UUA Apology: General Assembly June 27, 2014

For the Unitarian Universalist Association's (UUA's) General Assembly; Spoken at Providence, RI June 27, 2014 by Jim Key, Moderator

Now let me move to a subject most would wish to avoid:  clergy sexual misconduct. 

As a candidate for Moderator, I signed a petition circulated by Safety Net, a social justice organization of First UU Church of Nashville.  This petition called for a national discussion of clergy sexual misconduct.  Let me put this in the proper context.  I am speaking of incidents of UU clergy, albeit a very small number, ignoring professional ethics and boundaries who preyed on vulnerable congregants.  There were no incidents of abuse of children or elders in my investigations. 

Safety Net was formed to support victims who had not been well served by previous institutional responses and promises. I have met with victims of clergy sexual misconduct and heard their stories.  I shared those hard-to-tell and hard-to-hear stories with the Board of Trustees.  The board asked Natty Averett, UUA trustee, to convene a working group to examine our current processes, consult with the Ministries and Faith Development office, headed by Sara Lammert, and recommend changes.  Natty will update you on those efforts in the Trustee Report that follows.  The staff, and Sara Lammert specifically, have been swift and compassionate in their response as well as proactive in updating and improving our processes for handling complaints.  Additionally, the UUMA has been responsive and helpful as we assess how we go forward. 

On behalf of the UUA Board of Trustees, I want to express my deepest apologies to those of you who have been victims of UU clergy sexual misconduct, whether you have come forward or not.  I want you to know we are sorry for the suffering caused by one of our Unitarian Universalist ministers. The Board and I grieve with you over this breach of sacred trust and professional ethics.  It is unacceptable that a minister has taken advantage of you sexually and emotionally.  It was not your fault.  Exacerbating your pain, some people in your own communities added to your trauma by challenging your need to come forward with your complaint. 

Some of you have heard this apology from this stage before and might justifiably ask what is different now, and why should you have any confidence that this time there is an institutional will to make the process of filing a complaint more transparent, but most of all, more compassionate.  I pledge as Chief Governance Officer, along with your board, to hold all of us, both individually and institutionally, accountable to the values that are at our core. 

Finally, I want to acknowledge the courage those who have had this experience but remained faithful to Unitarian Universalism and are helping us to live more truly into our values.

Jim Key, Moderator, UUA

For more information contact safecongregations@uua.org.