Comment, Summer 2015

Comment, Summer 2015

Readers respond to the Spring 2015 issue.

Kenneth Sutton


The “Letters” sections of magazines have a long and honorable history. For some years, however, UU World has received fewer letters and more online comments—a situation it shares with other periodicals. In this issue, the editors are publishing selected comments posted by readers at in response to articles that appeared in the Spring 2015 issue and news articles from the last three months (which appear in edited form in this issue starting on page 36). Under the new name “Comment,” our Letters section is evolving to reflect the conversations taking place among UUs, and will include 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

Our Spring 2015 cover stories, “Racial Justice: Where Are We Called Now?” prompted a variety of responses. In “ The Next Selma,” Kenny Wiley connects UU involvement in Selma fifty years ago to today’s Black Lives Matter movement. The Rev. Julie Taylorconcurs: “As a UU minister here in St. Louis, having actually been on the front lines from the start of this movement, #BlackLivesMatter is the present our past is calling us to. Many of us are here, and we’re not going to give up or give into the false call to respectability politics. Black people are being [extrajudicially] murdered all over this country. You don’t need to come here to Ferguson to respond, take a look at your community. Ask the people of color in your community whom they mourn. Then follow their lead.” (4.4.15)

In “ Letter from a Hoped-for Future,” the Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt imagines what Unitarian Universalism will look like twenty years from now. Sande Barrett Bihlmaierdoesn’t “see our faith going very far” “unless there is greater inclusion of people of little means.” (3.10.15)

Chris Barghout thinks trends don’t bode well for McNatt’s vision. “As Selma 50 years on demonstrates, UUs are very good at showing up for demonstrations. We liked them then, and we like them now. . . . Where the rubber meets the road is when persons of color check out UU churches. . . . What happens when POC feel UUism could be a home but that the UU churches we visit maintain white and privileged values?” (3.10.15)

Selma movie

Karen Quinlan responded to the Rev. John Buehrens’s review of Selma, “Selma Lives on at the Cinema,” with a quandary. “I’m wrestling with the tension between acknowledging the great importance of this Black-made film, and knowing that the details around UU involvement could have been presented. This brings up a lot for me. It’s not about me, it’s not about white UUs—it’s about the struggle we responded to. And at the same time, I remember something MLK said of the march in the film, ‘This isn’t about raising Black consciousness; that has already been done. This is about raising white consciousness.’” (1.19.15)

Mineral rights

Elaine McArdle’s report “ Sale of Mineral Rights Brings $944K to UUA” (10.27.14, and summarized in “Board Thanks Carpenters for $944K Gift,” Spring 2015), raised many questions about the UUA’s commitment to divest from fossil fuels. Following an explanation from donor Ken Carpenter, Dominic Giafagleonewrote, “I can. . . . understand that [the sale]. . . . could be seen as a function of divestment. I still have problems with the UUA making money in an extraction system that is deeply unethical and I sincerely hope that a significant portion of this money is put to use in environmental justice. I personally believe that a bail and legal support fund for UU environmental justice activists would be a great way to ‘clean’ money that was built on the speculation [of] eventual destruction of natural systems.” (11.3.14)

Nick Laiacona said the online conversation shifted his view of the story: “I see now how we could not have kept this drilling from happening or even prevented the UUA from being involved. We either profit from selling the rights or by taking a share as a mineral rights owner. So I retract my statement that this is a failure for the UUA. It is a complex situation.” (10.29.14)

Starr King

Senior editor Elaine McArdle’s on­line reports on the conflicts at Starr King School for the Ministry were summarized in “Faculty, Students Quit Starr King to Protest Board” (Spring 2015) and “Starr King Con­fers Withheld Degrees” (page 42).

Jane Karker complimented “Starr King Seminary Continues Investigation of Students” (11.21.14): “This is real investigative reporting—thorough, factual, and revealing. This is a story about truth and human frailty. . . . Our world is suffering from a deluge of ‘entertainment’ news. . . . Good for UU World. Well done.” (11.22.14)

Tim Bartik responded to “Starr King Belatedly Grants Degrees to Two Students” (2.14.15): “I agree with the consensus that Starr King mishandled this situation. . . . But in any event, there is nothing unusual about an educational institution’s board making a leadership selection decision that goes against what might be favored by a majority of the institution’s current students. And it surprises me that at least a substantial number of Starr King students seem to have thought otherwise.” (2.22.15)

The UUA Board of Trustees discussed Starr King at its March meeting, as reported in “ UUA Trustees Mull Their Role in Starr King Con­flict” (3.16.15). The Rev. Roger Frittsresponded: “Starr King had three outstanding candidates for president. All three met with faculty and students. The Starr King board selected one of these outstanding candidates. Some of the faculty and students preferred a different candidate, which is understandable, given that all three were outstanding. This has led to conflict and unhappiness.

“When we elect a new president of the UUA, association staff who do not share the vision of the new president look for other employment. . . . This is not dysfunctional. It is normal, predictable human behavior. . . . [I]f some staff, faculty, and students at Starr King do not share the vision of the new president, they should seek other employment and students should transfer. . . .

“[O]nly one [candidate] could be selected. The decision was made a year ago. It is time to move on. The UUA board should provide moral and financial support to the school’s new president.” (3.17.15)