I write this letter with a curious mix of disappointment and hope in the wake of two articles in the press about Starr King that focus on the breach of confidential information that occurred during last spring’s presidential search. I am disappointed because, though I knew they would have to give an update on the inquiry currently in the hands of an independent Ad Hoc committee, I had hoped that the reporters might focus more on who we were as a Unitarian Universalist and multi-religious seminary. I had hoped that they might turn their attention to our progressive ways of teaching, our innovative programming, our deep theological understandings, our multi-religious and counter-oppressive commitments. I was grateful for the chance to speak about how wonderful it has been to get to know our talented students and to work with our brilliant faculty and committed staff. But my hopes for a more balanced look at the school remain unrealized.
I thank both Elaine McArdle of UU World and Mark Oppenheimer of The New York Times for giving us at Starr King the opportunity to speak about our school. Unfortunately, these articles were not as objective or positive as I had hoped. Each of the articles contains several factual inaccuracies and mischaracterizations that paint the school, members of our community and our efforts toward resolution in an inaccurate and unfair light. Even more distressing, these two articles have caused anxiety, distress, fear, and hurt to members of our Starr King community. I am saddened that these articles have reopened a wound that, for many at Starr King and in our larger progressive religious community, had not yet healed.
But I am also hopeful, because above all else Starr King School for the Ministry is a prophetic theological school with a mission to fulfill; it is during difficult moments that we are reminded what that mission is, and how important it remains. We work every day to lift up progressive religious leaders with the capacity to effect transformation in a world hungry for change. These capacities and values include direct address, a willingness to be accountable for the actions we take; a sense of respect for people and institutions with which we are in relationship. We ask these things of ourselves as well as of our students; it is one of the ways we teach by who we are.
This breach has been so hurtful because it is in direct opposition to these capacities and values. We have a responsibility to learn all we can about the breach, to hold accountable those who cannot or will not hold themselves accountable, and to restore right relationship among those who have placed themselves outside the circle of community. Hope for a resolution does not leave me, even as I await the conclusions of the Ad Hoc Committee. While the committee continues its work, some questions remain unanswered. I will answer what I can, but there are some things we simply do not yet know.
Attached to this letter is a document containing the factual inaccuracies in the New York Times article and in the UU World article, along with our corrections. Though the articles did not turn out as I had hoped, I remain grateful for the chance to serve here at Starr King and to teach, to promote and to model as best I can the values of progressive religious leadership.
Finally, let me thank you for your support of our school and all who have found a home or calling within it. Please keep all of our community in your thoughts and prayers.
Please see the Response to Factual Inaccuracies and Mischaracterizations.