One of Washington’s best-known progressive congregations was locked for months this year in a very public conflict with its associate minister, who claimed she was mistreated and pushed out because she is black. Her supporters — in the church and around the country — spotlighted the case as an example of what, to them, liberal racism looks like, and vowed to keep it in the public eye until she got a better exit package.
The conflict at the 1,100-member All Souls Church Unitarian, known for nearly 200 years as a bastion of social justice activism, became fodder for debate about the nature of racism, and whether its pervasiveness will always seep into interactions even among people and institutions who say they are fixated on fighting it.
Now, three months after All Souls reached a private settlement with the Rev. Susan Newman Moore, the impacts of the dispute are still unfolding.
Some All Souls members say they’ve stopped attending — or that they attend small groups, but not services when the Rev. Rob Hardies, the popular but controversial white senior minister, is preaching. Some say the conflict led to an expanded conversation about race and power, while others at the non-creedal, universalist church say nothing has changed. Moore has returned to the Baptist denomination in which she was ordained in the 1970s, and a few weeks ago the District of Columiba Baptist Convention held a “reaffirmation” ceremony for her, “as a binding of sore spots where wolves have taken a bite of you.”
Moore’s case has caused division among some of the city’s African-American clergy.
Several of the pastors involved in overseeing the complaint against her are African-American, and several other black Washington pastors who were also investigated in unrelated reviews of their work will meet with Moore to discuss what they see as a pattern, said the Rev. Graylan Hagler, longtime pastor at Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ in Northwest Washington.
While Moore served at All Souls, and was initially ordained in the 1970s as a Baptist, she first was assigned a church by the United Church of Christ in the 1980s. It was the United Church of Christ that suspended her because of the conflict at All Souls. Moore resigned rather than accept the suspension.
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