Am I Still a Unitarian Universalist Minister?

An Open  Letter to my Unitarian Universalist Siblings:

I hope this letter finds you all thriving and happy.

I write in the hope that you may assist me in resolving a professional question that arises out of the present crisis in our denomination.

As a shared frame of reference, I  offer the following excerpts, the first from the UUA Website and the second from Wikipedia. Together, I believe they provide a summary of what any interested member of the public would understand to be the essence of Unitarian-Universalism and UU ministry.

What the public understands is important, for between my published writing and my work as a law enforcement chaplain, my UU ministry mostly operates outside the church and our institutional assumptions. Whether at a book reading or at the scenes of the various wild-land calamities to which I am summoned,  I am very likely to be the only representative of our faith. Recently   I have begun to doubt that I am representing it honestly.

Ministers are spiritual leaders of our faith communities, the UUA website says.   They help us to explore life’s questions, encourage us to live out our values and comfort us in times of suffering. Ministers teach, preach, listen and learn by serving congregations, serving as chaplains and working for justice in the community. 

…UU ministers are a diverse group…their personal beliefs are as diverse as  Unitarian Universalism and all are committed to UU values. Rather than telling others what to do or believe, ministers encourage people to make sense of the world in their own way,  supporting them on their life’s journey.

So far, so good.

I have been a UU minister since 2004. As a  chaplain, my ministry is by definition ecumenical and all-inclusive,  but when asked, I readily identify myself as a UU. Since many people don’t know what a Unitarian-Universalist is, I explain it pretty much the way Wikipedia does:

Unitarian Universalism (UU) is a liberal religion characterized by a free and responsible search for truth and meaning. Unitarian Universalists assert no creed but instead are unified by their shared search for spiritual growth….Unitarian Universalists  state that from [their twin traditions] comes a deep regard for intellectual  freedom and  inclusive love.

I never doubted that this tradition was where I belonged, nor did my fellow UUs  ever suggest that I was in any way failing to live up to the standards of the faith.

Quite the opposite, in fact. When my memoir, Here If You Need Me, became a New York Times bestseller,  I was positively profiled in, among other publications,  UU World. Among the various prizes and honors I received, I was most pleased to join such luminaries as Taylor Branch, Toni Morrison and Tim O’Brien as a recipient of the UUA’s Frederic G. Melchor Award, bestowed yearly for that book “judged to be the most significant contribution to religious liberalism.”

I was glad to learn from correspondence with readers that many were introduced to Unitarian Universalism through my books, or through my interviews with, for example, Krista Tippet in NPR’s On Being.  When a story I told on  NPR’s  The Moth Radio Hour went viral,  it meant ten million people had listened to the voice of a UU minister.

As an author and also as someone with expertise in sudden death and grief and/or law enforcement, I teach, preach,  listen and learn around the country and, indeed, around the world. I’ve preached sermons in UU but also Congregational, UCC, Baptist, Methodist, Episcopalian and Lutheran churches and in synagogues.

I’ve trained American law enforcement officers and other first responders in the theory and practice of compassionate on-scene bereavement support and death notification, and offered lessons learned working with game wardens in the Maine woods to wildly diverse audiences including physicians and surgeons, the FBI National Academy, the POMC (Parents Of Murdered Children);  to hospital and prison chaplains, the incarcerated and  high school, college, graduate school, medical school, law school and yes! even divinity-school students.  As a UU minister I’ve blessed new babies, new marriages (including same-sex ones, of course) new cops, new chaplains and new lawyers.

It was as a UU minister that I offered the opening prayer to thirty-thousand people at the  National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial service in Washington, DC, as well as at the groundbreaking ceremony for the National Law Enforcement Museum. In 2010, I gave the opening prayer for the United States House of Representatives.

For my work,  I’ve been  honored with various state and national awards including, in just the past year,  the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill  Lifetime Achievement Award, the University of Maine’s MaryAnn Hartman Award and, in 2019, I was named by Maine Magazine as one of its “50 Influential Mainers.”

I could go on, but the point is not to boast of my accomplishments. Rather, it is to underline what I would hope would be obvious: When I am recognized by a group or, for that matter, by a stranger who happens to bump into me at the airport, I am explicitly and implicitly representing Unitarian Universalism. And herein lies the rub.

The events of the past few years—- especially the ructions attendant upon the publication of Rev. Todd Eklof’s The Gadfly Papers—-now impel me to ask a simple and serious question.

I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I am a minister…but am I still a Unitarian Universalist minister?

For it seems to me that, though the descriptions offered on the UUA Website and on Wikipedia haven’t changed, Unitarian-Universalism has changed. There is a new, de facto if not quite yet de jure definition coming from the top down, of what it means to be a UU Minister. I am not sure I can still be located within it.

I believe in the free and responsible search for truth and meaning.  I have a deep, downright passionate regard for intellectual freedom and inclusive love and, indeed, believe that one is not possible without the other.

But if Reverend Todd Eklof is an apostate, so am I. If Reverend Richard Trudeau is worthy of censure by the board of the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association, so am I—-indeed, I am more worthy of such censure than either of these men.

After all, their free and responsible search for truth and meaning led neither of them to be Republican-tolerant, Trump-voter-sympathizing, uniform-wearing,  androphilic, pro-life-adjacent, reason-loving, dialectic-enjoying, America-approving, pro-capitalist and pro-free speech cop-lovers.

During the two decades in which I’ve been hanging out with mostly-male police officers and comforting the suddenly and violently grief-stricken, or writing books that have nothing whatever to do with systems of oppression, the Revs. Eklof and Trudeau have been doing all the right things,  in UU-approved ways.

If, after all his years of good-faith UU service, Reverend Eklof can nonetheless be instantly and mercilessly condemned by nearly two hundred of  his colleagues within hours of distributing a thoughtful, well-intentioned book; if Reverend Trudeau pour encourager les autres  can be  censured by the UUMA for causing unenumerated harms to unnamed “colleagues of color;” if, for that matter, an ordinary congregant, Mel Pine, can be subjected to a twenty-minute obscenity-laced online diatribe and then have his work removed from the Worship Web merely for questioning the behavior of those who are, quite clearly, now in control of our denomination… what on earth should happen to me?

I never got around to being “fellowshipped” so I suppose I can’t be “un-fellowshipped.” I don’t belong to the UUMA, so I don’t know whether its board has standing to censure me.

Still it seems quite obvious that I ought to be censured, and someone needs to post a video condemning me, too. The briefest Google search would surely be sufficient to turn up all sorts of transgressions against the new orthodoxy. At the very least, my picture and story should be removed from the UUA website, on the grounds that I have been misrepresenting our faith or, to put it another way, I’ve been telling lies. In my defense, mine are the same lies still extant and uncorrected on that same website but I’m sure the webmasters will get around to adjusting that soon enough.

In the meantime, at the very least, the UUA, UUMA, BLUU, DRUUM etc. should surely abjure me, and instruct me  to cease and desist describing myself as a UU minister in any and all interviews, awards ceremonies, speeches, sermons, public prayers, radio and television appearances and on the jackets of all future editions of my books.

Of course, I could be wrong. As I say, I don’t really “do” systems, just people, and grieving ones at that. So perhaps I have misinterpreted recent events?

If so—that is, if the UUA and all its acronymic subgroups would just as soon have me continue to self-identify as a UU minister— perhaps you would be kind enough to let me know why? And, for that matter, how?

Ideally, such a reassuring explanation would take the form of one of those “Open Letters” co-signed by dozens of my colleagues, though if it’s all the same to you,  I’d prefer to have signatories of all colors, not just white ones.

If I don’t hear anything from you, please know that I shall respectfully interpret this to mean that you all do indeed prefer that I no longer publicly associate myself with Unitarian-Universalism. Of course I shall respect your wishes. If it would be helpful, I can notify the New York Times, the Washington Post, Krista Tippet et al,  that nothing I have done, am doing, or will do in future should be presumed to represent the principles and values of the Unitarian Universalist Association.

With thanks in advance, I remain, pro tem, your colleague,
Reverend Kate Braestrup


  1. A powerful statement from a fabulous chaplain. I’ve followed you for years and I am proud to have you represent Unitarian Universalism to the wider world. Thank you for your letter, for all you do for our faith and the many folks you serve.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Kate,
    Thanks so much for your post. I am a fellowshipped UU minister who is deeply disturbed about the ltr from now 500 ministers and the UUMA censure re The Gadfly Papers and Todd’s distribution of them @ GA.
    I have been a Unitarian since b/f the merger, having grown up Unitarian starting in the 1950s. In 2003, I entered SKSM (Starr King School for the Ministry) hoping to deepen my faith, learn, and to someday be able to share what I had and would learn. There I met some wonderful human beings with whom I wish to continue to share community and growth. Unfortunately, I also met some folks who behaved quite badly. Some of the faculty was purged in 2005, and there was a later purge so that people who did not buy into the prevailing ideology or the underhanded politics were no longer present to object. In my 30 years with the federal government, I never saw such underhanded behavior.
    We are indeed in the midst of a war for the soul of UUism. I hope you remain. We need warriors like you.
    Reverend Earl W Koteen
    Ecological Justice Minister

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Thank you, Kate! The principled UU resistance is slowing gaining its footing; your contribution will help. But mainly, I respect your determination to be honest and congruent. That’s prime for me too.
    Rev. Mark Gallagher

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you, Rev. Mark! I hope to help, though of course, I could just be adding to the confusion? I keep coming back to the mantra: “It’s not love to lie.” And I feel as though, increasingly, I’ve been misrepresenting UU-ism. To what extent, I don’t know. But clearly, the UU-ism I’m putting out there isn’t the UU-ism that the UUA wants to be about.

      It would be one thing if I were the only UU, or even the only UU minister who feels this way. But I’m obviously not. I’ve even heard from UU ministers who signed that stupid “white minister’s letter” out of—imagine this?!?—fear of the effect on their careers if their names did not appear.

      Though I have some areas of agreement with Eklof (as well as areas of disagreement), that isn’t really the point, is it? The principle (remember, people? We have principles. Seven of them!) should easily encompass the publication and distribution of a book like the Gadfly papers. Period. Full stop. And that same principle clearly, obviously accommodates Mel Pine and Richard Trudeau. These shouldn’t even be hard calls…

      Is it just me, or is it slightly surreal that we’re even having this conversation?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Re. “But clearly, the UU-ism I’m putting out there isn’t the UU-ism that the UUA wants to be about.”


      2. (Why does WordPress insist on inserting stuff before I hit “post?”)
        Re. “But clearly, the UU-ism I’m putting out there isn’t the UU-ism that the UUA wants to be about.”
        The UUA doesn’t get to define what UUism is about. Arguably, NOBODY does – except for themselves, and perhaps, as a congregation, for itself. We NEED folks standing up to those who would illegitimately proclaim their version of truth, for all of us.


  4. Thank you, Kate! I am a lifelong UU and a UU minister of 39 years and your sentiments match mine. If we abandon our basic principles of seeking truth through open and respectful dialogue and our commitment to wisdom from all in our human community, we are not UU’s anymore. Those who wish to become doctrinal, no matter how honorable their aims, should seek a doctrinal church.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Thank You Kate, As a UU since 1971 When my wife and I found UUism in a Telephone book and we were married by a UU minister. My wife Shelly and I have been active in the denomination at many levels over the years. As I tell my friends as to why I’m not active, “Uniterian Universalism has left me I did not leave it!” I share your thought’s.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. “Unitarian Universalism has left me…” that’s it in a nutshell, isn’t it? It seems —not to put too fine a point on it—bonkers for a denomination already losing membership to wantonly and pointlessly disparage, discourage and, in effect, eject good UUs like you.

      Liked by 3 people

  6. Kate, thank you for writing with such clarity, you have expressed well what I am feeling even as a lay person. BTW, I love your Beginner’s Grace book. Keep writing and speaking up, we need leaders like you right now.

    Liked by 6 people

  7. Thank you, Rev. Braestrup. I am a UU community minister, having served as a hospital and hospice chaplain. I was at the Spokane GA when a fellow minister encouraged me to get a copy of the Gadfly Papers, which I did. Various UU identity groups advised GA attendees not to read the book and not to even search for it lest it go viral. I too was concerned about all the ministers that signed on to the letter, not having read the book, but because other ministers they respected had signed the letter. I attended Starr King School for the Ministry from 2005 to 2009 and took for granted the anti-racist, anti-oppression multicultural focus of ministry – ARAOMC. I am actively engaged in anti-racism work, but I have been increasingly concerned about the growing emphasis of ARAOMC as the core tenet of our UU faith. Questioning “white supremacy culture” and anti-racist pedagogy has become a third-rail in UUism. Thank you for calling into question the actions of an increasingly illiberal left in our denomination.

    Rev. Jamie McReynolds

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Telling people not to read something…it seems, somehow, as if it should be downright unnatural for a UU to attempt to quash the discussion of an idea, even a difficult one. Heck, even a wrong one? Didn’t we used to have the knack of seriously engaging ideas we didn’t like?

      Liked by 3 people

  8. This is a horrendous condemnation of what our ministry has become – which just goes to reinforce the lack of integrity & moral courage demonstrated by the 500 ministers who condemned Rev. Eklof.

    As far as I’m concerned, as a UU, you are far more a Unitarian Universalist Minister than many of your colleagues.
    I do have to ask, though – can we assume that you were ordained by a UU congregation, at some point – the only official mark of a UU minister?

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Kate: I have faith that, when the people lead, the leaders will follow. I have hope that, with the help of posts such as yours, the people will become aware of the crisis and will indeed lead. Thank you so much for your post. (In my book you are, unquestionably, a UU minister, and I very much hope you continue to present yourself as such!)

    Liked by 4 people

  10. Thank you Rev. Braestrup.
    I am a seminary student but not seeking UU ordination or fellowship. I can’t call myself a UU anymore. I am very troubled by this religion that is unrecognizable from the religion I joined 15 years ago. Actually I am more than troubled. I am heart broken. I know so many UUs who feel shamed, attacked and confused by this strange direction UU has taken. Ministers who signed the petition at GA did so too quickly to have read the Gadfly Papers at all. No discussion was considered. If this is the new UU, I will grieve for what was and what could have been. There are so many beautiful ways to create what Martin Luther King jr called a “shared destiny”. Intead we see UU embracing isolating individualism and a fundamentalist religion of dogmatic social activism.
    Yes, my heart is breaking but my voice isn’t being heard.
    Thank you for your extraordinary bravery in speaking out. It isn’t easy.

    Kathleen Jacobson
    Seminary student

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I am so happy to hear that at least one of our seminary students is still an adherent to classic UU values. Personally, I would urge to seek ordination, from a UU congregation that continues to value a free church. We need more defenders of liberal religion in our ranks, and in the ranks of our ministry. The Ministerial Fellowship Committee & the UUMA be damned – we are a covenantal faith, with congregational polity – and we need ministers who hold true to these values.

      Liked by 4 people

  11. Here’s from a UU minister of color. And I come from the UU Church of the Philippines – just got elected president. I admire your honesty and courage. The ministerial call is not to be determined by the mercy of a few, that is the very premise and promise of heresy: That we be able to say freely, with the help of free inquiry, whether something is helpful in our ”salvation” or not. Unitarianism takes heresy even further by saying, an individual, not just an institution, can get to say that. And so the UU response is, ”if you think that path is helpful to you, go for it.” I am with Todd Eklof’s sincere inquiry into the reshaping of UUism – there is a risk in being too safe. I still do not agree with safetyism the concept though, it seems too sweeping, but I’m just a pedestrian looking in. And I shall always remain that way, if I must keep myself free of any evolving dogma of unspoken unarticulated philosophy reduced into obscenities or feelings alone, too arbitrary for accountable relationship. And there is still a lot to be said about normalizing white discourse. The whole thing, the ”decentering”, the BLUU privileging over Native Americans and others, the book, the censuring, and everything contributing to the ”ruction” is still privileged discourse. And we need each other to change all that.

    Liked by 6 people

  12. This elderly Unitarian by birth finds it hard to sympathize with the good Reverend Braestrup.
    Are you still a Unitarian Universalist minister? If you are a Unitarian rather than a Trinitarian and a Universalist rather than a believer in selective salvation, and you are a minister, then yes you are. Who cares what the zealots say. It is Arius and Emerson, among others, the ageless ones, not the modern day UUA activists who get to define what it is to be a UU.
    If you are feeling left out now, then get over it. You have plenty of company. First the zealots came for the military people in the 60’s and ran them off. Then it was the politically conservative. Then the business people. Then the traditional family advocates, the political moderates, law enforcement and their supporters, and now it is everyone from unrepentant heterosexual males to those who don’t want to be told what to think and what not to read.
    How many active military and law enforcement people can now reasonably become UU’s? Is that healthy?
    No, the UUA and the UUA ministers are in no way a diverse group.
    Theirs is not a Unitarian Universalist theological entity, it is a highly political race obsessed temple of left wing group thinkers.
    But people like you, Reverend Braestrup, and the most admirable Todd Ekloff as well, are among those who allowed this to happen. You should have stopped it early on but you didn’t, and now they come for you.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You definitely have a point, Robert. And we agree on a whole lot. By your definition, at least, I am still a Unitarian and a Universalist. Thank you. That helps.

      For what it’s worth, I don’t feel as though “they’re “coming for me. I am wondering, sincerely, why they aren’t?

      If the mark of Cain must be branded upon the forehead of Eklof and Trudeau, it should certainly be burned into mine as well, for nothing they have thought, said or done is “worse” than what I’ve done, or even “as bad.”. After all, I hang out with police officers all day long (and adore them); I was married to (and widowed by) a Maine State Trooper, and my son is a (former) Marine. If these brave and lovely guys (mostly guys) are no longer welcome in our highly politicized race-obsessed temple of left-wing group thinkers , then I can’t be there either.

      Liked by 2 people

  13. I am a white, middle-aged, cis hetero male, currently enrolled at Meadville Lombard, invited into Preliminary Fellowship last month. During my interview, I stated that I would use the power of my embodied position to dismantle systems of white supremecy.

    Your words have given me pause, and I would not be true to my self or the statements I made to my colleagues if I didnt speak up in this moment.

    You wrote, …”those who are, quite clearly, now in control of our denomination… 

    Who are the “those” of whom you speak?

    I dont think you needed to ask the group if you still align with this faith. As a minister, you need only look at the guidelines the fellowshipped leaders if this faith tradition currently covenant to uphold.

    These, for example:

    To use our power constructively and with intention, mindful of our potential unconsciously to perpetuate systems of oppression;

    Have you explored this matter deeply through this lens? In what ways does supporting Gadfly break down systems of oppression? I have heard many argue convincingly that it perpetuates these systems. What is your counter? What is your view of the proposed 8th Principle?

    -To seek justice and right relations according to our evolving collective wisdom, and to refrain from all abuse or exploitation;

    Right relations according to our evolving collective wisdom…what do we do if the evolving collective wisdom begins to veer in a direction that is counter to our existing beliefs? Are we called to fight against the collective tide? Or are we challenged instead to educate ourselves more deeply about the reasons the collective wisdom is seeking a path towards greater inclusion and power sharing with the formally marginalized? Which takes precedent…ones “free snd responsible search” or “the goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all?”

    -To cultivate practices of deepening awareness, understanding, humility, and commitment to our ideals;

    Your pedigree is long and clearly impressive. When we become acknowlwdged as an expert, how do we ensure we remain open to new concepts that challenge our acquired wisdom?

    If you decide you no longer align with the UUA and choose to stop calling yourself a UU Minister, what would be the exact reason you would give for this decision? The UUA has become too inclusive?

    Liked by 5 people

      1. JK, as my kids would say, Matt. (Couldn’t resist). As mentioned, I’m an androphile. I appreciate the perspectives of men, even white cis-gendered heterosexual ones!

        Isn’t Seminary wonderful? I loved Seminary—I almost envy you!

        I’m not actually too worried about how Gadfly breaks down systems of oppression — maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. IT certainly provokes conversation and—old-school UU that I am—I think that’s a good thing.

        I’m more worried about our denomination’s inability to handle what is really pretty ordinary, run-of-the-mill intellectual diversity in anything like a sensible, constructive way. This might not matter so much to, say, a fundamentalist Christian or Muslim sect, but in a denomination whose sine qua non is intellectual diversity… ?

        Why doesn’t it seem to occur to anyone in Boston that maybe—just maybe?—if nice, normal, generally-woke (or at least woke-ish) UU ministers are accidentally failing to get with the program, it’s because there’s a flaw in the program, or at least in the roll-out? That is, maybe the problem isn’t our reception, but their delivery?

        Incidentally, as long as you’re asking: “Peace, liberty and justice for all” depends upon “the free and responsible search for truth and meaning.” Unless, of course, you already know the truth, and can define the meaning not just for other UUs but for everyone in the world? In which case, you don’t really need a church. You need an army.

        Liked by 4 people

      2. Thank you for coming back into dialougue.
        There are, as always, many nuances to explore here.
        My challenge with your position is that you are critiquing the collective without a willingness to add your voice directly into the conversation.
        The direction the UUA is attempting to steer the ship is towards a future where all voices are included in the discussion. To enable that, it has been learned, through years of hard work and painful missteps, that the only way to truly make room for all voices to be heard is for those that hold significantly more power than others to intentionally cede some of that power. (Which, from a feminist point of view, is where the phrase “mansplaining” originated. An attempt to get those with more positional power-men- to shut up and see if they might actually gain some new perspective if they would try listening for a change).
        Anything else is simply a continuation of the colonialism that has annihilated so many lives throughout history.
        I have found it to be far easier to take jabs at this discussion from the sidelines then to roll up ones sleeves and engage directly in the work with the leaders that are wrestling through the challenges faced in an increasingly connected, multi-cultural world.
        We are discussing these issues, vigorously. I hope you will choose to accept the invitations to add your voice directly into the mix as opposed to simply offering critique from the outside.


      3. I think dialogue is incredibly important. That’s why I don’t think it should be shut down. Have you seen the infamous Lesley Mac video? Has it been discussed in your seminary classes?

        Incidentally, I don’t have a “pedigree,” just a CV, like everyone else.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. My son has been working for the Sarasota Sheriff’s office for a year as a 911 operator. I just gave him a copy of HERE IF YOU NEED ME to read as a way of showing him that other UU’s work in law enforcement. I am grateful for your work and now for his. The world is a better place with UU’s working in law enforcement and UUs communities are better places when we have members who work in law enforcement. My experience as a minister in the Sarasota UU church is that I have received 100% support from the 570 members of the congregation for my son’s work. I would also add that I have received the same support from the persons I know on the staff of the UUA. They are trying to hold us all together. Like you I am not a member of the UUMA, but I still serve as a UU minister. Thank you for your work and your writing. I hope you will continue to consider yourself a UU minister.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Hurrah for your boy, Roger! I just did a Critical Incident Stress Management training for dispatchers here in Maine, and was stunned by—first—how incredibly hard (and stressful!) their job is, and also how little I’d really known about it for all these years. And I’ve been “in” law enforcement one way and another for 30 years. It was humbling. How lucky we are that there are people willing and capable of that work. Say hi to your son for me, and tell him thank you!

      Liked by 2 people

  15. Thank you for representing our liberal religious faith in so many contexts.
    The current idolatry infects and disables real justice making in community. The purists joined the Stop the West Roxbury Pipeline community of activists with knee jerk hatred of police and demands for White Supremacy training. The group was fractured and demotivated.

    I am heartbroken by the rabid condemnation of my colleagues who reflect on “the coddling of the American mind.”

    Keep the faith,

    Liked by 4 people

  16. I am, I still believe, your colleague, although you have long chosen not be in covenantal relationship with me and countless others through our fellowshipping process or our professional association. I thank you deeply for the gift of your memoir, and I have been a long time admirer of your writing. Knowing what a gifted writer you are, I can only assume that you intend the self-indulgence, passive aggression, and threat that comes across in this piece. I am saddened by that.

    I am also saddened by your flip refusal to “do” systems, when grieving people of every identity are caught up in death-dealing, soul-stealing systems every day. Refusing to examine those systems seems a disservice to the people you serve and anathema to the calling of our shared Universalist faith, which insists upon the mutuality of our salvation.

    Moral clarity is not religious orthodoxy, and I truly fail to understand how attending to the needs of those most historically marginalized in our association “draws our circle smaller.” What I see happening here and elsewhere is those already inside the circle leaving it rather than consenting to grow the circle wider as we are being asked by our marginalized beloveds to do. What a painful message that sends.

    Liked by 4 people

  17. I’d like to think I have been in covenantal relationship with you, Molly. That was sort of the point of listing all those instances in which I was identified and self-identified as a UU minister. My hope was that even if —for practical reasons—I didn’t go through the fellowshipping process, my work still reflected an authentic Unitarian Universalist sensibility, and indeed, that I’d done y’all proud.

    I didn’t mean to sound flip, though of course I’m frustrated. I really, truly don’t do systems. I’m a very, very concrete thinker, and the ARAOMAC focus produces in me the same feeling I had when I took Systematic Theology in seminary. The professor would be explaining, say, the Atonement Theory of the Crucifixion, and I would understand it and even admire it for its…well, moral clarity. It was like looking at a beautifully-made box, with all the joints dovetailed and the edges sanded smooth. But after the class was over, I’d find myself thinking “okay, but how does this play out on the ground? What am I supposed to DO with this?” As it happened, being a UU, I didn’t have to do anything with it, but as I say, I get the same despairing sense from the ARAOMAC (new acronym for me—super helpful!) And yes, I’m very wary of moral clarity—one of the reasons I became a UU was the blessed relief of being part of a church that wasn’t quite as sure of its own moral clarity as the alternatives I saw around me at the time.

    As for grieving people caught up in death-dealing, soul-stealing systems…you’ll forgive me if I have a more literal definition of “death-dealing.” It’s hard for me not to compare the “soul-stealing” of the white-supremacist-UU church with, say, a domestic violence murder. Again—my limitation.

    I’d like to suggest that if people like me (et al) are not grasping the obvious virtues of the new…way…that might be because the evangelism has been handled unskillfully rather than because UUs are unusually dense or evil or “fragile?”

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Hey Kate;

    First of all, I am a huge fan. Our careers are very similar; ordained in 1993 after being a paramedic since my teens, I have been a trauma chaplain, author, teacher, and itinerant preacher who likewise identifies as a UU Minister without being fellowshipped. I now am a hospice chaplain, because I decided I needed to slow down 🙂

    Back in my time, the MFC didn’t really know what to do with chaplains, so they offered some of us “affiliate fellowship”, a category that was eventually eliminated. And for those just joining the conversation, chaplains have other organizations beyond the UUA that provide us with certification, accountability, and collegiality.

    So all of that said, I deeply respect your position and how you have presented it. I am not quite ready to call this a huge crisis of faith, because like you, I view the word “crisis” through a completely different lens. You and I have been in the room, or “on the scene”, during some of the most horrible and tragic moments of people’s lives.

    What I will concede is that I think that accepting a new, academic definition of “white supremacy” makes a mockery of the horror of what that phrase has meant to so many people for millennia and it cheapens their memory and their suffering. The idea that unitarian universalism is a culture of white supremacy makes me want to laugh and cry and puke all at the same time. With so many amazing and effective black theologians within our midst, our leaders have chosen instead to pursue a widely discredited program and process, largely promulgated by, dare I say it, white people. Talk about racist.

    I guess thats why I don’t think its a crisis. Actual people in the churches are speaking out, multiracial voices are continuing to do the work of antiracism, and POC and LGBTQA people and ideas are being centered with or without the approval of the UUA. I have faith in them, and in us.

    I forgot to say that I’m also a gay guy who survived the AIDS holocaust; it was that event that called me to health care chaplaincy. It took me a long time to find my place in the river, and nobody gets to tell me that I don’t belong.

    Blessings, my sister.
    Rev Dr Don Stouder

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I am learning so much from all of you. Thank you Rev Dr Stouder. I know that for me, UU is changing in a direction that feels wrong deep in my bones. I have not been able to articulate it as well as you have. I hope that by the time I finish seminary, I will be able to find language for such things. For now, I will just trust my bones and listen to people who are wise.

      Kat Jacobson

      Liked by 4 people

  19. You and Mel were kind enough to give my very intermittent blog some attention here while I puzzled out whether UUism was a big enough tent to contain me. My discernment had more to do with (what I hoped) was unintentional class prejudice but in time it came to feel like that bigotry had other, bigger facets of orthodoxy fundamentally at odds with classical liberalism and the liberal enlightenment. I fit under the tent. The tent really leaks badly. For me, that’s not the right place to spend a lot of time.

    I’m the person who discovered the UUA had, as he puts it, excommunicated Mel. I went to read his prayer on Worship Web because I couldn’t hear Leslie MacFayden via YouTube well enough and captioning wasnt working. Mel’s beautiful and entirely inoffensive prayer is still missing from the UUA website. MacFayden is now a General Trustee. There has never been any reconciliation attempted. This offends my sense of what “acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth,” had ought to mean.

    I didn’t have a crisis moment. Realizing that UUism had left me and not vice-versa was a slow process. I wrote that blog anonymously in case I ever wanted to pursue ordination and ministerial fellowship. (I have an M.Div. and becoming a minister was my goal before other life situations put that on hiatus.) I “outed” myself on Facebook when I wrote the last entry. Kathleen Jacobsen, I know what that heartbreak feels like and I’m sorry you’re going through it, too.

    You, Rev. Kate, have been an inspiration and a healer to my husband and me along my journey. “Here If You Need Me” fell into my hands when my fiance, as he then was, was diagnosed with a progressive neurological illness that’s going to kill him. It helped us so much that we named our (Maine Coon) kitten Braestrup. Keep ministering, please. My guide on the way into UUism was the late Rev Dr Church. And as I’m sure you also know, this is how he would conclude:

    I love you.
    -Jae O Connell

    Liked by 3 people

      1. I meant to say that I laughed out loud at the idea of a Maine coon cat named “Braestrup!” Given how difficult many people seem to find the pronunciation of that name, I wonder if your kitty gets called “Bra-Strap” a lot too?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. She did a bit, but mostly she was called Brae, or “stop that you mean little shit.” Sadly, when we moved to New York she attempted some of her acrobatics on furniture that was placed further apart than it had been in Cambridge and concussed herself so badly she had to be euthanised. We divide our life between three cities now, and it seems unfair to have a kitty. But I miss Brae and her predecessor Maine Coon, Goldfish, often. I need to nail my feet to the floor somewhere so I can be a good kittycat mommy again.

        Liked by 2 people

  20. I just posted this on Facebook – in response to several posts commenting on your blog post – calling for accountability of ministers:


  21. Let’s try again… I just posted this on Facebook – in response to several posts commenting on your blog post – calling for accountability of ministers:

    And there they are, the voices of:

    Those who tried Socrates,

    The Sanhedrin tribunal that condemned Jesus,

    The Holy Office & the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (“Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition”) – that condemned, among others, Galileo,

    Pope Leo X, who excommunicated Martin Luther,

    The Calvinist authorities who burned Michael Servetus at the stake,

    The Salem Witch Trials,

    McCarthyites & the House Un-American Activities Committee from the Right (“Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party of the United States?”),

    Political “Re-Educators” of the Left (can you say, “Khmer-Rouge?”),

    and now, the UUA’s “Commission on Institutional Change,” “Faith Development Office” and President, promoting “cultural change” and their “Clear Mission and Vision to name where we headed and who are we called to be” (from the UUA President’s Report to GA).

    These voices make clear the rot pervading much of our UU ministry & institutions. I say, a pox on those who call for “accountability” to institutional authority – on the Orwellian purveyors of rightthink & groupthink who hold themselves up as judges of what is “responsible” in the “free and responsible search for truth and meaning.”

    Thank you, but no – I cast my lot with the seekers, mystics, prophets, and heretics among us, and applaud those who have chosen not to seek fellowship or membership in the UUMA, or who now chose to reject them. They are the ones truly deserving of recognition as UU Ministers.

    Those who call for “accountability” to institutional authority – deserve, if anything, to be excommunicated and/or de-ordained from the UU ministry (if we had such a thing, which we don’t – other than the, IMHO, the illegitimate authority of the MFC & the UUMA).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No, Miles, you couldn’t be wronger. We have to find a way to share our institutions and to be expansive enough to include a diversity of opinion. And we very much need to find a way to do that is respectful and encouraging of each other. That is what is at the core of UU principles.

      Liked by 4 people

  22. Our faith is based in covenant, which means that we define who is in and who is out based not on what we believe, but how we behave…how we walk with one another. In my understanding, there are three basic requests being made of us by our coreligionists who carry marginalized identities. First, we’re being asked to listen to their experiences, without policing their words or their tone, and to believe these experiences are real and true. Second, we’re being asked to allow those experiences to matter, as much or maybe a little bit more, than our own, at least for a time (to balance the scales for the years of discrimination and dismissal they’ve endured). Third, we’re expected to respect the boundaries that people set, which sometimes include asking us to process our feelings and reactions in ways and spaces that they don’t have to witness. Todd and Richard were censured for behaviors, not beliefs, and the letters from the UUMA board were intended as invitations back into covenant. I still harbor hopes that Todd, especially, will accept the invitation, as he is a dear colleague and friend. As for whether you still belong, I don’t know you, and read your book a long time ago. Still, the impression lingers that when love calls, you find a way to answer, even when it’s hard. I hope you find a way to stay in relationship, and to continue walking with this imperfect and messy faith.

    Liked by 5 people

      1. I don’t know anything about Mel’s situation, really. Most of my time and energy goes toward serving my folks (something I sense we have in common). I can say two things in general- my experience in the congregational setting is that addressing problematic behavior is some of the most difficult and heartbreaking work we do in community. Repair is delicate and complicated, and requires consent on both sides. This means no two situations look exactly the same, and things often feel wobbly and uncomfortable for everyone involved. Also- because I gather from some of the comments that Mel was subjected to a personal attack, I’ll say that I find bullying behaviors to be unacceptable in anyone, and I am hoping that we can develop the capacity to hold each other accountable in healthy ways that acknowledge power and identity but aren’t entirely dominated by those issues. People are people, and none of us are perfect. The people I respect most are the ones who stay in it, listening, learning, reframing, and shifting their behaviors in the context of loving relationship.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. Rev. Stevens: Many people focus on the bullying directed against me after my blog post calling the April 2017 UUA board and staff changes a “coup.” But as someone who upholds the principle of free speech, the bullying was not what drove me from UUism after 30-some years of lay leadership and lay ministry. In the aftermath of the bullying, without any notice to me or attempt at dialogue, the UUA staff removed from the Worship Web a “Litany of Gratitude” that had resided there for 17 years after I wrote it. You can read the litany and the email I received (after I asked about it) in a very short blog post here:

        Again, I was just a member of a small congregation at the time writing a blog that got 30 or 40 reads a day, and my representation on Worship Web was one of my proudest accomplishments. While I never got a word of apology or human caring from a UUA official, the most prominent bullies, Leslie Mac and Rev. Ashley Horan, were, respectively, nominated to the board and appointed to a key staff position. Carey McDonald. the author of the email explaining that my litany was removed because of *me* not because of *it,* has been promoted to the second-highest staff position in the UUA (if the president is considered a staff position).

        I know you can’t entirely trust one side of a controversy, but what happened to me is well documented (except for one phone conversation I had after promising confidentiality to a UUA staff member). All that documentation is too much to ask anyone to read, but I do hope you’ll read this comment and the short blog post to learn what was done in your religion’s name.

        Liked by 4 people

      3. I’m shocked, and I mean deeply shocked, that Leslie McFayden’s profane and obscenity-laced personal attack against a fellow UU is still on YouTube. For background, he had written some measured words about the Rev. Peter Morales’ resignation and the process that he felt should follow it. MacFayden’s video response was also followed by personal threats of violence towards Mel if he attended GA that year. That threat is also still online. THESE ARE THINGS I DEMAND THAT WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO POLICE. That is what justice, equity and compassion in human relationship looks like. That Leslie MacFayden is now a general trustee of the UUA and Mel is no longer UU is deeply troubling and a violence. Please don’t shrug it off.

        Liked by 4 people

    1. No creed or interpretation of the Bible has been required for membership in a Unitarian Universalist Church or for ordination into the Unitarian Universalist ministry. I have attended many ordinations and installations and although not required, I often hear these words “Among us, and wherever you may be called to serve, we would have you preach the word of truth in freedom and in love, ministering alike to our joys and sorrows, setting fort no less by your precept the principles of our faith.” The focus is freedom of the pulpit. On the other hand “. . . covenant, which means that we define who is in and who is out based not on what we believe, but how we behave” I do not associate with the core of Unitarian Universalism. I see Wilbur’s freedom, reason, and tolerance as unifying values of the Unitarian tradition.

      Liked by 4 people

  23. I feel I should add something here about the question of fellowship and UUMA membership (and if any of you would like to share it on your Facebook feed, you may: I’m not really on Facebook either!)

    My ordination as a community minister by my congregation was done according to our understanding, as it was then, of UU polity, and my reasons for not being fellowshipped had nothing to do with whether the Rockland congregation or I intended to locate my ministry outside the bounds of Unitarian Universalism. .

    My local chapter of the UUMA invited me to its meetings, and I sometimes was able to attend; I received wonderful support and mentorship from ordained and fellowshipped UU Ministers, participated in the ordinations of to-be-fellowshipped UU clergy, and generally felt myself to be included as one of the pack.

    When the UUWorld included a profile of me, and when the UUA gave me the Melchor award, the fact that I did not belong to the UUMA and had not been fellowshipped was not raised as an issue, let alone a disqualifying one.

    Why not? I am the same person now as I was then, the same minister doing the same work, giving the same sorts of sermons and writing the same sorts of books.

    It seems clear that the standards have changed. I understand that there are many on Facebook etc. who are now—now!—questioning whether I have standing to call myself a UU minister. That means something either has changed or is in the process of being changed.

    The change needs to be publicly announced and explained more clearly and far concretely than it has been. An injunction to “use our power constructively and with intention, mindful of our potential unconsciously to perpetuate systems of oppression” is—as recent events have made obvious—insufficiently clear or concrete and thus impossible to be sure one is following. My strong suspicion is that Reverend Eklof, Trudeau et al believed and still believe they were using their power constructively, mindfully and intentionally, in good faith. The blowback, when it came, took the form of Kafkaesque accusations of unelucidated and unenumerated “harms” done to unnamed persons of color followed by a collective stomping. Mel Pine, too, believed he was using his power constructively, mindfully and intentionally.

    Matt asked who is now in control of the denomination. My answer comes from the evidence available to anyone with a computer. If you haven’t watched Leslie Mac’s video-denunciation of Mel Pine lately, go back and watch it again. And ask yourself by what standard Todd Eklof is condemned while Lesley Mac is rewarded?

    So I strongly suspect that, had I been an enthusiastic and vocal supporter of ARAOMAC, my credentials wouldn’t be in question now anymore than they were when I was the best known UU in America. By now, perhaps, I’ve been eclipsed. After all, I’ve never been a guest on Trevor Noah.

    I need to be clear about something else: I am content for my fellow UUs to be exploring, expressing and even utterly convinced by the urgency and utility of their views. Whether I agree or disagree with, for example, Reverend Gordon should disqualify neither of us. She is a UU, I am a UU. Disagreement, even serious and strong disagreement is —or was—not just to be tolerated but to be welcomed as a chance to stretch and grow.

    Liked by 5 people

  24. Hi Kate! I didn’t know you when we were both growing up in Washington, but I did know your sister in college in Connecticut, and I also spent a year studying human ecology at that quirky college in Bar Harbor, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we have other friends in common. Not only do I share some of your life experience, but as a cradle Unitarian I also share your alarm at what has been happening recently to our denomination, and your doubts about whether remaining is worthwhile.

    On the narrower question of your ministry credentials (if you do choose to retain them), I’ll offer again here (with minor edits) the rather theo-nerdy thoughts I recently posted in a related Facebook discussion, where your right to call yourself a UU minister in the first place (as distinct from your decision whether to remain) was being challenged:

    “Under the Brownist theology of congregational polity that informed the 1648 Cambridge Platform, each congregation constitutes an autonomous church with its own independent authority to ordain its own officers. The denomination calls itself an ‘association’ rather than a ‘church’ for that very reason — it is constituted as a free association of otherwise independent churches, each voluntarily associated with but not governed by any of the others. This governance model was originally conceived to stand, and still stands, in deliberate contrast to a presbyterian or episcopal model in which a supra-congregational hierarchy of elders or bishops holds individual congregations ‘accountable’ (there’s that troublesome word, but it’s really a synonym for ‘obedient’) to dictates from a superior denominational authority. As such, it also stands in contrast to the 1708 Saybrook Platform, the quasi-presbyterian model that was adopted in order to enforce a uniform discipline by the Congregational churches in Connecticut, which consequentially remained orthodox Calvinists while the Cambridge churches and ministers evolved toward Unitarianism and Universalism. What is going on up in the rafters of the UUA today looks to me a lot like what happened in Saybrook 300+ years ago, or in the (similarly Brownist) Southern Baptist Convention in the 1980’s: an attempt to replace the principle of ‘soul freedom’ with an orthodoxy imposed and enforced from above. Nevertheless, as long as Braestrup’s ordination by her home church in Rockland remains in effect, and as long as Rockland retains its membership in the Association, she does in fact have the legitimate right to call herself a UU minister. The only ways she could lose that credential is (1) if Rockland itself were to become disaffiliated, (2) if Rockland were to withdraw her credential, or (3) if she herself were to surrender it voluntarily.”

    So, leave your UU identity behind or keep it, as you see fit. I am not a minister, but I am wrestling with the same dilemma, for the same reasons. Either way, I would think that, as long as the Rockland church doesn’t withdraw your ordination or you don’t surrender it, your ministerial credentials are still solid whether you want to call yourself a UU or not.

    –Scott McIsaac

    Liked by 3 people

  25. Thank you, Scott—that’s very helpful!
    As is probably obvious, I view the workings of the folks in the rafters (great phrase!) from the outside, from the perspective of a congregant perhaps as much as as a minister. In concert with others, I’ve experienced a sort of creeping dismay at what looks like a campaign to enforce an ideological lockstep from the top down. We used to joke that the president of the UUA was the “pope” of the Unitarian Universalists, but it doesn’t seem quite so funny now.

    Well, but it would seem that humor is no longer valued (allowed?) anyway.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. “therapeutic-sounding language can be weaponized in ways that are, shall we say, unhelpful.” What a GREAT way of putting it. MIght I borrow that?


      1. I see Susan Frederick-Grey trying to appease both sides, as a good minister will try to do in a church that is in a fight with people leaving.

        Liked by 1 person

  26. Dear Kate:

    I have read all your books. I have listened to many of your sermons. I have followed everything I could find that you produced because I have a deep admiration of your writing and ministry. I have quoted you in sermons – “You cannot subtract pain but you can add love,”- I recite and credit that quote of yours. When I was chaplaining women and families at Planned Parenthood I would re-read your accounts of harrowing situations and find solace in your accompaniment. Sitting with families torn with grief about not being able to complete pregnancies, was a place I felt my call grow stronger and found resonance in your words.

    I am a candidate for Unitarian Universalist ministry. I am going to see the MFC – the Ministerial Fellowship Committee in December. Do you want to join me at Unitarian Universalist headquarters in Boston? Or at a retreat or at a conference? I could introduce you to colleagues so that you could be in relationship with people who perhaps are struggling with similar issues or have ideas we can share and teach one another. I have learned so much about how to accompany people facing pain and oppression from my colleagues. My seminary – Meadville Lombard, has given me love, skills and opportunities for growth that have ripened my soul. I dream that for all of us. I sincerely invite you to meet me in Boston when I am there in December. Let’s have tea with some leaders like Rev. Susan Frederick Grey and talk through some of your concerns.

    I have read the Gladfly papers. I have also spent a lot of time researching and reading many other points of view regarding that paper and other authors doing diverse research regarding topics it touches on. I am not clear on all of your issues from this blog, but it does seem like further conversations are needed to have that kind of deepening together. I have more questions, and maybe you do too, but I think those are better through live connection. I am sincerely inviting you to talk further.

    Our UU principles and the late great Rev. Dr. Howard Thurman are telling us we all are sustained by love and we must honor justice, I would rather not engage in a for or against discussion of our values. I would like to have real relationship when delineating our most important values and collegial covenants.

    Please contact me if you are interested in adding love to what sounds like a painful time you might be experiencing around collegial relationship.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Rev. Kate — your letter is so important to the future of our movement that we have posted a link to it on the UU Congregation of Salem’s (OR) webpage, the first item under “Hot Topics.” Here is the introduction I wrote to your letter: Rev. Kate Braestrup has written an open letter to all UUs regarding this topic. It speaks directly to the discussions our congregation has been having during the past month on the Gadfly Papers.
    Rev. Braestrup may be the most well known UU minister in the United States and is the author of a wonderful and powerful book on chaplaincy which has been read and listened to by millions. She represents Unitarian Universalism to the wider world, and in this letter she questions whether she can possibly represent UU ministry in light of the current illiberal discourse of the UU Ministers Association and the UUA leadership.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I agree. The letter he received from the UUMA is an excellent example of the creepy way our betters now speak to us: “The board took these actions as a result of complaints made against you on Facebook and in your chapter meetings. We hope that in receiving this admonishment from your fellow ministers you may take time to reflect upon how your words have been harmful to colleagues, specifically colleagues of color.

      Translation: “You are a white, cis-male who has hurt one or more of your colleagues. You are not allowed to know whom you hurt. You’re not allowed to know how. We just want you to lie awake at night, perseverating over everything said and done at that or any other meeting…we want you to spend hours scouring Facebook for clues…we want you to spend the next chapter meeting gazing anxiously about at the other participants, wondering who among these seemingly friendly people denounced you and why they didn’t feel they could just talk to you personally…we want you to carefully choose your words or, better, to shut up, as Matt puts it. Yes, that’s the ticket. Just shut up.”

      The letter goes on: “This censure is a matter of counsel; it has no formal impact on your membership in the UUMA which you, of course, retain. However, please know that we will be in contact with your local chapter to ask how they will work to ensure that chapter meetings and retreats are truly open to, and minimally safe spaces for, UUMA members of all identities and backgrounds, and particularly for those with historically marginalized identities.”

      Got that? We’ll be monitoring you, Bub. Nice career. Shame if something happened to it.

      What’s wrong with a phone call: “Hey, friend! You said something at the last chapter meeting that hurt my feelings. Can we talk about that?” Do any of you seriously doubt that Richard Trudeau would’ve been unwilling to have that conversation?

      Liked by 2 people

  28. Dear Denise,

    What a nice offer! I’d be delighted to meet with you and with Susan Frederick-Gray over tea in Boston, though December might be a problem. I’m going to be on the road a lot in the next few months. If you go to you can email me and we can discuss!

    I can’t really claim to be in pain personally, but I am certainly very concerned about the pain of others, not just those who object to what is going on “in the rafters” but also those who clearly are feeling that something is wrong somewhere.

    There is a whole discussion to be had about the way we name other peoples feelings with words like “pain” and “harm” and, yes, “fragility.” I had a UU minister tell me I was “defensive” when my adjective would’ve been “pissed off at you.” There’s a difference. It doesn’t mean that I was right to be pissed off (naturally, I’d still maintain I was) only that therapeutic-sounding language can be weaponized in ways that are, shall we say, unhelpful.

    In any event, if I am distressed (let’s say) at what I perceive to be happening to our denomination, that is not, in itself evidence that I should be distressed, or that anything is actually wrong. Emotional responses can be real in the experience but incorrect in their bases.

    I have a friend who was rushed to the emergency room recently what he believed to be a heart attack. He was sure he was dying. His experience was real and true. His terror was real, and he deserved (and received) my sincere and tender sympathy.

    Nonetheless, the fact was that my friend was not having a heart attack, but rather a garden variety panic attack. He was not in mortal danger, merely in need of TLC and maybe a little anxiolytic medication.

    In other words, I could be missing something. Perhaps, for example, I was out of the loop when the UUA posted a strongly-worded public reprimand to Lesley Mac over her public mistreatment of Mel Pine. Maybe I flipped past the page in the UUWorld where her behavior was explained as, for example, the result of a medical condition that has now been corrected? Or maybe Mel never got around to telling me about Ms. Mac’s heartfelt, fulsome apology and their subsequent, face-to-face, restorative-justice-type dialogue, with personal growth all ’round?

    I think it ‘s strange that Reverend Stevens is not too busy looking after her congregation to ponder Todd Eklof’s sins, but somehow hasn’t gotten around to checking out Lesley Mac’s video. The links are posted above. Perhaps, Reverend, you could take the time today, since it’s Indigenous Peoples Day, to check them out, and then get back to us?

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Of course. Sorry. I’m packing for a cross-country trip, so had set aside tracking this conversation for a bit. (Gratitude to the friends who let me know I needed to come back.) I read Mel’s post. It sent me down a familiar rabbit-hole of determining how and when to reject creative material because of the behavior of the creator. I wrestle with this a lot. My personal place of clarity is that if a person treats people like things, I will no longer promote or share their work. The toughest call along these lines for me was Sherman Alexie. I have so valued his writings, and have gone to hear him speak multiple times. When the allegations of sexual harassment and assault came to light, I was heartbroken. He crossed my line. I won’t buy any more of his books or quote him in sermons. It felt like a huge loss, but in the end, it sent me searching for other, less problematic writers, and I have found a wealth of gifts there. Such is life.

      With regards to the interactions between Mel and Leslie and the rest, after a cursory read, it doesn’t look to me like Mel crossed my personal line, but neither did the curators who pulled his piece. We all have the right and the responsibility to work through these things for ourselves, and I don’t expect my line is the right line for everyone. I didn’t find the YouTube video, but if what you have described is accurate, Leslie’s behavior may have crossed my line. While I appreciate the value of a good obscenity-laced rant, myself, I try to do those offline, where no one can hear me. No one deserves to be personally attacked or abused. And as I said, I most admire people who stay in it, and engage with humility, kindness, and a willingness to apologize and accept multiple points of view.

      I also want to name that the loss of a spiritual home is always a tragedy. In these polarizing times, I’m finding many of my Republican-leaning congregants are leaving Unitarian Universalism, and it is breaking my heart. I have taken great care to discern a position from the pulpit that doesn’t exclude them, to the best of my ability. (I actually lurk on a page where Mel posts, “Love Reaches in and Out;” I had forgotten why I recognized his name). In follow up conversations, my dear ones who have left have mostly assured me that it wasn’t my words that made them feel out of place. When it was my words, I have apologized and done my best to make amends. But the tone of public discourse has deteriorated to the point where people are feeling like they no longer belong. I don’t know what to do about this, but I struggle with it on a daily basis.

      So let me say: Mel, I’m sorry for your loss, and I hope you find your way back home. And Kate: I hope you stay. I truly believe one of the gifts that waits for us on the other side of the current struggle is the recognition that, as our ancestors believed, we don’t have to think alike to love alike. We don’t have to agree in order to be in respectful, reciprocal relationship.

      Now please excuse me. I need to go catch a plane. Peace.

      Liked by 1 person

  29. Let me help you locate some of this, and please pay attention to the timeline.

    Mel’s initial post:

    Leslie MacFayden’s video response:

    The fellowshipped UUA minister employee, Ashley Horan’s response to both, which I don’t believe garnered any open letters or UUMA warnings:

    Leslie MacFayden’s threat to Mel Pine if he were to attend General Assembly:

    No attempt at restorative justice. No conversation. Straight to combat and on to the leadership of our denomination.

    This is leaving a lot of people out in the cold. You saw Kat Jacobsen testify to her heartbreak. I’m another person who is academically qualified for UU ministry and terrified that what I trained to do was all a mirage.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, 100%! I was going to ask you to post these to make it easier for the time-constrained to acquaint themselves with an episode that so many have proved so oddly uninterested in investigating. I recommend reminding oneself, as one endures Ms. MacFayden’s vitriol, that this is evidently acceptable, even laudable behavior for Unitarian Universalists in positions of power.

      This is not about what crosses or does not cross anybody’s personal line. Mel’s “Litany of Gratitude” was not removed from Carey MacDonald’s own website, but from the UU—that us, our—Worship Web.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. More than that. Elizabeth Stevens goes on about behaviour and exemplifies using the case of a sexual predator. That is an egregious comparison. What Mel did to earn such ire was to offer a mildly-worded opinion on the process to be followed to deal bias accusations following Rev Dr Morales’ resignation. That isn’t objectionable behaviour. He might have been sharing an opinion that others disagreed with, but our principles imply that for us, as a people bound in covenant, there are right ways to disabuse people of their misunderstandings and errors.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. I in no way meant to compare Mel to a sexual predator. If it came across that way, I am beyond sorry. Mel is already hurting, and has clearly taken a lot of heat. I wouldn’t deliberately pile on, and I am not the kind of person who would be sneaky that way. But of course you don’t know me, and in retrospect, I can see how my comment might be read that way. I’m happy to take it down, if you’d like. Or you can delete it, which I think is easier in WordPress?

        I do have a perspective on why Todd and Richard and not Leslie and Ashley. It’s a systems thing, though, and something I understand due to my participation in the ethics summit last May. I offer it in hopes it might be helpful, even though you don’t do systems.

        While in a perfect world, all disagreements within our Covenanter community could be handled directly, when they can’t, there are limited options available. As far as disagreements between lay people go, while there are often processes and policies for mediation and dispute resolution available in congregations, at the denominational level, there are no formal mechanisms, and no place for a person like Mel to turn in a moment when he feels aggrieved, and direct communication isn’t possible or desired. Literally nothing.

        When there is a lay person in conflict with a religious professional, one can turn to regional staff to mediate. If that doesn’t resolve things and if the behavior of the religious professional rises to the level of misconduct, a complaint can be filed with the UUA office of ethics and safety.

        Within professional associations (the UUMA, LREDA, UUAMP, the UUSCM, and AUUMM), there are different procedures that can be followed. Across disciplines, things get messy, but it is possible to have conversations mediated by respective good officers. However, as I understand it, this rarely goes well.

        The UUMA handles only Minister/minister complaints, and is currently in the process of revising its accountability processes and guidelines. The censures, however, weren’t the result of moving through the accountability process. Rather, they were issued directly by the board, intended as an invitations…to personal growth and reflection (the private censure of Richard Trudeau) and public repair (Todd). The UUMA has no jurisdiction at all with regards to Leslie. She’s not a member. And though Ashley is a member, because Mel is not, he doesn’t have access to the UUMA’s accountability process. Nor, after reading her piece, do I personally think it would warrant direct censure in and of itself. Opinions- no matter how strongly worded- are okay. I didn’t read threats or ad hominem

        All of which is not to deny that there is a culture shift underway. But it’s not one that stifles free speech or limits opinions or beliefs. As I said above, my understanding is that we’re being asked to do three things: listen to the stories of people within our community who hold marginalized identities, believe those stories and let them matter to us, and respect the boundaries people set in our relationships, even ones we don’t agree with. So.

        The reason for my trip was to meet my newborn twin niece and nephew, and I hope you’ll understand if I bow out of this public conversation to give them my full attention. (I am so smitten)!


        Liked by 1 person

    2. I had never seen this before but after watching it I have to say that I was in shock. I was already having grave concerns and speaking out about them. This takes it to a new level. I know there is a bigger picture but one statement stands out to me so large that it’s all I can hear. At one point Leslie MacFayden say to Mel Pine that, “no, he is not going to be safe.”

      I don’t know what kind of organization promotes a message that if you are white, (or any label: race, gender, orientation etc) you are not safe…certainly not a church in 2019. Every single person should feel safe in their church. I much repeat that. Every single person should feel safe in their church. People should be safe from both external and internal hate. All people.
      I had higher expectations of UU. Rather than lower my expectations, I already chose not to pursue UU ordination.

      That video alone would make me never want to step foot in a UU church again.
      It is disappointing, shocking and so off track it difficult to process.

      Kathleen Jacobson
      Seminary student

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Kat, I’m so sorry that I presented you with the tipping point. I really know your hurt. You will be much on my mind.

        I still have faith in people and in their innate goodness and desire to do justice, and that includes Leslie Mac, too. A conversation and reconciliation should be attempted. But even if UU leadership systems quash that, keep up hope in humankind. Faith, love and hope, these three abide, and the most delicate of these is hope.

        Liked by 2 people

  30. Thank you for writing this, I am a member at the Spokane church where Todd Ekloff serves as minister. I am broken-hearted and angry by the way he has been treated, and the fact that because of things like this, I cannot be assured my children can truly have their own voices within the UU. I had 2 kids signed up and paid for summer camp for 2019 (with help of scholarship, but we paid $400). After the treatment of Rev Ekloff, my husband and I felt we had to pull our kids from the camp (no $ reimbursement, due to late exit, which I understand, but we never would have pulled them if it weren’t for the new face of UU). We knew that some who had signed the white minister’s letter would be there at the camp. We joined UU so we, and our children, could have community with people who wanted respectful dialogue about any topic. Our kids, and us, don’t agree with some things that are becoming mainstream in UU- they, and us, have held our tongues in not wanting to potentially hurt people and to just assimilate. But now, that there is a potential hammer of- if we, or my kids, do speak our truths, we might get told we are not compassionate, we are hurtful, we need to be censured. No. And incidentally, Todd Ekloff, is a compassionate, loving, minister, who has sacrificed and worked tirelessly for social justice, and who has cried with and for my family on more than one occasion. I am so upset they have treated this beautiful person with such contempt. But yes, if they do it to him, they should do it to me, and you, and anyone who shares a different opinion. It’s the opposite of what we thought this religion was about.

    Liked by 3 people

  31. Bravo, Lisa. I only know Todd via e-mail, but he seems like a lovely man, thoughtful, open to discussion, kind…I hope one day to visit your church, it must be a remarkable place!

    Liked by 1 person

  32. I think what Rev Kate is asking is, is UUism big enough for all kinds of views- and, when it is not big enough cuz sometimes it might not be (because we cannot tolerate white supremacy or harm towards any of God’s beloveds, amen)- do we sign letters of protest and censure or do we talk to each other?

    When people ask me about the UU theology, I say it is a conversation. But, when we as a whole, shut out a voice we are closing the door to conversation and dialogue and growth. And. I think Kate wants to know if we (White UUs) are hypocrites. Sometimes we do get caught up and forget even hateful ugly people have inherent worth and dignity. They may have given it away, but we still must treat them as one that god loves because otherwise what’s the point in a liberal faith? Conversation, connecting through/despite the harm, reaching out to a place where we know we are all loved, even at our worst. And, of course, those harmed must be held, and perhaps let others, in conversation, address the people who have fallen out of relationship. God doesn’t throw people away. Should we?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I like that, Tracy! It is a conversation, and at least in theory an open-ended one. Engaging in genuinely open-ended (open minded, open-hearted) conversation requires a lot of effort and self-discipline. There is a reason that most denominations are credal and dogmatic. Human beings like creeds, we like dogma, we like “moral clarity” and, being human, UUs are as vulnerable as anyone else to the power of the self-anointed Answer-Giver.

      My quibble with your post is that, like Elizabeth Stevens, you asked your excellent (rhetorical) question in a way that implies that these kindhearted, thoughtful, UU men (Mel, Todd, RIchard, etc.) are “hateful ugly people” who nonetheless have inherent worth and dignity. While I agree that hateful, ugly people do have IW & D, Mel, Todd and RIchard are not hateful and ugly. This is good news! As I often find myself saying to folks who bring Hitler into conversations about forgiveness, we only have to treat very nice, ordinary UUs as if they had inherent worth and dignity! We don’t have to do a really big stretch and be pleasant and thoughtful to, say, Rush Limbaugh, or Kanye West.

      Liked by 1 person

  33. Dear Kate,
    Three weeks ago my 22 year old son died tragically. Having read your book “Here If You Need Me” after my mother died several years ago, and having watched videos of your sermons and talks over the years since then, I turned to you in a Google search when after 4 days sitting with my son in the ICU, the test results confirmed that he would not recover. The video that came up in my feed was “Why pray – and how? Beginner’s Grace.” It felt in that moment that the Universe was giving me a harsh “practice what you preach” answer. I am an interfaith minister (ordained in another tradition) yet now affiliated with a UU congregation (non-UUA-fellowshipped, non-UUMA, but am a member of the UUSCM and co-convener of UU Women and Religion) and I often do retreat leadership and pulpit supply in UU congregations as part of my ministry which focuses on my theology of “Living Life as a Prayer.” So I clicked on the video link with no small amount of agonizing irony as I knew that no amount of praying would keep my child’s heart beating much longer.
    This is the gift you gave me in the most horrific moments of my life:
    “Prayers do get answered, but they get answered always with the same answer, which is Love. And it’s either Love in the form of acceptance, Love in the form of the courage to do something difficult, or Love in the form of gratitude, but it’s always going to be Love. It’s going to be Love.”
    This week I ordered “Beginner’s Grace” to read on the next part of my journey through grief.

    You are a gift to the world. And a gift to the UU faith tradition.

    I believe Love is the answer too, to the underlying questions of:
    Who can claim Unitarian Universalism as their own…and who is claimed by Unitarian Universalism?
    What are the standards for UUs in general in regards to how we are to treat each other?

    Love needs to be the answer to these for us to remain true to our faith.

    In love and gratitude,
    ~ “Twinkle” Marie

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh, I am so sorry about your son. Twenty two! How can it be? And I empathize very much with that “practice what you preach” moment—in those horrible moments when nothing will do but exactly that which I cannot have, I find myself turning to prayer with a strange combination of desperation and resentment. And it always, somehow, “works.”

      Just at the time that Beginner’s Grace was published, my first and eagerly awaited grandson was born. The pregnancy had been just fine, but the birth was a catastrophe; after five days in the NICU, he died. I remember flying out to California to meet that tiny sojourner and to comfort his father, my son, and his mother. I think I thought that I would be a chaplain for them. After all, don’t I “do” death and grief, teach about death and grief, attend the dying and grieving as part of my work? It turns out we aren’t professionals when we’re standing by a hospital bed that holds our own, unique, beautiful, precious, irreplaceable beloved. Then we are just Mom or Grandma and we—or at least I—must grieve as anyone else must grieve.

      In retrospect, I found this a little bit reassuring. I don’t want to be so “good at” death and dying that I don’t understand myself to be out there on the ledge with those I serve. I don’t want to be safe from grief.

      But oh my God, does it hurt. I will keep you and your family in my best prayers, “Twinkle” Marie! You are also a gift to the world, and I’m glad I get to be here with you.

      Liked by 3 people

  34. I am one who signed a letter to Todd Eklof, whom I have known personally, have been in chapter meetings with, and share a UUMA Covenant with. I have a relationship with him that I believe calls me to respond when he’s doing something which I’m hearing from multiple people is causing harm. The letters were all done, I believe, out of a sense of responsibility to that relationship we hold.

    If your questions are sincere, and not just a rhetorical device, I would say that we don’t have a shared covenant for me to call you to, if you are also doing something that is harmful. We don’t know each other, and have never met during my 18 years and your 15 years of ministry. You’ve chosen not to be in UUMA membership (which does not currently require Fellowship), so our paths are not crossing at Ministry Days or in online ministry spaces. You don’t do systems, you tell me, which I can respect, but that means that we’re not crossing paths in other spaces where we are of service to the denomination together. You’ve chosen not to bother with Fellowship with the UUA, so you’re not beholden to that covenant, either. I’m not sure why you seek the counsel of ministers like me now as to whether or not you belong, when you haven’t sought being in relationship with us all along. If I, a UU minister who you do not know, were to say yes or no to your questions, does that truly make a difference to you? I ask this sincerely, after several days of thinking about your questions, because I find your whole message here very confusing.

    In accordance with our polity, you sought ordination from one congregation, and their ordination is what makes you a Unitarian Universalist minister. If you’re questioning that identity now, it is those folks who are in covenant with you and those folks you should look to advise you in your search.

    But if you’re asking, “Am I your colleague?” well, I would invite you to be. Ministry is a hard and lonely path. I probably question every day whether or not I should be a Unitarian Universalist minister for one reason or another. One of the sources of support for me is relationship to my colleagues. My colleagues have supported me through difficult times, counseled me when I might be heading off track, challenged me to a deeper understanding of justice, answered questions when I was confused, shown me examples when I was lost. They have saved my ministry when it might have ended. I have tried to do the same for my colleagues, in return.

    If what you’re seeking in these questions is a deeper connection with other UU ministers, a place to ruminate about the future of our faith or the difficulty of our callings, I would invite you to join the UUMA. You’ll find it is a wider tent than you assume, where we do hold one another accountable, but it is done with love. For every rare moment of censure, there are thousands of moments of grace. It’s hard to see that from the outside, where you’ve only seen that one rare moment that was brought to public attention. Come inside the tent, engage with us, and you’ll see there’s a whole lot more.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. I didn’t know that the UUMA didn’t require fellowship! Yeesh! Thank you for your thoughtful response, Cynthia. I’d really like to know whether you also expressed disapproval/concern to Lesley MacFayden and our colleague, Rev. Ashley Horan’s behavior toward then-UU congregant Mel Pine? (See the post above if your memory needs to be refreshed.)


    1. Hi Kate,
      Yes, there is a category of Associate Membership in the UUMA for those not in Fellowship, but it holds all the same rights and privileges as Regular Membership. It’s often used for situations where someone from another denomination is serving a UU church, but I’ve seen other UU-ordained non-fellowshipped ministers welcomed into Associate Membership, particularly in the cases, like yourself, where they have served as community ministers or chaplains. It was originally a category without vote, but several years ago we extended voting rights and all other privileges of membership to Associate Members, and later did the same for aspirant and candidate members.

      I hear you asking if I’m drawing a line about what public statements I consider significantly harmful enough to warrant a written or verbal response that includes Eklof’s actions and doesn’t include Leslie MacFayden’s or Ashley Horan’s, and if I draw my line differently than you would, or in a way that you find internally inconsistent, it makes you reconsider whether or not you’re a Unitarian Universalist minister. Rather than recount my actions and opinions and parse it all out, I will say that I consider Unitarian Universalism big enough for both of us, and that just as you’re free to express your disagreements here, we were free to express our disagreements to The Gadfly Papers. I hope you ultimately decide that Unitarian Universalism is a big enough tent to hold both of us. As we once thought Francis David said, “We need not think alike to love alike.”

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hey Cynthia, I think the problem is – and I can speak only for myself – but your unwillingness to address Leslie Mac and Rev. Horan for their vindictiveness and threats of violence, but you are willing to condemn Eklof for a somewhat well written book on logic and thoughts regarding strategy is a stunningly blatant double standard. Eklof did not call for violence, Eklof did call for ending racism, all he said was “Hey, let’s evaluate our strategy”. Yet, the UUA acted like the German Oberste Heeresleitung 41 days into the execution of the Schlieffen Plan you’re court marshalling generals saying “Hey this isn’t working!”

        No tent can be large enough for two groups when one group says “You must agree with me 100% or else be ejected”. It isn’t possible. The acceptance of Horan and MacFayden in the face of the censure of Eklof is a terrible and distressing signal that to me, a left leaning life long Democrat and believer in liberalism, that the UUA is not just unsafe, but outright dangerous.

        My apologies if my rhetoric is concerning but my feelings on this are strong. We need Eklof. We need Braestrup. We do not need MacFayden or Horan. Do you honestly believe that UU laity should be met with threats of violence when they disagree with leadership? Would you write – in reply to me – that you feel I should watch my back if you or your family is near? Is that appropriate to you? And if so, if you feel that MacFayden does have the right to threaten – what happens then? What happens when I exercise my natural rights to self-defense? An eye for an eye? Should we live in camps, armed and tense – having dug our trenches deep and strong? Should we stare at each other across no man’s land waiting for the whistle that will sound our fateful charge?

        Is that the UU you want?

        Liked by 4 people

  36. But we do need to think alike. Obviously. That’s the point.

    The message being sent forth, loud and clear, is that Unitarian Universalists must accept and parrot a very specific ideology, one with very particular lenses, vocabulary and tropes, and one which is not, in fact, enthusiastically embraced by all Unitarian Universalists of color let alone all Americans of color.

    If Todd had written and published a book and distributed it in an identical way, but the book was a 90-page love letter to #BLM, I suspect he would not now be reaping the whirlwind.

    If, rather than raise his questions and concerns politely at a UUMA chapter meeting, Richard had posted a twenty-minute Facebook video in which he cursed and insulted the UUs with whom he disagreed, I’d venture to say that RIchard would not be rewarded by the UUA. Am I wrong about this?

    There is a standard that separates the sheep from the goats.

    I need it to be made clear what that standard is—the one that makes Lesley MacFayden’s and Ashley Horan’s behavior acceptable and even laudatory, and Todd Eklof’s and Richard Trudeau’s behavior unacceptable and in need of “counsel” and/or broad-brush condemnation.

    Liked by 5 people

  37. It occurs to me to turn the question around: Do you still WANT TO BE known as a UU minister? I mean, what with 500 UU ministers writing a letter to condemn one of their own, the UUMA censuring members through what looks like a Star Chamber procedure… do you want to be associated with that ilk? Then again, I applaud you for not seeking fellowship or joining the UUMA.


  38. The following is taken from an e-mail I wrote to a friend/UU minister, who questioned the wisdom of posting this (or any?) public letter rather than engage in face-to-face conversation with, among other people, UUs of Color. Since this echoes what I hear Matt, Molly and Elizabeth saying above, I thought some of you might be interested too:

    Dear Friend:

    First, like you, I spend quite a lot of time with human beings of color, one way and another, though in my case these are mostly not Unitarian Universalists. Law enforcement is a diverse occupation, as is law enforcement chaplaincy, and neither cops nor LEO chaplains are loathe to talk, neither are they shy about asserting themselves if they think they are right and I am wrong. (A memorable, marathon discussion with three African American cop-types is among the reasons I no longer count myself pro-choice…a discussion for another time?)

    And of course, there are the civilians I serve: whatever our race or degree of privilege, we are all subject to the same forces or physics and biology. Everyone grieves, everyone suffers, everyone dies.

    I am always sympathetic to people who are having a tough time or are suffering (even if it’s hurt feelings, or a hangnail or something). I am interested in other people’s experiences and flatter myself that I’m a pretty sympathetic listener.

    It is precisely because I’ve done a lot of listening that I do not feel obliged to accept the UUA or even the BLUU as omniscient authorities on the views and experiences of people of color. I see no reason to give more credence to, say, Lesley MacFayden’s perspective (let alone Ashley Horan’s) than to that of my cops-of-color, chaplains-of-color or bereaved civilians of color. (Let alone my own family members of color!)

    Especially when Lesley Mac is—apparently—authorized to punish the insufficiently respectful with vitriolic insults: I don’t respond well to coercion as a rule.

    Moreover I—like you, like Todd Eklof——have, in fact, been doing the retail-level here-I-am-lets-talk thing, every chance I get, for years. When I’ve preached sermons or conducted workshops at UU churches around the country, interesting conversations, face to face, with actual human beings, always follow.

    And, every time in every church, there are those who confess their deep discomfort with the direction in which they felt themselves being led. They lamented the departure of kind, decent people (of various colors) who were tired of being insulted from the pulpit and in our congregational publications. They wondered how long they’d be able to stick it out. What was eerie and heartbreaking was the way they glanced around themselves, and lower their voices before speaking, as if checking for eavesdroppers. For that matter, I’ve been getting emails of agreement this week from anonymous UUs…are we being reduced to Samizdat?

    Which brings me to that question of how I ought to have made my presence in this wider crisis felt. You say that a public letter does not seem like a constructive approach.You say that culture change and conflict are not well served by online debate.

    Can I just point out that you signed a public letter and your signature, like those of all the other “white” ministers, was gathered online? Not face to face. Not even e-mail to e-mail. It was a public letter posted to the worldwide web within hours of Todd’s action.

    Lesley MacFayden and Ashley Horan attacked Mel Pine online. Their approach was not merely un-constructive, it was destructive, personally and viciously so.

    The Worship Web that once included Mel’s poem is an online resource. The punitive excision was performed without any notification to Mel, let alone any opportunity for discussion.

    The UUA, the BLUU, the UUMA, the five hundred Pale-n-Pasty Epistolary Allies…all are declaring with all the authority they can gather to themselves (numbers, letterhead, resources, jargon) what Unitarian Universalism is, who is in and who is out, and they are doing this via the internet even as they provide with fewer and fewer opportunities for feedback and discussion from the hoi polloi.

    Meanwhile, things are not getting better for anyone as far as I can see except, of course, for those now extracting income and prestige from the UUA.

    What’s the definition of crazy? You keep doing the same thing over and over, each time thinking “this time, it’ll work!” Well, it’s not working. It’s (past) time to try something else.

    There is a point when diplomacy and accommodation becomes cowardice, plain and simple. To everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven: I believed (and still do) it was past time to—as our colleagues are so fond of saying about their own activist heroics—put it all on the line.


    Liked by 4 people

  39. Not to burst anyone’s bubble or go the technical route, but it has been my understanding for a few years that, “When a person is ordained but not credentialed, they may refer to themselves as the minister of x church, but not as Unitarian Universalist minister.” This info was given by someone in regional leadership some five years ago when I as a minister that was locally ordained by a UU congregation asked the question, “am I a UU minister?” This was of course before the controversy regarding Rev. Ekloff so maybe a bit off topic. I have been operating on the basis that I am not a UU minister per se and have avoided saying as such because of that answer. I also wanted to mention I too was unaware that uncredentialed ministers serving UU congregations could be Associate Members of the UUMA. I wonder if this is a new thing? No one let me know this in my 5 years serving a UU congregation. I am presuming, or hoping, this is a new thing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Rev. Erickson, the language you are using — “unaccredited,” for example, instead of “non-fellowshipped” — seemed out of place for a Unitarian Universalist minister, so I clicked on your icon and learned you are the pastor of a Uninter Church of Christ church. Can you say more about your UU ordination and who told you not to say you’re a UU minister? I also find no mention at all of you on the UUA,org website. In Unitarian Universalism, I think it’s safe to say that community ministers (most often chaplains) who complete seminary and are ordained are indeed “accredited” regardless of their fellowship status.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Actually, you’re right, unaccredited is the wrong word. Uncredentialed is what I meant. In the old days (that have ended from what I learned from Rev. Landrum) one had to be credentialed via the MFC to seek any kind of fellowship with the UUMA. In 2013, I was locally ordained by a UU congregation within a UUA/UCC federated church. I was uncredentialed (and remain so). In 2018, I finished my position at the UU/UCC congregation, moved to Ohio, and have since sought Privilege of Call with the UCC (based on my ordination with the Christian Universalist Association in 2015). Ever since 2014, I’ve assumed I was not a UU minister and so have sought alternative ways. To be honest, I am more a Christian Universalist and stand between two worlds (UU and UCC) in many ways anyway. (The difficulty being Christian within the UUA is another difficult topic for another day.) That said, it would have been nice to have avoided the stigma of feeling “second-tier” in those years at the UU/UCC federated church.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. The term “regional Lead” did not exist when you were ordained, if in fact it was 25 years ago. The regional system was instituted about five years ago (although my sense of time isn’t as sharp as it was when I was younger. I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but why would you want to call yourself a UU minister if you don’t pay attention to the structure and nomenclature of UUism?


  40. MFC stands for Ministerial Fellowship Committee. It is the committee of the Unitarian Universalist Association that grants the status of fellowship to ministers. The UUMA is the Unitarian Universalist Ministers’ Association, what one might call a professional guild for UU ministers. The UUMA does not grant any accreditation; one is a member or not. I don’t believe there is any “accreditation” as a UU minister granted by wither organization. What changed at some point was the UUMA accepting into membership UU ministers who are not fellowshipped. But being a member of the UUMA simply means one is a member of the UUMA.


    1. In the past, as I understand it, to be accepted into fellowship with the UUMA one first had to be credentialed. To be credentialed, one had to interview with the MFC, the body which grants credentialing (or withholds credentialing) based on an education and interview process. It is a lengthy and arduous process that many would-be ministers find difficult (myself and it seems Rev. Baestrup included). Many folks “drop-out” of that process as I did in 2005 though still very much a UU and minister at heart just not good with processes, especially arduous and impersonal ones. So, when I received word that I could not call myself a UU minister even though I was functioning as one, I did not think the UUMA was even an option. Maybe it wasn’t back in 2013. I’m not sure if the associate-fellowship option was in place then.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I will say my status with the UUA matters somewhat little at this point. While I feel a strong affinity and even love for the UU tradition, I have found being even a progressive Christian difficult within the UUA. Again, that is a conversation for another day and in another context (if its to be had at all). My only point is that it remains unclear to me what a UU minister is and by whose authority one can claim that label. If a UU congregation locally ordains you, does that mean you are a UU minister everywhere and forever? I don’t know the answer. And as I mentioned, this is a side discussion. However, I do think it points to a great deal of work the tradition has to work through on many fronts. It’s the old congregational polity debate leftover from the Unitarian and Universalist merger days.

      Liked by 2 people

    3. Mel, I was ordained at the UU congregation in 2013. There was a Regional Lead in 2014 when I received the email. (I still have it.) Rev. Braestrup, feel free to move this possibly tangential conversation elsewhere, if you feel so led. Sorry if I’ve gotten us off topic.

      Liked by 1 person

  41. I have to say, it does seem as though there’s an awful lot of muddle about UU ministry. That isn’t really what I was worried about, but now that I think of it, why is this so complicated, and why do so many bright people seem not to quite understand what the rules are? The technical rules, that is, not the ideological rules.

    Liked by 3 people

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s