Thursday, December 11, 2008

Impressings from a long day

We had four 90 minute small group conversations around the topics below, and after dinner, we got together to share impressions.

One of the largest conversations was the Right relationship between UUA and theological schools, which went on for two sessions and is schedueled for another one tomorrow. There's a lot of energy around this presenting problem.

Some other comments from people about "ahah moments"

"Uneasiness there we don't all know the back story between the PTE and theological schools"

Not "Excellence in ministry" but "soul-satisfying ministry."

There's a core base of UU knowledge and identity that we want our ministers to have.and ..lots of ideas about how to impart it.

An individual's pride in being an excellent minister can be an obstacle to relationship.

Surprise (from a lay person) at lack of accountability structures/support/supervision for ministers in final fellowship.

Our language conflates the act of ministry with the title minister

Frequency and passion with which people talk about the need to deepen spiritual practice.

Importance of transformation

We have a ways to go before we can authentically raise the issue of diversity and pluralism in our congregations.

There's a difference between welcoming (persons of diverse race, ethnicity, etc.) and acting on their presence.

Low expectation for spiritual leadership to come from anywhere but ordained leadership.

As to my impressions, I have to say, I have rarely spent such a pleasurable day. Deep, respectful conversations with people who care about things I care could you go wrong. Even defending my perceptions of our certification practices (MFC) to a skeptical audience, while not fun, seemed important and fruitful.

I was a part of a conversation on ministerial culture, including the culture we create with the ways we evaluate candidates, a conversation about fostering emotional maturity and spiritual depth in ministry, and a third which was called "Lay Theological Education," but which was really about the resource gap for persons who have taken all their congregation's adult ed, but don't want to go to theological school. That was an exciting conversation. But they were all good.

But speaking of skepticism, it's hard for me to imagine that these free-floating conversations are going to produce outcomes that will increase excellence in ministry. Oh, me of little faith. I'm suspending my disbelief, as I've seen this facilitator bring an even more confusing conversation to a fruitful end once

Tomorrow will tell the tale


Robin Edgar said...

"But speaking of skepticism, it's hard for me to imagine that these free-floating conversations are going to produce outcomes that will increase excellence in ministry."

I second that e-motion. Personally I think that the UUA would be very well advised to spend its time, energy and other resources on responsibly dealing with unbecoming conduct on the part of U*U clergy, other forms of clergy misconduct, and just plain mediocrity and incompetence in ministry.

From what I can see, and I speak from direct personal experience of that condescending mystery and wonder called the Ministerial Fellowship Committee, the UUA sets the bar of acceptability very low when it comes to such "issues". . . There is something seriously wrong when the UUA and its Ministerial Fellowship Committee pretends that it is "within the appropriate guidelines of ministerial leadership" for an abusive U*U minister to insult and defame a congregant by falsely and maliciously labeling an inter-religious event that they successfully organized as "your cult", contemptuously dismissing their revelatory religious experience as "your psychotic experience", to say nothing of writing off their monotheistic religious beliefs as being nothing but "silliness and fantasy" and stand by that untenable position for over a decade. . . The UUA's Department of Congregational Services under Rev. Dr. Tracey Robinson-Harris and the Ministerial *Fellowship* Committee under Rev. Beth Miller (who I note is on the panel of this 'Excellence In Ministry' seminar) have both made it abundantly clear that they believe that it is acceptable for yet another U*U minister to repeatedly insult and defame, or otherwise verbally abuse, various people on her pseudonymous U*U blog. When the UUA and MFC repeatedly turn a blind eye to such obviously unbecoming, and even outright verbally and psychologically abusive, clergy misconduct on the part of U*U ministers they are hardly in a position to speak with any moral authority about excellence in ministry.

Believe it or not the first four letters of the word verification code for this comment are 'flaw'.

Christine Robinson said...

OK, Robin, you have made your point. Please move on to other subjects.

Diptherio said...

Robin, I feel for you, brother. I too have had profound spiritual awakenings, one that even a friend thought was a "psychotic break," despite the fact that it led to only positive things in my life and the lives of those around me. See Thomas Sasz's "The Myth of Mental Illness" for a good book on this kind of thing.

But dwelling on a bad experience for a decade isn't a good thing, either. Trust me, you'll feel better once you let this go and move on in your spiritual life. Everybody who cares to now knows your story (I even checked out your web page), now it's officially their problem. Let it be.

I do sympathize though. In our, perhaps, overly rationalistic "faith," those of us who, for what ever reason, have arational (not irrational) experiences and choose to share them with the wrong people stand a real chance of being mocked or diagnosed. I've witnessed this plenty, seems like our own version of fundamentalist close-mindedness. The old "if you don't think like I do, you must be crazy" syndrome that seems to affect all of people at some point, regardless of their religious beleifs.

Oh, and by the way, I also am a monotheist, though of the advaita Hindu variety, and it seems to me that if God is One, then all is God, including your skeptical reverend. Gotta love it all, no?


Robin Edgar said...

"Gotta love it all, no?"

No. . . Not at all.

I happen to very much like Ovid's saying -

If you want to be loved, be lovable. . .

It has much broader application like -

If you want to be respected, be respectable.

If you want to be honoured, be honourable.

If you want to be perceived as excellent, *be* excellent. . .

"But dwelling on a bad experience for a decade isn't a good thing, either."

Tell that to anyone else who has fought for justice for themselves and other people for a decade, or even two or three decades. . . As your own comment here makes clear, I am by no means the only victim of the anti-religious intolerance and bigotry of the Atheist Supremacist subset of U*U "Humanists" that pervades and degrades the U*U World. I am by no means the only person who has been verbally abused and repeatedly slandered by U*U clergy. I have not suffered any sexual misconduct at the hands of U*U clergy but I know people who have, and I know that the UUA still fails, and apparently even refuses. . . to provide genuine restorative justice to them. I am not a Republican, not even a political conservative, but the anti-Republican intolerance and bigotry expressed by U*Us, including U*U clergy, concerns me and I intend to continue to share my concerns with U*Us until such time as they make a serious and *effective* effort to clean up their act.

I am dealing with egregious institutional stonewalling and denial on the part of the UUA and MFC and one extermely hypocritical U*U "church", as are most other victims of U*U clergy misconduct or other U*U injustices and abuses. The whole point of institutional stonewalling and denial is to delay justice in order to deny justice. The UUA uses this tactic precisely because they want the people that U*U clergy have victimized to give up and let it go. I warned U*Us at the beginning of this conflict that such delaying tactics would not work in my case, that I would fight for justice for myself and other people for as long as U*Us chose to drag out this conflict. Do you really expect me to "let go" after fighting for more than a decade?

If what UUA President Bill Sinkford once rightly referred to as my "obviously deep concerns" are not responsibly dealt with on his watch, and he would be very well advised to see to it that the UUA addresses and redresses my personal grievances and other "deep concerns" before he steps down if he does not want to leave a legacy of being an outrageous hypocrite who talks about "waging peace" and "standing of the side of love" while abjectly failing, and apparently even obstinately refusing, to practice what he preaches with me and other victims of U*U injustices, the next President of the UUA will have to deal with them. In fact I am giving President Bill Sinkford until February 14th, 2009, the thirteenth anniversary of my formal complaint about Rev. Ray Drennan's anti-religious intolerance and bigotry, to actually stand on the side of love. If he fails or refuses to do so his legacy as a hypocrite (at least with respect to his negligent and effectively complicit response to my "obviously deep concerns") will be sealed, because I will formally share my obviously deep concerns with Rev. Laurel Hallman and Rev. Peter Morales after that date. President Sinkford has not been formally notified of this looming deadline yet but he will be put on notice shortly. Anyone reading this comment is free to give him a heads up.

Rev. Robinson,

Yes, I have made my point(s), and I once again express my genuine appreciation for you allowing me to do so and not censoring and suppressing my critical comments like so many of your *fellowshipped* colleagues would do, indeed have repeatedly done in the past. I have probably made my point many hundreds of times over the last rather less than "lucky" thirteen years. When the UUA and MFC finally get around to acting appropriately in response to the "obviously deep concerns" that I share in my "points" I will no longer feel obliged to make them, but, until then, I will be making my points whenever opportunities to do so present themselves.

My points, as expressed here, are very much "on topic" to the subject of this blog post and your statement expressing skepticism about concrete results coming out of the 'Excellence In Ministry' seminar that I responded to. Responsibly dealing with the "shadow" of excellence is part and parcel of promoting excellence in ministry.

When will the UUA and Ministerial Fellowship Committee, to say nothing of implicated U*U churches, finally get around to providing "soul-satisfying ministry" to the victims of U*U clergy misconduct, to say nothing of other U*U injustices and abuses? From where I stand stand, and from what I can see, the UUA has abjectly failed, and even obstinately refused, to honour its "pledge" to "bend towards justice" rather than leaving victims of clergy misconduct, even victims of clergy sexual misconduct, "lonely, confused, afraid, angry and betrayed. Un-ministered to. . ."

What I have posted here has everything to do with -

Surprise (from a lay person) at lack of accountability structures/support/supervision for ministers in final fellowship.

To say nothing a lay person's surprise at the very real, tangible, and shameful *support* that the UUA and MFC provide to some transgressive U*U clerics whose "less than excellent" unbecoming conduct, or even worse clergy misconduct, harms not only their direct victims but the U*U congregations that they serve and the greater U*U religious community in numerous ways.

I skeptically look forward to the day when I no longer feel so obliged to make such points since, in light of the well documented track record of the UUA and MFC, to say nothing of that of President Bill Sinkford, it is hard for me to imagine that this will be any day soon. In fact, based on my past direct experience with President Bill Sinkford I have "reasonable grounds to believe", aka fully expect. . . that his response to my upcoming suggestion that he actually stand on the side of love towards me and other victims of injustices and abuses perpetrated by U*U clergy will be love as in zero, nothing, nada, aka further complicit silence.

Robin Edgar said...

It seems that I somehow forgot to embed a link to the UUA's apparently yet to be honoured "pledge" to "bend towards justice" for victims of clergy sexual misconduct. If my memory serves me well, and it would appear that it does. . . the UUA has stated that it has "no plans" to create an Office of Restorative Justice for victims of clergy sexual misconduct, or even provide individual letters of apology to these "brave and bruised people". No doubt the UUA has no plans whatsoever to provide any genuine restorative justice to the numerous victims of non-sexual forms of clergy misconduct perpetrated by U*U ministers either. . .

Robin Edgar said...

For the record I was not aware of this year's "Pastoral Letter" titled, "Choosing Love This Holiday Season" by UUA President Bill Sinkford aka Rev. William G. Sinkford when I made the above comments. In fact I only became aware of it minutes ago as a result of checking the UUpdates News aggregator for syndicated Unitarian Universalist web sites. It seems that it was only posted to the internet in the last few hours.

Today has been a rather serendipitous day. . . I will be holding UUA President Bill Sinkford to both the letter and the spirit of this year's "Pastoral Letter". Hopefully his words will not prove to be "blustering wind" and even "snow", as they have in the past. . .

FWIW The word verification code for this comment is remixor