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UUA Apology: "There is Only Us"

For the Unitarian Universalist Association's (UUA's) General Assembly; Nashville, TN; June 2000 

"There is only us," was the line in the reading Marilyn Sewell used as an introduction to her eloquent Service of the Living Tradition sermon this morning. "There is only us." Only we can make justice, only we can transform our faith.

In 1995, in Spokane, in response to my General Assembly report, a resolution was passed, "Toward Safe Congregations and Right Relations." A lot has happened since 1995. The Ministerial Fellowship Committee has struggled with finding justice in dealing with complaints of ministerial misconduct. The Board of Review, the Department of Ministry, the Unitarian Universalist Ministers' Association, the field staff, congregational leaders, have all made suggestions, made changes, moved toward justice. A handbook was published on creating safe congregations. Task forces and study groups have convened and moved the work forward. Trainings have been held. A lot has happened.

But let me say this, some things have not happened. Not through bad intentions or lack of trying. But still, some work remains undone.

A Panel on Safe Congregations has been meeting for almost two years. They will present their final report this fall. I read a draft of the report yesterday. It is smart and eloquent and calls us all toward a more religious approach to this work. Their charge was this, "to recommend to the Association a UUA response and ministry to victims/survivors of clergy sexual misconduct." They offer hope, a theology of restorative rather than retributive justice. Hope, but sorrow too. Let me quote, " The painful challenge is this: for victims/survivors, the mission of service never reached them; the commitment of trust and support was elusive and often missing; fulfilling our promise was a dream unfulfilled."

Let me say this as simply and unequivocally as I know how: the Association has largely failed the people most hurt by sexual misconduct, the victims and survivors. Other denominations have done better. These brave and bruised people have, more often than not I suspect, been left lonely, confused, afraid, angry and betrayed. Un-ministered to. What I feel about this is not so much guilt, I guess, as great sorrow and regret. I am profoundly sorry. And I pledge that this gap, this failure, will be remedied. This past year we experimented with a nascent advocacy program. Inspired by the Panel's report, we will change and learn and in this untended area, we will bend toward justice. "There is only us."

Kathleen Montgomery
Executive Vice President
Unitarian Universalist Association

For more information contact safecongregations @ uua.org.

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Last updated on Friday, April 22, 2011.

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