Last Sunday we welcomed a guest into our virtual pulpit who provided a historical perspective on Christianity and our Unitarian, Universalist, and Unitarian Universalist (UU) heritage. Rev. Dr. Jay Atkinson is a retired UU minister and resident historian at Starr King School for the ministry who offered a sermon titled “How Jesus and the Universalists Got it Right.” I am grateful for Jay’s knowledge and that he shared his wisdom with us. You can access the service here.
After the service, Jay gave a presentation titled “Trying Once Again to Say Who We Are” in which he reviewed the work of the Article II Commission that is revisiting the purposes and principles of the Unitarian Universalist Association (which is Article II of the UUA Bylaws.) We’ll post the forum video on the OUUC website once we have Jay’s permission to do so.
During the forum, a couple of people posted in the chat about Rev. Todd Eklof in Spokane and the Gadfly Papers. I want to acknowledge that this happened and that I am aware of some curiosity about this issue. The Gadfly Papers are controversial and have caused conflict in many congregations. There are several stories circulating about what happened and quite a bit of misinformation. As I mentioned on Sunday, I’ve read the book and reviewed some of the support and critique. I have been most troubled by the amount of misinformation and the conflict it is causing.
This is a complicated story and if you are interested in learning more, I can suggest some resources–please reach out. I also am happy to be in conversation with you if you’d like to talk through what you have found or what you’ve read. I commit to listening and to being in relationship. I do not expect that we will always agree, just that we remain in respectful relationship.
That this issue came up in a forum on the Article II Commission is interesting in that both are asking identity questions about Unitarian Universalism. As I said to introduce the forum, the work of asking and answering who we are as a denomination is important work that we can all engage in.
Sometime in the next year, the Article II Commission will offer to the Unitarian Universalist Association Board proposed revisions to the UUA Bylaws in Article II. The revisions could very well include changes to the seven principles, six sources, and the purpose of the UUA. I expect the changes will include multiculturalism and anti-oppression work as part of our mission.
I encourage you to participate in the Article II Commission work as you are able and to follow their progress. You can find more information here.
The other topic this inquiry raises is how congregations engage in anti-racism, anti-oppression, multicultural work. The Gadfly Papers offers one perspective, that of one person, who is white, in a self-published book. The perspective that I would invite us to engage with is Widening the Circle, the study of the Commission on Institutional Change at the UUA. You can read or listen to the book here. This book is a compilation of hundreds of hours of interviews with UUs of many identities, and most importantly, UUs of color.
We can learn a lot by listening to the stories of those who directly experience racism. That is the way I invite us to engage with anti-oppression work: listen to the stories of those who are directly impacted and follow their lead.
So, please do engage with questions of identity and how we can make the world more just. And please do reach out if you’d like to be in conversation about the Spokane Gadfly.
Blessings on your week.