After my last post, Kim Hampton asked me about my views on polity, specifically as it relates to ordination, but my answer had to reach beyond that. As such, I had to post it front-page, because I think this is a serious issue. I admit to being a lay person. I am not a student of the Cambridge Platform and I have not been to so much as tour a seminary. I am a concerned and passionate UU who believes that we do have something wonderful to offer to the world.
Kim asked, specifically about my concerns with congregational ordination, so I will start there.
“there is clergy misconduct now–under the system we have; which is as close to ordaination [sic] standards as one can get in a congregational polity system. You are never going to be able to get rid of that.”
The problem isn’t the inability to prevent all misconduct; Kim is right to say that we cannot do that completely. I don’t think that we should refuse to do more, though. I think that we can limit it more with proper vetting of candidates, and why shouldn’t we do what we can?
Additionally, consolidating the the ordination process means that we can deal with misconduct more efficiently, as some body within the UUA will be able to revoke credentials and keep someone who misrepresents our movement from continuing to speak with the authority of office.
“if East Podunk wanted to ordain Jane X, South Podunk has the right not to recognize her ordaination if she happens to visit South Podunk.”
It matters to me, personally, who the minister at East Podunk is, and I don’t care where it is, because I care that the UUs there are getting professional leadership and pastoral care. I care that the liberal religion being preached is in line with the 7 Principles. I care that all the sources are being respected. I care that every UU congregation is being encouraged to positive growth as individuals, as a faith community, and as a force in their greater community.
We aren’t growing. People used to leave and come back, and I know from talking to young adults that one reason that isn’t happening is that Young Adults are moving around for school and work, and they aren’t feeling welcome when they get where they are going. Our message is too inconsistent. There is little we can do about that, but we need to address it.
I don’t want to take away the power of the congregation to choose their leadership, including their minister, DRE, ect. I don’t want everyone to be in lock-step. Locally, we have very spiritual congregations, very humanist, and one that focuses on Earth-based spirituality. I love that. I just want to make sure that they are all still being UU at their core.
Again, my problem is with covenant. It is about how we hold each other in that covenant. Not just as congregations, but as people who claim to be Unitarian Universalists. I deserve to be able to trust every single UU minister to be able to counsel me or any UU. I need to know that in a county with only one congregation, if it has an ordained minister, that person can present our Principles well to any visitor who comes in, because across much of the country, the locals don’t have a second option.
“You can’t stop clergy misconduct. You can’t stop congregations from going the route of out-of-the-norm ideologies and theologies.”
We can’t stop clergy abuse, but we can limit it and deal with it better. We can’t stop rogue congregations from going off the reservation, but we can keep them from having the authority of ordained clergy, and we can implement methods for addressing groups who fall out of covenant with the rest of us.
In short, the world is not a series of tiny places, stung together with dirt roads anymore. The US is wired and networked. If we refuse to define ourselves, the world will invent a definition. They have, and I, personally, hate it. I am tired of being the butt of jokes for Colbert and The Simpsons.
We can do better. We owe it to James Luther Adams, Theodore Parker, and theologians going back to Dávid. We have to admit that the time for what we are has past, and if we still have anything to offer the world, we must evolve to truly be a religion for our time.
So, dear readers, please guide me in my search for the truth of the issue: How is polity making things better, other than feeding the rabid individualism and egos of the boards? My GF compared it to early American politics, and I see us heading for more than one civil war as is. Where does it make things more efficient? Where does it improve our message? Where does polity make our movement stronger?