The Unitarian Universalist Association is electing a new President this month, and the politics are heating up to the point that I’m breaking out of my non-blogging phase. For 10 years and through one major election, I worked for the UUA and so technically had “no opinion”, which makes sense. Now I’ve been out of the system since Dec 2007 at which time I was ordained and moved back into community ministry in my hometown of Portland, Oregon. Here is my brief, from the gut, two cents. I’m sure I could write something far more nuanced, but it is after midnight and I’ve got three kids to wake up tomorrow, and a taiko performance to prepare for.
The election appeared for almost a year to be a coronation of the singular candidate, Laurel Hallman, a wonderful preacher and large church minister in a suburb of Dallas, TX. I have really never met Rev Hallman formally, and have mixed feelings about her given the unfortunate and inappropriate behaviors of her congregation during the last of the Young People of Color Leadership Development Conferences and significant youth and young adult anti-racism/anti-oppression ministrys. Some of this is documented in the UUA’s Special Commission Report of 2006, although I believe it really missed the mark with respect to the root causes and recommendations. One fact that has stayed with me is the eiree silence of Rev Hallman on the events publicly, that underscores a concern of mine – her readiness to minister in a multicultural world and understand the experiences of people of color within Unitarian Universalism. Laurel strikes me as an amazing pastoral care (not sure about communities of color/immigrant and refugees) and administrative professional.
Peter Morales jumped in the race late, and was virtually a guerilla candidate. Nearly all the powers that be have lined up against him, particularly what I would categorize as the status quo. There is a nice diversity of anti-racism activists and ministers who are split between the two candidates, including people of color. But all in all, the money and powerful UUA players are in the Laurel Hallman camp. I have known Peter since the days when he wrote the original letter calling together religious professionals of color – a group that became DRUUMM in 1998. Peter had some serious conflicts, some direct and some indirect within these communities due to what I viewed as miscommunication and a difficultly in finding common ground on an anti-racist analysis that honored diverse people of color experiences. I honestly have always found Peter to be very candid, a refreshing personality within what is often a challenging and frustrating UU culture. He is not perfect, is willing to experiment, and also be honest about failures.
I’ve chosen to endorse Peter for UUA President, particularly after talking with several trusted colleagues and Peter himself. Most of my closest collegial friends in the ministry are actually supporting Laurel Hallman. What was most interesting to me is that all had the same reasons – that they were asked by another trusted colleague, most commonly Wayne Arnason. None of them had a clear enough reason for me to support Laurel, and frankly the social justice ministry as well as ethical conduct of UUA power players is what I am most interested in during this upcoming election. Peter to me is the best candidate for the job.