March 15, 2018
As the Board has spoken with the congregation over the past several weeks regarding our current situation with UUCA’s ministerial leadership, we’ve heard additional questions and request for more information.
We are limited in what we know regarding the
investigation, and limited in what we can legally share based on this being an employment matter. Nevertheless, we want to communicate as much information as we can regarding the UUA’s investigation of Rev. Aaron, the situation behind Rev. Linda’s resignation, and the Board’s intent for how we can work together to establish a better foundation for us to operate collaboratively as a church.
Rev. Aaron and the UUA Investigation
As we have previously shared, the UUA notified the Board that they were investigating Rev. Aaron for alleged misconduct and breach of the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Guidelines for the Conduct of Ministry, which can be found
. This is the code of professional conduct by which ministers agree to abide and to which they are held accountable by the UUA Ministerial Fellowship Committee (MFC). The UUA MFC’s primary task is to determine Preliminary Fellowship and renewal of Preliminary and Final Fellowship. In addition, they consult with UUA staff and representatives from Seminaries, review their own policies and procedures, and deal with disciplinary issues.
The UUA initially informed us that the target date of completion for the investigation was March 2018, but we were later told that the completion date would be September 2018 or even later. Many of you asked why the timeline was pushed back so much. In addition to the fact that the UUA MFC only meets three times a year, we have been informed that adjudicating these investigations is often a slow process. For 2018, the UUA MFC is scheduled to meet in March, September, and November.
It is our understanding that once this matter is decided, the outcome will be made public only if Rev. Aaron’s Fellowship is either removed or suspended. Otherwise, we are told that no information will be made available to the general public. We have been told that the details of the UUA investigation will remain confidential regardless of the outcome.
We understand that it is difficult not knowing, but it is both unfair and unkind to subject those involved in such matters to “the court of public opinion.” And, importantly, Rev. Aaron has asked for privacy in this matter. We have been told that the matter being investigated by the UUA MFC has nothing to do with children or youth nor does it involve violence.
Board Oversight of Rev. Aaron and Moving Forward with the Senior Minister
Going forward, the UUCA Board is committed to tightening the policies and processes of overseeing the ministerial team to make our best effort to ensure that the ministerial team's responsibilities to the church are fulfilled. These responsibilities include providing a clear vision for the church, effectively managing staff, effectively engaging congregants, ensuring people feel they belong and are cared for, and providing opportunities for personal and spiritual growth for congregants. The Board will also review policies related to the stewardship of church resources, such as oversight of ministerial professional expenses and the appropriateness of leasing a dedicated vehicle for a member of the ministerial team.
The process of examining ministerial team oversight will be part of the Board’s examination of Board and UUCA governance and policy – more on that in a bit.
Rev. Linda’s Resignation
We are very much aware that Rev. Aaron’s departure reopens questions, concerns, and grief about the Rev. Linda Olson Peebles’ departure last year. You had very little information about that situation, too, but for very different reasons. There were no issues with the UUA nor was the Board working through any performance-related issues with Rev. Linda. Indeed, as far as we know, Rev. Linda was and remains a minister in good standing who has made significant contributions to the denomination, in addition to the many gifts she brought to UUCA and our local community.
But Rev. Linda was the Associate Minister. She and Rev. Aaron had different visions. With the desire not to create divisiveness within the congregation, Rev. Linda agreed to resign. Both ministers agreed that putting out information, which might have resulted in congregants “taking sides,” would be unhealthy. We understand that many congregants still miss Rev. Linda and recognize the difficult situation we are in now having lost both ministers.
Limitations to What the Board Can Discuss
In working through the departures of both ministers, the Board came to terms with them which prohibit us from giving out more detailed information. Additionally, standard personnel policies in any organization limit what we can share with you. Congregants knowing particular details of either of these situations will not bring our ministers back, reduce our feelings of loss, or in any way negate the many gifts each of these ministers contributed to UUCA for which we will always be grateful.
Simply put, we have shared what we can at this point.
The Board’s Responsibility to the Congregation and Church
As a Board, we want to acknowledge that we have been committed to giving you our best effort, but there are ways we may have done better. We could have handled Rev. Linda’s departure better. We could have had better oversight of Rev. Aaron’s ministry but we do not know if that would have changed anything. As representatives of the congregation and the church, we do our best to make decisions based on what we believe is in the best interest of the church, given the information available to us at the time.
It is not clear if UUCA’s governance contributed to these situations. However, we fully intend to review Board and UUCA policies, structure, and working relationships to improve our performance. The Board has initiated discussions with UUA’s governance experts so that we can learn from the governance experiences of other UU congregations. Many of you have already approached Board members individually to offer your thoughts on governance. We intend to host group discussions for congregants to provide their thoughts on our policy and governance procedures and where we can share our ideas about how they can be improved. These are just a few of the many examples of how we are committed to engaging staff, congregants, and UUCA’s other moral owners throughout this process.
We hope and pray that such painful circumstances will not present themselves again anytime soon, but we intend to be better prepared for whatever comes our way – and do better if they occur.
We cannot go back and redo any of what has happened, but we can and will work together to repair, rebuild, and reconnect as the strong and vital congregation we are because We Are The Church.