Thursday, February 24, 2011

PCD Ministers' Statement on Firing of District Executive (and Commentary)

The PCD UU Ministers Association (UUMA) has launched a spin campaign justifying their role in firing the District Executive, Cilla Raughley. I have posted a full copy here. In this post I comment on selected portions of that message.

This preamble was included on one Facebook posting and a number of ministers took it to heart:
Please forward this letter (attached and included below) today to your congregations, boards, key leaders, UU email lists, etc. Post it on your blog, FaceBook page, tweet a link, send it to colleagues from other districts who have inquired about the situation here in the PCD.

We do not have access to an email list that would reach all the recipients of PCD Currents - but I know we can reach just as many folks, if not more, grass-roots style.

Onward and upward,
Meghan Cefalu
The preamble implies the UUMA has some urgent need to get their "side" of story out. Is that where the ministers want to be - in opposition to lay leaders? It's certainly contrary to the final paragraph, "We have full confidence in our congregational leaders, [and] the PCD Board…" and hardly strikes me as "onward and upward" or the path to right relationship. I am curious what triggered this stance - the only statements via the PCD Currents newsletter were the initial announcement of Cilla's firing and a joint statement from the Board and UUA.
... we write to share our understanding of Cilla Raughley's departure ...
Departure?  It sounds like maybe she went to a sunnier clime for vacation.  Please drop the Orwellian double-speak - you told the UUA to fire her and they did.
At our Fall 2010 minister's meeting and retreat in October, it became apparent to those attending that Cilla's relationship with many ministers and congregations had become strained to the point that, from our perspective, she was no longer serving the whole effectively. In a congregation, if a minister is no longer effective with a large percentage of the congregation, the minister is no longer in good ministry with the whole congregation. Similarly, when the District Executive is no longer in right relationship with a large percentage of the congregations, something vital is no longer working. In our business meeting, we expressed with a 40-0 vote (5 abstaining) our lack of trust and confidence in Cilla's leadership as District Executive, and we requested new leadership for our district.
Several points on this paragraph. First, the part about problems with congregations is not true. One of the signers of this note has already admitted to her congregation that the problem was with the ministers, not the congregations. Second, the argument about a strained relationship is specious. The District Executive is not a minister to the ministers. She is their co-worker and colleague.  She is not even a minister to the congregations. And even if she were - can you name a single example of a minister who has been dismissed with (a) no knowledge of the charges against her, (b) no chance to respond to her accusers, and (c) a secret vote against her?
We first conveyed the results of our October 2010 … The PCD Board's Personnel Committee invited seven of these ministers to a meeting a few weeks later, to ask further questions and hear their concerns. The meeting lasted three and a half hours and was both frank and respectful.
And after hearing them, the PCD Board did not view those concerns as rising to the level of cause for dismissal, but sought additional conversations with both ministers and laity throughout the district. This proposal was rejected by the UUA.
The contracted employment agreement with the District Executive stipulates that if any of the three parties to the contract (the UUA, the PCD Board or the DE) withdraw their consent, the contract is ended. As we ministers are not one of the three parties to this contract…
So your hands are clean?

Is it consistent with Unitarian Universalist values of justice and mercy that Cilla was asked to resign without hearing your anonymous charges or having a chance to respond?

Meghan, the ministers won. Cilla is fired. Do letters full of half truths serve our congregations or our ministers?

"What will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?"

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Anniversaries, Horses, and Seasons

Today is our 14th wedding anniversary. Once upon a time I did not think that I would see our ninth and certainly not our tenth. In July 2005 I was diagnosed with stage IV melanoma. Stage IV means the cancer has left the original site and moved into the rest of my body - gone metastatic. For melanoma at stage IV, the median survival time was quoted as seven to nine months. So far I'm at five and half years and counting.

It's been tough. I've done my time in hell. The first treatment was called bio-chemotherapy. First get a heart scan first to see if you're up to it. Then go into the intensive care unit for 5 days, receiving a cocktail of three different chemotherapy drugs and two immune-system drugs. Get really good at projectile vomiting. Come home and recover for two weeks; repeat six times total. Something like one third of the patients can't finish the full course. I finished all six.

That treatment worked, but the cancer came back. I did radiation; the cancer came back. I did another chemo drug; the cancer came back. I'm on a new wonder drug, which has made the cancer retreat, but it's still there, just smaller.

When I was first diagnosed as stage IV, I had several reactions.

One was how to think about the struggle with cancer. Melanoma is aggressive without any good treatments. So how do you mentally approach going through these treatment? There is a story I know, sometimes attributed to the Greek historian Herodotus, but also told by writer Idries Shah. Here is one version.
Once there was a thief who was to be executed. As he was taken away he made a bargain with the king: in one year he would teach the king's favorite horse to sing hymns. The other prisoners watched the thief singing to the horse and laughed.

"You will not succeed," they told him. "No one can."

To which the thief replied, "I have a year, and who knows what might happen in that time. The king might die. The horse might die. I might die.

"Or, perhaps the horse will learn to sing." 
Another reaction is to look back on your life. What lessons or stories might you want to pass on to someone else? The first, and my favorite, story that I wrote is about my Grandmother teaching me to knit.

Another perspective comes from Ecclesiastes. It is worth reading the whole first three chapters; I include some here. Chapter 1 starts off in despair.
The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem:
“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
   Everything is meaningless.”
What do people gain from all their labors
   at which they toil under the sun? ….
No one remembers the former generations,
   and even those yet to come
will not be remembered
   by those who follow them.
In chapter 2, he tells how he turns to wisdom and folly, pleasure and toil.  All are meaningless.  But in chapter 3, the writer moves into a more philosophical vein:

There is a time for everything,
   and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
   a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
   a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
   a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
   a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
   a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
   a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
   a time for war and a time for peace.
So that's my combination: there is a time for everything; tell your stories; and maybe the horse will learn to sing.

My wife says we don't just walk in the Valley of the Shadow of Death - we go camping there.

Some may talk about doing battle with the Angel of Death. Movie buffs might instead depict a person playing chess with with Death (or perhaps badminton.) But in the real world I think the best game to play with Death is hide and seek.

The horse hasn't learned to sing, but sometimes I think maybe I can hear him humming along with me.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Why I am Called to Write on the PCD Firing

"They have taken my church from me." These are the words of my wife, a lifelong UU and a member of the PCD Board, in response to the events of the last five months.

I write because it is a moral issue.

I write because I am angry at the harm caused by the UUA and the ministers to a set of dedicated, long-serving laity.

I write because, for the members of the PCD Board and those close to them, these events have been a crisis of faith.

The PCD Board members are not some random cranks. They are twelve people who have been chosen as leaders in their own churches - seven have been a congregational president, nine have been members of search committees. More than half have been members of committees on stewardship, ministerial relations, and membership. On average they have been a UU for 30 years - an aggregate of over 360 years of UU experience across the twelve board members. This is a deep, committed pool of leaders. They understand how church works, and people like them are the ones that make church work. If you are a lay person reading this, they are you.

But now, many are uncomfortable attending worship and other church activities. Many also felt the need for pastoral support, yet most felt uncomfortable asking their own minister for such support. I myself cannot do so. Another measure of this crisis is that several of the members of the board do not expect to continue in their own congregations and do not see how they can remain UUs. One board member has already quit the board and resigned from his church.

How did this happen? Why would this group take a public position opposing the UUA's decision to fire the District Executive? It's simple and sad. Some at the UUA wanted to fire Cilla, and a few ministers had long-standing grievances. The rest of the ministers gave them the tool they needed.

Cilla is no saint. She is a perfectionist, and not afraid to express her opinion. That may not make for a warm and fuzzy working relationship, but those are qualities I want on my team at work. And that this what the District Executive is - a co-worker and a colleague. She is not their minister, and she is not there to support the ministers. She is there to support the congregations.

UUA staff told the PCD Board that they wanted to get rid of Cilla. When the PCD Board resisted, the UUA staff person, herself a minister, went to the PCD ministers. The ministers became an instrument of the UUA's will. Some among them led, the rest followed in solidarity.

Clerical solidarity has a long and sometimes inglorious history. It's a Unitarian tradition - when I read about Theodore Parker being shunned by the other ministers in Boston I wrote All the Other Ministers. (And don't even ask about our Puritan forebears - the culture runs deep.)

Under the UUMA's rules, they will not disclose what they call the compelling stories of their peers. But after the letter, some ministers described their complaints to the PCD Personnel Committee. Their testimony was weighed and found wanting. There were some problems in working relations, but nothing that rose to the level of firing. The deeds and attitudes of the ministers are profoundly disillusioning. This caused me to think about ministers and their role, and I wrote On Clergy.

I am not greatly disillusioned by the UUA hierarchy in Boston. They are a bureaucracy, doing what bureaucracies do. My only desire for them is that we should stop funding them - I cannot tell what useful things happen with their $20 million per year. I am, however, disappointed in Peter Morales, who did not slow or stop the process after a direct appeal by PCD Board members.

But the degree to which the ministers view their action as something they had to do, and now as just something to paper over, is disillusioning. They say that they didn't fire her - it was the UUA. But what did they think would happen with a letter requesting a new district exec? Their request for Cilla's removal is the reason for her firing. But now they suggest that we cannot talk about it because it is a "personnel issue" that must remain confidential, and we must all move on. I suggest that it is a conflict of values, and the crisis was caused by them.

I used to see ministers as a source of moral authority, and as partners in building our churches. I was not anti-clerical. I look at UU ministers differently now. They have an explicit covenant with other ministers that keeps the rest of us out. Their Code of Conduct has many words about accountability and process between ministers. If Cilla had been a minister, all these would have applied; but she is not. So the ministers have one standard for dealing with themselves, but nothing for the rest of us.

The ministers talk a lot about covenant. The traditional Covenant was with God. I do not believe in God (and don't ask me to describe the God I don't believe in, it's unbelief all the way down.) So I cannot be in covenant with God. But I have fealty to certain ideals, including Truth, Justice, and Mercy. The action by the UUMA was none of these.

Both Unitarians and Universalists started in Christianity. Theodore Parker's wish was to separate out the permanent Truths of Christianity from its mystical trappings. We have moved beyond our Christian roots; we must not leave behind Jesus's ideals. We must not accept anything lower than the standards set by Jesus: love your neighbor as yourself; do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Ministers, as doctors to the soul, should also be guided by the medical maxim, First do no harm.

Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble." (Luke 17:1-2)

Kyrie, eleison.

Monday, February 14, 2011

PCD Board Statement on Firing of District Executive

The following is the full text of the official PCD Board response to the firing by the UUA of the District Executive, Cilla Raughley.  This text has previously been sent individually to persons making an inquiry at

Dear Friends,

Thank you for your comments, concerns, and questions. We pledge to provide straight answers to your many specific questions as soon as possible. Meanwhile this letter provides some background.

We understand the stress our sudden announcement of Cilla's Raughley’s termination as Pacific Central District Executive has caused. The extremely short transition period has turned many lives upside down. We deeply regret that.

Obviously the announcement raised many questions. Many of you have asked why Cilla’s contract was terminated by the UUA. The reasons are complex – and not completely transparent to the PCD – but we assure you that there was no suggestion (by anyone) of malfeasance on Cilla’s part.

Per the hiring letter of agreement for Cilla (and other District Executives who are co-employed by their District Boards and by the UUA), any party to the agreement may terminate the agreement without the concurrence of the other parties. That is what happened in this case.

The PCD began this process when a UUA staff member came to the PCD Board requesting that Cilla’s employment be terminated. When the PCD Board would not support the UUA’s recommendation without going through a discernment process, the staff member continued to contact ministers to obtain feedback on the PCD DE’s performance. The following month, the topic of concerns about Cilla was brought up at the UUMA retreat. There, 40 ministers who were present (of the 100 PCD ministers in the district) voted “no confidence in Cilla” (with 5 abstentions).

At that point the UUA began termination negotiations, which ended before the PCD Board could finish our discernment process. It must be noted that many of the 40 ministers who voted in solidarity with their colleagues have since reported to PCD Board members and to Cilla that they personally had never had an issue with her work with them or their congregations.

This vote at the retreat was taken with no advance notice to the PCD Board, no advance notice to Cilla, no opportunity for Cilla to defend herself in any way and no way for anyone who was not already present at the meeting to have any input. The current members of the PCD Board had never been told by any minister of any dissatisfaction with Cilla's performance. Members of the board were shocked to learn of the vote at this meeting.

In addition, other members of the UUMA Chapter, in whose name the request for new leadership was made, were not made aware of the vote or the request. The PCD Board discovered this fact in their discernment process, talking with ministers.

The PCD Board had been in conversation with the UUA, but had no reason to believe that things would come to such a precipitous end. We got the news at our Board meeting on Saturday, January 29. Monday and Tuesday were spent negotiating an 11-day transition period (the original effective date was January 31) and crafting a statement for release via PCD Currents. We felt very strongly our responsibility to provide as much notice to our District's congregations as we could.

We are reorganizing PCD Board Committees to ensure as little disruption of District services as possible and met with UUA representatives on February 12 to discuss interim staffing needs. Once we have the work of the District on track we will turn our attention to answering more questions.

We did not take lightly the decision to oppose the UUA's action publicly. We feel that the UUA’s process violated both polity and fundamental UU values of justice. We believe that respectful but vigorous dissent is called for where moral issues are at stake.

The PCD Board and staff are working together to ensure that planned events, such as District Assembly, will take place. An exciting DA is scheduled for May 13-15, in Fremont. Watch for more information.

We will keep the lines of communication open and continue to welcome your comments and questions.

PCD Transitions

PCD Board Member Resigns over Firing of District Executive

The following is the full text of a letter that was sent to the UUA District Presidents' mailing list.  I post it here with his permission.

From: John Schick
Date: Mon, Feb 7, 2011 at 10:17 PM
Subject: The true story of the unilateral firing of Cilla Raughley

Hello everyone,

My name is John Schick and until two days ago I was a member of the Board of Directors of the PCD. I had been in that position since 2007, having been elected to two terms by the lay members of this district at our annual District Assembly. I resigned on February 5, 2011, due to the way in which this matter of Cilla Raughley's unilateral termination was handled by both the UUA and the UUMA. I have read Meghan Cefalo's note and it is full of half truths and self-serving words from the ministers. As a person who was present during the entire situation and who is no longer under any constraints about telling the truth, I will let you know what REALLY happened. I do this not out of spite, but because this group -- district presidents -- need to be aware of what I believe are the long term goals of the UUA in its regionalization plan and the lengths to which they will go to achieve that goal. What you and your districts choose to do or not to do is up to you. But I have always believed that having all the facts is important in making any important decision.

First, personal background. I am 65 years of age, and have been a member of the Stockton, California church since 1973. Until about a month ago, I was in the choir and for the past four and a half years was chair of the Worship Associates, a group that helps plan services. I have written and delivered several sermons and been in charge of services in the absence of the minister. I have served as president of my congregation, been on two search teams, been called to serve on the Committee on Ministry about 10 years when our then minister relapsed into an alcohol problem, and until recently took pride in being a UU. My father was a Lutheran minister, and so I know what it is like to be in a family where there is a professional minister and the problems that come with that job. Professionally, I am currently a law school professor and have been full-time for the past three years and before that was a trial attorney for 37 years, defending five death penalty cases, thirty murder cases and countless other cases. I think I bring to this message a great understanding of human nature and the problems that power brings to people's lives. I am the president of the law school alumni association at King Hall, the law school at UC Davis where I attended 40 years ago and thus have great experience in working with people on committees and doing board work. I do not think I am a difficult person to work with, but I do have a strong sense of right and wrong.

What I am about to tell you is my opinion, but it is based on many facts which I have learned during our meetings and also during the minister interviews that I and others on the board conducted over the past few months. The issue with Cilla Raughley has little or nothing to do with her job performance. What it has to do with is the perception on the part of those in the higher ranks of the UUA that the PCD was going to resist their efforts to regionalize and thus water down the work our district had been doing in its ongoing efforts to grow the faith that supposedly motivates those who work for the UUA and the professional ministers.

Let me expand on that. We board members first heard of regionalization about a year and a half ago. We were told that there was nothing concrete on the drawing board but the outline of the plan meant that there would be one district or region encompassing almost all UU churches west of the Mississippi River. This would replace our district and three others in the west. This seemed odd to us, but we adopted a wait and see attitude. Then at our DA in April of 2010, Gini Courter came out to discuss this issue. During the Q/A session she held, many of our board members asked somewhat difficult questions. This obviously distressed her and in my opinion she became quite abrupt and rude in her answers. This only exacerbated the feelings of our board members that the plan was not going to be one that benefited us.

As a point of information, the PCD is an independent 501(c)(3) organization which is not controlled by the UUA. Then in August of this year, a letter was sent to our board from a lawyer in southern California. The thrust of the letter was that Cilla had allegedly said something less than flattering about the former president of our district, Mary Ellen Morgan. Some of you may know her since she was until May of this year the PCD president. Although the letter said no legal action was going to be taken, there was an implied threat in the letter that something had been done that was wrong.

As a lawyer, I made inquiry of what this was about. Everything that may have been said was legally privileged and gave no basis for any legal action. However, on the pretext that this letter represented some wrongdoing by Cilla, Teresa Cooley, Director of Congregational Services for this area, made contact with our current board president prior to our regularly scheduled meeting in September of 2010. Teresa told Ed Massey, our current president, that she wanted Ed to ask the board to fire Cilla. The basis for taking this action was the letter I just referred to. Ed refused and did not even want Teresa at our board meeting. She came anyway and briefly spoke in general terms about regionalization. After that meeting in Marin County, she said she had a meeting with a group of ministers. This is likely where the plot to write the letter from the UUMA was hatched.

So in October of 2010, a letter was drafted and signed by the then president of the UUMA. The letter expressed dissatisfaction with Cilla and said "we request new leadership." To say that we board members were shocked is an understatement. During my tenure on the board and before, we have ALWAYS had a minister as one of our board members. And NO ONE ever expressed this feeling. And there were surveys done wherein these same people could have anonymously expressed their dissatisfaction. None did so. In short, it is my opinion that this letter was nothing but a pretext which the UUA could seize upon as a basis for terminating Cilla. Cilla is co employed by the UUA and our district. Either side can unilaterally fire her and she also had that option of terminating her employment.

It is my opinion that some within the ranks of the ministers have had a long relationship with Teresa and were frankly willing to do her bidding. Her marching orders were to fire Cilla and the means mattered not a whit, only the end mattered. This does not sound like an adherence to our first principle in my opinion. We did decide as a board that we should investigate the matter and our executive committee began the first in a series of tasks dedicated to finding out what the truth was. While many ministers explained some concerns, most of them did not rise close to the level of being a basis for termination. Some seemed related to hurt feelings and perceptions that were not true. Without subjecting this minister to any harassment by colleagues, I will quote the context of the most revealing interview I had with a minister.

This person told me that when she was doing a start up, she was bargaining to get a four week study leave put into her contract. Cilla was present but did not speak up in favor of the minister, but took a neutral position with the board. The minister was upset, thinking that Cilla should have been HER ADVOCATE. Then upon reflection the minister said that she realized that Cilla had to represent ALL of the district.

This is the crux of the problem. Ministers are in my opinion much more concerned about their compensation packages than they are about the welfare of their churches. Cilla did not reflexively back their demands but sought to represent all sides, which is what a DE should do. Our district has about 6,700 members, and only 100 ministers. It would seem that an elementary school student should be able to see that a proper executive would not put the interests of a small group over those of the entirety. But this is exactly what the UUA has done.

When Peter Morales got involved in this matter, he referred only to the letter signed by the ministers as a basis for agreeing to terminate Cilla unilaterally. I continue to be surprised that even he would fail to see the significance of getting ALL points of view before making this decision. And it was his role in this debacle that eventually led me to conclude that I could no longer be on the board and will ultimately lead me to resign as a member of my former church.

Some of you may regard what I think as extreme. But I can say that we took a survey of our board a few weeks back and I am not the only person who is nearing the conclusion that being a UU will no longer be a part of our life. This may be sad, but it is the eventual outcome of the raw exercise of power. And the sad thing is that the ministers, a group of well educated people, still don't realize how they have been manipulated by what I would opine are Machiavellian minds.

UUism will certainly go on without me and without some of my colleagues who are about to quit. But the movement will experience some shock waves as we speak truth to power and let the public know that there are many clay feet standing on that statue of Unitarian Universalism.

John Schick

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Recent Unpleasantness

A long time ago in a small religious institution far, far, away....
A Tragedy in Four Acts

Dramatis Personae
LRC – the Liberal Religious Church
WCD - The Western Coast District of the LRC
NANCI - Chairman of the LRC National Board
SUE-ANN - former president of the WCD Board
GALINDA - Director for Congregational Control, LRC
ALICE - the District Executive of the WCD
WCD Board – the volunteer board of the Western Coast District of the LRC
LRMA - the Liberal Religious Ministers Association
JOHN CLEESE - special cameo appearance

Act I (The Bad Beginning)

Scene 1: (A Moderator Immoderate)
WCD 2010 District Assembly, a meeting on Regionalization

NANCI:  presents standard LRC talking points about why the current districts are too complicated.
ATTENDEE:  But the regions are weird.  How can we have a single region for everything west of the Mississippi?  How would we travel to district events?
NANCI:  That's not an official map.  There is no official plan.
ATTENDEE:  Your talking points are very general.  What specifics will this address?  How will it work?
NANCI:  Look at this complicated organization chart.  This is what we have to deal with.
ATTENDEE:  That's just a chart of the LRC.  The districts are just a little corner on it.  That diagram is not an argument.  It's deliberate obfuscation.
NANCI (haranguing):  The current system is too complicated.  You're all just standing in the way.
ATTENDEE (a person of age, member of the LRC for 30 years)(plaintive): But what's broken about our district?
NANCI:  You're just being selfish!
   (pause - all are taken aback)
SUE-ANN (appeasing):   We were at the meeting of the Board Presidents, and we, like, just had this epiphany - why do we need Districts?
WCD BOARD MEMBERS:  Huh?  We've all been talking at our board meetings about how we were not in favor of regionalization, you included!
   (Exeunt NANCI, SUE-ANN, most of the attendees)
Some of THE WCD BOARD:  What's up with Sue-Ann? She's been telling us that she was presenting our views against regionalization. Should one of us run for board president?
SEVERAL:  It's not really what I want to do, but we need someone to represent our views to the LRC.  I guess I could run.
ALL:  OK, one of us will have to take it on.

Scene 2 (I'll take my marbles and go home)
Some days after District Assembly
SUE-ANN:  If I can't be president, I'll resign from the Board.
ALL:  Sue-Ann, you don't have to leave the Board!
SUE-ANN:  No, I'm quitting, but not until after General Assembly.
Scene 3 (After General Assembly)
SUE-ANN:  Messenger, send this to Alice, the WCD Board, and the LRC.  I have heard from anonymous sources that Alice has been defaming me.  She has to stop or I will sue her.
Scene 4 (WCD Board Meeting)
Moderator:  Next item of business, we have this letter from Sue-Ann. 
Member 1:  That's just a parting shot from Sue-Ann.  Nothing will come of it.
Member 2:  I wonder...
(Fade to dark, then curtain comes down)
Act II (The LRC Strikes Back)
Scene 1 (There's a new sheriff in town)
LRC High Command
GALINDA (alone, in her office):  The WCD Board members are puppets of Alice.  She's been putting them up to this opposition to regionalization.  And there was that business with the Dead Elm congregation.  But now I have this letter from Sue-Ann.  I can use that to start an investigation.  Harold was too easy on them - I can get this done right.  I'll show them what a Texas girl with a degree from Harvard University can do.  I'll get the ministers to do the work - I'll just ask them for things they don't like about her.  The group dynamics will be great - once you get it started, everyone just piles on.

Scene 2 (She's a witch!)
WCD LRMA Retreat
(The curtain rises on a dimly lit stage with gauze in front.  45 ministers are on stage, some in front and most behind in a chorus.  We cannot make out their features.)
VOICE 1:  I have a request from Galinda asking for all the bad things that you have to say about Alice.
VOICE 2:  She made a comment a few years ago that I thought was disrespectful of ministers.  I've never gotten over it.
VOICE 3:  She questioned whether I should vote on a grant making committee that gave money to my church.  How dare she question the integrity of a minister!
VOICE 4:  She expressed a different opinion from me in front of MY congregation.
JOHN CLEESE:  She turned me into a newt!
ALL:  You don't look like a newt!
CLEESE:  I got better.
ALL:  Right.  We'll leave that bit out.
CHORUS:  We like her, and she has helped us.  But your stories are compelling and we feel your pain, so we will stand in solidarity with our fellow ministers.
   (They vote)
VOICE 1:  So the vote is 40 to 0, with 5 abstaining.  We will send a letter to the WCD that we do not trust her and she should be fired. Two of us will hand-deliver the message to Alice.
   (exeunt Rosencrantz and Guildenstern with the letter.)
VOICE 2:  And remember the code of omerta - no one can speak of the contents of these proceedings.
VOICE 3:  Omerta is such an ugly word.  What about covenant?
   (Ministers disappear off stage.  As they leave, a new minister appears)
MINISTER:  What about compassion?
VOICE 1:  You weren't here.  We have voted.  'Twere well it were done quickly.
(Stage to black)
Act III (What a mess!)
Scene 1
 (WCD Board Meeting)
PRESIDENT:  We have a letter from the ministers telling us to fire Alice.
BOARD:  For what!?
PRESIDENT:  They don't say.  They just say they don't trust her, and want us to fire her.
BOARD:  We can't just fire her for without a reason.  We have to talk to them, to find out what has made them so upset.  We can arrange a special meeting and see how many will come in on a single day, and then we can talk to the rest later.

Scene 2 (The dog that didn't bark in the night)
(Board meets with some Ministers one by one)
BOARD:  What is your experience with Alice?
EACH MINISTER:  (Tells their story)
   (at the end of one interview)
MEMBER: Is there no way to reconcile?  Doesn't our Liberversalist heritage does hold up salvation for all?
MINISTER: Only in the afterlife. And we don't believe in that any more.
   (Exeunt ministers)
ALL: That was really weird.  There was nothing there that rose to the level of firing Alice.
BOARD (various, speaking)
  -  A lot of that was tragic misunderstandings and differences in communication styles.
  -  Some of it was petty issues from years ago.  A minister is supposed to be more grown up.
  -  A few items were upsetting - we need to hear Alice's side of the story.
  -  Harold came out a year ago to deal with some of that.  It was supposed to be settled.
  -  Some of those were issues left over from before the time Alice was hired.  And some of it just wasn't true.
  -  And to think I used to respect that minister....
MEMBER:  There was a minister on the the board with us for the whole eight years that Alice has been working for the WCD.  Why didn't they ever say anything?

Scene 3 (John Rawls rolls over in his grave)
BOARD MEMBER:  If Alice had been a minister, the LRMA rules allow her to hear the complaints, face her accusers, and defend herself.
MINISTER:  But she's not a minister.
BOARD MEMBER:  But that's a double standard!
MINISTER:  I don't understand your point - she's not a minister.

Scene 4
(Email and phone)
GALINDA: We'll define an 8 week plan for Alice to fix the issues. (aside) And THEN we'll fire her.
WCD BOARD:  No, we need a process to talk to the ministers and understand the complaints.
WCD BOARD sends a letter to LRC asking for the LRC to respect their timetable and process for finding truth by talking to the ministers, and also sends a copy of this letter to LRMA.

Act IV (Off with her head!)

Scene 1
(Email and phone)
GALINDA:  This has gone on long enough.
WCD BOARD:  But you never even started the plan!
GALINDA:  Enough is enough.
WCD BOARD sends a letter to the LRC trustees appealing for the WCD process to be respected
WCD BOARD sends a letter to the LRMA congregational ministers asking for the ministers to stop the LRC.
GALINDA:  Alice, sign this letter of resignation or you will be fired on 1/31.
ALICE:  Signs letter.
WCD BOARD:  Sends out message announcing Alice's unilateral termination by the LRC.

Scene 2
(In a living room, two people with laptops)
BOARD MEMBER:  What are you working on?
SPOUSE:  Oh nothing, just my blog.
BOARD MEMBER:  That's nice, dear.

(With apologies to Monty Python, Shakespeare, and The Anti-Racism Trainings by David Reich)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Guest Post - Censorship at the UUA

This is a guest posting from a concerned UU. Ms. Skagerberg has been a member of the her congregation for 31 years, is a past president of their Board, was a member of their most recent Search committee, and is currently chair of the Financial Stewardship council.

From: Ellen Skagerberg
Sent: Saturday, February 05, 2011 12:09 PM

When I received notice on February 2 that Cilla Raughley's employment as District Executive of the PCD had been terminated, I posted something along the lines of this to the UUA Facebook site:

Please comment on the removal of Cilla Raughley as District Executive of the Pacific Central District, against the wishes of the PCD Board. Cilla has served for 8 years and writes "PCD Currents," a model of district communication. How about offering a pay cut, or another job in the denomination? This is outrageous. (Hint: Try working with the PCD Board.) 
I'm quoting from memory, since my post was deleted from the UUA Facebook site. I received the following private message in reply:
Subject: Responding to Your Facebook Post
Date: Thu, 3 Feb 2011 12:13:27 -0500
From: "Shelby Meyerhoff"
To: Ellen Skagerberg

Hi Ellen,

I’m writing about your post on the UUA’s Facebook Page this morning about Cilla. After careful thought, I removed the post out of concern for Cilla’s privacy. I’ve also shared the text of your post with the appropriate personnel here.

Best wishes,

Shelby Meyerhoff
Public Witness Specialist
Unitarian Universalist Association
25 Beacon St.
Boston, MA 02108
Still waiting ... for any response. Shelby Meyerhoff says my Facebook post was forwarded to "the appropriate personnel" but does not say who that is, and so far there has been a truly resounding silence (although there's plenty of offline buzz). Naturally we shouldn't jump to conclusions without knowing "the full situation" (as the Rev. Chris Bell put it), but how exactly are we supposed to know? That no one with organizational power will commit to a written explanation leads me to conclude that someone who should not be crossed had a personality conflict and the clout to follow through, with the repercussions falling on Cilla.

Since the PCD Board has been satisfied with Cilla's performance, I'm assuming no actionable misconduct on Cilla's part. I'm most shocked that a new UUA supervisor could override the Pacific Central District as a co-employer, which bodes poorly for our principle of upholding the democratic process. If this "leadership change" is part of district restructuring, SAY SO, and stop making it sound like Cilla was fired for dreadful, secret reasons that can't be shared because they would make her look bad.

Now that my Facebook post has been summarily removed with a comment about it being a privacy matter (the go-to response when one wants to shut down discussion about a firing, whether justified or not), I'm questioning whether I have organizational permission to challenge the actions of the Unitarian Universalist Association in open and honest discussion. If I were to further pursue this on the UUA Facebook page, would I be blocked? Am I becoming a "disruptive person" because I require an explanation about a precipitous firing, one that, astonishingly, overrides our elected PCD Board? Are we even allowed to discuss this on my congregation's email discussion list? The new UUA appears to be a culture of cohesion that works by silencing dissent in its public face.

It's disingenuous to call a controversial firing "a personnel matter" so as not to explain the reasons behind it. That leads to firing with impunity, which is, now that I think about it, what's happening here. I had believed our religion to be more participatory and less dictatorial than that.

If nothing else, perhaps the Unitarian Universalist Association can take a lesson from this public relations fiasco about open communication, the democratic process, and inclusive decision-making. I understand that it's faster and more organizationally efficient to take action and reassure the membership that the UUA knows what's best for us, but that too is unfaithful to our religious values.

~~ Ellen Skagerberg
UU Congregation, Santa Rosa

Meditation on a Raisin

We have the same breakfast every morning - grapenuts, almonds, and raisins.  (Sometimes with strawberries or blueberries too.)  Making breakfast is a ritual of the hands.  I make the same motions every morning - two bowls, a scoop of grapenuts each, a handful of raisins each, and chop a handful of almonds that we roasted just the way we like them.

Today I stopped and stared after I put on the raisins.  That doesn't look like food!  On the mornings when I add blueberries, I carefully sort through the blueberries, casting out the ones that are even starting to shrivel.  But these are all shriveled!  That can't be something you want to eat.

My wife says that as a child she wouldn't touch them.  In girl scouts they had raisins in those little cardboard boxes.  It was clearly another food that adults were trying to foist off on kids.

Pick up a raisin and actually look at it.  Slowly.  Meditate on the raisin.  All those little teeny wrinkles.  Think of the nice full grape that it once was.  Imagine that grape as it slowly starts to dehydrate.  You wouldn't eat that shriveling grape - the texture is all wrong.  But here is the final shriveled, sugary result - a wonderful raisin.  (How did we humans learn to eat all these spoiled foods - raisins, cheese, beer, wine?)

There's are probably several metaphors here but I'll leave them for the more poetic.  I have to go eat my crunchy chewy breakfast.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

UUA Fires Pacific Central District Executive

The following is the full text of an email from the Board of Directors of the Pacific Central District of the Unitarian Universalists.

An Important Announcement from the Pacific Central District
February 3, 2011

Dear Friends,

With deep regret, the members of the Pacific Central District Board of Directors announce that the Unitarian Universalist Association has unilaterally severed the employment agreement of Cilla Raughley, District Executive, effective February 11, 2011.

The PCD Board neither initiated nor supported this action. The UUA and the PCD have been co-employers of Cilla, who is in her eighth year of service to our congregations.

We will continue to share information about this transition as it becomes available. In the meantime, please feel free to direct any questions, issues, comments, or concerns to .

The Pacific Central District Board of Directors