May 19, 2024

Coming to the Path Talk by Anna Belle Leiserson

At the heart of clergy sexual misconduct is the breaking of sacred trust. This is one woman’s story of finding her way back to a nourishing spiritual practice and supportive community in the aftermath of filing a complaint of clergy sexual misconduct.  In this particular case, the misconduct was by a Unitarian Universalist minister, but it must be noted that clergy sexual misconduct happens in all faiths and denominations, including Zen.


Author Notes

Due to time constraints, I wasn’t able to include the following (listed in the order in which they occurred in the talk):

  1. The Unitarian Universalist Association’s (UUA) requirement that a complaint could only be filed by a victim applied to adults. When a victim was a child, others could file a complaint on their behalf.  Also, the UUA’s policies have since changed.
  2. In 1998, I was not alone in giving testimony to the UUA’s panel.  The panel graciously flew in another woman who had filed both a complaint and a lawsuit (winning both). She gave testimony first and I expect it was both the nature and similarity of our testimonies that made the panel look so haggard by the end.  My profound gratitude to her and the Rev. Fred Muir, who chaired the panel.
  3. In 2014, again I wasn’t alone in giving testimony. My testimony was followed by testimony from a more recent complainant.  My profound gratitude goes to her too, as well as Jim Key and the Rev. Sarah Lammert, the UUA’s Director Ministries and Faith Development, who played a pivotal role in making this event and later changes possible.

Also, I didn’t have time to mention the UU leader who made the biggest positive difference in my life — the Rev. Gail Seavey, minister of First Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashville from 2005-2020.  In 2016 Gail was honored for her decades-long efforts in this area by being asked to deliver the prestigious Berry Street Essay: If Our Secrets Define Us. I cannot thank her enough for her many years of strong support and leadership.

And there are many other wonderful UU’s who helped along the way, but I’m at risk of forgetting or naming those who would prefer not to be named publicly.  My most profound gratitude to all of you.

Automated Transcript

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