Online petition regarding clergy sexual misconduct

The First Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashville’s “Safety Net” has started an online petition at Change.org, asking that all candidates for the UUA Board and for Moderator to open up a conversation about clergy sexual misconduct in U.S. Unitarian Universalist congregations:

We, the undersigned, are asking the candidates for UUA Moderator and Board of Trustees to publicly indicate their willingness to start a new national conversation on clergy misconduct in the UUA, and to ensure that survivors of misconduct have a real voice in that conversation. We ask them to commit to using the powers of the Board to take ownership of the recommendations of the Safe Congregation Panel, to update them as needed, and to hold the staff accountable for implementing them fully. And we ask them to investigate the accountability relationship between the Board and Ministerial Fellowship Committee, with an eye toward balancing the need to protect institutional interests with a pastoral responsibility to care for victims of misconduct.

I signed it. You bet I did. They provide a space for comments when you “sign,” and here’s what I wrote: “As someone who has served as both parish minister and religious educator in congregations suffering from past clergy sexual misconduct, I have seen the effects such misconduct has on both adults and legal minors. I have also seen first hand a high level of denial about the seriousness of clergy sexual misconduct on the part of UUA leaders. It’s way past time the UUA addressed this more fully.”

Mind you, I have my doubts whether such petitions effect much change. I also have grave doubts about whether the culture at the UUA, or in many local congregations, is going to change; Unitarian Universalists have a tendency to want to solve other people’s problems before trying to address their own problems; we’re great at sending money overseas or working on immigration problems here in the U.S., but we’ve been very unwilling to tackle problems that occur in our own homes and hearts, problems like domestic violence, racism, classism, the overconsumption that goes with upper middle class lifestyles, and so on.

But in spite of my doubts, I signed the petition. It’s easy for me to sign this petition; I’m a minister, I have a vested interest in cleaning up my profession. Now it would be nice if lots of respectable laypeople, good solid institutionalists — people who are pillars of our local congregations, people of impeccable morals — it would be good if many such people also signed the petition.

5 thoughts on “Online petition regarding clergy sexual misconduct”

  1. I signed it too. I’ve been a Fellowshipped Minister in this Association for 35 years and I’ve seen colleagues (of both sexes) get away with sexual misconduct; protected because of family connections or friends in high places. It’s one of the things that we really do need to address.

  2. Dan and Friends —

    Many, many thanks for signing the petition. I am encouraged because both moderator candidates have signed and publicly pledged to start the national conversation.

    Also, in my experience it’s harder to convince lay leaders who have not been directly affected in some measure by misconduct. They trust that the UUA leadership is doing the right thing, and it’s a painful place for them to go to think otherwise. It’s a kind of innocence. So I think it’s going to be primarily younger ministers and seasoned lay leaders signing it. But I believe that’s enough.

  3. Wow. I must say, I’m impressed with you all for even having a petition to sign. I’m a victim of CSM in the UMC, and it has been HELL to try and get anything done about it. My family and I switched denominations only to have the new pastor (ELCA) resign shortly after our arrival for sexually abusing a congregant. Some committee has recently posted his photo on the wall of “Our Church’s History” alongside the other pastor who retired and, as far as anyone knows, never committed an act of CSM. Why? Because so much of the truth was hushed up and the victim was run out of the church, received nasty letters from other church members, and generally slandered up one wall and down another. I can’t set foot in there again. Frankly, no church and no denomination feels “safe” to me, but you all are on the right track. It’s heartening to see this petition, and I pray that God honors your efforts.

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