Hugh Taft-Morales, President of the National Leaders Council (NLC) of the Ethical Humanist movement, shares news about new NLC work projects and his hope for the future.
Like you, members of the National Leaders Council are responding to the dual challenges of a pandemic and on-going racism and white supremacy in America that, as Ta-Nehisi Coates puts it, “is a visceral experience, …it dislodges your brains, blocks airways, rips muscle, extracts organs, cracks bones, breaks teeth.” The murder of George Floyd demonstrates that reality once again. Protests both raise up the names of people of color killed and demand an end to white apathy and indifference that implies complicity in an unjust system. While supporting members of Ethical Societies they serve, Ethical Culture Leaders are also speaking out, attending rallies, and working in multiracial coalitions to push for real and lasting racial justice.
As the newest wave of racial justice activism surged, the NLC was in the middle of a series of ZOOM meetings which served as our spring meeting normally held in person. They focused on helping the NLC become a stronger, more cohesive, mutually supportive, and effective group. If the NLC is going to bring out the best of Ethical Culture regarding racial justice, we must bring out the best of our selves, our clergy relationships, and our collective organization. Three working groups were created during the month of May to do this internal reinvigoration.
First, I will be working with other Leaders on a mundane but necessary project: to create a system to organize NLC documents that is simple, accessible, and transparent. We will be using Google Drive to share current project documents in creation or use now, core documents (like NLC By-Laws and a New Leader Orientation Packet), and archives of past minutes, resolutions, and other records. This ain’t rocket science, but it is well overdue. For too long we’ve stumbled on organizational basics and over-relied on oral history to recall our past – certainly my technological reticence didn’t help our situation. For the NLC to be more inclusive, we must provide Leaders easy and equitable access to our documents.
A second working group will create a process for the NLC to establish a “behavioral covenant,” a working agreement to guide Leaders in acknowledging and stewarding an internal culture that respects and deepens our relationships. While many Leaders have strong relationships with each other forged over the years, a more explicit working agreement will facilitate healthy relationships, mutuality, and new ways of being together. My hope is that during virtual meetings over the next couple of months the NLC explores how we are, individually and collectively, as clergy.
Third, a group is currently organizing a conference on “The Philosophy of Diversity” to be hosted by Ethical Culture but embracing a broader range of humanists from different backgrounds and perspectives. Ethical Culture has always had a great depth of ideas and ideals, but we need to seek out broader horizons, newer language, and novel perspectives. I admit that I may have remained too inside the bubble of western humanism. Adler has much to contribute, but we need more. We hope that you will be a part of this conference when it occurs this year or in early 2021.
I certainly hope all this effort helps invigorate the the NLC. Now, more than ever, we need not just share ideas; we must explore and push back against the power we hold, or think we hold, in our vocation. We need to share our experiences so to establish an ethos that is courageous, engaged, and like-hearted, not just like-minded. In other words, we need to be more fully present with each other and with the world.
Leaders are also working over the summer to connect Ethical Culturists from around the country. Confined as we are in physical space, the NLC and the AEU are reaching out into virtual space. The success of AEU Connections page and calendar has led to “virtual road trips” to other Ethical Societies. Members of the societies I serve in Baltimore and Philadelphia are energized by trips to virtual Sunday platforms hosted by Westchester, Northern Westchester, Riverdale-Yonkers, Washington, St. Louis, New York and more!
We especially hope you can join those last three Societies – in DC, St. Louis, and NYC – for a series of platforms they will host this summer. Consider asking your Society to do a “virtual roadtrip” to WES on June 21, to St. Louis on July 26, and to New York on August 23. Since we won’t be able to be together physically for our Assembly, these connections will help us grow closer.