Comment, Fall 2015

Comment, Fall 2015

Readers respond to the Summer 2015 issue.

Kenneth Sutton


‘Comment,” our evolving former “Letters” section, includes comments posted to and on our Facebook page as well as any letters and our sampling of the best blog posts.

—The Editors

Racial justice

We’ve addressed racial justice and the Black Lives Matter movement with online articles several times since the last issue. The Rev. Scott Prinster responded to the Rev. David Carl Olson’s “In Baltimore, My Liberation Is Bound Up with Yours” (4.30.15): “I’m grateful that many UUs are stepping out of our comfort zones. . . . Moving beyond feel-good messages is going to require changing who we are, and sticking with this struggle for the long term.” (5.2.15)

Kenny Wiley’s “ This Is Home for Me” (5.9.15, see page 12) also focused on Baltimore. Vincent Bowenpraised the essay: “Terrific! Captures the essence of being undeniably dedicated to Black liberation while navigating a multicultural world that doesn’t understand or appreciate the depth of the oppression under which folks are operating.” (5.11.15)

Susan Westenbarger responded to Wiley’s “Black Lives Matter Banner ‘Brings Out Conversation’” (Summer 2015): “A banner is just the beginning. This is truly a movement, not a moment. . . . [W]e have much work to do.” (5.23.15)

Bill Baar notes an unpleasant juxtaposition to our GA report “Black Lives Matter Resolution, Rally, Die-in Cap General Assem­bly” (6.28.15): “This weekend about a half dozen young men, mostly black, will be shot dead in Chicago. Just weird to see people playing dead when the real corpses abound.” (6.30.15)

Our Editors’ Blog highlighted an interview with the Rev. Ashley Horan about the Black Lives Matter movement (“ Read This: Theology of Liberation for White Antiracists,” 5.28.15). John A. Arkansawyerresponded to comments in the interview about institutionalism and anti-authoritarianism: “I like anti-authoritarianism. It’s being anti-authority that’s the problem. . . . Authority comes in different flavors. Congregations grant authority to ministers. . . . When folks refuse to listen to them by shouting ‘You’re not the boss of me!’ they are saying a true thing—the minister isn’t their boss—which is also irrelevant. Legitimate authority under congregational polity comes in two types: Granted authority and authority of knowledge and experience. Neither can force you to do anything, but they are signs you ought to listen and pay more attention than usual.” (5.30.15)

Elaine McArdle’s profile of activist Virginia Volker, “Bearing Witness to What I Believed” (Summer 2015), resonated with Nessa McCasey: “I love reading about women in these important movements. Virginia Volker is a hero. Thank you for this great article.” (6.29.15)


Christine Organ’s tale of postpartum depression in “The Spiritual Practice of Story-sharing” (Summer 2015) struck a chord with Sara St. Clair: “I, too, struggled with postpartum depression and a crisis of faith simultaneously. It was La Leche League that saved me, both for postpartum support, and because my group met at the Olympia UU Congregation, now my church home.” (6.12.15)

Likewise, Kenny Wiley’s essay “I Thought I Was Alone. But I’m Not” (5.19.15) spoke to Douglass Taft Davidoff: “Awareness of not being alone in depression is one of the first steps to lift away from its pernicious effects. . . . The First Principle says we recognize the worth and dignity of each individual. When I was in the nadir of depression, I believed I was without worth and dignity. It dawned on me that the First Principle demanded of me that I offer worth and dignity to myself (whether I wanted it or not, since the depression had me thinking ‘worth and dignity of every individual except me’). . . . [A] depressed UU can benefit from reflection on the notion that the First Principle means absolutely everyone, including yourself.” (5.21.15)

Copyright woes

The Rev. Andrew L. Weber wrote in response to Elaine McArdle’s feature story “Streaming Worship” (Summer 2015): “[Con­gregations] are not always sure how to engage with live streaming, and we would greatly benefit from some institutional support. . . . Each congregation who engages with these issues will be duplicating a process, rather than using a model researched and supported by our UUA.”

Starr King conflict

Elaine McArdle’s reporting on Starr King School for the Ministry continued with a June 22 story quoting former faculty about the contents of documents leaked last year during the search for a new president (see page 38). The Rev. Dr. Victoria Weinstein replied, “Thank you for this report. Clear, courageous, and thorough.” (6.22.15)

Several comments questioned the school’s search process. The Rev. Earl Koteen wrote, “I question the outgoing president sitting on the search [committee] interviews and questioning the candidates, but it’s not immoral provided that those are the wishes of the board, whom I presume was the ‘selecting official’ for the vacancy.” (6.27.15)

The Rev. Amy Zucker Mor­genstern outlined the process she would have chosen. “[I]f I were on the school’s board, I would counsel the search committee: meet with the departing president at length; get her views on the school’s history, hoped-for future, needs, and strengths; write them all down and take them seriously as you go about the search process; thank her sincerely and tell her she’ll hear from you again when you’ve chosen her successor.” (6.23.15) In another comment, Morgenstern noted that “the school’s culture of loyalty to persons rather than its mission is one of its greatest challenges, and I would like to see how the board plans to address it.” (6.23.15)

Stephanie Kroner commented about the students whose degrees were withheld: “On the one hand, I feel compassion and sadness for everyone involved. On the other hand, I am still in pain about this and angry. . . . It would be wonderful if steps were taken to publicly apologize to Suzi Spangenberg and Julie Brock.” (6.22.15)

The Rev. C. Scot Giles added that “the two students . . . are still obligated with large legal debts incurred while defending their civil rights.” (6.23.15)

Companion Articles