Beginning in the 1970’s with the renaissance of the women’s movement and ever since, the Unitarian Universalist Association and its member congregations and related organizations have explored the meaning of our covenant, both theologically and experientially. Our Purposes and Principles, passed by the General Assemblies of 1984 and 1985, are the most notable theological expression of that work. Foremost among the many experiential expressions is our focused attention to the quality of congregational life. Thanks to the UU Women’s Federation, the professional ethics codes of the UU Ministers Association and the Liberal Religious Educations Association, Task Force I, Task Force II, the authors and editors of Creating Safe Congregations and Restorative Justice for All, and many others, the UUA provides an abundance of material to aid congregations in addressing the misuses of power, and specifically sexual power, in our congregations and related organizations. By means of programs such as Journey Toward Wholeness, addressing racism and oppression, and Safe Congregations, addressing clergy misconduct and abuse, peer harassment and abuse, and child abuse and neglect, and resources such as the Safe Congregations Handbook (available from inSpirit: The UU Book and Gift Shop) and Restorative Justice for All, our Association has grown increasingly aware that if “earth shall be fair, and all her people one,” we must start with how we live with one another in our congregations.
Congregations and related UU organizations that follow Safe Congregations guidelines will keep abuse-enabling conditions to a minimum and address issues of abuse of power in ways both grounded and informed. The goal of Responsible Staffing is more confined: to recommend guidelines that enable congregations and other UU organizations to take reasonable precautions when bringing new people into positions of leadership that give them access to vulnerable people. Ministerial search committees, religious educator search committees, personnel committees, nominating committees, religious education committees, caring committees, CONs and other youth- and young adult-serving bodies, District bodies—any body charged with the responsibility to recommend or hire staff or to recruit volunteers will make better choices by following these guidelines. We recommend adoption of these guidelines by the Unitarian Universalist Association itself, as well, including the UUA Ministerial Fellowship Committee, the Religious Education Credentialing Committee, and its Sponsored Organizations. Our goal is to create among us a culture of covenantal accountability.