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UUMA Board Letter regarding Don Southworth's Personal Letter

Friday, April 21, 2017   (7 Comments)
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April 21, 2017

Dear members of the UUMA,
dear members of the UUA Board of Trustees,
dear members of the UUA Leadership Council,
and dear Unitarian Universalists who care deeply about our faith,

By now many of you will have read a letter sent by Rev. Don Southworth, the Executive Director of the UUMA, to members of the UUA Board of Trustees. Don shared with the UUMA Board his intention to send a letter to the UUA Board, and the UUMA Board affirmed his right to send a letter as a private person. In retrospect it was at best naïve for us to think that any person in high profile leadership can actually ever be a private person while they hold that position. We will review our policies regarding public communication by the Board including the Executive Director. Don's letter, and our inaction to prevent it, now reflect on the UUMA. As a result we, the members of the UUMA Board of Trustees, are called to respond.

We did not approve, and we do not endorse, this letter. It does not speak for the Board as a whole or for us as individuals. It does not speak for the UUMA as an institution or for its members. In the vision articulated in our policies, we declare a foundational commitment to nurturing excellence in ministry through collegiality, continuing education, collaboration and shared commitment to antiracist, anti-oppressive, multicultural practice.  Further our vision affirms that the “UUMA provides spiritual, theological, and religious leadership throughout Unitarian Universalism. We partner with the Unitarian Universalist Association and UU religious professional organizations to achieve our shared vision of excellence in ministry to people in all stages of life, organizations, communities and the earth.”

In response to Don’s words and concerns expressed, some people have felt affirmation of some of their own concerns.  But others have felt hurt, angry, and outraged.  Relationships have been badly wounded.

As leaders within Unitarian Universalism, and in our particular case as members of the UUMA Board of Trustees, we are called upon to find a way to help begin the healing and reconciliation.  We cannot and will not excuse or erase harm done. But we believe it points the way toward the work that lies ahead for us, in seeking to restore – or perhaps to create for the first time – a right relationship between us.

The UUMA has processes and procedures for holding people accountable when harm is done.  The board, on behalf of the UUMA, commits to moving through a process with Don so that both healing and learning can take place.  We also commit to transparency once that process is complete, so that all members who have been impacted, positively or negatively, will be able to share in the fruits of this reconciliation work.

We can’t go about healing the world if we can’t heal ourselves, and to accomplish that we must stay in relationship. We don’t say this to ask cheap grace for anyone, least of all for ourselves. We say it because we believe it to be inescapably true. All of us must do the difficult work of picking ourselves up and putting ourselves back together in a more just, whole, and reconciled  configuration; determined to honor the worth, dignity and contributions of each; determined to embody beloved community in faith; determined to confront and dismantle the legacy of racism which afflicts our world, and our movement.

We, the members of the UUMA Board of Trustees, are determined and called to rebuild trust and to seek reconciliation between ourselves and our membership, our sibling organizations and our Executive Director. We enter into this work in the spirit of love. We will be meeting as a board, shortly, to fulfill our responsibility to hold our Executive Director, and ourselves, accountable. We also express to all of you our profound appreciation for all you have done to help make real the UUMA's vision of nurturing excellence in ministry and sharing commitment to anti-racist, anti-oppressive and multicultural community. 

We will also be meeting soon and often, we suspect, to plan how Ministry Days will need to be transformed to make space for the anger, the pain and the misunderstanding to be shared as a base for reconciliation that can lead us to new trust in one another, and in the power of our healing faith.  If you have suggestions to offer, words of encouragement or criticism, we promise you will be heard by us. 

Humbly and Faithfully,

Cheryl M. Walker, President
Eric Kaminetzky, Vice President
Olivia Holmes, Treasurer
Kelly Weisman Asprooth-Jackson, Secretary
Josh Pawelek, At-Large (ARAOAM)
Patricia Hart, Member-At-Large (Policy)
Elizabeth Stevens, Member-At-Large (Counsel & Advocay)

Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association

Nurturing Excellence in Ministry


Phone: 617-848-0498 | | | @UUMinAssoc



Samuel A. Trumbore says...
Posted 6 hours ago
Thanks for your letter - it is very much needed as your silence will be interpreted as consent. Don should not have sent that letter structured as it was and in the tone it was written. It was not helpful to deal with the crisis and not supportive of institutional transformation. He does raise governance issues that have been sources of friction between the Board and the Staff for as long as I can remember. Policy governance hasn't fixed the problem. I'm not sure any form of governance can fix relational problems that come from competing sources of power and authority. But that parallels life in our congregations between ministers and church boards. It only works when both sides work collaboratively with each other, with respect and appropriate sharing of power and authority. Don's letter didn't move us in that direction. I believe the excellent selection of our tri-Presidents is moving us in that direction. My wish would be for Don to collaborate more effectively w/them.
Mary P. Foran says...
Posted 18 hours ago
Thank you for your letter and actions to invite relationship, learning, humility and faith in and for anti-racist, anti-oppressive, multicultural community, imperfectly growing.
George A. Buchanan says...
Posted Yesterday
Thank you to our UUMA Board for starting down the right path in this matter. We as ministers are called to sustain the work of racial justice and cultivating the Beloved Community among, and beyond, ourselves. You are all in my thoughts and prayers.
Kendra L. Ford says...
Posted Saturday, April 22, 2017
Thank you for your thoughtful response.
Arthur Berman says...
Posted Saturday, April 22, 2017
It is hard to react to the Board's without knowing what Don's letter said.
Beverly M. Boke says...
Posted Friday, April 21, 2017
Dear Friends and Colleagues, Thank you for your thoughtful response to this painful situation. "Keep calm and carry on."
Debra W. Haffner says...
Posted Friday, April 21, 2017
Love and prayers to all of you. Debra W. Haffner

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