An email arrives from one of our ministers, saying that he has been speaking with the spouse of a victim of a clergy sexual abuse. The abuse remains unreported after many years; the abuser is now retired and unlikely to be reported in the future. My friend and email correspondent writes that he said to the victim, “On behalf of Unitarian Universalism and on behalf of its ministers, present and past, I apologize.”
A call comes from a congregational president. A popular member of the congregation is discovered to be a convicted pedophile. What can that the congregation do to provide both safety and compassion?
A religious education teacher reports that one child seems disturbed, anxious, and preoccupied with sexuality in a way far beyond her years. Should the possibility of abuse, the slim hunch, be reported. If so, who should report it and to whom?
It hurts to write it but it is true: A church is not by definition a safe place, not even our beloved Unitarian Universalist churches. The same human frailties and sins play themselves out here as elsewhere.
They are, however, particularly heartbreaking in a church, the place we go for solace and clarity and to make justice, to find religion.
No congregation, no place on earth, can guarantee that it is a safe place. But we can make our beloved congregations “safer,” with education and clear policies and with moral courage and informed decisions.
That is what this book provides: education, clear policies, moral courage. The writers have, among them, many years of commitment to building a just and beloved community and many experiences of naming tough things when others would have preferred that such matters remain unnoticed and unnamed. The Unitarian Universalist Association is indebted to them and to the congregations that have dealt with the hard work of being in community under painful circumstances and have done it, ultimately if not at first, with grace and compassion.
Executive Vice President
Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA)
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