By Mel Harkrader Pine
I tell people, jokingly but with only a smidgeon of exaggeration, that I was excommunicated from Unitarian Universalism. Exactly what happened was that the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) expunged a Litany of Gratitude I had written in 1999 from its Worship Web collection of resources for ministers and lay members. It was expunged because of my character, not the character of the writing.
My litany had lived there for 17 years without a single complaint against it and had been included in some collections. But I wrote a blog post in April 2017 that described the resignations of top UUA officers and staff members, and the rush to promulgate a new major policy before the approaching General Assembly, as a “coup.” Because the issue at the time was the racial composition of the UUA staff, I was labeled as “cool” with racism, someone who wants to keep black folks out of his church. See just two examples, from Leslie Mac here and from Rev. Ashley Horan here.
Still, I remained a UU until July 2018, when I resigned my membership in my local church. (Many UUs don’t realize that their church is a member of the UUA, not the congregants. So the only way to disassociate oneself from the UUA is to resign from one’s church.)
My resignation brought me a sense of lightness because I no longer felt responsible for the direction of the UUA. I no longer needed to fight for people devoted to liberal religion but not to the orthodoxy of progressive “social justice.”
But I do remain devoted to the UU Principles and Sources and to the Unitarian Universalism I joined in the 1980s. So, while I haven’t posted anything on this blog in about a year, I decided to write again.
If you’re not familiar with this year’s controversy, it involves the book The Gadfly Papers: Three Inconvenient Essays by One Pesky Minister by Rev. Dr. Todd Eklof and how Rev. Eklof attempted to distribute the book for free at the UUA General Assembly last month.
I am far too emotionally exhausted (or maybe it’s post-traumatic stress disorder) to go into details. But the essence is that Rev. Eklof was and is trying to start a conversation in UUism about “freedom of conscience and its expression.” Strong voices in UUism described the book and Rev. Eklof as many awful things and asked people not to buy or read it. I’ve bought and read the book. There’s not a single hateful word in it. And I’ve befriended Rev. Eklof and looked into his past. He is anything but a bigot. His background in philosophy and ethics comes out in a reasoned and logical presentation.
And, for those of you who believe in a truly free and open search for truth and meaning, please get over your fear and speak out as Rev. Eklof has done.
Copyright 2019 © Mel Harkrader Pine