So I’m surprised…

Peter Morales has just been elected president of the Unitarian Universalist Association with 59% of the vote. And I’m surprised.

I was pretty sure Laurel Hallman would win, since she seemed to have higher-profile people endorsing her candidacy, and she seemed to have the better organization and more money at her disposal. But she didn’t win.

I thought it would be a close vote. I was expecting Laurel Hallman to win by two or three percentage points, or even less. But it was what Chris Walton of is calling “a decisive vote.”

Not only did this result surprise me, I was surprised to discover that I was relieved. I saw Laurel Hallman as offering more of the same — back to the same thing the UUA was doing before Bill Sinkford started to change the UUA’s direction ever so slightly — and I wanted a new direction. I don’t know if Peter Morales will be able to institute the kind of organizational change that I’d like to see, but at least I have some hope that there might be a little organizational change.

I’m still skeptical, but I’m relieved. I’m feeling a little more hopeful for the UUA.

So what are you feeling? Do you think it even matters who’s president of the UUA? Do you even care? Are you depressed that Laurel Hallman didn’t win? Conversation in the comments, if you feel so moved.

12 thoughts on “So I’m surprised…

  1. Scott Wells

    I was worried that feelings about the US Presidential race — the Democratic primaries, really — were going to carry over and give Hallman an unconscious advantage. After all, UUs seem to be prone to Boomer proxy politics.

    I was mildly in favor of Morales, but after a quarter-century of being a Unitarian Universalist, I know better than to invest too much in the person of the UUA President. He may want to change, but may lack the resources — financial and political — to get it done. Which brings up back to those national parallels.

  2. Tony Lorenzen

    I’m not surprised at all. I think the days of people caring about endorsements in any kind of election are over. I don’t think either Morales or Hallman will or would have made much of difference in the long term direction of the UUA. I’m more interested in the NEXT president, perhaps it’s going to take a real generational shift to make a noticeable difference in the movement’s culture and practice and its institutional culture. I’m left wondering Who’s Got Next?

  3. Scott Gerard Prinster

    I echo Scott’s observation about parallels. If we want a new direction, we’re the ones who have to make it happen. Peter isn’t going to make us a different church any more than Obama can make us a different nation. But I believed that Peter was more likely to inspire us to BE that change, so I’m glad for the results, and I’m inspired to get to work.

  4. Dan

    Scott @ 1 — Yes. Yes. Yes.

    Tony Lorenzen @ 2 — You write: “perhaps it’s going to take a real generational shift to make a noticeable difference in the movement’s culture and practice and its institutional culture.”

    Yes. So let’s identify several Gen X Unitarian Universalists whom we can prompt to run in 2013.

    Scott Gerard Prinster @ 3 — You write: “If we want a new direction, we’re the ones who have to make it happen.”

    Again, I agree wholeheartedly. I believe strongly that over the next decade, any change we’re going to see is going to be coming out of local congregations.

  5. Bill Baar

    I was expecting Morales. All based on what I see from the UU list and the handful of people at my Church who follow UUA.

    My instinct is to agree on the generational comments, but don’t discount the impact one leader can have; for good…and bad.

    I was approached a few months ago by an Hispanic Evangelical. A porter at a car dealership who gave me a ride home. We had a good conversation and he was clearly hitting me up for conversion or what not… but he approached me as a person, not a demographic. There was no sense of our heritages, culture, or job status creating any different between the two of us.

    We talked of neigborhood, family, kids, politics, community, and our Churches. The proto-UU one reads on the net would have laid out that our “class”, heritage, etc were all different. This guy expressed nothing but shared humanity and that he had something to share with me if I wanted to hear it.

    I’m not sure Rev Morales can get us to a point were where not lamenting how different we are from the rest, when the rest may not always sense those differences, or think them important. Only when we seem to delineate to they come into play, and I think against us.

  6. Earthbound Spirit

    I would be supporting Laurel if she had won. I support Peter as the winner. That said, Laurel lost my vote during an earlier candidates’ forum at a district event. I’m hopeful, but not holding my breath for radical change to happen.

  7. Dan

    Bill Baar @ 5 — Great story about the evangelical — who approached you as a person, not a demographic.

    So many of our congregations are obsessed with allowing only the “right” people into the church.

    A true story: at one church where I served (not yours, Bill!), a 20-something interracial same-sex couple, not college-educated, with an autistic child, attended church for about ten months. During that entire time, I think I was about the only person who ever talked with them. Yet the blonde, 50-something, college-educated single woman who started attending at the same time immediately made friends and is (to the best of my knowledge) still a member of that church.

    Will Peter Morales be able to change this deep-seated tendency? Maybe a little bit… I have noticed that in the eight years that Bill Sinkford was president of the UUA, I stopped hearing people say, “Oh, black people wouldn’t want to be a part of our church, they’re all conservative Christians.”

    Maybe after a few years of Morales, people will stop saying, “Oh, Hispanics wouldn’t want to be part of our church, they’re all conservative Christians.” I doubt those people will welcome Hispanic Americans into their congregations, but at least it won’t be as acceptable for them to give voice to their blatant prejudices.

  8. Martin Voelker

    I’m elated at Peter’s high margin, to me it means he was on to something and was able to communicate it. While I have heard my share of disheartening stories about the UUA I’ve also seen how Peter succeeds to bring people around – or integrate points of disagreement. I think that bodes well for his role in Boston. Improving the UUA’s service infrastructure by relying more on regional know-how exchange and closer connections was one of Peter’s points (also of Laurel who dubbed it ‘lateral relations’). In my experience seemingly small structural changes can have excellent impact, and for those congregations who don’t fit the sorry clubbish description in a previous post they may have real positive consequences. “Rapidly taking many small steps” is another proven concepts, and also pretty much the only one at our disposal in this prolonged budget crisis.

  9. Dan

    Martin Voelker @ 9 — Thanks for the optimistic comment. You make me feel much more positive about the UUA!

  10. Anna Belle

    Dan — This reminds me I meant to show you the letters and blog post that pushed me into being part of the Morales team.

    That was part one. Part two came when Tom Stites, who headed Morales communications effort, approached me in a very open way right after I posted a rant ( about the way both candidates used the Web. I came home the next day braced for what I usually get from UUA leadership — i.e. defensiveness. Do you get that too? In any event, I never heard anything from the Hallman campaign, while Tom started very nicely trying to convince me to help. Once I said yes, he and the rest of the team were incredibly appreciative of how I could help, which I’m also not used to.

    In general, I consider myself to be cynical about the UUA, but over the course of the last few months, working with the Morales campaign I’ve shifted to having high hopes if he won. Like you, I was very surprised that he won, and particularly that the margin was as big as it was, so it took me over 24 hours to believe it was really true.

    I’m especially hopeful now, after reading Chris’s post about Gini apologizing for not being at the celebration. I had feared that did not auger well. But it seems quite possible that the Board will work well with the staff, and some much needed change will evolve at a reasonable pace — somewhere between a lethally swift blow and a fatally slow crawl.

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