Search Committee Nominates Rev. Dr. Sofía Betancourt for UUA President
New president to be elected at General Assembly 2023.
The Unitarian Universalist Association’s Presidential Search Committee recently announced its nomination of Rev. Dr. Sofía Betancourt for UUA president for the 2023–2029 term.
In its announcement, the committee expressed that it was “unanimous in its belief that UUs are blessed by the candidacy of Rev. Dr. Sofía Betancourt,” noting that her ministry “centers on work that is empowering and counter-oppressive. Her academic work focuses on the environmental ethics of liberation through a womanist and Latina feminist frame.”
In accordance with UUA bylaws—which require that the group nominate at least two people—the committee explained it had nominated two qualified leaders to be candidates but one of them declined the nomination.
Additional candidates can run by petition; materials must be submitted to the UUA secretary between December 1, 2022 and February 1, 2023. The UUA General Assembly will elect the new UUA president this June.
Below is Betancourt’s response to questions UU World will be asking all candidates.
Rev. Dr. Sofía Betancourt
The Rev. Dr. Sofía Betancourt is a minister, educator, scholar, vocalist, poet, fiber artist, and change-maker. Her work in the world and her practice of Unitarian Universalism are informed by the belief that building mutual, accountable relationships with one another allows us to live our values more fully every day. Raised in New York City as the child of immigrants from Panamá and Chile, and the grandchild of a seventh-generation Unitarian, she knows the strength that comes from building lasting community at the meeting point of difference. She is an unabashed Universalist. The teachings of unearned grace, an all-embracing love, relational accountability, and dignity that surpasses all violent forms of oppression lie at the core of her understanding of life, living, and service in faithful community.
The Rev. Dr. Sofía Betancourt has served Unitarian Universalism for more than twenty years as a religious educator, minister, scholar, member of the UUA national staff and many volunteer committees at regional and denominational levels, and as interim co-president of the UUA in the spring of 2017. She holds a Ph.D. in Religious Ethics and African American Studies from Yale University as well as an M.Div. from Starr King School for the Ministry.
Betancourt has served congregations in Stockton, California; Norwich, Connecticut; Storrs, Connecticut; and Fresno, California; and has served on the faculty of Starr King School for the Ministry. She is currently serving as Resident Scholar and Special Advisor on Justice and Equity at our Unitarian Universalist Service Committee. She is the author of Ecowomanism at the Panamá Canal: Black Women, Labor, and Environmental Ethics(2022).
To learn more about the Rev. Dr. Sofía Betancourt and her campaign priorities of communal care, collaborative leadership, and facing the unknown together visit her website at sofiabetancourt.com.
Because of her previous experience as a UUA co-President, she seems ideal to be the next President. But there are questions.
At the conclusion of its process, the PSC unanimously nominated two exceptionally qualified leaders to be candidates for President. One of those nominees declined the nomination. Once the nominations were made, the committee determined that the only fair and appropriate course of action was to move forward with the nomination of Rev. Dr. Betancourt, rather than reopening the application process. The PSC members respect the decision of the nominee who withdrew, and will continue to honor their privacy, as was done throughout the interview process.
I consider this to be a serious mistake. Who was the other nominee and why did they decline the nomination? We should be told some details about this person. Also….there is nothing fair or appropriate about having an “election” with only ONE candidate!
Nomination petitions from additional candidates may be submitted, according to the procedures described in the UUA Bylaws and Rules, by February 1, 2023. The election will conclude in June 2023, and the next President will be announced at General Assembly 2023. The current UUA President, Rev. Dr. Susan Frederick-Gray, will reach the end of her term and will serve until her successor takes office. As with the current President, the next UUA President will serve a single six-year term and will not be eligible for re-election.
I am worried that a petition candidate may be one of the conservatives loyal to Rev. Dr. Todd Eklof, well known as a troublemaker for the UUA. The election process may then turn ugly, like Presidential elections of the United States often are.
So we as UUs should openly and LOUDLY challenge the PSC’s policies and decision and demand more accountability from it and others involved in the election process. And, of course, Rev. Dr. Sofía Betancourt too. I’m not questioning her qualifications, just the flawed process that nominated her.
And I see NOTHING WRONG with allowing someone like Rev. Dr. Susan Frederick-Gray to be eligible to run for another term. If she has plenty of popular support after several years in office, then she should be the obvious choice!