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Showing posts from January, 2016

Some Things UU's Have Learned.

Unitarian Universalists have been in school about race and racism for quite a while, now. As we have confronted what seems like the unbearable whiteness of our being, we have learned some things that I think are useful to apply to the Clinton/Sanders divide. We have direct experience with the questions and controversies at the heart of the most vexing issue in the 2016 Democratic nomination fight: how to unite people of color, especially African Americans who are the most loyal Democratic voters, with white liberals and progressives, both female and male, into a winning electoral coalition.

1. Marching with Martin Luther King, Jr. is not a verification of one's anti-racism. Unitarian Universalism could not believe that after Selma and the death of James Reeb, that anyone would not immediately see our steadfast commitment to racial equity, or would experience racism in our churches and congregations.

2. Racism is not a secondary issue which will get solved along the way of dealing …

Report from UUA Task Force on Covenanting to UUA Board

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I have been serving on a little task force called forth by Jim Key and chaired by Susan Ritchie on reimagining the UUA organizing principles and methods. It's all very blue-sky and out there, but it has been a chance to step back and re-think that which seems permanent and unchangeable. The task force has met a couple of times and read some things together.  Yesterday, Rev. Ritchie presented our very first report to the Board, a kind of progress report showing what we are thinking about.

I have reprinted the report below, with some trepidation. My observation is that most UU's are very much in favor of changing the UUA in general, but respond to even the smallest suggestion of a particular change with great suspicion. Even redesigning a logo can generate a lot of negative reaction. I think lots of people really want a well-hidden and barely noticeable change that will generate a lot of money, plenty of new members, and a way to resolve the humanist-theist debate that brings pe…

Implications of the UUA Presidential Search Process

1. UU Populism should be over.

Previous UU Presidential elections have often been framed in populist terms. UU Populism imagines that some group of UU's are the powerful insiders and the rest of us are on the outside looking in. The reason why UUism is somehow failing is that the "insiders" are clinging to old ways, old methods, and old theologies. So, once it becomes clear who is the candidate of the "insiders", then you know who to vote for. The Morales/Hallman election was eventually cast in such terms.

That populist frame for the election assumes that the powerful elite feels entitled to the UUA Presidency and has put forward a candidate out of that entitlement. The process by which the candidates come forward is hidden.

[The irony is that lots of people have lots of opinions about who that elite really is. Is it the big donors? The large church ministers? The UUA staff? The old New Englanders? The Humanists? The Social Justice Warriors? The self-selected G…

Slowing My Roll

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The UU Presidential Nominating Committee has announced its two nominees: Sue Phillips and Alison Miller. I know Sue well and worked with her when I served a church in New England. She would make a great UU President.

I only know Allison Miller enough to embarrass myself by confusing her and her name with other UU ministers who have the same first name. Would she make a great UU President? Probably. After all, nearly everyone you would think of (and many you would not) was recommended to the Search Committee, given a chance to step forward and given careful consideration if they were interested. After a judicious process these are the two they chose. So I have to assume the best.

I urge my friends to take it easy on endorsements too early. I am not criticizing anyone who has made one, but I think there is little value in them at this point. I suspect that they mostly reflect the networks of affection and experience that are already in place.

We have a long time to decide, and a long c…

From the past

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My brother recently gave me the original manuscript of my father's last sermon to the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Youngstown, Ohio. It is from 1970.

It was not the last sermon he gave as their settled minister. He had been unceremoniously dumped as their settled minister 15 years earlier in 1955. But our family, after a decent interval, had rejoined that congregation and my father, by then a steelworker, had preached on occasion there as a "retired" minister/member.

In 1970, the steel industry was shedding jobs and my parents had taken the hint and were relocating to Arizona. And so, my father preached his last sermon in Youngstown; he titled it "One More Try."

Is there anything new under the sun?

Near the bottom on the first page of the sermon, Dad took off after "individualism." And one point, he says
"I would like to propose that a complete reliance of the 19th century liberal philosophy of individualism has proven unrealistic. Muc…

New Leaders: Mission -- Landrum

The staff of MidAmerica Region of the UUA has put out a statement about what the "New Leader" of congregations will need to succeed, and they've begun a blog series about their bullet points.  The blog posts will be coming out about every-other week, and the first one, on "Mission," is now available.  It's worth noting that theses are qualities of the new Leader not just the new Minister
1.  Mission driven: Leaders know why they are active, and how they are seeking to make a difference in the world; they understand that congregational life is not about making people “happy,” but by knowing how the congregation is called to serve their community, and are then faithful to that calling.  In his exploration of this point, Ian Evison rightly names one of the tensions as being between visionaries and realists, and the good leader is one who can hold the tension between the two.  We often assume that what the "new era" of congregations needs is inn…