The controversy around the Rev. Todd Eklof, the minister of the host church for the Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly (UUA GA; #uuaga), is one I never thought I would see.
It hinges on his book The Gadfly Papers, which he was distributing for free at the GA. He and his books were removed following a Right Relations process. I’m still waiting for a formal report-out from the General Assembly.
Generally, the claims (I’ve seen no specific examples) are that his ideas and even the titles of his essays are so hurtful as to be intolerable. That’s something I never expected to see among Unitarian Universalists, but here we are. One such denunciation is from DRUUMM (Diverse Revolutionary Unitarian Universalist Multicultural Ministries) and another is from an ad-hoc group of white ministers, which I have seen but do not have a public link. (I’ll add it if and when it becomes available.) I have also seen individual statements from ministers on Facebook.
These claims map to the claims of harm attributed to the UUMA proposal response I co-wrote and signed. I am, so I hear, “being watched.” Again, is this Unitarian Universalism?
So I’m doing the most UU thing — or at least the most sensible — I can think of: read the book. You can order a copy here. I don’t promise to like it and will give my unvarnished review when I’m done, or perhaps after finishing each of the three essays depending on how it reads. I will look for what might be causing grief among its denouncers.
Update: I have found another denunciation, from the People of Color and Indigenous UUMA Chapter. It cites references to Christina Rivera in particular, and calls on the UUMA to enforce its guidelines, presumably disciplinary action against Todd Eklof.
Just to close the loop. The measure passed with the friendly amendment and now goes to the UUMA membership for a year of study. I’ll keep the documents up for the record, since I’ve heard some rather outrageous interpretations of them and of the motives of those who signed.
I still stand by them, but the moment has passed, so moving on….
I had been waiting for the UUA Board agenda and packet for their meetings that surround General Assembly; they published them last night.
Why? To see what great things the UUA is planning? No. Something simpler. Will there be a new member congregation celebrated at General Assembly? Not that many years ago, welcoming new congregations was quite the event. Pictures of smiling faces, maps pointing out the new starts and delegations on stage. Then fewer. Then one. Last year, none.
The last congregation to join the UUA was two years ago, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Benton County, Bentonville, Arkansas. Meanwhile a few others, all very small, have since disbanded or disaffiliated. I have my opinions why this is the case, and no, the covenanted communities aren’t a replacement, but I’m not keen on shouting into the wind.
Instead, I’ll say thank you to the people of the recently-disbanded Peter Cooper Fellowship, Memphis, Tennessee (as noted in the packet) and wish them well for whatever the future brings.
Earlier I was checking to see if there was any update about of the Ware Lecture and other events at General Assembly, and so noticed that the link to the preliminary schedule (PDF) was marked as unread. Had the document changed? Had the workshop I complained about?
It had, and at least the description has. I’m still not thrilled by the title — based on the presenter’s book’s title — but if I’d seen this description before I wouldn’t have complained.
I’m glad that the powers-that-be responded to the complaints by Christians like myself and took affirmative and constructive action. In the process, the deccription has become less divisive — and less prone to be an anti-Christian dogwhistle — and I hope more representative of the workshop itself.
And I’m proud that the Christians stepped up. It’s important to remind those who resent or reject our presence (whomever that may be, and they certainly do exist) that we have a wide set of opinions of our own; are constant, creative and productive members; and that we don’t exist to fill in someone else’s idea of how Unitarian Universalism should be.
I was thinking the schedule of General Assembly was very late this year — who’s giving the Ware Lecture? — but then at lunch saw that a partial and preliminary schedule was posted at UUA.org/GA. It didn’t take long before I saw the Allies for Racial Equity offering from this eye-watering title:
Because there’s nothing like celebrating Holy Week then discovering other people in your denomination denounce Christianity with such a broad brush. What a punch to the gut. Shame on you.
And before someone pipes up by saying “Oh, surely that’s those bad Christians and not you good Christians”, I’m not buying such an easy distinction. Because in this of all years, and after 30 years of minimizing, sidelining comments by other Unitarian Universalists, a plausable denial of Christian bating — or any coded insult to any group — won’t fly.
Christians are the only religious group that Unitarian Universalists regularly and freely denounce. Christians are the only religious group who have their acceptance based on the condition of being similar to other Unitarian Universalists. The option to be a bland and domesticated version of Christianity in no option, but a double standard, and sickening besides.
And if forced to choose, I will always choose the body of Christ, which understands sin, repentance, forgiveness and grace. And, unlike the Unitarian Universalist Association, isn’t likely to worry and convulse itself to death.
For reasons too long to go into now, I was tracking down threads in the Classic Reform tradition of Reform Jewish liturgics a couple of weeks ago. Suffice it to say that it was in parallel with some of the liturgical developments in Unitarian churches in the late nineteenth century. There were some friendships crossing the divide, or at least cooperative parterships. It’s hard to tell how far or wide without a deep dive.
So, I was reading the Adoration ending sequence from the Sabbath evening service in the Union Prayer Book, in wide use in Reform temples through the early 1970s. This is the Aleinu, for those familiar with the traditional Hebrew name. I thought, “this looks familiar.”
As well it should. Capitalization aside, the first part of the Aleinu was dropped in almost verbatim as the Exhortation — that is, a beginning sequence — of the First Service of the Services of Religion, the services prepended to the 1937 joint Unitarian-Universalist Hymns of the Spirit.
So, it reads:
Let us adore the ever-living God, and render praise unto him who spread out the heavens and established the earth; whose glory is revealed in the heavens above and whose majesty is manifested throughout the earth. He is our God and there is none else; wherefore in awe and wonder we bow the head and magnify the Eternal, the Holy One, the Ever Blest.
That’s the same hymnal that has the Jewish text translated by a Unitarian minister, “Praise to the Living God” as its first hymn.
And if you’ve read this far and are at the UUA General Assembly in New Orleans, you may be interested in Shabbat Worship, presented by Unitarian Universalists for Jewish Awareness on Friday, June 23, 5:00 pm in the Hilton Riverside Windsor Room.
Cross-posted to HymnsoftheSpririt.org
The UUA Board packet went online on January 20 for the meeting this week. (I must have been occupied by something else then.)
Skimming through, so far:
- Two new covenanting communities, a name change, and “The Hattiesburg Fellowship (Hattiesburg, MS) has dissolved.”
- GA Planning committe recommends Providence for GA 2020.
I’m soft-launching my new project, the Universalist Christian Initiative at the Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly, which begins today in Columbus, Ohio.
It’s mainly about creating resources and finding direction for Universalist Christians, and at this point I’m looking for people interested in this work.
Please join the newsletter list here, and follow our Twitter account (@universalistci) here.
If you’ll be at GA, meet me at the UU Christian Fellowship booth (#115 in the exhibit hall)
- Thursday, Jun 23 from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.
- Friday, June 24 from 11 a.m. to 12 noon
… or send a direct message to the @universalistci Twitter account if you’d like to talk.
The title says it all. If you are attending the Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly in Columbus, Ohio and would like to meet and speak with me — say, about approaches to Universalism or church devolopment — I’d be happy to set aside some time.
Be sure to contact me through this page, or follow me on Twitter @bitb.
Wednesday, February 3. The deadline was pushed back, so today is the last day to certify, if you’re in one of the 148 remaining congregations!
I’m fond of certification time for the UUA. It’s when I get new data to analyze. But for congregations, it’s an important annual task. Without it, no voting representation at General Assembly. And I’ve noticed that churches that don’t tend to register are often not long for this world. Don’t tempt fate; certify.
All congregations must have filed for certification by 5 p.m. PST on February 1, 2016, in order to be certified for GA. Only certified congregations may send voting delegates to the 2016 General Assembly.
There are 383 uncertified congregations right now. I know many will certify over the weekend. Don’t let yours be left out.