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Unitarians, UCC Elect Minorities as Presidents

(RNS) The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) and the United Church of Christ (UCC) both made history this week by selecting minority presidents at their annual meetings.
The Boston-based UUA elected its first Latino president, the Rev. Peter Morales; the Cleveland-based UCC nominated its first African-American president, the Rev. Geoffrey Black, as its next general minister and president.
“I believe this says that Unitarian Universalists are eager to open our doors wider and to welcome the changes that becoming more diverse will bring to us,” said UUA spokeswoman Janet Hayes by phone from the General Assembly in Salt Lake City.
Both leaders will be the second minorities to helm their faith traditions. The Rev. William Sinkford, an African-American, preceded Morales in the UUA’s top post. Black is the second African-American leader of the UCC; the first, Joseph H. Evans, served only a partial term after the death of an acting president.
Black, as the only presidential nominee at the 27th General Synod in Grand Rapids, Mich., was scheduled to be officially elected during the evening plenary on Monday (June 29).
The Rev. J. Bennett Guess, a UCC spokesman, said Black, leader of the UCC’s New York conference, is a “charismatic leader” with plenty of experience.
“He has a depth of pastoral skills and understanding that will help him to work with the broad constituency of racial ethnic groups and theological perspectives that make up United Church of Christ,” said Guess.
Both of the liberal denominations have overwhelmingly white constituencies. The UCC estimates that 9 percent of its membership is made up of minority racial and ethnic groups. The UUA said roughly 7.2 percent of its membership identifies as people of color.
In his election, Morales, of Jefferson Unitarian Church in Golden, Colo., defeated the Rev. Dr. Laurel Hallman by a vote of 2,061 to 1,481.
There have been no female presidents of either denomination.
By Tiffany Stanley
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

  • nnmns

    In my limited experience most UU fellowships and churches are pretty white but probably open to other folks. I hope these new leaders can get more minorities into the liberal versions of Christianity, where they or anyone can be healthier.

  • pagansister

    Works for me (as a UU) and am sure jestrfyl is pleased also. And I agree, nnmns, that most UU fellowships & churches are predominately white. Hopefully this will help draw more minorities, as you say.

  • pagansister

    Maybe next time…A WOMAN?? UU’s have many women ministers, and I guess the UCC also? You can answer that, jestrfyl.

  • David Pollard

    Actually, a slim majority of UU ministers are female, and have often run for the Presidency. In 1992, Rev. Carolyn Owen-Tull came within 50 votes of winning.
    Rev. Laurel Hallman is actually pretty conservative (for a UU.) To the extent that the UU Women’s Federation actually came out and endorsed Rev. Peter Morales. Otherwise she’d likely have won.

  • jestrfyl

    p.s. at al,
    A colleague of mine – a female UCC pastor – recently realized that half of the active (serving congregations) UCC pastors in FL are women. It should be no surprise that we have many female pastors, a significant percentage of all pastors though I am not sure of the exact percentage. Frankly, I am surprised we have not had a female president and General Minister so far. However, Joffrey Black is a great selection, someone who has had a history of holding the reigns to this crazy wagon of a denomination with hundred of horses pulling it. I believe he will be able to guide and inspire us for quite a while. But if I were a betting man, though I am not, I would be fairly sure our next Pres. and Gen. Min will be a woman.

  • nnmns

    Hey, j, how was (is?) sunny Michigan? I hope you had some good Midwestern food while you were there. I’m not sure whether they do brats in Michigan like Wisconsin and I’m not sure if they do casseroles/hot dishes there like much of the midwest but they must have some good local food.

  • jestrfyl

    The food was good. I enjoyed some excellent ribs and burgers, as well as some excellent local beer. The real treat was the fresh veggies – our season ended a few months ago. And northern veggies taste different than southern veggies.
    Michigan started out so sunny & hot I was not sure I had left home. The Rapids in Grand Rapids were all but invisible. However, by Monday I knew where I was – gray, damp, with a little chill and wind. The river dropped so we could see the rapids, too. It was a good trip. The Synod was everything I expected – the whole range and spectrum.
    I just might go back to Grand Rapids some day. And I will be at the next Synod – it’s in my backyard, Tampa! But I won’t be a delegate (my term is up). If I am lucky, they post me as Guardian of the Cookies – COOKIE!

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