After the absolute disaster that was last year’s Presidential election for the United States, and then watching the madness and chaos that is President Trump’s administration since he took office, I am beginning to worry that our country may be sliding down to ruin like the Roman Empire did.
And yet this year another Presidential race is going on right now. And I am unable to decide which candidate would be best for the job, because all of them seemed highly qualified. This is for the Unitarian Universalist Association, the organization for the religion I belong to!
The UUA General Assembly will elect a new UUA president on June 24. Three candidates are running for one six-year term: the Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray (susanfrederickgray.com), the Rev. Alison Miller (alisonforuuapresident.org), and the Rev. Jeanne Pupke (jeannepupke.com).
Because there are more than two candidates, this election will be the first since 1977 to use the UUA’s instant run-off voting provision, which was added to the bylaws in 1969.
Yes, all of them are women. That is unheard of; women leaders are extremely rare in other religious groups. Let’s check them out.
Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray
This is a pivotal moment. We are in a time of great change for our nation and our planet. This is also a time of opportunity. More than ever, Unitarian Universalism is called to be a bold and vital voice for love and justice.
To be effective in this moment, we need spiritually vital communities, strong relationships, and an Association that is mission-focused and organized for impact.
We need a President capable of providing strategic, spiritually grounded leadership, in the midst of uncertainty. For the last eight years, I have served a vibrant, growing congregation in Phoenix, Arizona. Living in a border state, I have come to see that ours is a border faith, and this is a border time. A border community is a unique place. It is not defined by either/or thinking, but by a both/and way of life. It is a place of change, growth, and opportunity. We need a leader who can help us grow as a border faith, reaching more deeply within and beyond. We need a compelling voice to remind our communities that what we do matters, that how we live and share our border faith matters and how we witness and work for our values matters. This is desperately needed in this world.
As President, I would be focused on unlocking the power, the opportunity and the calling of our faith in this moment.
Rev. Alison Miller
Why I’m Running
Dear Members and Friends across the UUA,
Our faith calls us to make the bonds of love visible in the world. In my life, this resulted in an early call to serve, lead, create, and partner with Unitarian Universalist communities across the country for the past 26 years. This call grows out of a deep sense of gratitude for the life-giving and healing power of our faith that has touched so many lives, including my own.
The first fourteen years of my call, I was a lay-leader serving as a volunteer and in staff roles, and the second twelve years I have served as a congregational minister and an avid volunteer in our denomination and the wider world. I am so glad that my first call was to build up, mentor, lead and fundraise for youth, campus, and young adult ministries, which reached new Unitarian Universalists and longtime Unitarian Universalists alike. This beginning has allowed me to experiment and gain success in adapting our faith in ways that work inside of congregations, outside of congregations, and focus on being generationally relevant. It was also during this time that I became grounded in building communities in ways that reflect our commitments to anti-racism, anti-oppression and multiculturalism.
Unitarian Universalism is a faith that speaks to people of all generations, diverse religious perspectives, and diverse identities. Our task is to shape a future together in ways that are loving and just, bold and life-giving, so that more people who thirst for our healing message may find a home with us. As I reflect on the shared ministry I am leading in Morristown, I am thrilled that we have grown younger and older, grown to embrace theological pluralism, and grown to better reflect the diversity of the population in the surrounding area. We have also grown in numbers. We have done all of this through a combination of building on traditions that continue to serve us well and innovative ministries that connect us with new members and engage the whole community with the pressing justice issue of our time.
I am blessed to serve as President of the Church of the Larger Fellowship (CLF), which we playfully call a Creative Laboratory of Faith. This is one of several projects that I have a long term involvement with that has given me experience, insight and practice at moving institutions towards vibrancy and relevance. I also continue to be a leader in brand new projects – such as the UU Legislative Ministry of New Jersey – a young organization, but already known for its impact.
I am called to take the depth and breadth of my spiritual leadership, vision leadership, community leadership, and growth oriented leadership in congregations and in the wider world to serve the Unitarian Universalist Association as President. I will be a partner with Unitarian Universalists across the country, as we grow Unitarian Universalism and live into the healing possibilities our faith holds for the brokenness in our individual lives and the world beyond.
Rev. Jeanne Pupke
Why I’m running for President of the Unitarian Universalist Association
Unitarian Universalism is a religion of hope for me. Our faith’s loving, inclusive, ever-expanding embrace welcomes me and you and countless others who have yet to discover us – a faith that teaches WE are at our best when we OPEN our hearts and minds to those different from us and JOIN together, working side-by-side, to build a more just and peaceful world.
I am running for President of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) because I believe that the key to meeting the challenges of this time rests in listening to, working with, supporting, and empowering YOU. It rests in CONGREGATIONS. When we build vibrant congregations, connected in a thriving, growing network sharing ideas, innovating together – congregations engaged in their communities, raising their voices in the public square, committing their hearts and hands to the work of building beloved community – they embody what it means to be a faith on fire.
I am running because I bring to our faith a demonstrated record of organizational leadership and growth in and outside of ministry. I believe that when we invest in our people, when we help people develop their full potential as humans, not only will they grow and prosper, so will their congregations.
First Unitarian Universalist Church of Richmond has grown 71% in the eleven years I’ve served there, adding almost 300 new members, including many dynamic young adults, making ours one of the fastest growing congregations in our Association, and we’ve done it by clarifying who we are, who we serve, and how we welcome. I believe that, together, we can do this same thing for the network of congregations and communities that are the UUA.
I want to be President of our Association because to make this thriving network of congregations a reality, the UUA must evolve to a responsive, engaged structure that focuses its resources on facilitating connections between congregations, supporting the development of lay leaders, and helping UU’s build, nurture, and sustain meaningful relationships within and across congregations.
This kind of responsive, engaged UUA is the UUA I’d like to lead for you.
I want to be your President because I’m convinced we CAN rise to the challenges before us, and because my deep love for this faith convinces me that we MUST.
With a thriving network of congregations, a responsive, engaged UUA, and each of you, ours WILL be a faith on fire, with UU’s living out our values for all to see, with our faith’s saving message resounding across the world so that everyone who needs what we offer, what Unitarian Universalism offers, finds our faith – and finds us.
I am especially intrigued by Pupke’s candidacy because before becoming a UU, she was a Catholic nun, thus she might know how to make Unitarian Universalism more appealing to people of Catholic background. Also, she is married to another woman, a former Army officer, making her as strong as advocate for gay marriage and rights for gays and lesbians in general as anyone can be. Of course, that might turn off most conservatives, but if we were worried about that, no women would be running for President of the UUA at all.
Anyway, I am not prepared to endorse anyone yet. One thing stands out about all three of these candidates, they do NOT attack each other or even make any negative statements about the current UUA President, Rev. Peter Morales. Indeed, such campaigning seems unthinkable among UUs. Imagine if that was the standard for all political elections in the United States!
And the incredible contrast between this Presidential race and the one that went on last year for Americans in general makes this an ideal selling point for Unitarian Universalism, especially for those Americans who are fed up with politics as it has been over the past several decades. We can do better, if we ALL have UU principles.
- 1st Principle: The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
- 2nd Principle: Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
- 3rd Principle: Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
- 4th Principle: A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
- 5th Principle: The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
- 6th Principle: The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
- 7th Principle: Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.