer effective, compassionate service."

We are grateful for these generous responses to our call, and will continue to update the petition as more responses come in.


Letter to
UUA Moderator candidate Jim Key
UUA Candidate for moderator Tamara Payne-Alex
UUA Board candidate Rob Eller-Isaacs
and 2 others
UUA Board candidate Natty Averett
UUA Board candidate Clyde Grubbs
For some years now, Unitarian Universalists have been concerned about and engaged in questions regarding growth. How are we going to grow our congregations (and beyond)? What are the best strategies for programming and governance that will lead to growth? What message and image must we project if we want to grow?

We, the undersigned, are also concerned about growth. And we are convinced that a great many of our congregations experience obstacles to growth because of one under-appreciated and rarely-discussed factor: the systemic damage done by clergy misconduct.

Unitarian Universalists are preparing to meet in Louisville for General Assembly in June 2013, where we will gather under a theme of “from promise to commitment.” This theme, while admirable in many respects, has served to underscore the pain of those who have gone unheard and un-cared for in the wake of clergy misconduct. It is time that the promises of our association to victims of misconduct and the congregational systems devastated by its corrosive force are remembered and finally fulfilled.

Over a decade ago, at the 2000 General Assembly in Nashville, UUA Executive Vice President Kay Montgomery offered an apology to victims of misconduct. Anticipating the report of the staff-appointed Safe Congregation Panel (SCP), she said at the time:

"Let me say this as simply and unequivocally as I know how: the Association has largely failed the people most hurt by sexual misconduct, the victims and survivors. Other denominations have done better. These brave and bruised people have, more often than not I suspect, been left lonely, confused, afraid, angry and betrayed. Un-ministered to. What I feel about this is not so much guilt, I guess, as great sorrow and regret. I am profoundly sorry. And I pledge that this gap, this failure, will be remedied."

This apology was received as a balm for broken spirits, a salve for wounded souls who finally felt seen, heard, and understood by UUA leadership. The importance of this moment cannot be understated. Nor can it be understated how painful, distressing and re-traumatizing the subsequent 13 years of near-silence on some of the key issues involved have been for many of those same people, as well as for our congregations struggling with histories of misconduct.

To be fair, since 2000 the UUA staff has made clear and discernible progress toward addressing some of the structural concerns with the way the Association handles complaints of misconduct. But it has fallen well short of the promised goal of ministering to victims, and it has been negligent in addressing the systemic effects of misconduct in our congregations. In fact, we are more than 10 years past the recommended final report to the General Assembly describing the implementation of the SCP recommendations, and yet over the years inquiries about complainant-focused recommendations have been met with excuses, dismissal, outright hostility and, worst of all, silence.

It is this silence which leaves us with no other conclusion than to assume that we lack a system of accountability that assures action on the complainant-focused recommendations of the SCP. We are long past the time when silence was an acceptable response to the fact of ministerial misconduct. We know that continued silence perpetuates the abuse and makes it all but impossible for successive ministries to thrive in congregations where trust has been shattered by misconduct. If we want a growth strategy, we feel there’s no better place to start than by addressing the legacies of misconduct in our congregations.

Kay’s apology is a public document, available for all to read on the UUA website along with the report of the SCP. That it remains an unfulfilled promise is an embarrassment for an institution which strives so diligently to be a voice for restorative justice to the world. How can we be so fixated on “Standing on the Side of Love” when our continuing institutional silence for victims of misconduct is anything but?

And so we, the undersigned, ask you, the candidates for UUA Moderator and Board of Trustees, to publicly indicate your willingness to start a new national conversation on clergy misconduct in the UUA, and to ensure that survivors of misconduct have a real voice in that conversation. We ask you to commit to using the powers of the Board to take ownership of the recommendations of the Safe Congregation Panel, to update them as needed, and to hold the staff accountable for implementing them fully. And we ask you to investigate the accountability relationship between the Board and Ministerial Fellowship Committee, with an eye toward balancing the need to protect institutional interests with a pastoral responsibility to care for victims of misconduct.

Like President Peter Morales, we believe that Unitarian Universalism can be a faith for the 21st century. But it will never be such unless it reckons honestly with the damage done by those in positions of trust, power, and authority that is just as much a part of our heritage as are our beloved Principles and Purposes. We look forward to a new day of sunlight and transparency that you will usher in with your bold and courageous leadership, and we stand ready to companion you on this journey of unabashed faith in all-encompassing love.

Sincerely,

(the undersigned)

Resources:

Kay Montgomery’s apology to victims of misconduct (2000):
http://uua.org/safe/misconduct/restorative/23865.shtml

Recommendations of the Safe Congregation Panel (2001):
http://uua.org/safe/misconduct/restorative/index.shtml

Update (2006) on implementation of SCP recommendations:
http://uua.org/documents/congservices/safecongs/0601_restorative_recs.pdf

Current UUA process for handling complaints of misconduct:
http://uua.org/safe/misconduct/index.shtml