Friday, November 1, 2019
Censure Questions and Answers
updated mid June, 2020
What is the UUMA?
The UUMA is a member organization. It is joined on a voluntary basis, and at this time, there is no requirement that Unitarian Universalist ministers become members of the UUMA. Membership is secured through the payment of dues, (though we do issue full and partial waivers for dues payments every year) and by adherence to our Bylaws and Code of Conduct.
What is a censure?
The letter of censure issued to Rev. Eklof was not a membership action. This censure has no impact on Rev. Eklof’s membership in the UUMA, nor relevance to his Fellowship status with the Ministerial Fellowshipping Committee of the Unitarian Universalist Association. It was and is a statement on the part of the Board that we, as a body, disapprove of an action that a member has taken. A censure is not a statement of censorship (this seems to be a point of widespread confusion) nor one that will prevent a member from speaking freely. It is a statement based on the reality that our actions have consequences; we are free to speak and we are responsible for the impact of our speech. Since it was not a membership action, which is to say Rev. Eklof’s membership standing in the UUMA was not impacted by this action, the Board was neither required nor advised to follow the standards laid out in the Accountability Procedures in the Code of Conduct.
What authority does the UUMA Board have to censure?
The authority for the Board to create such a letter of censure is laid out in the UUMA Guidelines for the Conduct of Ministry under the Section heading “A History of Guidelines and Its Revisions” which reads : “However, the UUMA takes these Guidelines seriously. Flagrant disregard of the Guidelines by ministers can be cause for censure or other disciplinary action by the Board of Trustees.” The Board laid out views in the letter of censure as to how Rev. Eklof disregarded the Guidelines. There is neither expectation nor requirement of confidentiality within our governing documents with regard to a letter of censure, and others that have been made from various bodies of the UUMA have been both public and private.
What is the UUMA Board’s responsibility to covenant?
We are a covenantal faith. As such, the Board of Trustees of the UUMA are first and foremost responsible to the covenant of our organization. That covenant was voted on by the membership of the UUMA in 2009 and is available in the “Covenant” section of our UUMA Guidelines for the Conduct of Ministry. Each Board of Trustees carries the responsibility of interpreting the covenant to the best of their collective wisdom, and hopefully does so with integrity and faithfulness. We have done our best to do so in this case, and will continue to do so going forward.
How does the membership have a say in the Board’s priorities?
We are intentionally working towards being an actively anti-oppressive, anti-racist faith as a whole. As an association, this work is part of our mission. The membership of the UUMA has voted to affirm our mission and has elected leaders to the Board. One of the truths of attempting to live as an anti-racist organization is that it is our job as leadership to center the voices of those who have been marginalized, both in our association and in our country. We understand that this is a different way of leading, that it might not feel equitable, and that it seems as though the ground is shifting. It feels that way because the ground is shifting. We are committed, as leadership, to doing our best to support that shift.
What efforts did the UUMA leadership take to communicate with Rev. Dr. Eklof regarding the concerns named in the letter of censure?
Various members of the UUMA Board of Trustees and Executive Team reached out to Rev. Dr. Eklof (and later to the minister acting as his Good Offices person, Rev. Rick Davis) on numerous occasions. Our first communication was a phone call to Rev. Dr. Eklof to invite a conversation during the Spokane General Assembly. This initial communication was followed by another phone call and several text messages to Rev. Dr. Eklof later in the summer. When Rev. Dr. Eklof declined to talk with us, individually or as a body, we decided to move forward with a letter of censure. We gave Rev. Dr. Eklof and Rev. Davis advance notice of the censure letter in a conversation and also in writing.
After the censure letter was released publicly in August, 2019, we continued to reach out to Rev. Dr. Eklof and Rev. Davis and to respond to their communications to us. Between September 2019 and January 2020, our records indicate we had 14 communications by phone or email or letter with Rev. Dr. Eklof and Rev. Davis or their representatives, some of which we initiated and some of which were responses to communications they initiated.
Click here to access the original letter of censure, which offers further context about the decision to censure.
The work of ministry is hard, and it requires a lot from all of us. We live in a world that is different than it was ten, thirty or fifty years ago, and we are blessed and challenged by the times we live in. May we continue to find ways forward, listening and learning from each other. And may we know that we are here for one another, now and always.