Covenant: Fulfilling Our Promise
The work of the Safe Congregations Panel began in the fall of 1998. The Panel's origins are found in two sources. In the 1994 "Final Report to the Board of Trustees" given by the Task Force on Congregational Response to Clergy Sexual Misconduct (Task Force II), the second of three "concerted and comprehensive strategies" urged the Unitarian Universalist Association to: "Promote a well-publicized, coordinated institutional response to alleged misconduct to ensure justice making and support healing on the part of all involved." (Creating Safe Congregations, 106) The second source is the 1995 resolution passed by the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) General Assembly entitled "Toward Safe Congregations and Right Relationship." (Creating Safe Congregations, 129-130) All five directives in this resolution ground and support the work of the Panel and this report.
The mission of the Safe Congregations Panel is: To recommend to the Association a UUA response and ministry to victims/survivors of clergy sexual misconduct. The covenant the Panel made in response to this mission is:
United by a shared mission, we covenant together to honor ourselves, our task, and each other by:
- Being fully present and prepared: spiritually, emotionally, physically, and intellectually;
- Listening compassionately for and sharing generously of the wisdom and experience we bring;
- Maintaining confidentiality while not perpetuating secrecy;
- Holding each other accountable to our individual convictions and shared Unitarian Universalist principles;
- Welcoming the cloud of witnesses who sit with us—listening especially for the voices of victims/survivors.
We join our hearts and minds and hands to this continuing work with recognition of the magnitude of speaking truth to power, transforming hearts and bringing hope.
This covenant guided the Panel's meetings and work—the promises and commitments we made were integral to the fulfillment of our mission.
The Panel's mission and covenant must be understood in the context of the larger and more inclusive ones as described in the Unitarian Universalist Association's "Principles and Purposes." Here it is stated that the mission of the UUA is "to serve the needs of its member congregations … extend and strengthen Unitarian Universalist institutions, and implement its principles" (its vision of the Beloved Community). With this as a mission, the congregations of the UUA promise and commit "to one another our mutual trust and support." It was in this larger context that the Panel began its journey to make recommendations for ministry and response to victims/survivors of clergy sexual misconduct.
Fulfilling our promise of mission, vision, and covenant was the essence of the Panel's challenge. It was a difficult and often painful challenge to acknowledge. Central to the UUA's mission and vision—and in the mission given to the Panel—is the Association's implicit understanding that its promise and commitment of trust and support for victims/survivors of clergy sexual misconduct has been lacking: response and ministry have fallen short of our covenant. That the covenant was broken was made explicit by the testimony the Panel heard from many: victims, family members of the victim and offender, congregational leadership and clergy colleagues, subject experts and denominational leadership, and a growing and deepening body of literature that affirms the remarks of one minister: "I believe in covenants, in the keeping of them, and in the pain that happens when they are broken." (Living the Sacred Trust, 126) The painful challenge is this: For victims/survivors, the mission of serving never reached them; the commitment of trust and support was elusive and often missing; fulfilling our promise was a dream unfulfilled.
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