(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
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