Yesterday congregational leadership sent out a letter regarding the Ministerial Fellowship Committee’s action in response to a charge of child abuse against the Rev. David Morris.
I know that many of you would like specifics as to the who, what, when, where, and how of these charges, including information about any criminal proceedings that might be underway. Whenever there is such a breach of trust in community folks want details, and when there is a lack of detail people understandably fill in the blank spaces – stories and assumptions will get made. We hope folks will refrain from speculation. We do not have more details to be released. As of right now we’ve been told that criminal proceedings have not been initiated. We want to respect the right of the victim(s) in this case to tell as much or as little of their story publicly, as they see fit.
Why, then, did we pass on this information? Part of the Ministerial Fellowship Committee’s action has been to share this with every congregation in our Association. Considering how small our Association is, as well as the fact that several congregants having maintained connections with David, there is no question that word of this would come out in one way or another. It is more transparent and respectful for us to share the information we’ve received about a former minister than for it to leak out from another source.
I know that some of you hold very fond memories of David and his family. He was, for some of you, the first UU minister you’d ever known, and he may remain for you the epitome of what that means. Such news may be particularly shocking and disturbing for those who have known, trusted, and loved David.
It was not that long ago that our community had to deal with the revelation of sexual misconduct by another minister who was beloved by many — the Rev. Tony Perrino, who retired to Charlottesville and who, with his wife, was an active member of the congregation and a pastoral presence. While different this news about David may well bring up unresolved feelings from that earlier time.
I also know that there are members of our congregation are survivors of abuse, and some, specifically abuse by clergy. It can be common for news of abuse to trigger those memories, and in some cases to re-stimulate that pain. Some of you have chosen to be open about your experiences; others have not. Whether or not you knew David and his family, this news may be particularly distressing to you.
We have been through a lot this year — from the KKK and “Unite the Right” to our current turmoil and struggle over leadership and vision. The congregation also carries the wounds of previous times of painful divisions that were never fully resolved and healed. Please, let us try to look past the different reactions we may be having so that we might see what we have in common — a love for this congregation and for each other.
Rev. Alex, Leia, and I are available if you would like to talk with someone. Remember, too, that you can reach out to one another, not so as to argue over a perspective as to hear one another’s pain. As Unitarians let us show one another (and the world) that we can come together as one community, and as Universalists let us be guided by love.
Peace to you,