UUA Presidential Election 2009

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.

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5 responses to “UUA Presidential Election 2009

  1. Lynda Bluestein

    How refreshing to read a candid and non-nuanced blog! I was asked early on to sign on to the Hallman list. I did not because I found no compelling reason to do so and it certainly seemed as if Rev. Hallman would be running unopposed. A friend of mine called me one day and asked “What would you think if I told you Peter Morales is going to run for President?” I said in a heartbeat, “sign me up!”

  2. Thanks for this, Joseph. It was helpful for me to read. I’m not endorsing anyone because I feel like I don’t know enough (and, um, the other point that I don’t think it matters much to anyone who I endorse), but I do like to know more about where people stand. I also wanted to give a shout out to less careful, more candid and less nuanced blogging. Sometimes I feel like that keeps us from writing anything. At least that is the case with me. (Of course, I know it can go the other way and be problematic… a happy medium is probably best…). Hope all is well with you and yours, Best, Elizabeth

  3. The Eclectic Cleric

    Hey Joey! — I don’t think anyone has ever accused me of being a UUA insider, but if you are looking for some positive reasons to support Laurel Hallman you might look at what I wrote on my blog last month just after sending in my absentee ballot. http://eclectic-cleric.blogspot.com/2009/05/my-vote-for-laurel-hallman.html As I say there, I’ve never met Peter personally and really don’t have much personal connection with Laurel either, but Laurel was literally changing the face and direction of our movement (with her “Living By Heart” materials) while Peter was still trying to figure out the parking situation at the Eugene Church (admittedly one of Unitarian Universalism’s most perplexing challenges). Likewise, I’ve never really seen a candid and detailed explanation of his own two-year tenure at the UUA, or why he chose to leave when he did to return to the congregation in Golden. Little things like that bother me a lot. Peter talks a great game, says all the right things, is clearly an attractive and charismatic figure capable of inspiring great loyalty among those who support him, and from my perspective (as a REAL outsider) is clearly running the slicker, more polished and carefully-orchestrated campaign. But there are a lot of loud silences in his campaign, and I’m always a little suspicious of people who seem a lot more skilled at GETTING a job than they are at DOING the job. I’m not saying that Peter fits into that category. But I can’t find anything in his resume to tell me differently; in fact, I can’t seem to find an actual resume anywhere at all. (This could just be my poor research skills, rather than the absence of same in his own campaign materials. Meanwhile, Laurel’s resume reflects a lifetime of accomplishments any minister could be proud of (and many of us are quietly envious of): Berry Street Essayist, Service of the Living Tradition Preacher, two very different successful long-tenured ministries, and on and on and on. She was elected as the 25 year speaker by my 1981 ordination cohort, and…well, isn’t that enough? I guess what I really meant to say is that it was enough for me….

  4. Hey Tim – (Eclectic Cleric)
    I appreciate your response, and my immediate reaction is I’m glad to hear this from you as someone I’ve known for a good long time. I’m also conscious that the accomplishments of her ministry may ultimately not make her the best candidate for the UUA Presidency. It isn’t a contest for the most accomplished, but for the best person at the right time.

    I’m also honestly concerned that someone who has not shown critical leadership along the margins of our Unitarian Universalist community – particularly with youth, multiracial families, and social justice (which may well be debated, so this is pure opinion based on my limited observation), throughout such a long and distinguished ministry, is indeed a symbol of the real challenge our Association of Congregations face.

    This leads me to consider writing another post.

    I really do appreciate this Tim, because the more nuanced dialogue is really hard to access, even for an experienced UUA activist like myself.

  5. Pingback: Hunger strike, abortion rights, saving the world, and loving God? « uuworld.org : The Interdependent Web

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