Not worrying about the Unitarian Universalist Association

This is more of a process note than anything.

Ever since General Assembly this year, I’ve made it a point to reduce my interaction related to the Unitarian Universalist Association. I’ve gone off of mailing lists and have cut down (nearly to zero) my interactions on social media. I skim the magazine but discard the fundraising pieces. I will, for the time being, maintain my fellowship and any interest in things that have value to me, like my retirement plan. (So I’ll read the board minutes, say, to defend those interests if need be.)

But it’s clear that there’s not enough left in Unitarian Universalism on an institutional level to justify the downsides. OK, that’s not news. But the fact the messages have gone from “Scott, don’t leave” to “I understand” to “I’m getting out” is new. And those are people I trust and respect.

Since programmatic work has ground to nothing, there’s nothing to miss.  The work of the UUA has been replaced with taking care of its own sins, real or imagined. Why support that? Worse, some people who I would normally call colleagues are so embarrassing, caustic or bullying that I wouldn’t want to be seen in public with them much less the identify professionally with them.  And I’m a Universalist Christian, which should mean this is a natural home. But that’s not been regarded as a good thing in Unitarian Universalist circles in decades. Universalist Christianity is having a theological renaissance but Universalist Christians in the rest of the world make a point of distinguishing themselves from the kind of religion practiced in the UUA. So the UUA’s not only not helping, but it’s actually hurting my religious life.

And I know I’m not alone in believing this. Some of you have been kind enough to write and express your frustrations and reservations, and even ask my advice. The most I can suggest is double your effort in your own local church, if you can, and leave the national body to its own devices.

Once I decided that, my mood improved. I can figure out what’s coming next, and who I can work with instead. Save your money for something you love. Time to cut the ties that bind and chafe. Time to stop worrying.

9 Replies to “Not worrying about the Unitarian Universalist Association”

  1. Is this for public consumption? Would you object to my posting it to the google group I created for my congregation, and to. UU FB group?

  2. We share a common point of view regarding the UUA. I have long been a champion within my congregation to pay our full UUA dues. That energy stated to fade after I attended the 2017 GA. The singular focus of that assembly on internal reflection and white supramacy drained much of my sense that my congregation was part of a larger denomination. The incident with Rev. Eklof at the 2019 GA confirmed that the UUA is still deeply locked in internal reflection. My focus is now mainly on my local congregation.

    I did, however, find a larger community when I started to attend annual Universalist Convocations. I hope the UUA will find the strength in the future to regain its footing. I suspect I may long be down a different path.

  3. I can only say that once I decided to put the denominational structure/hierarchy/functionaries out at arms length, I then began to feel like a healthier human being. More compassionate. Better able to listen. Better able to act. With greater capacity to do ministry in the community where I live.

    All too often I had beaten myself up for not measuring up (not being the kind of Religious Liberal the denomination said I should be). I used to alternate between blaming myself, and feeling angry and misunderstood (and I confess sometimes lashing out verbally). For the good of my spiritual health, I had to let go of the UUA. There are still local congregations whose life I deeply believe in. I recommend that approach to others who struggle like I did.

  4. Derek,

    I suspect a retreat into and deeper engagement with local community ministry is easier depending on the extent to which the issues within the UUA have penetrated to any given congregation. Particularly those issues related to what Rev. Scott Wells alluded to as efforts to do penance for past sins. Many of us believe those efforts are doing as much or more harm as the sins themselves.

  5. Frank – Your point is well taken. The Association itself does have an effect on its member congregations. And it can impact the life of the local community itself. And that can be difficult, painful, and exhausting if top-down dogmas/attitudes/objectives have become a living pressence in the life of the congregation. A sort of, “We should do this, or be this way, because the UUA says it is the right thing to do.”

    Perhaps that is why I’ve called it “holding the UUA at arms length”. You can’t get completely away from the UUA. I offer my experience up, only because it has helped me. But I will admit that it isn’t always perfect. And I do yearn for something from the denomination that is a less dogmatic, more grass roots, more collaborative, and more focused on supporting the life of our congregations. And less focused on whatever cause-de-jour is the purity test of the year.

  6. I think it is time for us reviled, sin-ridden white folks to create a movement to divest from the UUA. I cannot remember the last time something of value came from them. Keith Kron, who works with the UUA, will be visiting us next Sunday. If I can, I will discuss the great amount of feelings in the pews that the “UUA is a useless broken organization.”

  7. The UUA has decided to become a social movement rather than a religion. It has taken fifty years for that question to be settled, and you and I entered in an era where there was still a little bit of a question to be called, as it were. The question has been called. The UUA is serving the social movement, but doing it with financial support from congregations that are still ostensibly functioning as religious organizations. Hence the terrible strain. The UUA leadership and the UUMA leadership are proceeding as though there is a mandate to make dismantling white supremacy culture the priority of the movement/religion — which is a big assumption, and most especially because the definition of what WSC actually IS and how it functions isn’t at all clear to the members. There is massive anger and frustration among those who have been in the social movement doing the work and having familiarized themselves with the language and history. Among themselves, it’s all very clear. But they are a small subset within the larger Association, which is itself a tiny bubble whose significant characteristic is self-congratulatory insularity. A very bad recipe for hurt, pain and anger. More fractures to come.

  8. What’s funny about that, Victoria, is that the people in my circle who would be the most supportive of Eklof’s positions are by and large also the ones who insist they are secular humanists. Not funny ha-ha, but funny sigh.

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