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Letters, Spring 2015
Readers respond to the Spring 2015 issue.
I appreciate the account by Mark Morrison-Reed (“Selma’s Challenge,” Winter 2014). As one of the walking wounded from Bloody Sunday, I was heartened by the response to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s message the next day. The presence of the outsiders who joined us on the line did greatly reduce the violence, as witnessed by the Rev. Richard Leonard in his great book, Call to Selma. As one of the 300, and leader of security during the nights of the march, I met some of these dedicated witnesses/helpers. A native Southerner, I had never heard of Unitarian Universalism before learning of the Rev. James Reeb. But I have been a UU for the past 25 years. Let us again take up the call to face resolutely the challenges of the present century, which are no less severe or daunting than those of a half-century past. The courage of direct action must be met by the courage to learn history, really learn history.
posted on uuworld.org, January 6
The image of a clergy member being taken in custody in front of the White House (“31 UUs arrested at White House,” Winter 2014) was meant to evoke memories of Selma, even if the caption admitted that the arrests and their sequelae had been amicably negotiated ahead of time.
Though deliberately provoking arrest was proffered as an example of “people willing to put it on the line,” there was no risk of harm or even significant inconvenience. Had Martin Luther King Jr. been operating under such benign conditions, he wouldn’t have had time to send a tweet from Birmingham Jail, let alone his long, eloquent, and brave letter.
If we can’t come up with original ways to address issues of social justice, I guess it doesn’t do any harm to dress up in our Christian costumes and perform the old passion plays. But as a law enforcement chaplain, and the widow of a state trooper who was a proud UU, I take exception when we force a police officer to act the part of Bull Connor so we can be James Reeb for the camera.
Dear colleagues: Maybe next time, after you are released from the “nearby detention center,” you could visit the law enforcement memorial in Judiciary Square? There, granite walls hold the names of nearly 22,000 police officers who’ve died in the line of duty, including 161 officers from the District of Columbia. The memorial is only four blocks from the White House. You can ask the unnamed cop in your photo for directions.
The Rev. Kate Braestrup
First Universalist Church in Rockland
In Kimberly French’s article “Reforms Take Aim at Clergy Misconduct” (Winter 2014), I was saddened to see the Rev. Dr. Forrest Church cited alongside a rapist and a serial womanizer. Church, it needs to be emphasized, was neither. It’s true that Church, while married, fell in love with and had an affair with a married parishioner. Both, however, were in failing marriages, and they later married and remained together for nearly two decades until his death in 2009.
None of us would like to be remembered solely for the most controversial or morally reprehensible aspects of our lives. It is the entire arc of a life that matters most. In this context, we should remember Church as perhaps the most prominent spokesperson for the UU movement from the 1980s onward. It was for this reason that he was honored, in his last year, with the UUA’s Distinguished Service Award. He was a beloved pastor, an eloquent speaker, and the author of many important books that expanded the public’s awareness of our faith.
Author of Being Alive and Having to Die: The Spiritual Odyssey of Forrest Church
New York, New York
Unitarian Church of All Souls, New York
I serve as president of the Sexual Assault Center in Nashville, which has provided support to over 20,000 survivors of sexual assault. This issue impacts so many, and it is especially challenging when the perpetrator is someone in a position of trust and respect. This issue exists among all congregations, but we also know that it exists within UU congregations, and we all have a responsibility to address it. It is very healthy to have continuous public conversations combined with effective policies that are victim centered. I encourage everyone to stay engaged.
First UU Church of Nashville
posted on facebook.com/uuworld, December 18
Offenders among us
As a now convicted sex offender who is still fighting his case after two years of incarceration, I was pretty anxious when I saw “Special Report: Safe Congregations and Sex Offenders” on the cover of UU World. I am a fairly new member of the UU church, being drawn to it largely due to the UU Principles, and seeing the attitudes of other UU members was important to me. I saw it as a prelude to what I would experience from a congregation when I finally get out of prison.
Before I experienced this nightmare, my attitude would have been much more in line with what I read. I am a father, a husband, a brother, and a son. What I have come to realize is that most sex offenders are no different, and most sex offenders do not repeat offend. Please remember this if a sex offender openly admits his or her circumstances to you or your congregation. Every person has not only an inherent worth and dignity, but also needs acceptance and encouragement from others in his or her spiritual growth.
Church of the Larger Fellowship
Given the lifelong damage child molesters inflict, it’s unconscionable for French to use the UU Principles to try and work up sympathy for the perpetrators. Promoting the welcoming of such dangerous individuals into congregational fellowship is irresponsible in the extreme and hardly an inducement to young families to join or remain in such congregations.
If I had children and found that convicted child molesters were invited to mainstream themselves in my church, I’d have the whole family out of there so fast their feet wouldn’t touch the floor.
Suzanne B. Siegel
People’s Church of Kalamazoo
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This article appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of UU World (pages 58-59). See sidebar for links to related resources.