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 -

Friday, November 27, 2009

Rev. Dan Hotchkiss On The Cost Of UUA And MFC Credentialing "Mistakes" Like Ordaining U*U Clergy With "Poor Mental Health" And Personality Disorders

Rev. Christine Robinson is doing yet another Unitarian*Universalist series of blog posts about "excellence in ministry" that is actually focussing on various problems with U*U ministerial formation. This series of blog posts is well worth reading, especially if you are concerned about the UUA's ongoing failure (if not obstinate refusal) to deal responsibly with the harmful and damaging dysfunctional behavior of what Rev. Christine Robinson euphemistically refers to as "less than excellent" U*U ministers. Today Rev. Robinson decided to post an older comment by Rev. Dan Hotchkiss as a "front page news" blog post titled 'The cost of credentialing "mistakes"'. I happen to believe that a good chunk of Rev. Dan Hotchkiss' prophetic words also merit being posted verbatim here on The Emerson Avenger blog as a brand-spanking new TEA blog post, especially since I will add some (im)pertinent hyperlinks to Rev. Hotchkiss' cautionary words which link to blog posts and Google searches that provide some big fat U*U *examples* of the kind of "less than excellent" U*U clergy, and various other U*U problems, that church and synagogue consultant Rev. Dan Hotchkiss is talking about.

Herewith the pertinent content of 'The cost of credentialing "mistakes"' -

My experience as UUA settlement (now transitions) director, 1990-97, was that the search committees not only gave more time and attention to candidates, but also were the only part of the system that consistently had the spine to say no. The seminaries had a financial incentive to say yes; the MFC caught flak whenever they said no, and so did I. My impression is that the MFC says no a little more often than it did then, but that the Department has relinquished the gatekeeper role. So more than ever, the search committees are the place where the buck stops. When they make a mistake, though, three years' bad experience is a high price for the congregation.

My first thought is that a congregation evaluates a minister's performance, up close, personal, and continually and is perfectly free to part company with that minister long before preliminary Fellowship is over. For the MFC, a pattern of short tenures would surely weigh very heavily against the granting of Final Fellowship, just as it does now.

However, since the main reason... I believe the only stated reason, for the whole credentialing process is to try to prevent the high cost (to congregations, although ministers and their families bear a high cost, too) of inept, unprepared, or unsuitable persons getting through the search process and doing harm to congregations, I think we should ask ourselves (and probably gather real data on) the kinds of ministerial issues which do real harm to congregations. Because, as any HR director will tell you, every time you hire somebody you take a risk, and even pros have a considerable failure rate. No credentialing process will make ministerial settlement easy or foolproof.


The settlement "mistakes" that I think of as terribly costly and damaging, the ones which come up over and over again in histories of congregations are not simple matters of lack of skill or focus, they are instead matters of poor ministerial mental health, personality disorder, leadership style, lack of emotional intelligence, and inability to maintain good boundaries. (All of these problems can become predominant in the lay leadership of a congregation, which also causes settlement failures but that's another subject.) It may be that others have a different take on this issue, but if I could wave my magic wand, I'd give us a foolproof tool for weeding out candidates with the above issues. Lacking the magic wand, I'd focus ministerial credentialing on doing a better job on this part of the score.

For the past 30 years, ministers have been screened for mental health and fitness in a psychological exam (the old days) or Career Center Screening (current practice). There is almost always a psychologist on the MFC. But it's clear to me that these tools are not adequate to the task and people with significant problems slip through. Fewer now than in the old days, and there's less damage done now that, as a society, a denomination, and a professional organization we've become clearer about the incredible damage that sexual misconduct can do and are quicker to report it and act on it. Still, I wonder if we are using state of the art tools. (Actually, I'm pretty sure that we are not). Because my observation is that this is where the rubber of preventing harm hits the credentialing road.

end quote

Here is the comment that I just submitted in response to Rev. Hotchkiss' words. Hopefully Rev. Robinson will see fit to post it to her moderated iminister blog -

Rev. Dan Hotchkiss' words here should be paid heed to by ALL U*Us but especially UUA administrators and the Ministerial Fellowship Committee. There is one little quibble that I feel needs mentioning. In concluding by speaking about "the incredible damage that sexual misconduct can do" Rev. Hotchkiss seems to fail to understand that various non-sexual forms of clergy misconduct can be every bit as damaging to not only the victims of the misconduct but the implicated congregations and ultimately the greater U*U religious community. AFAIAC The UUA and MFC have made a very serious mistake in apparently thinking that if the clergy misconduct complained about is not sexual in nature that it is not worth responsibly dealing with. That is certainly true of my own case but I believe that it is true of many other cases of non-sexual clergy misconduct as well. The UUA and MFC need to broaden their narrow focus and deal seriously with complaints about non-sexual forms of clergy misconduct, and not just "less than excellent" U*U ministers plagiarizing their colleagues' Sunday sermons. . .

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