What I Want in a UUA President

The UUA Presidential Search Committee is doing their work. They have published a job description and established a nominating process. People can nominate themselves or others. So, people are starting to talk about what qualities and skills a UUA President needs to have.

Liz Jones, Michael Tino, Joanna Fontaine Crawford, Wayne Arnason, Matthew Johnson, Elandria Williams. Not pictured, Jacqui C. Williams.
From the talk I see and hear, people think it is time for a younger woman, which is great and overdue. But what do we want her to do?

My opinion: 

I go back only as far as John Buehren's election, so my memory is not comprehensive. One persistent criteria for the UU President has been the "public leader": the spokesman for our faith who makes a fine statement on public issues and is occasionally arrested for our commitments, in some sort of ritual of substitutionary sacrifice. 

I used to scoff at this understanding of the role. I was more apt to think of the role in terms of institutional leadership: managing staff, making budgets and that all-important fundraising. The shift toward policy governance made that part of the job more visible, because it reminded us of the accountability of the President to the Board of Trustees. 

But now, I think that maybe the role of public leader and spokesman is more important than before, because the times that we are living in are different than before. 

We need leadership that pushes us toward relevance. Unitarian Universalism will grow to the extent that it is relevant to people who are not now UU's. Relevance does not grow out of intent, but impact. So, a criteria that we need to expect from our new younger, female President is: Can she lead people who are not UU's?

People expect religious leadership to signal to them what really matters. And we believe that love, a broad, generous, embracing and including love, an agape love, is what matters most, for us as individuals and as humanity. Religious leadership invites people to enter into that life of love, even though it sets you at odds with the social order. Relevant religious leadership points out how and where that love can make a difference now.


  1. Clyde Grubbs2:33 PM

    Policy governance should give the Executive Team more freedom to do the policy execution so that the President can do the Public role.

    Still the President should build a public witness team so that the web site can get updated and the mobilizations can happen even when she is taking a day off.


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