Over two years ago, a massive controversy over racially biased hiring practices in the Unitarian Universalist Association caused its leadership to experience a turnover to try to solve the problem of white supremacy among them.
With the election of a new President of the UUA at the 2017 General Assembly (GA), it seemed like we could start to move forward to heal the racial divisions. But then came the GA of June 2019, which was held at Spokane, Washington. Imagine the shock among the attendees when the minister of the UU church at that city, Rev. Dr. Todd F. Eklof, backstabbed the rest of them with a book he had written and was trying to distribute at the GA without prior notice. This book, titled The Gadfly Papers: Three Inconvenient Essays by One Pesky Minister, attacked all the efforts to solve the racial problems, angering many non-white UUs. When the UUA leadership tried to talk to Eklof about what he was doing, he refused to meet with them, putting them in the awkward position of expelling him from the GA itself! After that happened, UUs in both Facebook and Reddit had an uproar about it.
Meanwhile, a large group of white UU ministers made their own statement to address the controversy.
There followed a long list of signers of that statement, including three names in particular that I know personally:
Rev. Alex Holt, Accredited Interim Minister, Westside UU Congregation, West Seattle, WA (He was earlier the Interim Minister of Westside UU Church of Fort Worth.)
Rev. Jennifer Innis, Interim Co-Minister, UU Society of Geneva, IL (She used to be minister at First Jefferson UU Church in Fort Worth.)
Rev. Shari Woodbury, Minister, Westside UU Church, Fort Worth, TX (Rev. Alex Holt’s successor.)
And my recommendations for the situation would be as follows:
- NEVER hold another GA at Spokane again.
- NEVER allow Rev. Todd Eklof to attend another GA.
This may seem extreme and unfair, but….
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Spokane was established in 1887 and has been a beacon of progressive thought and social justice ever since. Our mission is to join together to create a nourishing liberal religious home and to champion justice, diversity, and environmental stewardship in the wider world.
If that statement has any meaning, then those who resist the efforts to eliminate white supremacy among UUs, including the very minister of that church, should be dealt with as violating the very essence of “progressive thought and social justice”.
Looking into Todd Eklof’s background, I found a clue to why he opposes the efforts at combating white supremacy.
A native of San Francisco, CA, Rev. Eklof grew up in an “unchurched” family, but became a Born-Again Christian in his early teens and eventually began attending a Southern Baptist church. He went on to study ministry at a Southern Baptist university in Texas, was ordained a Southern Baptist Minister, and attended Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville.
The Southern Baptist Convention began in 1845 to oppose the efforts of northern Baptists to promote the abolition of slavery and exclude slaveowners from Baptist churches. Like Eklof, I am a former Southern Baptist. Unlike him, I made a concentrated effort after leaving that racist denomination to purge my racial biases from my system. Obviously, he didn’t. And that is why I want him to go. Of course, the UU church in Spokane is independent and thus is free to conduct business as it sees fit. I just know if they do not fire their minister, I would leave that church. Even if there is not another UU church in Spokane, I can still worship online via the Church of the Larger Fellowship. Its senior minister is Rev. Meg Riley, and she signed the statement condemning Eklof.