UU Conscientious Objection

From the Introduction to Used to Be UU published January 2021, by the 5th Principle Project:

… Unitarian Universalism is the inheritor of values from our heritage denominations. We value self-expression, reason, logic, science, and critical thinking from the first U in our combined denomination. We value compassion and love from the second U. Mostly, we have the freedom to pursue our own path, to search or not search. It is not that UUs are rudderless, characterized as some pejoratively suggest by “believing in anything we want.” Our Seven Principles are an expression of our communal aspirations. We are not required to believe in the inherent worth and dignity of every person. We just do. Such is the case with our other principles.

Our principles’ strength is that they did not just appear when Unitarians and Universalists agreed to merge in 1961. Liberal value such as individual dignity, justice, equity, religious tolerance, democracy, and personal liberty emerged in the 17th and 18th centuries in a period called the Age of Enlightenment. That period ushered in the modern era, in which we have left behind the domination of clerics and monarchs, the sway of religion over science, and the subjugation of individual liberty. We have come to accept the norms of the modern age as enlightened. Unfortunately, change to those norms is occurring in UUism.

The changes to UUism have not been hidden but have been invisible to most UUs. That invisibility is due to our natural focus on our congregations. For most UUs, decisions at the Unitarian Universalist Association (UAA) level in Boston are distant noise easily tuned out. In many, our inattention has contributed to the concerns we wish to raise, the acceptance in UU leadership of ideological theories antithetical to UU liberalism and the atrophy of democracy in denomination governance.

Nearly a decade ago, changes to the Association’s bylaws weakened the roll of democracy in the denomination. Those changes consolidated our nineteen districts into five regions and eliminated the representation of local UUs on the board in favor of at-large members. Can you name, for instance, one currently serving UUA Board of Trustees member? Another significant change was the creation of a central Nominating Committee, as opposed to the decentralized district method, to identify candidates for the UUA Board of Trustees. This centralized Nominating Committee has among its objectives to bring diversity regarding race, gender, and sexual orientation or identity to the composition of the board. The Nominating Committee may have achieved its objective of diversity, but in our opinion, has failed to achieve diversity of thought and is now essentially a gatekeeper to preserve the ideological mindset of the board. Diversity of thought drives rigorous debate ensuring that board decisions are carefully considered. Such debate should inform any board decisions since the UUA Board has wide-ranging explicit and implicit powers. Unchecked by competing points of view or constituent voices, the board is unfettered in its decision-making. Consider the 2017 declaration by the UUA Board of Trustees that UUism is based on white supremacy and is racist and oppressive. That decision, rendered in 90 minutes by only a handful of people, clearly was not subjected to critical debate or considerations regarding the ramifications such a decision would have on UUism. That decision charging UUism with harboring white supremacy has set into motion activities that could very well result in inappropriate changes to our principles and upend our congregational autonomy.

We tend not to recognize the real implication of UU leadership decisions because they are typically articulated in the cloak of social justice endeavor, just as a drive for diversity. You may have heard the outlines of this social justice endeavor expressed in terms such as beloved community and accountable relationships. Few, if any UUs would disagree with the goal of diversity. Poorly understood however, is the darker reality that beneath this call for diversity are external ideologies antithetical to UU liberal values that have been woven into the fabric of UU leadership thinking. [It is important] to understand that these ideologies have a very well-defined prescription on how to cleanse the denomination of its alleged white supremacy. The cleansing involves an uprooting of our UU liberal values and a concerted effort to revise our principles.

We suspect you are utterly unaware of any threat to our liberal values… The outlines of this threat are articulated as “accountable relationships,” and “liberatory theology” to free UUism its alleged complicity with White supremacy culture. [From a lack of “eternal vigilance” the rules have changed, with the result that] a group of highly motivated people has acquired control over the Association’s levers of power. A quote from the 2020 report from the Commission on Institutional Change illustrates the chasm between our current UU leadership and those who believe in congregational autonomy: this idea that the UUA cannot tell us what to do is baloney.

Two ministers so far have been cast out for opposing this authoritarian movement. Due process has been suspended. The UU World no longer publishes letters from dissenters. So now we have UU dogma, and therefore UU heretics, presided over by a UU Inquisition. They call it “accountability.”

Excerpted from Used To Be UU, published by the 5th Principle Project

I have two copies of the book Used to Be UU and will lend them to interested persons.  Or you can get your own from Amazon or wherever it’s sold.

Rev. Leland Bond-Upson

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