Unfellowshipped ministers mistreated?

James asked the question at Unity, and bid me reply. Sure.

He writes:

I have been led to believe that although the UUA affirms congregational polity, and thus the right of a congregation to ordain whom it chooses, that the professional association — or at least professinals within the UUA — look askance at such ordinations, that they can professionally hurt the person ordained and can also serve to hurt the ordaining church. Is there any truth in this?

Well, yes, I have heard that but I think it depends on the area and the unfellowshipped minister. Though note the official line is that the congregations are free to do as they will, and so is the UUA. As I’ve written before, the clergy also have freedom and should use it when persons with gifts for ministry are denied fellowship but seek ordaination.

A good barometer for treatment is whether or not the district UUMA chapter allows unfellowshipped ministers — usually on the recommendation of a fellowshipped member — some kind of membership. A good reputation goes a distance, and I’m guessing the onus is less on those who serve outside of parishes and far more on those who make an effort to represent themselves as Unitarian Universalist ministers to the press and whatnot.

I’ve heard of “cease and desist” letters going from Boston to the latter group, but I can’t imagine what the UUA secretariat could or would do to such a minister, especially one who was ordained locally by a member congregation of the UUA. After all, anyone can send a letter to anyone else for any reason, right?

All of this presses a bigger button: what is the benefit of fellowship? And what are the costs?

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.

1 comment

  1. Hey Scott!

    Thanks for the “heads up”! I must read my email more often. I like your response and agree. My long winded prose on this is over at Unity…

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