Slowing My Roll

The Rev. Sue Phillips (Left) and the Rev. Alison Miller (Right)

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 campaign in which the candidates, and ourselves, have a chance to talk about the future of Unitarian Universalism. I hope that all of us will grow through the discussion.

How are we to respond to the inevitable divisions that will occur in our congregations as the social movements of the day: Movement for Black Lives, Climate Justice, Reproductive Justice, Immigrant Justice, GLBTQIA rights and recognition (especially the T), Minimum Wage etc. call us forth?

What's the UUA supposed to be doing? What do the candidates think about the possibility of the UUA providing more practical services to congregations?

How do they define the job? Inspirational leader? Administrative Supervisor? CEO?

What's economic and financial strategy for liberal religion given that our understanding of congregational polity has created structures that cannot produce the income we need for expansion and growth?

You know that there are more issues than this. And this election is a time when we will discuss them all, I hope.

I'm slowing my roll. I'm not choosing until real and substantive differences between the candidates become clear.

Let this season of discernment begin.....

And Good Luck and Good Will to both Rev. Phillips and Rev. Miller !


  1. Steve Cook8:45 PM

    Well said. There is much time to learn and much to learn about concerning both of these people, the developing challenges to the UUA, and how they would propose to serve and lead us for six years.

  2. Sitting at Bodhgaya this morning, between Varanasi and Amritsar, and being in the final pages of my clergy career the last quarter of which has been with a non UU affiliated church, I am not surprised to find myself equivocal on UUA politcs. In the spirit of full disclosure I should add that I was never very good at it when it did matter more and frequently annoyed as well.

    With those caveats in mind, my own instant thought is not about the candidates but about the climate shared by this and larger politics. I sense a tendency to intensify around the presidential races as though this person is what matters most. Aside from violating the premise of democracy itself, the so called 'great man' theory of history has been dying for generations in historigraphy but it seems to be flourishing in the culture. Trump's appeal is to this notion of someone who can make bug changes by force of will and vision. In turbulent and uncertain times the desire is inevitable, and the result is frequently disastrous.

    Not that I think the UUA race is anything like the US presidential race. But the attention we pay to this can and does tend to overfocus us on some things and underfocus on others. For one, that fact that the greatest growth and change in Amnerican religion has been outside of denominations should make us ask what denominations of the future are for, if anything. That people are living the UU life without joining it (my own church being the oldest example) is also a telling fact. And expecting the next president to answer these is both unrealistic and irresponsible. Instead of asking these two people we should be asking each other. And dots will not do the trick in thise case.

    The Tibetans are in charge here at Bodhgaya this week, and fll the grounds around the temple with chants and prayers and prostratons. Garlands of marigolds are strewn over everything. Far from the serenity we imagine Tathagata knew it is a frenzy of faith, not far from St. Peter's in terms of queues and frisks and lines waiting to do everything. The town is dusty and crowded and well stocked with hotels named Mahyana and Vipissana and so on. Plenty of rosaries and t shirts available. Which one is the real Buddhism? Both and neither.

  3. Hey, Tom, at long last we have a small thing on which you and I disagree. I think it is not too soon at all for some folks to endorse a candidate for our UUA Presidency. I have endorsed Sue Phillips to indicate a willingness to engage the issues, to listen on her behalf, to foster wider and deeper discernment on the future directions of our movement. I know and I trust her leadership.
    One thing we can all hope to remember..., to endorse one is not to reject the other. Endorsement is not about polarizing, it is about being visible and accountable. It is all toward the many-layered goal of fostering an actual conversation about the future of UUism.
    As your bolg so accurately relates, we need to move quickly beyond deconstruction and forthrightly beyond the insularity of past modes of "king-making." Our Search Committee has launched us well. Now it is ours to find the future and build toward it.
    Love..., then more love, Gail

  4. Interesting. I met Sue Phillips at the 150th, and was liked her a lot. I'll admit, though, that I don't know much about what the UU presidency entails other then being a public face of the movement both to congregants and the outside world. Along those lines my limited sense of the current and previous presidents comes down to one line headlines that I identify them with -- the "language of reverence" for Sinkford and for Morales his taking a visible role on front lines of immigration protests and at Moral Mondays.

    Tom, do you have any thoughts as to what Unitarian Universalism needs most now in a president? Someone who can work behind the scenes effectively on organizational/administrative/financial issues? Someone whose personality and communication skills would generate more enthusiasm within, and awareness in the broader culture? Someone who takes one or two social justice causes with broad appeal among UUs, and mobilizes clergy and congregants to the point that we can have a tangible impact on them? I imagine all of the above would be ideal, but also that one person is unlikely to possess all of these attributes.


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