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UUMA Board Letter regarding Don Southworth's Personal Letter

Friday, April 21, 2017   (14 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 & Advocacy)

To put this letter in context you can find the personal letter from Don by clicking here


Janette M. Lallier says...
Posted Friday, May 19, 2017
The link is at the bottom of the above letter. Click on the words "Clicking Here" in the final sentence and you should see the letter.
Richard R. Davis says...
Posted Friday, May 19, 2017
This strikes me as a very thoughtful dialogue and process, yet like some others who haven't seen Don's letter we can't fully grasp what is going on. Can you make this available or direct us to where it is?
Elizabeth M. McMaster says...
Posted Friday, May 19, 2017
I would like to read Don's letter and have not seen it. Please tell me where to find it. Thanks
Kurt A. Kuhwald says...
Posted Tuesday, May 9, 2017
I'm sorry to have to edit my own letter, but I want to make clear: White Supremacy has risen to a point of "awareness" in our Association ... in ways that now allow us to address it collectively. Blessings.
Kurt A. Kuhwald says...
Posted Tuesday, May 9, 2017
In the spirit of Restorative Justice, I want to suggest that in your process for holding our Executive Director accountable, you engage with us, the members of the Association, in ways that directly address the harms that have resulted to us as a result--as well as the harms to the wider community of UUism. Good Colleagues: While this is necessarily a personnel matter for you, it is also a community matter, and dialogue among the parties who have harmed, and who have been harmed seems critical. Thank you for responding to us and to the other groups where your letter was posted. Minister's Days seems a good place to engage with members, but I hope ways to include others in our UU community will be offered. The harm in our DE's letters did not occur in a vacuum ... despite the fact that he is employed by the UUMA ... they reflect the deeper dynamics of white supremacy that has, thankfully, risen to the point where it can collectively be dealt with.
Julia McKay says...
Posted Tuesday, April 25, 2017
Thinking of you and holding you all as you navigate what is our significant journey of boldly living love and justice. May we hold each other not only accountable, but with gentle grace. Julia McKay
Jan M. Carlsson-Bull says...
Posted Tuesday, April 25, 2017
Abundant thanks for your thoughtful response--not just to Don's letter, but to the deep pain that has been manifest in what springs from hiring practices that are symptomatic of the fault line that is racism, that is white privilege, that is power long abused by those among us who are white. That you, the members of our Board, commit to move through a healing process with Don so that both healing and learning can take place and that you commit to ensuing transparency is immensely gratifying. We know that the work of healing is hard and can only be done when truth is spoken and heard. Thank you for doing so in love. I hope that at Ministry Days we might find rituals for speaking truth in a community of deep listening and only then, rituals for reconciliation that hold the seeds of healing the deeply historic fault line of racism in our midst. With love and gratitude for each and all of you-- Jan Carlsson-Bull
Samuel A. Trumbore says...
Posted Tuesday, April 25, 2017
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 Tuesday, April 25, 2017
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 Monday, April 24, 2017
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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