The Emerson Avenger

The Emerson Avenger is a "memory hole" free blog where censorship is scorned. This blog will "guard the right to know" about any injustices and abuses that corrupt Unitarian Universalism. Posters may speak and argue freely, according to conscience, about any injustices and abuses, or indeed hypocrisy, that they may know about so that the Avenger, in the form of justice and redress, may come surely and swiftly. . . "Slowly, slowly the Avenger comes, but comes surely." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Location: Montreal, Quebec, Canada

In 1992 I underwent a profound revelatory experience of God which revealed that the total solar eclipse "Eye of God" is a "Sign in the Heavens" that symbolizes God's divine omniscience. You may read about what Rev. Ray Drennan of the Unitarian Church of Montreal contemptuously dismissed as my "psychotic experience" here: - This revelatory religious experience inspired me to propose an inter-religious celebration of Creation that would take place whenever a total solar eclipse took place over our planet. You may read about what Rev. Ray Drennan and other leading members of the Unitarian Church of Montreal falsely and maliciously labeled as a "cult" here: - I am now an excommunicated Unitarian whose "alternative spiritual practice" includes publicly exposing and denouncing Unitarian*Universalist injustices, abuses, and hypocrisy. The Emerson Avenger blog will serve that purpose for me and hopefully others will share their concerns here. Dee Miller's term DIM Thinking is used frequently and appropriately on this blog. You may read more about what DIM Thinking is here -

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Rev. Dr. Laurel Hallman And Rev. Peter Morales Have Both Responded To The Open Letter About Clergy Sexual Misconduct Of Nashville U*Us

It has just come to my attention minutes ago that both UUA candidates Rev. Dr. Laurel Hallman and Rev. Peter Morales have formally responded to the Open Letter About Clergy Sexual Misconduct that was addressed to them by the Denominational Affairs Committee of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashville. Rev. Peter Morales responded quite rapidly, within about a week of receiving it, whereas Rev. Dr. Laurel Hallman took closer to three weeks to respond. The timing of Rev. Laurel Hallman's response, which was made yesterday, suggests that the UUA Presidential candidates may have received a follow-up question submitted to them for answering during the telephone forum of yesterday. I listened to that telephone forum and no question concerning clergy misconduct was fielded but that does not mean that someone from the Denominational Affairs Committee of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashville, or indeed someone else concerned about UUA (mis)handling of clergy sexual conduct or clergy misconduct more generally, did not submit a question via UUA Secretary Peter Rickter. For now I will simply post the responses of Rev. Peter Morales and Rev. Dr. Laurel Hallman below, with some pertinent embedded hyperlinks, but I will most certainly put in my two cents worth later, probably in the form of separate blog posts although I may update this one.

April 2, 2009
Denominational Affairs Committee
First Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashville

Dear Alan and Members of the Committee,

Thank you for your letter regarding the UUA’s response to cases of ministerial sexual misconduct. Let me say at the outset that I understand how painful the experience of Nashville has been. My campaign manager, Dea Brayden, came from Nashville. So, too, did our minister of music, Keith Arnold. I am a close colleague of Mary Katherine Morn, and the topic has come up with Jason Shelton. The pain around this incident, even after all these years, is plainly evident.

Since I received your letter I have read the recommendations of the “Restorative Justice for All” report. I have also had a long conversation with Fred Muir, who not only was involved in drafting the report, but has also had continuing involvement with this issue. I have also read subsequent UUA publications, including a report on Safe Congregations written in 2004. With that as background, let me respond to your questions.

Would I would carry out all 13 recommendations of the 2000 report? After looking at subsequent documents and discussing the situation with Fred Muir, I would say that I think it would be wiser to revisit those recommendations in light of developments in the last nine years. I am not “passing the buck” here or being evasive. We need to look at our recent experience and at current practices of other churches and other organizations like colleges and universities. Sadly, there have been cases of sexual misconduct by ministers since the report was written. It does not look like they were handled as well as we might wish. Also, the UUA’s current practice needs to change immediately. The position now charged with hearing complaints, the director of congregational services, is being phased out. We will need an interim solution while we examine where we should go in the long term.

I am fully committed to taking action. To me, this is a moral imperative. I would seek input from the UUMA and advocacy groups. I would insist that we look at best practices in other associations. Certain criteria would inform any final implementation. One of these would be that a victim receive immediate and compassionate response. My own bias, from what I know of other organizations, is that we need to separate the pastoral and healing response to the victim from the process of judging the offense and taking any disciplinary action. Many organizations, including the UUA, have employee assistance programs where outside organizations handle response to personal issues with complete confidentiality. Again, however, I would want us to look at what experts consider current best practice.

Your second question concerns the critical issues of prevention and support to victims and congregations. The short answer is “yes, of course.” And again, I do not pretend to be an expert on what form that should take. I am absolutely committed to doing the right thing, and I understand that we have fallen far short in the past. The important thing for the president is to consult with advocacy groups and people who have expertise, so that what we do is compassionate, timely and effective. We have, for example, a well developed model for responding to crises. There is a trauma response team that has proven itself to be effective. Perhaps this model should be adapted to cases of clergy sexual misconduct. I would want to see a careful analysis of the options.

As to the area of prevention, there are many things we can do. None, alas, is perfect. Perhaps the most important thing we can do is to be frank about the issue and to train clergy and congregations about safe congregation practices.

In summary, I understand how painful and damaging clergy sexual misconduct is. I am committed to making ours a safer and a more compassionate movement. Any action I would take would be as the result of careful analysis of best practices and the painful lessons we have learned from our own experience.


Peter Morales

TO: The Denominational Affairs Committee of the Nashville, Tennessee Church
FROM: Laurel Hallman
RE: Your letter about Clergy sexual misconduct
DATE: April 17, 2009

Thank you for your question about clergy sexual misconduct and what the UUA’s response will be in my administration. I appreciate the time you have given me to reflect with people who have been working on the troubling effects of clergy sexual misconduct, both within and outside our Association. We all agree that silence is never the answer to this abuse of power.

More than any other profession, the minister carries the power of the office into relationships. Abuse of that power affects the survivor’s very soul. It also affects the soul and spirit of the congregation in which that minister has served. It goes to the heart of our faith to ask serious questions of justice, compassion and hope when the abuse occurs. As soon as possible after the election, I will gather survivors of clergy abuse in our association to talk with me about their experience, whether recent or distant. I will not defend, obfuscate, or discount any person’s experience. I will listen. I will be as transparent as I can be about what is possible, going forward. I can’t promise that I will be able to do everything contained in the 2001 Muir Report, or answer all the questions presented to the board in 2007. I will promise as President to do everything possible, with the resources available, to strengthen our structures of justice, our ministry to survivors, and our ongoing monitoring of complaints through final resolution.

We are fortunate at this time that the President of the UUMA, the Chair of the MFC, and the UUA Moderator are deeply committed to transparency, education, and appropriate procedures when charges of misconduct are brought. I will urge the UUMA and the MFC as well as the UUA Board to continue their educational and procedural work so that our programs of education and prevention always represent best practices and serve the work of justice.

Collaboration will be key to my presidency, and thus I look forward to collaborating with the survivors on this important issue. Thank you for bringing it to the forefront of the campaign.

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