Addressing Professional Misconduct: Sexual, Financial, and Other Types

If you have reason to believe that a minister, religious educator, music leader, or other staff who serve your Unitarian Universalist congregation has engaged in professional misconduct, the UUA is there to support you in several ways.

Your congregation’s regional staff, in our Congregational Life staff group, can partner with your congregation as you consider terminating the employment of someone who has engaged in misconduct. They can also support the board in sharing the difficult news with the rest of the congregation, and offering spaces for healing and processing.

If the misconducting professional is credentialed by the UUA—or in process of being credentialed by the UUA—as a minister or religious educator, the UUA has a formal process for making, investigating, and adjudicating claims of professional misconduct.

The process of making complaints can be complex. Our intake person, Heather Bond, is at the UUA Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays during regular business hours, and is happy to speak with you in person: (617) 948-6462. We do not currently offer a 24/7 “hotline” but your call will be answered within 48 to 72 hours. Heather offers completely confidential listening, and can explain the process for filing a complaint.

Misconduct Complaint Information

The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) recognizes the courage it takes to consider filing a complaint of misconduct against a Unitarian Universalist (UU) religious professional. You may be visiting this page for general information, or because you have experienced harm. Please know that your inquiry will be treated with compassion, respect, and care.

Unlike many other religious bodies, the UUA is an association of member individual and independent congregations. The role of the UUA is to provide support to its member congregations. It does not govern them. In our tradition of congregational polity, each member congregation has the power to ordain, call/hire, supervise and dismiss ministers and other staff; and to do so independently of the UUA. However, by engaging your congregational life staff to partner with you and by engaging the professional misconduct complaint process (if relevant), you will not be alone.

More Information About the Complaint Process

The UUA Office of Ethics and Safety, in addition to broad support for safe congregations and right relations, provides a system for response to complaints of professional misconduct that is grounded in principles of restorative justice and reconciliation. These principles are expressed by: pastoral concern and response to persons victimized, concern for the health and well being of congregations, concern for the integrity of the ministry and the UUA, congruence with UU principles, and appropriate transparency.

The process, managed by the Office for Ethics and Safety, will receive and investigate complaints and coordinate support services to affected individuals and congregations. A team of advocates has been trained to help with the discernment process around the filing of a misconduct complaint and to support a claimant who has filed a complaint. Heather Bond can explain this program more fully.

Further, the Office of Ethics and Safety assists in presenting cases for adjudication by the Ministerial Fellowship Committee, involving investigators and advocates as needed (the latter providing both pastoral support and process information/advice to the complainant), and involving, when needed, a crisis response team to provide support to congregational staff and leaders.

Addressing Old Misconduct

There is no statute of limitations on professional misconduct in the Unitarian Universalist Association, however, sometimes the individual who engaged in misconduct is no longer alive and/or no longer serving as a UU religious professional. In these cases, the Intake person can offer a listening session as well as other possible options. The intake person in the Office of Ethics and Safety can also handle these calls at (617) 948-6462.

Further, if your congregation has been impacted by misconduct and you’re still feeling the residual effects of mistrust and destructive conflict, your regional staff can be of assistance. They can partner with you in the process of openly acknowledging that your congregation has been harmed by misconduct, and help you identify pathways for healing any of the dysfunctional relational and power dynamics that emerged in its wake.

For more detailed information, please see the related content: