“The Gadfly Papers”

The controversy around the Rev. Todd Eklof, the minister of the host church for the Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly (UUA GA; ), 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.

Update: Some links to the third letter and outside commentary, plus two versions of the Right Relations interchange (one by Todd Eklof) in the comments.

Measure passed

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….

Universalist Christian Initiative at #uuaga

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.

Photos from inside First Universalist, Providence

I’ve been to First Universalist Church in Providence a few times over the years, but never so long as over General Assembly, when the church hosted morning prayer and vespers, and the usual Sunday service with a special observance of Holy Communion.

Here are a mix of photos, taken after the services in the sanctuary, lounge and dining room, with a focus on interesing tidbits. You know I’m going to make something of that Universalist Comrades (men’s group) emblem.

Order of Universalist Comrades charter

Cross on pedestal

Sanctuary, from a transcept

Scott Wells
Gratuitous selfie before Sunday service. (I helped distribute communion.)

2014-06-28 17.42.30

2014-06-27 23.20.36

2014-06-27 23.19.18

2014-06-27 18.26.12

Rhode Island Y.P.C.U. banner
Y.P.C.U. is the Young People’s Christian Union

1899 “Five Principles”

2014-06-25 18.27.10

The surprising message boards

It had been eight years since I had attended a General Assembly in person, and even though I have been careful to watch streamed video and keep up with GA in social media, I knew there would be some surprises. Or more accurately, I expected to be surprised by some things.

The one thing I didn’t expect was how much the message boards — standing bulletin boards, divided alphabetically, where people would leave and collect messages — were diminished. In the pre-mobile-phone age, it is was how individuals and groups connected over the convention; accordingly, it was an important landmark for meetings. Today, not so much. I even heard from a friend how he missed an alumni event because it was only so announced.

But it does still have two important functions. Since it will still be some time before a General Assembly is likely to have good wifi — the costs and technical demands are still too much for a large convention; can you imagine having to supply connections for 6,000 computers and mobile devices on a GA budget? — the message boards will be useful for people arranging ride shares. (A map of the U.S. or the immediate region would be helpful here, so people could post their requests and offers directly to the destination. One college I attended did this, ages ago.)

And then others have made a social experiment/art project of the boards.

A note to "you"
Inside, an invitation to smile


A note for "Bad Wolf"
Confirmation that there are Doctor Who fans at GA

I liked this very much, and there were others I didn’t photograph. Fun.

Noticeable changes at General Assembly

I’ve noticed some changes in General Assembly since my last one in 2003. Something about it seems a bit more solid, more put together. For one thing, I approve of the schedule, which front-loads the workshop programming — but, alas put the Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship communion service on Thursday! That leaves the weekend for the proper, legislative business of the Association. That’s never much interested me — the Assembly rarely bucks what’s proposed to it — but thus leaves time to conduct the over-lunch and hallway business that makes GA so valuable.

People, too, seem a bit more put together, reflecting perhaps a calm (or resignation) that, while not healthy over time, makes a nice institutional change. There seems to be less to fight for or fight over, in both the positive and negative senses of the word. Or perhaps it may be things as simple as less paper given (thus less to clutter arms) or even the tightened up honor ribbon desgined, that once made delegates look a bit like generals in a very strange banana-republic army.

Let’s see if this impression holds up.

En route to General Assembly

I’m all packed up with an hour to kill. All I need to do is grab my phone, water bottle and bags and head towards my bus. The double-deckered red-eye from Washington, D.C. to Charlotte. With wifi.

So I was thinking — how have I gotten to GA? Goodness, it’s been a while since I’ve been. Curious how it’s changed.

  • 2003: Boston, Mass. train
  • 2002: Quebec City. two buses
  • 2001: Cleveland, Ohio. flight
  • 2000: Nashville, Tenn. flight
  • 1998: Rochester, N.Y., flight
  • 1995: Spokane, Wash. a very long and fun road trip, which I remember better than the GA
  • 1994: Fort Worth, Texas. lived there, seminary. so city bus.
  • 1993: Charlotte, N.C.. car pool

Reducing plastic: Banners at General Assembly

I’ve been thinking about how to reduce my plastic use, if for no other reason than it doesn’t biodegrade in a lifetime. (Crumbling isn’t the same.)

Because the Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly is coming up, I have to wonder again about the Banner Parade — a major feature of the opening plenary session — and the poles made of PVC pipe that banner carriers use in the parade.

Because they’re cheap but unwieldy, I’ve been guilty of bringing a pole set and discarding it almost immediately, which is a waste. But PVC isn’t a great product, and besides the pole sets dip and yaw unless they’re glued (like plumbing) ahead of time.

I wrote about it two years ago, but have neither the need to come up with a solution — but thanks to Dan Harper for chiming in — or the engineering chops to makes something, I let it go. Does anyone have an idea now, if not for this GA then next? (And do I recall a suggestion that the banner parade might go “virtual”? Not a good idea, methinks.)

As for the banners themselves, I have an opinion there, too. Mainly that the best ones are graphic and easy to read from a distance. Past, but still useful, posts here and here.

Later. Oh, this is post #2400.