Stirring the Soup – April 2017

Sometimes, the column you’d like to write isn’t the one that needs writing.  I’d like to write something poetic about the resurgence of life in Spring.  Or something inspiring about how important our financial support for the congregation is in this pledge-drive month.

But I find myself unable to step around recent events in our beloved Unitarian Universalist Association.  I’ve shared some information on our Facebook page and from the pulpit about the recent storm of voices calling out a persistent culture that reinforces white supremacy in the most senior levels of our Unitarian Universalist Association’s hired staff.  The recognition that all five of the Regional Leads who supervise the UUA’s nationwide Congregational Life staff are white, cis-gendered, able-bodied, ordained clergy, and a recent hiring which reinforced that status quo, have led a number of leaders among our UU people of color communities to break silence.  They have called out what they have experienced as an unyielding white dominance in the professional leadership of our Association.  In an Association which has publicly committed ourselves to becoming a model of multiracial, multicultural, anti-oppressive community, this has been a jolting and painful moment.

So far, this controversy has led UUA President the Rev. Peter Morales to resign, and two other senior staff leaders have announced their departure within the next couple of months.  The UUA Board of Trustees, the UU Ministers’ Association, the Liberal Religious Educators Association, the UU Musicians’ Network, and many others have joined with the leaders of Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism and Diverse Revolutionary Unitarian Universalist Multicultural Ministries (a national umbrella organization for UU people of color), and a coalition of Latinx leaders in calling for change.  The remaining senior staff leaders have committed to search out and change systemic procedures that reinforce the white domination built into any institution like ours, born in the age of slavery in an America that defined human worth by whiteness.

And still change may not happen.  The powers and structures that reinforce white supremacy are pervasive and strong, and they are made insidious by their invisibility to those of us they were designed to benefit.  A new time of learning is called for.  Those same leadership voices in our movement are asking us to set aside our usual Sunday worship on Sunday, May 7th in favor of a one-day “teach-in” called #uuwhitesupremacy.  It’s a bold, somewhat unnerving, and, to me, compelling call.  So far, over 200 congregations have signed on.  I’ll be exploring the possibility with our Program Committee.

The forces of dominance and division we want to resist in the world around us have a foothold in all parts of American life, including those we love the most.  One of the things that makes our Unitarian Universalist faith and congregations so precious to me and many others (yes, precious enough to support financially, too!) is our willingness to acknowledge the places where those forces have distorted our own lives and to treat them, not as marks of inescapable human depravity, but as opportunities for growth and transformation.  In that sense maybe we’re a springtime faith after all, trusting in the immense power of new hope, new life, new love, and new wisdom to guide us toward the world we seek to create together.  It’s good to share the journey with you.

In faith,