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Showing posts from 2016

Truer Words Were Never Spoken

“The left wants power taken away from the white establishment. They want a profound change in the way America is run. "

-Bill O'Reilly, Fox News

Embarrassed...

I admit that I am embarrassed by the post-election opposition to Trump.

Millions of dollars were raised by the Greens for a recount that went no where. It was obvious from the start that the actual outcome of the election was not going to be changed by the recount. Was anything found that has identified a practice that must be stopped, or a reform that must be made?

Millions of signatures were collected in an effort to change the minds of the electors. The result was that GOP electors held firm, while leftwing Democrats started wandering off to other candidates, including Sanders. Not a shred of strategy and coordination visible to the naked eye. Again, the chances of success were so small that the effort was guaranteed to fail. It was not only doomed to fail, but doomed to never even get off the ground.

Now, I read that we are all supposed to turn our lights off the night of the Inauguration. Because it can be seen from space! I doubt it. And who is up there to be impressed?

The whol…

Interview With Jeanne Pupke

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A new UUA President will be elected at the General Assembly in June of 2017.

Three candidates are in the running: Susan Frederick-Gray, Alison Miller and Jeanne Pupke. All are ministers currently serving congregations.

Each of them have agreed to allow me to interview them on Zoom for this blog. I am hoping to do at least two interviews with each of them. The first will be about them, their family and religious background and their call to ministry. The second will focus more on their views about current issues in Unitarian Universalism. Each interview will be about 30 minutes. I hope that these interviews will provide a closer and more personal look at them than what has been usually available in these campaigns in the past. The first round of interviews are now complete.

For the record, I do not now have a preference for any of the candidates. I think that they are all capable and inspiring leaders of our faith.

Here is my interview with Jeanne Pupke:


Smothering Hate

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Trump is gonna Trump. The give and take of Washington politics will unfold as it will; there is very little that we citizens can do about that. Did all those marches and demonstrations stay Bush's hand when he was set on invading Iraq?

But the gravest danger of the Trump election is that it legitimizes and normalizes hate speech, bullying, harassment: speech that demonizes. It has the potential to normalizing bigotry and misogyny, allowing the most dangerous elements of the society to function openly and to intimidate the rest of us into silence and acquiescence.

That does not have to be.

We have to work every day for the next four years to contain hatred in the public sphere. What is unacceptable has to be remain unacceptable. Hateful, or bigoted expressions must remain to be seen as "beyond the limits." Bigots must continue to feel that they are constrained in expressing their views in public. It should cost them something whenever they inject poison into the bloodst…

Customary Election Day Comment

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Just a reminder:

As odd as it sounds, the Founders of the Republic did not define who could vote in elections of federal office-holders, but left that decision to the states. The reason, of course, was to preserve the autonomy of states to protect their systems of slavery and disenfranchisement. The entire responsibility of running and managing elections for the Federal offices was left to the individual states. Which is odd, when you think about it....

Article II, Section 2

1The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.

Stevens, John Paul (2014-04-22). Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution (p. 135). Little, Brown and Company. Kindle Edition.

The result is what we see today. Not only do voter registration systems vary from state to state, but the admini…

To Grow Deeper and to Have a Wider Influence, Part 2

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To Grow Deeper and to Have a Wider Influence To Grow Deeper and to Have a Wider Influence....

Unitarian Universalists must strengthen the covenant between them: to feel more responsible for each other, to expect more from each other, to offer each other more of our hearts and hands, and to be vulnerable to each other. 


To be in covenant, people must see themselves as a people. To see themselves as a people, they need a story they share.

To have a story, they need storytellers. 





I wrote those words a few weeks ago, and people want more clarity about them: What am I saying, and what am I not saying?
I am saying that Unitarian Universalism is a half-hearted religious movement. 

You can see this half-heartedness from many angles. The leaders and staff of our association see it in the half-hearted support that the UUA gets from congregations. Our congregational leaders and activists see it in the half-hearted engagement of so many of the members of their congregation. Our ministers see it in the …

Interview with Alison Miller

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A new UUA President will be elected at the General Assembly in June of 2017.

Three candidates are in the running: Susan Frederick-Gray, Alison Miller and Jeanne Pupke. All are ministers currently serving congregations.

Each of them have agreed to allow me to interview them on Zoom for this blog. I am hoping to do at least two interviews with each of them. The first will be about them, their family and religious background and their call to ministry. The second will focus more on their views about current issues in Unitarian Universalism. Each interview will be about 30 minutes. I hope that these interviews will provide a closer and more personal look at them than what has been usually available in these campaigns in the past. The first round of interviews have already been scheduled.

For the record, I do not now have a preference for any of the candidates. I think that they are all capable and inspiring leaders of our faith.

Here is my interview with Alison Miller:




Susan Frederick-Gray: An Interview

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A new UUA President will be elected at the General Assembly in June of 2017.

Three candidates are in the running: Susan Frederick-Gray, Alison Miller and Jeanne Pupke. All are ministers currently serving congregations.

Each of them have agreed to allow me to interview them on Zoom for this blog. I am hoping to do at least two interviews with each of them. The first will be about them, their family and religious background and their call to ministry. The second will focus more on their views about current issues in Unitarian Universalism. Each interview will be about 30 minutes. I hope that these interviews will provide a closer and more personal look at them than what has been usually available in these campaigns in the past. The first round of interviews have already been scheduled.

For the record, I do not now have a preference for any of the candidates. I think that they are all capable and inspiring leaders of our faith.

Here is my first interview with Susan Frederick-Gray.



To Grow Deeper and to Have a Wider Influence

To Grow Deeper and to Have a Wider Influence....

Unitarian Universalists must strengthen the covenant between them: to feel more responsible for each other, to expect more from each other, to offer each other more of our hearts and hands, and to be vulnerable to each other. 

To be in covenant, people must see themselves as a people. To see themselves as a people, they need a story they share.
To have a story, they need storytellers.

How Love Has a Side

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“The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference.”--Eli Wiesel

To call upon ourselves and others to act "on the side of Love," is to challenge the indifference, including our own indifference, that allows injustice and oppression to continue.

Once Again

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When I was a youth in the early 60's, it seemed that this book was on every Unitarian family's coffee table.


y
Dearest UU's -- We can do what we need to do.  We have done it before, many times. Actually, We are pretty good at it.

Standing, Rolling, Dancing, Singing, Praying, Preaching, Acting on the Side of Love -- Landrum

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At our the preceding Ministry Days preceding the UU General Assembly, ableist language was used in worship to the extent that UUMA Board Member Josh Pawelek issued this response:

Clearly there is a problem with ableism in our public presentation. Public statements, music, stories and metaphors that perpetuate ableism have been hurtful to colleagues. As with any oppression, this ableism likely runs deeper than our public presentation. I remain grateful to all those who are willing to call it to our attention, and I am deeply sorry that such calling is still necessary. (The full response is here.) The most prominent example of ableist language in our movement, however, is our social justice arm: Standing on the Side of Love.  And before you say, "It's just a metaphor," I invite you to watch this and read this by UU minister Theresa Soto.  The point here is not to convince you that ableist metaphors are a problem.  The point is that we often think, even if it is able…

The Street Sets the Agenda...

more than we realize.

Consider Occupy! which made us think about percentages, which made Romney's 47% comment so fatal.

Consider the Ferguson resistance and Black Lives Matter ! which has pulled the Obama administration and the Democratic Party to the left on criminal justice issues.

The beginning of the end of the George W. Bush's administration was when Cindy Sheahan camped out at his ranch.

So now consider the demonstrations against Donald Trump. The pattern is that the largest and most confrontational have been in the Southwest. It is reported that Mexican flags are often present there.

It seems to me that Trump's anti-Hispanic, particularly anti-Mexican animus, is being protested in the streets. Of course. If you advocate deporting 11 million people, they and their friends and families are going to take it personally. What we see now is the foreshadowing the massive resistance that would take place if Trump's deportation plan began to approach reality.

Conventiona…

A New Party !

They're talking about a new party again ! Some of the disappointed Sanders voters are going to start a new party ! Feel the excitement !

There has not been a successful new party start up in the United States since the formation of the Republican Party in 1854, 162 years ago. And History is littered with the bones of many an effort. There have been Marxist parties, Socialist parties, populist parties, progressive parties, candidate-based parties, centrist parties, reform parties, revolutionary parties, even the present Green party. And that's just on the center-left side of the spectrum.

Some of those parties, like the Communist Party USA or the Socialist Workers Party are to be sustained presence, not by attracting voters in elections, but by creating a body of professional, or semi-professional, organizers united by a Leninist party structure. But no party, including them, has become an electoral power.

Yet, the dream of new electoral party remains the go-to dream of frustra…

Many congregations will not able to handle it.

Another gleaning from the Followup Conference on the Economic Sustainability of Ministry ......

There are significant new regulations coming about the hiring and compensation of employees that may well be beyond the ability of smaller UU congregations to handle.

One area of new regulation is the use of overtime. In order to declare an employee exempt from the overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act, the position must meet certain requirements. Those requirements are being tightened, both in terms of overall salary and job definition. The practice of treating some church staff as exempt or salaried employees, paid a certain amount regardless of the number of hours they worked, will be harder to do within the law.

It's all fiendishly complicated, of course, and that is the point of this story. All but the largest of our congregations do not have professional Human Resources personnel on their staff. Richard Nugent of the Office of Church Staff Finances thinks that many…

Report from Sarah Lammert on Follow Up Conference on the Economic Sustainability of Ministry

Two of my recent posts dealt with issues that came up from at the Follow Up Conference on the Economic Sustainability of Ministry. The Rev. Sarah Lammert was one of the co-conveners on the conference and here is her preliminary report. Much to think about.



May 4-6th, 2016 Twenty-five UU leaders gathered in a follow-up session to last year’s Summit on the Economic Sustainability of Ministry. A lively keynote address was offered as the kickoff event by Casper ter Kuile and Angie Thurston, authors of "How We Gather" and "Something More”.  
Attendees then worked in smaller groups on two issues: Stewardship Education and Lay Ministry. Using design theory as a frame, the first group looked at how we can re-energize and re-frame the relationship of Unitarian Universalism with money, based on a robust theology of covenant. Participants came up with the idea of curating current resources into an “OWL 4 MONEY” that mimics the very successful all-ages UUA curriculum around human sexu…

Zero Sum Game?

Lay Ministry and Ordained Ministry.
Would training more lay ministers to perform some of the functions of ministry drive down the economic prospects of ordained ministers? 

Would small and struggling congregations choose to hire a trained lay minister rather than an ordained minister? Would a larger congregation choose to supplement their ordained parish minister with a few trained lay ministers, some of whom might even be volunteer, rather than add an ordained associate, or assistant, minister? 
You could argue that more trained lay ministers would inevitably have that effect.  

You could also argue that deploying more ministers, of whatever level of training, is essential to the growth of Unitarian Universalism. And that’s where our economic sustainability ultimately lies. 
The economic sustainability of Unitarian Universalism is a wickedly complex problem. There are a lot of moving parts: Ministerial indebtedness, the high cost of preparation, tight congregational budgers, soaring real …

Two Ideas on the Economic Sustainability of Ministry

Two ideas to advance Economic Sustainability of Ministry.
Two ideas came out of the recent Summit on Economic Sustainability of Ministry.
#1. We need “OWL FOR MONEY”. There is a soul sickness and an ignorance about money in our society. We need to an educational program for different ages and circumstances that teaches about money and leads people in a process to discern their values and relationship to the economic dimensions of life. We can’t just talk about stewardship and generosity without working with people and their whole economic lives. Imagine a program that has sequences aimed at high schoolers, young adults, middle adults, retiring adults, lay leaders in congregations, and stewardship leaders. 
#2. We need a network of organizations that are training lay ministers. And that are more than just a few. Those organizations need to learn from each other, develop best practices and begin the work on unifying around common systems of accountability. They need to develop ethical guid…

The Whole GenX UUA President Thing

The UUA President; Generations and Ages.
Allison Miller and Susan Frederick Gray were guests on the CLF’s VUU video broadcast and the observation was made that either one of them would be the first Gen X UUA President, after the long (and oppressive) rule of the Boomers.
The historical fact that the last four UU Presidents were of the Baby Boomer generation was brought up.  
The last four UUA Presidents were born in a narrow span — 1946 to 1949 — it is true. But that also means that they were elected over a broad range of ages. Schulz was 35, Buehrens was 46, Sinkford was 55 and Morales was 64. 
I think the issue is less passing the torch to a new generation (Boomers to GenX) as it is choosing leaders who are in the lifestage appropriate to leading the UUA. 
The Swiss psychologist Erik Erickson hypothesized a lifestage process of development. 
He divided adulthood into three stages of adulthood: a younger (up to 35), middle (35-60) and older (over 60). 
The stage of younger adult is defined …

84% Democrats: What does that mean?

The UU World ran this article summarizing a recent poll about the political affiliations of various religious groupings in the USA. In brief, it shows that 84% of UU identify as Democrats. Only historic Black denominations are more Democratic.

Who was surprised that UU's were as strongly affiliated with the Democratic Party as this poll shows?

What does it mean?

What one thinks about this probably has a lot to do with what you think the highest value of Unitarian Universalism is.

If you think that inclusion and diversity is the highest value, then the poll is discouraging news. We are not very good at making Republicans welcome in our congregations..

But if you think that living our faith is the highest value, the poll shows our growing maturity as a faith community.

Everybody says that we live in a politically polarized time. That means more than that people of similar political opinions are forming tighter associations with each other. It means that both liberalism and conservat…

A More Accessible OWL! -- Landrum

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Followers of this blog may remember that we did a series of posts about how OWL training can be expensive and difficult for congregations.  Well, the good news is that it has now gotten a little bit easier.  The UUA is making OWL training for all ages available in Columbus prior to General Assembly, thus enabling folks already traveling to GA to minimize travel costs associated with OWL training.  Folks interested can see details here.

This is your Association at work, responding directly to the need they've heard about from religious educators (and certain bloggers).  Melanie Davis, the OWL Program Associate writes, "The decision to host the training is due in part to requests made by religious educators who find trainings in other areas cost prohibitive, as well as to requests to combine OWL training and GA to help lower travel expenses."

The cost is still $250 for the training itself, but the ability to combine the trip with GA for those already traveling to GA cut…

Wall Street and Income Inequality

Regulating Wall Street is a side-show to the question of economic inequality. More regulation of Wall Street can prevent, we hope, a repetition of the financial crisis of 2008, but it will not, on its own, narrow the gap between the 1% and the rest of us. The difference between "reinstating Glass-Steagall" vs "strengthening Dodd-Frank" does not change life for ordinary Americans. And, sending some Wall Street executives to jail is just a satisfying fantasy.

The steps to start to equalize the income in the country are more basic: strengthening unions, raising the minimum wage, increasing social security benefits, further subsidizing the purchase of health insurance, expanding medicare, lowering the total cost of college education.

And, increasing the taxes on the wealthy and spending that money on public goods, which will indirectly raise the standard of living of the many: better school buildings, better education, better roads and bridges and public parks, better …

Presidents Make Lousy Leaders of Mass Movements

The theory of change that Bernie Sanders advocates is a "political revolution;" he wants increased mass mobilization in favor of broad reformist goals: universal health care, free public college, getting money out of politics, reining in Wall Street. He wants to turn his Presidential campaign into a social movement.

Is leading such mass mobilization something that the President can do well? Can the President go beyond using the "bully pulpit" to advocate for those causes. Sanders has called President Obama a "disappointment," but Obama has not been remiss in making speeches in favor of reforms.

Over the last eight years there has been a significant upsurge in militant social movements. Occupy and Black Lives Matter have put many people in the streets and placed new demands on the table. There has been a steady growth in email/social media based mass mobilizations across a wide range of issues and groups. The social movements are here. Would they be strong…

Trump, Sanders and Reich

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As we move forward into TrumpWorld, everyone should familiarize themselves with the general argument made by Wilhelm Reich in The Mass Psychology of Fascism. (It's not just his hair that make him pertinent to discussions of Donald Trump.)  Reich analyzed why the German Left failed to stop the rise of Hitler despite the deteriorating living standards of the German people. He concluded that the failure was in the economism of the German Left. They talked about income, wages and living standards, but that appeal was less of interest to the Germans than the stuff of their psychosexual frustrations and fantasies. While the analysis of the latter was of its time, the general holds true. In times of great stress, people do not vote their pocketbook, but their ids.

This is why while Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump may appear to be speaking to the same anger over the decline of the middle class, income stagnation, and the sense that the economy no longer works for the ordinary person, San…

The Fruits of Rightwing Demonization

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For 24 years now, the right wing in this country has been depending on gender and racial demonization as a way to emotionally bind the public to their program, even though their  program is contrary to most people's interests. Put another way, if people voted their economic interests, the GOP would be tiny. But economic interests are secondary to questions of identity stability and even sexual fantasy.  This is not a new insight; Wilhelm Reich analyzed the failure of the German left to prevent the rise of Hitler more than  three quarters a century ago. The German Left talked about wages and living standards; the Nazi Party appealed to a sexually repressed population and offered them a domineering, all powerful Father figure. While you can argue about the precise analysis of the unmet emotional needs that the Nazis manipulated, the lessons for the Left are still clear enough. It's stupid to think that it's just the economy.
For forty years, the Right in America said that th…

One More Thing that UU's Should Have learned

When the first openly GLBT ministers were being considered for settlement, and even when just the first openly GLBT minister was being considered for settlement in a particular church, we learned this: Homophobic people would say this: "You want us to pick a minister just because they are gay."  Or, "I don't want a minister who keeps telling us that they are gay." 

UU's learned that these were defensive deflections to defend old prejudices.

So, why would UU's respond to the exploration of sexism as it affects how people perceive Hillary Clinton with the same accusation, "You think people should vote for her just because she is a woman."

No, I plan to vote for her because she has been a progressive political leader for decades, and because she is personally tougher than almost everyone who has run for President before, because she is great foreign policy experience implementing Obama's post-Neocon policies and yes, because she is a woman, a…

The Always and Already Guilty Perps

The narrative about the Clintons, spun now for nearly a quarter century, is always the same. Whatever they are doing, they are up to no good. Give us enough time, give us enough documents, we will be able to prove what they are crooks. Until then, where there is smoke, there must be fire.

The transcripts of her speeches to Wall Street Firms are the new emails. Any document not in the public record must contain the smoking gun, the moment when she condemns Chris Stevens to death in Benghazi, or the moment when gives her quids to and picks up her quos from Wall Street moguls.

I recently re-read Toni Morrison's comments about Bill Clinton as America's first black President. As an aside, she points out the cultural signifiers, the saxophone,  the single mother, the junk food, but her main point is more relevant to us today.  Speaking of the pursuit of the then President, she says,  "The always and already guilty "perp" is being hunted down not by a prosecutor's …

New Leaders: Spiritually Grounded -- Landrum

The staff of MidAmerica Region of the UUA has put out a statement about what the "New Leader" of congregations will need to succeed, and they've begun a series of essays about their bullet points, the first three of which are currently available.  My response to the first point is available here on the Lively Tradition, and this is the second.  It's worth noting that theses are qualities of the new Leader not just the new Minister
2.  Spiritually grounded: Leaders understand what they believe or don’t believe and are aware of their need for connection to something larger than themselves; they are aware that they need to connect with a deeper core that gives them balance, intuition, and commitment. Back when I was preparing for ministry, the suggestion that a competent minister needs to be spiritually grounded would have been met by me with frustration -- and fear.  As an agnostic humanist, I believed that secretly this meant that people believed I should believe …

More On What We Have Learned

For 45* years now, I have been in white movements and organizations, both political and religious, that have been very anxious because black people took no interest in them. I have favored, in succession, most dead-end strategies to change that fact, and repeated every excuse and rationalization ever offered for their failure.

My experience is not special; almost every white progressive has had the same experiences over and over again. (45 years of experience or 1 year 45 times?) We have assumed a natural alliance between the movements for black liberation and the movements for progressive reform, but it's an assumption, a possibility, but not a fact.

It pains me no end to see Unitarian Universalist leaders enthusiastically endorse Bernie Sanders as he makes the same assumptions that we should know from our own experience are fatal to the cause.

Increasing the political power of working class and middle class people will not bring about an end to systemic racism. Almost every gre…

The Bernie Sanders Type

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I am not saying that Bernie Sanders is a bad guy. If he is the nominee, believe me I will work for him. But if he wins the nomination without the support of African American voters and middle aged women, it won't be worth much, and it won't matter what I do.

I know Bernie by type, because I ,too, am Bernie: a white male radical who has
labored in the vineyards of progressive change in the USA since the days of college. There were quite a few of us. Some of us became academics; some of us went into local politics (like Bernie); some of us became ministers; some of us went into software; some of us became farmers. Some of us were scoundrels,, but most of us were good guys.

But we all had a blind spot. We were powered by our passion and by our analytical ability. We had an analysis. We could get to the core of the problems with our government and economy and we could describe them in crushing detail.

We could explain why half-way measures and milquetoast reforms would never solv…

Some Things UU's Have Learned.

Unitarian Universalists have been in school about race and racism for quite a while, now. As we have confronted what seems like the unbearable whiteness of our being, we have learned some things that I think are useful to apply to the Clinton/Sanders divide. We have direct experience with the questions and controversies at the heart of the most vexing issue in the 2016 Democratic nomination fight: how to unite people of color, especially African Americans who are the most loyal Democratic voters, with white liberals and progressives, both female and male, into a winning electoral coalition.

1. Marching with Martin Luther King, Jr. is not a verification of one's anti-racism. Unitarian Universalism could not believe that after Selma and the death of James Reeb, that anyone would not immediately see our steadfast commitment to racial equity, or would experience racism in our churches and congregations.

2. Racism is not a secondary issue which will get solved along the way of dealing …

Report from UUA Task Force on Covenanting to UUA Board

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I have been serving on a little task force called forth by Jim Key and chaired by Susan Ritchie on reimagining the UUA organizing principles and methods. It's all very blue-sky and out there, but it has been a chance to step back and re-think that which seems permanent and unchangeable. The task force has met a couple of times and read some things together.  Yesterday, Rev. Ritchie presented our very first report to the Board, a kind of progress report showing what we are thinking about.

I have reprinted the report below, with some trepidation. My observation is that most UU's are very much in favor of changing the UUA in general, but respond to even the smallest suggestion of a particular change with great suspicion. Even redesigning a logo can generate a lot of negative reaction. I think lots of people really want a well-hidden and barely noticeable change that will generate a lot of money, plenty of new members, and a way to resolve the humanist-theist debate that brings pe…

Implications of the UUA Presidential Search Process

1. UU Populism should be over.

Previous UU Presidential elections have often been framed in populist terms. UU Populism imagines that some group of UU's are the powerful insiders and the rest of us are on the outside looking in. The reason why UUism is somehow failing is that the "insiders" are clinging to old ways, old methods, and old theologies. So, once it becomes clear who is the candidate of the "insiders", then you know who to vote for. The Morales/Hallman election was eventually cast in such terms.

That populist frame for the election assumes that the powerful elite feels entitled to the UUA Presidency and has put forward a candidate out of that entitlement. The process by which the candidates come forward is hidden.

[The irony is that lots of people have lots of opinions about who that elite really is. Is it the big donors? The large church ministers? The UUA staff? The old New Englanders? The Humanists? The Social Justice Warriors? The self-selected G…

Slowing My Roll

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The UU Presidential Nominating Committee has announced its two nominees: Sue Phillips and Alison Miller. I know Sue well and worked with her when I served a church in New England. She would make a great UU President.

I only know Allison Miller enough to embarrass myself by confusing her and her name with other UU ministers who have the same first name. Would she make a great UU President? Probably. After all, nearly everyone you would think of (and many you would not) was recommended to the Search Committee, given a chance to step forward and given careful consideration if they were interested. After a judicious process these are the two they chose. So I have to assume the best.

I urge my friends to take it easy on endorsements too early. I am not criticizing anyone who has made one, but I think there is little value in them at this point. I suspect that they mostly reflect the networks of affection and experience that are already in place.

We have a long time to decide, and a long c…