Showing posts with label governance. Show all posts
Showing posts with label governance. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Book Review - The Gadfly Papers - What's wrong with Unitarian Universalism

The Gadfly Papers: Three Inconvenient Essays by One Pesky Minister by Todd Eklof is a very interesting collection of essays about what troubles Unitarian Universalism in our current times.

I found it very validating as Rev. Dr. Eklof points out several of the dysfunctional dynamics which plague the UUA and many UU churches.

In the first essay, Eklof, to put it bluntly, writes that policial correctness is killing us, and forcing us into identity politics which diminishes the importance of our shared humanity.

In the second essay, Eklof argues that it may be time for a divorce because the merger of Unitarians and Universalists has not served the NRM, New Religious Movement, well leaving its members and outsides confused about our identity, mission, and vision. In other words, Eklof writes that we have lost our way because we have not remembered our history and without a sense of our history we have no joint vision of our future. Amen! I have sat through enough incoherent and irrelevant sermons to last me for the rest of my life.

In the third and last essay, Eklot argues from a position of scholastic logic how the brouhaha over the hiring controversy back in 2017 leading to the resignation of the UUA President, Peter Morales, and several of his staff, was based not on sound human resource management policies and ethics but on identity politics and inbred conflicts of interest when a board member wanted a job as a paid staff person and cried foul when she wasn't selected for the job.

I was already on the edge when it came to my committment to Unitarian Universalism because I have felt for many years that its governance structure left a lot to be desired as well as its lack of a clear mission and vision for its organizational efforts.

I don't like Eklof's cute and self-denigrating title. His critique is substantive and it amounts to more than just being a gadfly and his being "pesky." He is a deep thinker and a skilled writer and anyone who cares about Unitarian Univeralism should give his book a serious read.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Growing up and growing old are two different things

UU A Way Of Life publishes an article on stoic philosophy every Saturday.

Seneca makes the point than growing old and growing up are two different things. There are some people who have lived long in chronological time but they have not grown in wisdom and grace.

When it comes to life, do you aspire to quanity or quality?

A life well lived is sufficient for satisfaction and fulfillment no matter how many chronological years it entails.

Unitarian Univeralists covenant together to affirm and promote the free and responsible search for truth and meaning. To what extent has any individual or group of people or church been successful in that search?

Many of the UU churches I have observed have resorted to pettiness, bickering, and schisms of all sorts. One small UU church I have observed over almost 20 years goes through a schism about every five years. The church I currently attend periodically has been through about 6 ministers, counting the interims, in the last 10 years. These churches are over 100 years old so that have grown old, but they have not grown up and whether they will survive to any kind of maturity is highly questionable.

Whether the application of this fourth principle contributes to any kind of constructive maturation raises significant questions about the governance structure which seems to have crippled UU maturation as a denomination and "living tradition."

Seneca's point about the shortness of life whether of individuals, groups, or communities can lead us to constructive reflection on our functioning.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Why is Unitarian Univeralism failing the world?

“In the twentieth century, we have witnessed tragic denials of our dependence on one another and on the planet, and we are experiencing the consequences - in the holocaust of World War II; in the slashing and burning of rain forests; in contemporary American society’s hostility toward the poor, we hear voices say, ‘I have no need of you. You have no claim on me.’ The consequences of this denial of our dependence include violence; a loss of a quality of life marked by civility and respect; increased insularity, suffering, and diminishment of our souls; and a planet at risk of environmental collapse.” p.3 Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker

And we wonder how Trumpism can take over the U.S.A. with the nationalistic meme of "Make America Great Again" as if America stands alone, insulated, unrelated and interdependent with other nations on the planet earth.

This seductive siren song to insularity makes a mockery of Gaia. It is the epitome of arrogance that has led to the defilement of the respect and love for the sacred right relationships of the people of the earth. It has led to a dog eat dog ethic that chants, "Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up!" as if this is the answer to the existential suffering of those who are frightened of the future.

With the killings of people in a synagogue in Pittsburg on 10/27/18 and the mailing of pipe bombs to villified national leaders from Florida by a Trump supporter during the week of 10/21/18 we are seeing the symptoms of a societal sickness which has invaded the national community of Americans for whom positive social change has come too fast and who fear being left behind by changes that are canceling out their privilege.

The acting out in violence of one's fears of loss of control is a sad thing to watch with both perpetrator and victim being harmed in the process by those who would manipulate the dynamics for their own gains in maintaining power over the population.

Unitarian Univeralists know better and have articluated their wisdom in their seven principles which can illuminate the darkness. The seven principles alone, though, are not enough. The principles have to be enacted, supported, affirmed and promoted by covenantal relationships which, when activated and realized, can change the norms and attitudes of communities, then states, then the nation and then the world. 

Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker's words, quoted in the beginning of this essay were written in the book, Called To Community: New Directions In Unitarian Universalist Ministry, published by the Unitarian Univeralist Society For Community Ministries in 2013, 5 years ago. 2013 was before the age of Trump but when the dynamics that would ripen that would lead to his emergence onto the world stage were fermenting and building. The naive said, it would never happen, but the true prophets like Michael Moore and few others predicted its coming.

Unitarian Univeralism while it holds one of the keys in the covenantal relationships based on their seven principles to transform the world, it is not institutionally structured for the task. Unitarian Univeralism has been stuck in its insular form of congregational governance and it has not structured an association with enough strength and competence for its calling of planetary transformation.

Until congregations are willing to support a national and international church, Unitarian Universalism will fail to actualize its potential as a world transforming faith. As long as individual UU churches say, "I have no need of you. You have not claim on me" the power of the faith cannot be activated to transform our society and the world. The failure to band together to fund, sanction, support, and guide a "community" ministry to non congregational groups in our society cripples UUs ability to fulfill its mission to sanctify the world by helping people to become holy. Because of UUs failure the unholy flourishes around us in banal and traumatic activities which have seemed to become normal.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Make the right choice

Most Unitarian Universalists, like most of humanity, have control issues. They reject most forms of governance. They want to make up their own minds and manage their own small congregations. One of the reasons that  Unitarian Universalism has remained such a small denomination is its failure of its local churches to give up control. All of this willfulness is hidden behind the meme of the "democratic process" which gets carried to such an extent that UUs are mocked for their desire to talk things to death in committees because they cannot resolve their disagreements and conflicts for the greater good.

The schisms and infighting in UU congregations are legendary and has consequences the biggest of which is the failure to engage in UUs mission because there is too much infighting for control. Self righteous egos block any kind of movement toward cooperative obedience. Cooperative obedience is anathema to UUs and so they languish in the hell of their own making.

In the last analysis we have only one choice to make: whether we follow the path of the ego or the path of the spirit.

The path of the ego is constantly calling us. In the great Christian prayer, the Our Father, in Latin the Pater Noster, we pray, "...and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil." The path of the ego is the "temptation" of which the prayer speaks.

The path of the ego is a path of comparison, specialness, the power of attack, hurt and harm, vengeance and punishment, condemnation and judgment, contempt and disdain, criticism and subjugation, exclusion and ostracism, sacrifice and death, sickness and deprivation. This is the hell which we create on the path of the ego full of drama and excitement at our neighbors expense and suffering and anguish.

The path of spirit offers us happiness and joy, bliss and peace, contentment and fulfillment, love and abundance.

Why wouldn't a person choose the path of the spirit? Because the path of the spirit requires giving up control. The path of the spirit asks us to align our wills with the Will of God. This surrender of our control and willfulness is the stumbling block and most humans would rather create and live in hell than give up their own will for the Will of God.

Multiple times a day we are offered the choice of the path of the ego or the path of the spirit. As they say in Alcoholics Anonymous, "Let it go." We have to admit that our lives our unmanageable and surrender to our Higher Power whatever we conceive that Higher Power to be. We all must do this when we die and everyday we live many small deaths experiencing loses and having to let things go. We can do this with anger, fear, suffering and thinking and feeling like a victim or we can do this recognizing that our navels are not the center of the universe and our will is not in charge.

Jesus says, "Seek and you will find. Knock on the door and it will be opened to you."

You are already seeking or you wouldn't be reading this. This lesson is that you have to knock. This lesson encourages you to make that choice.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The long history of UU distrust of centralized authority

In my research and study to understand better the dynamics that contribute to Unitarian Universalism being such a small denomination when it has so much to offer the world, I stumbled across this paragraph in Richard Trudeau's book, Universalism 101 on page 61:

"Another reason for Universalism's decline had to do with Universalists' fear of centralized authority. In 1792, Universalists in Newport, Rhode Island, were reported to be reluctant even to meet with each other for Sunday worship, for fear of the ecclesiastical structure that they felt would inevitably follow from holding regular meetings. (And some say that Unitarian Universalists today have a problem with authority!) To the every end of its independent existence, the Universalist denomination never allowed its national organization to have significant authority."

This quote appears in Trudeau's book under the section headed "Universalist Decline."

I have encountered this negative attitude toward centralized authority at Pullman Memorial Universalist Church in Albion, NY when I was a member there in the mid 2000s. Some members of the congregation resented and were opposed to paying the member fee to the UUA even though the church gladly requested and utilized UUA services.

The fear of centralized authority has limited the viability of the denomination in the nation and world because its operation is left to local volunteers who are constantly reinventing the wheel trying to create and maintain an effective and efficient and customer satisfying social architecture within which worship, education, and service can occur.

There is a subtle balance  in power and control between local and centralized authority. The UUA and the local churches need to find ways to collaborate and cooperate for the benefit and viability of the denomination. A stronger voluntary accreditation system would be a step in the right direction.
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