From the Acting Executive Director
Melissa Carvill Ziemer

Dear Colleagues,

I called my nearest-in-age little sister in tears on a sunny May afternoon right around my 23rd birthday. I called her because we had a similar experience of surviving the impact of multiple forms of violence against women and girls in our growing up.  We had survived, but in the years since leaving home, I had grown increasingly afraid that I would never feel at ease enough in this world to live a happy, healthy life.  What I heard my sister tell me was that violence against women and girls is ubiquitous the world over and that I couldn't afford to let it stop me from living life as well as possible.

I had been a Women's Studies major in college and my sister's words reminded me of so many works I'd read by women, people of color, and LGBTQ people who refused to surrender to victimization.  Her words reminded me of the way in which living as well as possible is a kind of resistance, which reminded me of all the ways people before us have resisted and advocated and fought for a better world for us all.

The recent wave of #MeToo testimonies from women and femmes and trans* and non-binary people has me remembering my own experiences, including the ones in which I learned to connect the dots.  The violence of the patriarchy is connected to the violence of white supremacy which is connected to the violence of homophobia and transphobia and ableism and every other form of oppression.  What they have in common is the violence that results when individuals perpetrate toxic power over and the violence that is sanctioned when systems collude in protecting and defending abuses of power.

I recently met with the members of the UUMA Board of Trustees and together we acknowledged that the UUMA has not done enough to work against toxic abuses of power in our ministry.  It is important for us to acknowledge the power we have in ministry, bestowed and earned.  Ministry is one of the vocations that can be attractive to people who would misuse power.  Further, ministers are human and fallible, and capable of misusing power without conscious intent to harm.   Therefore, we believe it is time to strengthen our Code of Conduct and Standards of Professional Practice against behaviors that perpetuate white supremacy, heteropatriarchy and other systems and structures of oppression, for these are abuses of power.  To that end, the board has crafted a charge for the next iteration of the Guidelines Committee.  You can read the charge here.  If you have time, energy and skills to share, please consider applying to serve on the Guidelines Committee to advance this work.  You can fill out the application form here.  Applications are due by November 20 and the board will make a decision about membership of the committee by the end of November.

Finally, on a personal note, I want to say thank you to all the colleagues who have risked sharing your personal stories.  I especially want to thank the colleagues who wrote about their experiences of racism in Unitarian Universalism in Centering and the colleagues who wrote about their experiences of sexism perpetrated by Unitarian Universalist ministers in their recent #MeToo posts; they have given us a gift of truth-telling.   May we listen faithfully and respond courageously.

With hope,

Melissa