First of all, I would like to address and clarify my decision to withdraw my application for Deeply Rooted ordination at this time. Currently, I have not withdrawn from the clergy council nor my position as lay-person, nor have I renounced my membership at DR. I fully intend to continue to serve DR in the manner I always have. I’ve never needed an official title to do the work I do at DR, and that hasn’t changed. My decision to withdraw the application now is in the light of recent problems that have escalated at Deeply Rooted. I feel that my attention needs to be upon these issues and not on whether or not I should be official clergy. I can always re-apply at another time, and I feel right now that would be best.
As I mentioned, my decision to withdraw my application is on the wave of more pressing problems that have been stirring at DR for the last year or two. I’d like to voice my thoughts and perspectives here. I would do this on the DR member’s board directly, however I do not feel discussions on those mediums are currently being given a fair shake by certain individuals, and I want to be sure those that are involved and/or interested in my perspective have access.
For the last 5 years (the duration that I have been an active member at Deeply Rooted), the board has been doing its thing with little to no active input from the larger DR community. Active participation in organizational business was low, and basically being handled by the handful of people that took on that task. People grew comfortable with this dynamic. For the most part, work was getting done and people seemed at peace and comfortable in DR space. In that time, interest in DR began to rise and we saw an increase in participation from members as well as a steady influx of new people. The decision to build a new lodge came to fruition and many people contributed time, money and energy into this project.
Along with growth and expansion came change. In the last couple of years, Deeply Rooted has grown substantially in members and participation. People that have been on the sidelines observing and participating as members, started taking active roles in DR leadership. Added exposure to the larger Pagan community brought attention to DR and new members came our way. With this change, more people developed an active interest in DR, i.e. how it works, how decisions are made, what decisions are being made, what are future plans. These are all positive changes.
The board, as a whole (meaning both past and present leaders), has had an interesting reaction to this new dynamic. My perspective from the outside (and as someone that was on the inside for 2 years), appears that certain members are having difficulty with this new space. I see a couple different approaches to this from different people on the board. Some are trying to work with the new dynamic, trying to find compromises and ways to attend to the new interest and concerns from the membership while keeping up with the challenges of leadership. Some are newer to the processes of leadership and are soaking in what’s going on so they can better understand it and work with it. And some appear to be digging in their heels with defensiveness in response to questions and concerns being presented by members.
Problems became obvious last year when a member created issues that were perceived by others in the community as malicious and not in the best interest of the community as a whole. Official complaints were lodged to the board and the board took action, deciding what they felt at the time was the best course of action. I was on the board during that time, and I truly remember it as a situation that had no way of providing an outcome without consequences. There was no “one clear path”. At the time, the board chose to call an executive meeting to address the concerns, and for various reasons, decided to keep the minutes to that meeting closed. For myself, at the time, I felt this was the “best” course of action. I put best in quotes because there really was no way to handle it that wasn’t going to result in some unpleasant consequence. Any decision would result in unhappy people and hurt feelings.
Decisions were made and implemented, and the consequences of our actions started to spill in. Due to the secretive nature of how the situation had been handled, parts of our membership lost faith in our leadership, questioning if things were handled fairly and without bias. Again, purely from my own experience and perceptions, I can’t say definitively that things were handled completely without bias. There were a couple board members that were part of the conflict with the member in question, and according to the terms of our bylaws, there was nothing provisioned to prevent those in conflict of interest from contributing and voting on the resolution to this issue. It’s possible they were acting as unbiased as they could, and I personally do not think there was intent to act as such, but the point remains that appearances, due to the secrecy, and the manner in which it was handled, made it impossible for the rest of the membership to form their own opinions based on the facts. Our bylaws have since been updated to address this kind of conflict of interest, so that it can be addressed should this situation arise in the future.
It’s now been almost 10 months since this incident occurred, and instead of time healing wounds, the distrust not only remains, but appears to be fueled by the actions of certain members and past members of the board. In the last few weeks, attempts at conversations and requests for information have been thwarted with vague responses and illusive behavior. Communications and information about DR’s board and the bylaws have been restricted by the request of specific board members with more vague and illusive reasons given for this change. As of late, online conversations that were civil and respectful were deleted and comments disabled by specific board members for the reason of they “didn’t like where the conversation was going”.
I personally hold concerns about the appearance of more conflicts of interest, where individuals that have made it clear through their behavior that they are not happy with the turn of events at our recent election and have shown considerable defiance and anger towards the board and membership due to these events. This person seems to exhibit influence over a couple board members with which they are currently romantically involved and/or living with.
Again, these are specifically *my* perceptions, I will not speak for others. However, I will definitely encourage others to share their perspectives and opinions on these matters. There are many items of concern here, probably even more than I speak of here, and I personally feel justified in feeling and expressing my personal concerns. People are welcome to disagree with me, and they are welcome to speak their piece and share their perspectives.
We’re standing at a precipice, folks. We’ve come to a point in our evolutionary journey where we have grown enough that there are more than just a small handful of people actively involved, interested, and personally invested in Deeply Rooted. Any group with growth goes through this. New energies enter, dynamics change. It’s the point where spiritual groups either evolve and grow stronger, or crash and burn with spectacular flames. Which way are we going to go? I believe everyone would prefer the former, but that comes with a LOT of difficult work and much soul searching, both as a community and as individuals.
I’m putting this message out there to get others talking, expressing, sharing, relating. Speak your piece, state your thoughts and feelings. For the leadership, allow people to do this. Stop worrying about the perceptions of others or irritating those that don’t care to hear. Let everyone see the truth, that we are a Tribe in turmoil, and we’re trying to find our way. No one is going to hold that against us. But they will hold acts of aggression, defensive reactions, abuses of power and just plain everyday snowballing against us. Every spiritual group has drama, any group that claims or appears outwardly like they don’t are trying to sell you something.
We need to be real with ourselves and with each other if we are to get past this. How would you like to personally see that happen? How do you feel about what’s happened in that last couple years, the good and the bad? How is DR important to you? How do you feel you fit into DR and what’s happening? What are your perceptions and concerns? These are questions that I suggest we each discuss openly as a group at our members meeting this weekend. Let’s all sit down and talk. Speak our truths. Only then can we move from the darkness and into light. Let’s not waste this opportunity with more silence and whispers between individuals. It needs to happen. Let’s do it so we can take the next steps into DR’s evolution, because personally, I think it can lead somewhere awesome.